The heady world of fragrance is a complex jungle. Beneath the industry’s shiny facade of mass-produced, label-associated flacons lies an art form as richly steeped in history as any other. Today, the niche and the cult are blossoming, with exemplary new brands consistently pushing the boundaries, spurred by an increasing demand for new and unusual scents.
A niche fragrance makes a different statement. Rather than offering a sensory pledge of allegiance to a global fashion brand, it offers intrigue and allure, laced with beguiling undertones that a widely recognised scent simply cannot match. After all, once a signature scent is shared with the rest of the population, isn’t the potency somewhat diluted?
Along with our yearning for niche notes comes a desire for unique formulations and applications, which is a satiated by the following must-know brands – some new, some long-standing. Read on for our round-up of the finest ways to indulge…
Phoenix’s favourite Swedish fragrance brand, Byredo has re-formulated its most popular scents into oils. The appeal here is multi-faceted: the sleek flacons are much lighter than the full-sized bottles, and so are perfect for on-the-go touch-ups. Furthermore, the scent is alcohol-free and particularly potent, lasting much longer than a traditional toilette – what’s not to love?
Expert perfume house Carthusia hails from the Italian island of Capri, where the summers are long and the sun is strong. However, such balmy climes may come as a burden to the passionate perfume wearer, as traditional alcohol-based scents tend to evaporate on the skin at a rapid rate. The house’s latest launch, the Perfume Solid, is the answer to this hot-weather quandary. The solid formula is crafted from natural beeswax – ideal for those with alcohol allergies – and melts on contact with the skin. Simply swipe over pulse points for a deep, long-lasting hit of the label’s Mediterraneo scent- a vibrant citrus with fresh lemon leaves over soothing green tea.
Carthusia Perfume Solid, £42 at Liberty.
The Custom Blend
Parisian perfume collective Ex Nihilo is the true antidote to mass-produced luxury. The house’s eight core fragrances may be personalised with additional notes, selected by expert noses to enliven different facets of the scent. For example, Fleur Narcotique – a lively floral with a woody, mossy dry-down – may be weighted with jasmine or sweetened with musky vanilla. The pure ingredients here are exquisite – Rose of May is sourced from Grasse, while Bourbon Vanilla comes from Madagascar. Taking the personalisation progress even further, the flacon cap may be crafted in a collection of elegant materials, including mother of pearl, onyx and buffalo horn.
Ex Nihilo, from £150 at Harrods.
The Hair Fragrance
London-based perfumery Thameen – named after the Arabic for precious – offers a perfect blend of Eastern opulence and Western refinement. It launched 2 years ago with a five-strong collection of heady and consuming fragrances, each one an ode to the beauty of a precious gemstone. The scents are available in Extrait strength – a supremely high concentration that is rarely used today – for a powerful result that wears close to the skin, and doesn’t diffuse around the body in the way that an alcohol-based toilette might.
What’s most exciting is the house’s recent foray into hair perfume. The nourishing formulas are infused with keratin and Pro Vitamin B5 to condition the hair while delivering a lasting scent, (as hair is porous, the fragrance will last much longer than on the skin.) Our favourite is the indulgent Peacock Throne: a sensuous blend with top notes of Indian Jasmine, Egyptian oris and pink pepper, followed by a heart of Taif rose and a warm base of patchouli, vetiver and vanilla.
Thameen Hair Fragrance, £85 exclusively at Selfridges.
The Pheromone Enhancer
Escentric Molecules is the brainchild of Berlin-based fragrance wizard Geza Schoen, and the result of his wish to de-mystify the world of fragrance. The concept is a homage to the olfactory power of a single note, placing the focus purely on the scent, rather than the style. Each collection comprises two fragrances – one Escentric and one Molecule – with both based around one of the world’s most popular fragrance notes: Iso-E-super, Ambroxan and vetiveryle acetate. The Escentric is a traditionally crafted perfume with complex layers, while the Molecule is a lesson in single-note purity – a juice crafted entirely from that one note. The draw here is that such focus on a single note enhances the natural pheromones of the wearer – resulting in an entirely personal, and always beautiful, signature scent.
Escentric Molecules, from £38 at Liberty and Cultbeauty.com
Words: Roberta Lister