Scent is one of the most delicate yet powerful parts of the human sensory experience. It can evoke memories and create emotion, which is probably why it’s become an indispensable part of our daily grooming routines. And with the explosion of thousands of brands on to the market, perfume has become an accessible luxury for most.
Mega-brand and celebrity perfumes have dominated the fragrance scene for decades. After it launched in 1994, Calvin Klein’s CK One sold one bottle every 20 seconds and White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor has been a bestseller since its launch in 1991. However an increase in the popularity of niche perfumes is changing all this. It seems that we’re all a bit bored by traditional fragrances and their big budget campaigns; when more often than not it’s the same old stuff re-packaged in a glitzy new bottle with a new Hollywood face to plug the scent. Let’s take a moment to recall and shudder at the Brad Pitt for Chanel No.5 campaign which was by all accounts, puzzling at best and embarrassingly awful at worst.
Meanwhile, artisanal perfume houses have risen from strength to strength. Before the explosion of “one size fits all” fragrances, backed by stories created by slick marketing teams in boardrooms, there were the centuries old perfume houses. They created unique blends of fragrant oils for royal families and nobility who could afford their made-to-measure scents. And now it seems we all want in on the action, using fragrance to express our unique personalities and moods. Here are five of the most stand-out fragrance makers that I’ve come across, that use the highest concentrations and the finest ingredients available. They’re complex, powerful and definitely not for everyone.
Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle
Frédéric Malle was a trail blazer in the business of modern niche perfumery. He was one of the first to re-introduce the concept of haute parfumerie, bringing together some of the finest noses in the fragrance world. This particular scent is created by Dominique Ropion, innovator and all round perfume legend. It contains the highest concentration of tuberose of any fragrance available on the market today. It’s feminine and sultry with just the right amount of glamour.
This Italian, family-owned brand was first established in 1968 by Evelino Terenzi, primarily for scented candles and then for perfume. It’s now run by his children, Paulo, the brand nose and Tiziana, the designer. This scent is a unisex chypre floral, with a complicated and highly addictive blend of passionfruit, lemon, cassis, fern and tea rose on a base of sandalwood, tonka bean and musk. It plays with your mind- in a very good way!
Created by Italian designer Sergio Momo, this line of perfumes is not for the faint hearted. It’s packed full of bold raw ingredients that range from oud and frankincense to rich spices and patchouli. Layla warms the senses with touches of clove, nutmeg, cedar and musk- a little goes a long way.
This unique brand came to life in 1999 when the English designer of the same name acquired Crown Perfumery, a perfume house established in London in 1872. It was given this name after being granted the use of the royal crown as its emblem by Queen Victoria. Clive Christian quickly achieved worldwide acclaim as the makers of “the most expensive perfume in the world.” My personal favourite however is “V”: it’s rich and romantic yet remains light and bright with an unobtrusive blend of orange blossom, rose, jasmine, chamomile and lavender.
Roja Dove is a perfumery academic, historian and master perfumer. After 20 years at Guerlain, he launched his eponymous range of couture fragrances in 2007. He’s created over 61 perfumes since, each finding huge success with fragrance connoisseurs, particularly in the Middle East. The Profumi D’Amore line has been one of my favourites so far, each of the three fragrances is meant to evoke a different chapter in a love story. With contrasting intensities and distinctive blends, this range will make you reconsider what you think you know about perfume.
Are you a fan of niche fragrances? Which is your favourite?