I set out to explore an artisan perfume brand – Hendley Perfumes, starting with a discovery kit with samples of Amora (2016), Blond (2018), Bourbon (2015), Fume (2015), Mown (2017), Narcis (2019 Laboratory Series release), Untitled (2019), Bloodline (created for American Perfumer in 2019, limited edition, sold out), and a 9ml travel spray of Rosenthal (2015). Little did I know how smitten they all shall leave me…
I reached for Rosenthal first. This is what I usually do when I’m facing a discovery kit created by a perfumer or brand I’ve had no previous experience with – I tend to start with a rose-themed perfume if there’s one in the collection.
It’s like an entry-level test of a kind, “show me what you can do” – since there are really so many “rose” centered perfumes already out there: rose/oud and rose/patchouli combinations are well-covered genres, making it hard for any perfume brand to set itself apart.
Rosenthal is a “Dark Rose“, belonging to one of my favorite kind of rose-themed perfumes (formally classified as an Oriental/Floral). For me, that means that it should take me places, emotionally.
So it did. I wore it on a hot, hot day (+35C), without analyzing and taking notes. I was on the go, working all day and I resprayed just once in the afternoon to feel its opening again. It wasn’t until I returned home, kicked off my heels and sat down to relax when it hit me.
Memories surfaced, happy and sad, things and people I haven’t thought about for ages. If you feel like skipping the story, just scroll down to the part “it smells like“, or something like that, no hard feelings.
In the 5th or 6th grade in elementary school, one of my additional assignments in German language class was to learn the song “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind” (Where have all the flowers gone) – by heart. As a straight-A student and a geek (which I was…am?) so I did, listening to Marlene Dietrich perform.
Later on, I thought I forgot half the verses, other lessons and assignments took over.
Fast forward to Gymnasium, third grade, age: 16, season: Summer, location: an International Summer-school. Not just any, as a straight-A student I was among few to be granted a free three-weeks stay in Germany, at a pretty famous facility not far away from Hannover. We slept in a dorm and on my first day there, I met my German roommate. I’ll call her Viviane.
We did everything teens did at that time in any Summer-school: attended German language classes in the morning, English language classes in the afternoon, hang out together, debated different Weltschmerz issues, and laughed some more until 11 PM – lights-out, dorm doors closed.
Viviane and I would then sit on the windowsill in our room, overlooking beautiful green hills, and chat for another hour or two in a most vivid and crazy combination of German and English, yet perfectly understanding each other.
She was a tall blonde with huge blue eyes, always smiling, so different than other kids: she was wearing genuine vintage clothes, like a pair of very narrow, original riding pants the French Army Cavalry soldiers wore in WWI that she bought at some flea market in France. There was something Marlene-like about her.
We shared our makeup and fragrances, simple ones like rosewater and patchouli oil (parfum wasn’t for young girls back then – I got my first bottle of perfume when I turned 18), layering whatever we had, experimenting.
On her skin and hair that Bulgarian rose-patchouli combination smelt darker than on me, and that seemed so much in contrast with her Rosenthal white, porcelain-like complexion.
Rosenthal, the perfume Rosenthal smells like a dark, big, burgundy-colored rose in full bloom, the kind of rose you want to dip your whole face into and just dive into it, inhaling its scent in deep breaths as if not to miss any fragrant molecule it has to offer. The sort of a dry-woody rose, smoothly gliding all the way to the drydown.
Its inner movement maintains a linear, steady pace with smaller sinusoids of other notes circling around it. They arise and fall in movement, interweaving at some points, ranging from cool, herbal, almost bitter notes to waves of dry fruits-and-berries vibrations, all the way down to fine lines of dusty incense and tamed patchouli following this rhythm quietly – just shining a different light on thick, velvety rose petals, adding them dimension.
Hendley weaves all these side effects around the main theme seamlessly, landing it in what feels like fluff, a milky pillow made of sandalwood. A “Dark Rose” it is indeed, a beautiful, unisex dark rose, smelling so…natural.
Back to the story: one day, during our morning classes, a teacher opened the classroom door and summoned Viviene. Her parents were on the phone (there were no cell phones back then), and it was urgent. She rushed out and didn’t return to the class. I found her later, in our room, sitting on the windowsill. Her eyes were red, traces of tears visible on her face.
I sat there with her for hours, in silence, just being present. When she started to talk I had to swear first that I won’t tell any of this to anyone: her parents wanted her to quit Summer-school and to return home immediately. She had leukemia, her latest tests came back from the hospital and weren’t good at all. She refused to leave, and she definitely didn’t want other kids to know about her illness.
Viviene told her parents that she wants to stay for those couple of days until Summer-school ends, no matter what, that she’s tired of hospitals, tests, anxiety and fear in her parent’s eyes, restrictions, medications, white blood-cells counts and leukemia she’s been fighting for a while now.
We made a pact that we’ll pretend that none of this had happened. Nothing at all, we would both carry on like there was no phone call, no leukemia and no test results for the next three days. She stayed, and I kept my promise.
On the last day of our stay, we had a picnic on grass outside our dorm. One girl brought her guitar and we were singing songs that we all knew. At one moment, I heard familiar accords and Viviene sang, her soft voice quieting us all down. I suddenly remembered the song and all the words:
“Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
wo sind sie geblieben
Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
was ist geschehen?“
We said our goodbyes next morning, I returned home and life went on, memories of that Summer slowly fading away.
Come September and the beginning of a new school year, my German language teacher gathered participants of that Summer school course to write a thank-you letter to our teachers and staff in Germany, we all signed it, and the letter was sent (yes, letters, there were no e-mails…).
Sometime before Christmas we received an answer: they’ve sent their best wishes and informed us, with regret, that Viviane had passed away that August, one week before the beginning of a new school year, and one week after her 17th birthday.
Yesterday, while wearing Rosenthal, I heard again Viviene’s voice, remembered her bright blue eyes, big smile, funny vintage clothes, and how we both smelled while laughing carelessly for those three weeks, sitting on a windowsill in a dorm, somewhere up in the hills surrounding Hannover:
“Sag mir wo die Gräber sind,
Blumen wehen im Sommerwind
Wann wird man je verstehen?
Wann wird man je verstehen?“
You can find complete song lyrics in English and German here.
Notes: Incense, rose, iris, juniper, sandalwood, patchouli, angelica root.
Sillage and longevity are moderate – I’ll quote Hans: “Monster longevity and projection are a disservice to the beauty of the fragrance.”
Rosenthal – Eau de Parfum, available as 9ml travel spray/28USD and 50 ml flacon/150USD. Discovery Set includes six 1.5ml spray vials/36USD. Samples can be purchased individually – at Hendley Perfumes.
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl, Hendley Perfumes, Unsplash
The Discovery Kit was sent to me as a prize I won in an Eau My Soul Facebook Group give-away, Rosenthal travel-size sprayer and opinions of my own.