With each season an expanding number of niche perfume brands are hitting the market: stacked up in Liberty’s mock-Tudor passageways, running riot in the marbled concourse at Selfridges, and springing up in your recommendations from Mr. Porter. Tempting, as it may be, to stick simply to whatever’s familiar, the fragrance industry is constantly evolving, simultaneously to our fluctuating tastes and lifestyles, and principally for the better. The result is this: brands that felt current before now appear cliquish and boring. These are dichotomous times - why should we all want to smell the same? A new rotary of bestsellers lie in men embracing botanical scents and derivative florals, whilst across binary lines, women are wiping off their make-up to march Washington, smelling of Tobacco Noir and Colonia Leather! So, unisex is the new norm - no big whoop. But here’s an actual truth: the most proficient way to deliberate fragrance is not by gender, but objectively, through the variety and quality of its ingredients; cue the flood of niche brands (all with seasonal variations!) Today our dilemma is too much choice; a lot of brands are getting it right. With this in mind, here are a few options - for the timeless and the au courant, both the new and the established… and why.
D.S. & Durga Rose Atlantic
Uber-original indie brand D.S. & Durga was founded by Brooklynites Kavi and David Seth Moltz; a perfume house which began its trajectory from the front room of their Bushwick apartment, early shipments being sent out in personalised hand-stamped boxes. Today, stockists include Net-a-Porter and Liberty’s, and Vogue covered the opening of their first Brooklyn Atelier. D.S. & Durga offer entirely unique scents for people with offbeat, experimental tastes, and inspirations range from cowboys and folksongs, to Russian novel characters. Rose Atlantic, released last year, is a light-bodied floral aquatic fragrance combining a wonderfully rich, almost cosmetic, Rose top note, with hydrophytic elements of Dune Grass, salt water and White Moss. The result is an eccentric reimagining of Oceanic cool air, floral bouquets, and warm aromatic afternoons spent on the deck of one’s sailboat.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian APOM Pour Homme
Forever unbeatable as the elegant choice, Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s perfumes are boldly suave, blending rare pure essential oils with effortless balance, clarity and sophistication. ‘APOM’ stands for “A Piece Of Me” and was one of the first perfumes for Kurkdjian’s eponymous house, launched in 2009, inspired by a personal journey to Lebanon; although its refined sensibility lies in the genteel culture of Paris. An opulent re-interpretation of a classic Oriental, Amber blends with Cedar and fresh Orange Flower, to create something sensual and exotic but with clarity and freshness. It has a brooding heart and enveloping warmth, but there is composure in the balancing of bold aromas. The only gender-specific perfume on this list, every woman I know tells me they want this for themselves when they smell it on me.
Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade
A definitive virtuoso amongst the legions of iconic noses crafting perfumes for the historic French house, Jean-Claude Ellena’s signature was released in 2001 and became an indomitable classic, capsulizing Malle’s covetable style of minimalism and simplicity. Enclosed by an unfolding flora of Rose is a refreshingly bitter citric heart of ripened orange rind, creating a summer-ready marmalade confection, whilst derivative accords of Cedar wood, grass and hay cleanse the palette and provide luscious green enrichment. The molecular distillation of bitter orange was pioneering for its time; an innovative curation of ingredients which evokes the contemporary allure of Malle’s legacy.
Jusbox Black Powder
Music informs the ethos behind new brand Jusbox, founded by band-mad Milanese siblings, the ‘V-Monkeys’, who collaborate with perfumers to create fragrances inspired by era-defining musical icons. An unusual mix of exceptional ingredients, their latest offering, ‘Black Powder’, drummed up by nose expert Julien Rasquinet is a riff on America’s 90’s Grunge scene, and the turbulent brilliance of it’s agitator-in-chief, Kurt Cobain. Like the jagged edge of a resounding bass note, an acidic, sweet pungency rips through the intense heart of suede, tobacco and frankincense, by layering patchouli, blackcurrant, pimento and apple. Here, is the provocative spirit of a summer’s night well lived.