Don’t ask me how but a couple of months ago I came across the article 20 Niche Perfume Brands You Need to Know Right Now. As it usually happens, while reading somebody else’s list of anything on a subject you’re interested in, I agreed with some of the choices, disagreed with others and thought of additional nominees. And then I started working on my list and realized that 20 were too many. Not because I can’t easily come up with at least three times as many brands but because even at 20 one starts including brands that are just personal favorites, do not exactly fit the definition or those that are so tiny that position on the list is too big for them.
So I decided to come up with my personal list of five brands. In my selection process I used the following considerations:
The brand should be a true stand-alone brand, not a private/limited/boutique line of a big brand (so not Guerlain, Chanel, Dior or Hermes) or a spin-off under a bigger parent’s umbrella (Tom Ford and Jo Malone are out too).
The brand should have enough perfumes in their range to potentially work for different people (so as much as I love Neela Vermeire Creations or respect vero profumo and Puredistance, these lines are too young to get a spot in the short “must” list).
Brands should be available for testing (directly or through online services) both in the U.S. and Europe (so no tiny artisan brands for this list).
My list of Five Niche Brands You Need to Know (with a brief description of why – not for my regular readers but for future visitors who find my blog through some unexpected searches, e.g. “lily of the valley+cat”):
Serge Lutens (http://www.sergelutens.com/) is probably the ultimate niche perfume brand. It’s bold, unconventional but at the same time still perfumes that you want to wear and not just test, analyze and review. Kafka (Kafkaesque) covered the topic of Serge Lutens – both a persona and a brand – extensively and I urge you to read Part I and Part II of her story.
Amouage (http://www.amouage.com/) is an epitome of opulence, luxury and quality. These rich and mostly classic perfumes won’t suit everybody in the modern sheer-smelling world but the brand is worth knowing even just for educational purposes to see how perfumes can be anti-minimalistic and not transparent. Watch four short videos on now smell this in which Christopher Chong, creative director of Amouage, talks about perfume and the brand.
Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle (http://www.fredericmalle.com/) is the first brand ever to put a perfumer’s name on a bottle. In the world in which a scent IP doesn’t exist it was a huge step towards promoting a creator, an artist and not a money purse. Read Natalie’s (Another Perfume Blog) interview with Frédéric Malle. (UPD: APB is closed now)
L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s (http://www.artisanparfumeur.com) perfumes might be not the most innovative (though over years they’ve created some very unusual perfumes) but very wearable, so it is a perfect starter house for anybody who wants to venture from the mainstream perfume market into the niche one. Read Luca Turin’s L’Artisan Parfumeur 30 years later for the tidbits of the house’s history.
Ormonde Jayne (http://www.ormondejayne.com/) has a whole line-up of very likable and distinct perfumes at reasonable (for modern niche market) prices. Ormonde Jayne’s perfumes smell modern and classic at the same time. Read a very warm and personable interview with Linda Pilkington by Sigrun (Riktig Parfym) and a recent Andrew Buck’s (Scentrist) chat with her for more information about the brand.
So these are my choices of the “need to know” niche perfume brands. Give me your five choices. Do not try to purposefully complement my list: if you agree with all or some of my choices – say so; but feel free to change any or even all brands if you have a different answer to my the question. I’ll try to do something with all the answers for my January statistics post.
Image: my own
great idea for the posting considering the criteria, indeed!!!
I agree about Serge Lutens and L’Artisan Parfumeur, but unfortunately I haven’t tested anything from Ormonde Jayne. Though I love L’Eau d’Hiver and Iris Poudre, and I am fond of everything I tested and wore from the range, and recently fell in love with Noir Epices, I can argue about the readability and accessibility of Malle’s fragrances. This might as well apply for Amouage that only impressed me with the Library collection. To SL and L’Artisan Parfumeur , I would add my total crush Parfumerie Generale, Byredo and Miller Harris. PG offers such wide variety of scent interpretations that one can almost get lost (gladly!), but would certinly get out of the maze with a pretty favorite perfume! Byredo is the naughty child with atypical interpretations of notes and experiences! Miller Harris is the natural flow with a huge dose of classical interpretations that are quite rare these days!
Thank you for the input, Lyubov! I had a minimal exposure to Miller Harris and PG but I agree that they are great candidates based on criteria. Byredo is hit or miss for me personally but it fits. We’ll see what we have by the end of the poll.
Hi sweetie! I understand your choices of L’Artisan Parfumeur and Serge Lutens (although both these brands don’t work for me) I have doubts about Frederic Malle (like perfumer’s name on the label but I find them not worth the price.) I have even more doubts about Ormonde Jayne to which I have totally no access (they should have more boutiques and sell individual samples)
I’m yet to find my perfect Amouage but I appreciate the brand.
