Travel on Trial: A perfume-making workshop in Berlin provides the ultimate souvenir

Venus Wong
·4 mins read
Frau Tonis Berlin
Frau Tonis Berlin

I only buy perfume when I’m travelling, both for sentimental and cost-effective reasons. I remember the first bottle of perfume I owned, acquired in Lisbon: a whiff of the (sadly now expired) scent brings back memories of sprinting down the mosaic pavements in Baixa, giddy with my milestone “adult” purchase.

Studies have found that sense of smell is closely connected to memory. The smelling and recognition process known as olfaction creates unique information about a time and place, which is partly how a memory of who, what and where is formed. I put this theory to the test at Frau Tonis Parfum, a boutique perfumery in Berlin. I was here to attend a perfume-making workshop, in the hope of creating something to commemorate the trip – a scent that felt uniquely “me”.

The first order of business was to smell all the boutique’s pre-blended fragrances, and compile an edit of the ones I liked. Our group fanned out in the whitewashed space, which was strikingly minimal so as to not have anything distract from the perfume. Spraying was not allowed, as having so many particles in the air would be too overwhelming. Instead, glass stoppers from the giant bottles were passed around so everyone could get a whiff. We were given small notecards to jot down the scents we liked.

Our “scent journey” began with floral notes, as they are easiest for the nose to process, then segued into citrus and fruity ones, with the more powerful oaky, Asian-inspired smells saved for the end. Coffee beans were on hand as a refresher when our noses became tired. For a while, there was no noise besides the clinking of glass.

There are no rules when it comes to building your scent: it’s all about gut feeling, and the possible combinations are endless. I was instantly taken with a scent called Linde Berlin: this feather-light, powdery scent is extracted from a type of lime tree flower common around Berlin. The flower blossoms in early summer and fills the air with a wonderful aroma that reminds people of the most beautiful time of the year – a perfect base note for a perfume to remember the city of the Unter den Linden by.

Frau Tonis Parfum, a boutique perfumery in Berlin
Frau Tonis Parfum, a boutique perfumery in Berlin

I decided that half of my bottle would be made of Linde Berlin, and the middle note (30 per cent) would be Bouquin, a sophisticated sandalwood, amber and Madagascan vanilla scent. I then topped off my creation with Launderette, which reminded me of fresh linen. The result was an elegant, understated scent that I would be proud to wear every day.

My olfactory adventures didn’t end there: Frau Tonis Parfum has partnered with The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, (where I stayed) to offer customers the chance to try a cocktail based on their perfume preferences and creations at Fragrances, the hotel’s cocktail bar. I was in the hands of Arnd Heissen, an eccentric master mixologist who claims to be able to gain insight on someone’s hopes, dreams – and entire personality – based on their favourite perfume.

I brought over my beloved Diptyque Do Son. Heissen spritzed the perfume on my wrist before proclaiming that I’m a great listener, based on the strong notes of tuberose in the scent. Trust is also very important to me, and I like beautiful things, but prefer them to be a bit undone (the muskiness of the perfume apparently a giveaway). What else? The high concentration of rose scents means I’m a bit of a narcissist, but also a huge empath.

Frau Tonis Berlin
Frau Tonis Berlin

This felt a lot like horoscope reading, but what I did enjoy was the customised cocktail based on my Berlin perfume: a gin drink with vanilla, sake, rose lemonade and cardamom. It was silky and fresh; a lot more subtle than what I usually go for – just like the scent I conceived on this trip, which sits on my top shelf and acts as a cherished pick-me-up.

Travel on Trial Berlin perfume workshop
Travel on Trial Berlin perfume workshop

Frau Toni fragrance workshops from £110; to book visit frau-tonis-parfum.com. Group workshops are currently limited to three people to meet social distancing requirements. The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, reopens on Sept 21, with Fragrance cocktail experiences available from November. Double rooms cost from £240 (telegraph.co.uk/tt-ritzcarltonberlin).

Our writer travelled prior to the pandemic, but at the time of writing Germany is exempt from the FCDO advice against all non-essential international travel, with no quarantine restrictions in place at either end for travellers from the UK. See gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/germany for the latest advice.