The most discerning perfume lovers will tell you that a scent is an emotion that holds the key to your memories. With such a strong relevance, would you want the fragrance that you pick to be common or distinct? It is this quest for a one-of-a-kind soul scent that is leading to a visible spike in the popularity of niche fragrances. Traditionally, niche fragrances live in the top rung in the perfume segment, accessible only to the elite thanks to their exclusive price points, artisanal approach (small batches, superior quality and unusual natural ingredients, and higher concentration of perfume extracts), and limited points of sale. We’ve rounded up 8 of the best niche perfumes and brands to initiate you into finding your special scent.
Founded in 2000 by professional perfume evaluator and critic Frederic Malle, this perfume house is a result of generations of perfumery expertise. Malle’s grandfather created Parfums Christian Dior for the fashion brand with the launch of the classic Miss Dior. Malle doesn’t create perfumes himself; instead, he acts as an editor collaborating with world-renowned perfumers to craft artisanal scents without being limited by a particular brand style. Gallery of creators, where recognition is given to the perfumers behind the formulations is one of the USPs of his stores.
Must-try: Portrait of a Lady, Lipstick Rose, Carnal Flower
The name behind this radical brand is Italian perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri, who has created scents for Versace, Valentino, Helmut Lang, Fendi, Diesel, and more. Gualtieri established his Amsterdam-based brand in 2007 and called it Nasomatto (Italian for ‘crazy nose’). The notes are shrouded in secrecy with none shared except quirky descriptions such as ‘evoke degrees of hysteria’ or ‘enhance all the manifestations of male strength’.
Must-try: Black Afghano, Hindu Grass, Narcotic Venus
Clive Christian Parfum’s Clive Christian Imperial Majesty is believed to be the most expensive perfume in the world. Sold in a Baccarat crystal container, with a 5-carat white diamond on its 18-karat gold collar, each bottle was sold reportedly for US$215,000 making the per-ml price US$430. The brand’s predecessor, the Crown Perfumery Company established in 1872, is the only house to use Queen Victoria’s crown on its bottles.
Must-try: Woody Leather, Green Floral
Once you select your Le Labo scent, your bottle is freshly hand-blended. This boutique fine fragrance company (literally meaning ‘The Lab’ in French), founded in 2005 in New York, is best known for its irreverent scents. The name of each perfume is composed of its most prominent note, and the number next to it is the number of total notes it contains. For instance, Rose 31 has 31 notes and the main one is rose. Not to miss the minimalist almost-apothecary-like bottles. High on sustainability, this eco-friendly, cruelty-free and vegan brand has a refill programme where customers can bring in their empty bottles for a refill.
Must-try: Rose 31, Santal 33, Oud 27
Interior designer Christiane Gautrot, painters Desmond Knox-Leet and Yves Coueslant, a theater director, and set designer, opened up Diptyque at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain mainly to display their own prints and furnishings. But today the brand is best known for its fresh and lively unisex fragrances and artisanal candles. The blends use extremely high quality, rare and precious raw ingredients.
Must-try: Tam Dao, Volutes, Philosykos
Each composition is imbued with voluptuousness of oudh embedded in earthy notes of flowers, roots, and herbs. A brainchild of the Perfumer’s Workshop, Amouroud is one of the first luxury brands to offer custom-blended scents at Bloomingdales. The bottles are regal with black glass and golden caps, but never over the top.
Must-try: Midnight rose, Agarwood Noir, Safran Rare
The maverick founder, Ben Gorham, half Canadian and half Indian, draws from his mother’s Indian roots, creating scents that fuse the East with West. The fragrances are made of raw materials sourced from around the globe but assembled by hand in Sweden. Not formally trained in perfumery, Ben partners with some of the most prestigious perfumers to bring his unique ideas to completion. For instance he collaborated with the art directors at M/M Paris to create M/MINK, a unique scent that is meant to smell of ink and paper.
Must-try: Gypsy Water
This started as collaboration between musician David Sath Moltz (DS) and an architect, Kavi Moltz in 2018. The founders started out making small handmade batches of aftershaves for friends out of flowers, herbs and spices. Soon after, the pair began to blend oils and plant extracts and was selling to high-end boutiques in New York and California. All of their scents are handmade, unisex and made in-house. Best news of all: They recently started retailing in India and Scentido.
Must-try: My Indian Childhood, Siberian Snow