From myself I would consider adding brands such as Parfum d’Empire or Histoires de Parfums.
L’Artisan Parfumeur isn’t “my” brand either and from Frederic Malle I have just a couple of favorite perfumes but I wasn’t trying to do “my best” brands – that’s why I chose them.
So, from you I have L’Artisan, SL, Parfum d’Empire and Histoires de Parfums. Did you mean that the fifth one is Amouage (even though it doesn’t work for you) or will you come up with another brand?
Yes, the 5th one is Amouage. So far I have clicked with Lyric, Ciel and two Opus scents so it’s not that bad but I’m yet to discover the Amouage for me. I appreciate the brand and I believe it’s the perfume house everyone should explore.
My personal 5 would be Frederic Malle, Histoires de Parfums, Byredo, Heeley ( although I have no idea if that is available in the US) and Serge Lutens.
Lists are always fun. I think it’s something deep within our brain structure that makes us like lists.
Sabine, thank you for the input. Come back in a couple of days to see results.
Thought-provoking post – and original article. There were some odd names in there I thought! I would go with your list, just substituting Parfumerie Generale for Amouage. I would consider Diptyque a worthy runner up to L’Artisan, but think that L’Artisan is probably a better pick, as it offers the optimum mix of accessible and weird, and like Jo Malone (or a notch up from Jo Malone, say), could act as a gateway brand to the niche scene…
Succinct and accessible. I cannot add another brand based on your criteria. Great list for future newbies. I think that this post is a rabbit hole! First stop Zizan and Isfarkand.
Thank you, Jordan.
Do you have those two for testing?
I have to admit that I actually do not know a couple of brands mentioned in the original article.
PG is a good brand for the task but I think I didn’t consider it just because I tried only 8 of their perfumes (it’s not easily available here).
I’m with V on substituting Amouage for PG. Just because in the early days I found Amouage perfumes to be too pricey and of a similar style. I think a newbie would get more from PG (though I know that’s not in your criteria and PG is hard to come by for you).
No-no, samples are available from Lucky Scent and other places – so the company completely falls into the set of criteria.
L’Artisan and Serge Lutens are both excellent choices as they cover a lot of territory with distinctly different visions. Amouage fills the intensely luxurious spot. The last two are little more difficult to select….Frederic Malle, Ormonde Jayne….perhaps PG, Profumum Roma, TDC or IPdF might also fill those spots. As much as I adore Roja Dove , I don’t feel that his body of work is as original in concept as these others. MDCI could be a contender although the line is young and limited as yet, the same applies to LeLabo. Montale should have some sort of Honorable Mention type status as they have produced a number of worthy fragrances as long as you are able to excuse their horrible homogenous ouds.
So here are my 5:
1. Serge Lutens
2. L’artisan Parfumeur
4. Frederic Malle
5. Parfumerie Generale
whew. I need to go rest now….
Thank you, Ruth. I know, it’s hard to choose: there are so many really remarkable brands.
Tough one…I love the selection of Amouage, because between their Western style perfumes and the attars they have quite a range of opulent, rich scents. I also agree with Serge Lutens, and L’Artisan has some great offerings too, even if they seem to be very short-lived in longevity. Annick Goutal, Ayala Moriel, CB I Hate Perfume, DSH Perfumes, Sonoma Scent Studio, Yosh, Soivohle…wow! I didn’t realize just how many great options there are until I started listing them out!
Thank you, RenChick. I didn’t mean that anybody would have to stop and limit themselves by just any five, even the most suitable for the starting point. But there has to be that starting point, right?
Love the post, but this is a hard one. I want to say things like Guerlain, Caron and the like, but I know that’s not what this is about so I say:
1. Parfum d’Empire – a great collection at a great cost.
2. Maria Candida Gentile – natural perfumes that are distinctive and interesting.
3. Aftelier Perfumes – Mandy has some lovely naturals
4. Tauer Perfumes – When they’re good they’re great (Noontide Petals), but when they’re bad they’re bad (Orange Star).
5. Amouage – quality at a cost, but they’re gorgeous.
Say hi to Rusty for me.
Steve, I gave Rusty a tummy rub in your name :)
I haven’t tried a single perfume by Maria Candida Gentile! I do not have to return my perfumista card, do I?
Good lord no, but the first to try I recommend would be Exultat or Sideris.
Hi there Undina, I’ve never really given this much thought, but I suppose my list would be quite similar to yours, in no order of merit:
1. Frederic Malle
2. Serge Lutens
3. L’Artisan Parfumeur
4. Histoires de Parfums
5. Parfum d’Empire
I picked them not necessarily because they were my favourite brands, but because I thought that the range of products they offered was significantly varied such that anyone exploring the entire line would come across many different notes, and different styles. On that note, I did leave out Amouage and Ormonde Jayne because although I love them, their fragrances tend to share too much of a common base to be particularly distinct.
