But that’s me! Babies’ skin? Morning dew? Jasmine? Frau Toni’s perfume shop in Berlin helps you in your search for your own personal favourite fragrance

Since finding my favourite perfume, I’ve been a snob. No longer do I sniff the perfume bottles in duty free shops, or pounce on newly launched products. Perhaps this is just a phase I’m going through. Maybe in a year, the chemistry between my skin and this fragrance will have changed once again. Or perhaps by coincidence I’ll embark on another fragrance affair, leading me to unfaithfulness. Up until now, my only worry was that my favoured fragrance could disappear from the range, without me ever being able to fathom out what it actually was that blended so well with my being, providing me with the feeling of a mysterious extension to my personality. But then I stumbled across Frau Tonis Parfum, Stefanie Hanßen’s port of call for fragrance aficionados on Berlin’s Zimmerstraße, not far from Checkpoint Charlie. Thanks to Frau Toni’s, not only is it possible to really get to the bottom of a fetishised fragrance in a scientific manner, but also to run the risk of being disloyal to it thanks to this or that new discovery. 26 large pharmacist’s bottles are ready and waiting, from which customers can compose their favourite fragrance. However, before your personal choice can be filled into one of the beautiful rectangular bottles, you need to invest a little time in this veritable perfume laboratory, which owes its name to proprietor Stefanie Hanßen’s elegant grandmother, who was familiar with Marlene Dietrich’s world of perfumes. Is a little aroma-based therapy at Frau Toni’s no less than a poetic stroll through the sensual undergrowth of your own past? “That smells like Auntie Gertrude!”, marvel a couple as they sniff one of the offerings. And if the sensory organs don’t react as resolutely as they perhaps should, Frau Toni’s provides the curious with a helping hand. “Fresh laundry,” suggests the fragrance specialist, and the associations come tumbling out: “Lemon!”, “babies’ skin!”, “morning dew!”, exclaim the senses. It’s almost a shame that I’ve already committed myself in the realm of perfume. The crystal stoppers that are especially suited to preserving the fragrances are carefully passed around. I close my eyes and sink into a light trance, following the intuition that ensues.

Each pharmacist’s bottle contains a not overly complex cocktail based around a central motif, but a dog’s nose would surely not deceive it. But for our senses weaned on civilisation, the 26 perfume destinations in the clinically whitewashed room could pass as the alphabet of our sense of smell. Each of its letters hides who knows what experiences. ‘Tulip’ appeals to me, and not that violet bouquet which, according to confirmed sources, wafted in front of the nose of Marlene Dietrich’s onscreen partner. Some essences are too sugary, others too sultry, imposing, yet unfamiliar in its angularity is the blend of eucalyptus and green rose. Whereas with ‘Acacia’, the synapses really spring to life: I see the windswept trees in front of me, whose fragrance was carried along by the wind on the river Elbe in my childhood.  But then the highlight: a perfume that’s the absolute twin of my favourite. Jasmine, I learn, amazed, mixed with cinnamon and oakmoss. I purchase a further two fragrance letters, in order to experiment further at home.

And the following day, as a taxi took me to the airport, the driver turned around to me upon reaching our destination: “Your perfume,” he said, shyly, “that’s jasmine, isn’t it? I come from Damascus, where people have these bushes in their garden. The house was always full of this scent!” I nod, content. I’m wearing my favourite perfume on my skin, and its mystery is now official.

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