Christian Dior once said, “A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.” While I’m uncertain whether a person’s handwriting or scent really says THAT much about a person, Mr. Dior was onto something: scent is powerful and personal. Unlike fashion, where you can summarize an individual’s style by looking at their specific sartorial proclivities, it is much more difficult to pinpoint a person’s olfactory preferences. To unravel these mysteries associated with scent, Arjen and I dropped by Frau Tonis last week, Berlin’s treasured perfumery to talk to owner Stefanie Hanssen.

Frau Tonis opened it’s doors in 2009 after a whiff of a stranger’s perfume had Stefanie running around town to department stores trying to figure out which scent it was. It was then that she realized how powerful and exclusive a person’s scent could be and that our dear old city’s generic offering of fragrances in department stores was lacking. Bored by perfume brands highlighting the seductive powers of scent and hyper-sexualizing their products, Frau Tonis’ philosophy is to let perfumes speak for themselves. The idea was to bring together an exclusive range of scents that individuals could mix and tailor to his own liking–scents that excite and transmit memories. “Walking into Frau Tonis is like opening an old diary,” she explained.

And indeed it was. As I sniffed my way through the selection, I came across a scent that had me feeling terribly nostalgic for lazy summer days in Berkeley. Frau Tonis kindly offered us a bottle of our favorite scent and I dove straight for the florals, where I ultimately decided on No. 58 Tulip. Stefanie provided some helpful guidance through the process, which I’ve quickly summarized below:

1) Always test the scent on your own skin and avoid testing them on paper. The same scent will smell differently on every individual.

2) For perfumes, a splash on your wrists and neck should be enough to last 5-6 hours.

3) Give yourself time to test a new scent out. A scent will smell differently throughout the day and it is wise to do a sniff test accordingly.

4) If you’d like to gift a scent to a family, friend, or lover, give a gift certificate! Allow them to choose their own scents.

5) Perfumes have a shelf life of 3 years (yup that means you can throw away those decade old fragrances from your teenage years).

Feeling inspired? Frau Tonis offers specialized group workshops where its perfume connoisseurs will walk you through the process of customizing your own fragrance, which you can take away in one of these beautiful Frau Tonis’ flacons.