Thank you, thesmellyvagabond! You did exactly what I asked for! From my list only Amouage and Ormonde Jayne are my favorite brands (though I put them on the list not because of that).
Oh boy, this is hard! Not in any particular order, mine are:
1. Tauer Perfumes
2. Parfumerie Generale
3. Serge Lutens
4. Frederic Malle
5. Histoires de Parfums
I probably could have added a few more but I’m in a “follow the rules” mood today :-)
Thank you, hajusuuri (and separately – for following the rules:) ).
I should definitely test more PG and HdP – so many people mentioned them and I’m not really familiar with them.
OMG! Headus Explodus.
My five, with the criteria in mind but also trying to give broad spectrum.
1. Serge Lutens
2. Frederic Malle
4. L’Artisan Parfumeur
5. Neela Vermeire Creations
Thanks Undina, please give that handsome fellow Rusty a treat from me.
Dear Portia, thank you for participating! I hope you’re enjoying your trip.
As much as I love Neela and like her perfumes I’m not sure that with 4 officially released perfumes in line it’s a fair selection to represent the “starter” niche world.
Well, considering your limitations, I agree with your choices even though I personally don’t really like Amouages much.
I’d add Guerlain, thinking mostly of what they did in mainstream up until early 2000s (since limited batches are not part of this).
Personally though, I think L’Artisan provides the easiest and most understandable gateway to niche perfumery.
Are you saying that mainstream Guerlain (pre-2000) should be added to the list of niche brands to explore? ;) It’s an unusual idea :)
Seems even though I read and understood your question, I managed to forget the most important part of it while replying. ;)
But now it came out, I actually do consider the old Guerlains on par with the good niche stuff…
Interesting list. I’d add Miller Harris here as I think they are continually innovative and high quality. I’m not sure about Amouage, they may be high quality ingredients but I abhor their pricing policy and lack of samples.
I think Serge Lutens started many of us on our journeys, for that I will always love the brand, even when they release the occasional duff scent.
Thank you, Sarah. I’ll get MH instead of A. for your list then.
While I understand what you mean about prices (though it doesn’t bother me, I do not think that perfumes have to be affordable), I thought that Amouage samples were not less available than for most other brands. At least in the U.S. I’ve never seen that brand anywhere around where I live, so for me all the samples for them were either purchases or swaps.
My five would be: Serge Lutens, L’artisan, Malle, Histoires de Parfums and for the last one it would probably be PG, although these are generally not top of my own list- I just think it’s a big line-up, lots to choose from, and still price tags to afford without any selling of body parts.
I agree; 20 is actually too many for a start:-)
Treat to Rusty from me <3
I see… Now Rusty is getting treats even when he doesn’t appear in the post :) I’ll have to publish a picture or two of him in the results post: he has to earn the keep.
Thank you for the list, Asali. I will look more into PG perfumes, I promise! :)
Very nice selection, I would put on the list also Bond No.9 and Parfumerie Generale, but Serge Lutens and Malle are must for a newcomer. The quantity of different types of perfumes is important to be able to get some general impression what he or she likes or dislikes.
So, Bond No.9, Parfumerie Generale, Serge Lutens and Malle. What is your #5?
Let’s say Creed or Jo Malone
Nice post, Undina! I think that based on my usage and collection, I’d have to nominate these:
1. Miller Harris
2. Keiko Mecheri
3. L’Artisan Parfumeur
6. Serge Lutens
7. HIstoires de Parfums
;-) (sorry, I’m not good at following rules!)
You can break all the rules you want – I’m just not taking those after #5 into the consideration when I do calculations ;-P
I was very excited to participate and make a list, but then found that I agree almost completely with yours. Oh well. :) I do think a swap out of OJ would occur on my list.
1. Serge Lutens
3. Frederic Malle
5. Annick Goutal
Don’t be upset! As you’ll see from the results it was an obvious selection :)
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This is a good question, very interesting, but I’d say that recently, the carpet keeps getting pulled out from under my old opinions about niche perfumes. There are so many indie perfumers , often US or Canadian, who are producing such good work that I feel like I’m terribly behind and have to do some smelling.
However I ‘d agree: 1 Serge Lutens
2 Federic Malle
Then I get into difficulties,
And now I have some smelling to do. I like The Maria Candida Gentile suggestion,
4 Hilde Soliani for oddity and good quality
5 La Via del Profumo
Thank you for the input! Even though I’ve already calculated the stats, you wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
I’m so not familiar with everything on your list starting #3 that I can’t even agree or disagree with you. “I have some smelling to do” :)