Niche Perfumery System: Minor Brands

As it often happens with attempts to classify anything, while some elements easily fit the chosen methodology, there are always those that stick out of any category one tries to assign them to. A perfect example of it is “niche perfume brand.” People have different opinion on whether By Kilian can be considered niche brand or it is a high-end mainstream. Is Tauer Perfumes niche or indie brand? Where does Caron stand?

Still intuitively each of us has a general definition of niche perfumery for ourselves and for the purpose of this discussion it should be enough: we won’t be voting any plutos off the niche island.

Major Perfume Brands

If niche perfumery were the solar system, such brands as Serge Lutens, Frederic Malle (at least until now), Amouage, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Ormonde Jayne and many others would clearly be considered major planets: all perfumistas know these brands’ perfumes; new releases are widely discussed and reviewed; those bottles are coveted and having them in one’s collection seems to be prestigious. All of that is never openly declared and there are always exceptions to that “rule” but it’s a feeling I got from participating in many online communities – on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. At the same time there are many brands that seem to be not as prestigious. Many of them are recognized, people like and wear some of the perfumes but those are treated with less admiration. Minor planets.

Among my personal minor planets there are such brands as, for example, Lush, Tokyo Milk and Royal Apothic. I’m not sure why I feel dismissive towards these brands I just know that I do not follow their releases, do not try to get those perfumes for testing and might even pass them by while at a store. A case of perfumista snobbery maybe?

Last May, while participating in Los Gatos Wine Walk (they organize it twice a year there and it’s a great way to spend a day: good food to snack on, wine from interesting small wineries to taste, small shops and boutiques to visit), I stopped at Antropologie. It was probably all that great wine and food but when I saw a beautiful dark blue bottle I couldn’t resist trying that perfume straight on skin… Half an hour later I was back to the store buying a travel bottle of Dogwood Blossom by Royal Apothic.

Royal Apothic Dogwood Blossom

Brand’s website describes Dogwood Blossom as “Night blooming dogwood flower is immersed in rich notes of ginger, coco, honey, and tonka bean. Top notes: tobacco flower, warm amber; middle notes: cocoa, ginger, honey; base notes: teakwood.” I’ve never smelled dogwood tree blossom so I have no idea if the perfume represents it in any way. What I smell is warm gingered amber, sweet and spicy. Dogwood Blossom attracts attention, it’s not just “nice” or “pleasant” but it has character. Is it my favorite amber? Probably not. But I enjoy wearing it and think it would have been my loss if I hadn’t decided to end that nice Wine Walk event with a perfume purchase.

Do “minor brands” exist in your universe? Have any of the perfumes from those brands landed in your collection or do they still orbiting it?

Images: my own.


21 thoughts on “Niche Perfumery System: Minor Brands

  1. Classifications are often problematic. 4160 Tuesdays is my minor brand of choice, London based perfumer Sarah McCartney. Whilst I don’t like a lot of them they are a great concept and stay true to the creator rather than following market trends. I do like Dark Heart, Invisible Ben, London 1969, the latter two I own bottles of.


    • 4160 Tuesdays is one of those brands about which I heard but haven’t had any first-hand experience. But yes, probably I would consider them “minor niche” (unless they are actually an indie brand).


  2. I definitely recognise this phenomenon, and would agree with your ‘minor planet’ selection. Well, especially Royal Apothic, as it is not a name I have heard of. ;) I would probably consider Sonoma Scent Studio, Ava Luxe and Sage Machado as further examples of minor planets – they are well priced (I think from memory), and somehow feel less mystique-ified than the major names. Interestingly, the new Papillon range from Liz Moores feels ‘full niche’ to me – helped by its bottles’ resemblance to those of Ormonde Jayne – despite the fact that Liz herself is extremely ‘accessible’.


    • It’s funny about Royal Apothic,because it’s supposedly a U.K.-based brand. And it’s funny about Papillon: initially I had a feeling it was either an indie or minor brand – because I confused it with another such brand (which speaks of how much attention I pay to those). But once I realized the confusion the brand’s status went up – even though I’m not sure I’ll end-up wearing any of their perfumes.


  3. I have no experience with actual Dogwood blossom either, but that blue bottle is so pretty and eye-catching! I would’ve stopped to look more closely as well.

    I usually try not to get too caught up in classifying brands, since, as you say, the differences between mainstream, niche, and indie can be hard to parse out. Just taking a glance at my collection, I guess I’d say Mona di Orio, L’Artisan, and Diptyque are some niche brands I own. Then you have brands like Chanel that do the mainstream fragrances sold in Sephora, plus Les Exclusifs, which are more niche and high-end.


  4. I don’t know anything about these classifications – but it sounds like you did find something you like from a brand you would have previously dismissed. That’s a win!


  5. Hmm, this is a really hard question to answer, Undina, because I do like a lot of creations by indie perfumers, but my hunch is that you would not categorize indie perfumers as niche brands (or “minor brands”). I guess to answer your question, I consider Tokyo Milk a minor brand and I do like a couple of their scents, one of which made it into my collection. Mostly, though, my perfume collection revolves around the brands you identified as being like major planets.

    By your description and the notes list, the Royal Apothia Dogwood Blossom perfume sounds really good, so maybe I ought not to be such a “major” snob! :D


    • :)
      I think that the bigger my collection gets the less chances for “minor brands” to get into it (indie brands are in their own category, I’ll keep supporting those few that I like).


  6. Funnily enough, I thought that dogwood blossoms (in real life) smelled pretty bad! Of course, having just googled it I see that dogwood trees are sometimes confused for Callery pear trees, which smell rather…unpleasant. The same article that explained this also mentioned that male gingko trees smell like vomit. Who knew? Luckily, most flowers DO smell pretty good :)


  7. Of the three brands you mention, I haven’t tried anything, which I suspect comes down to them being ‘minor brands’ ;-) And the fact that they are not readily available here… At the moment I can only think of small niche or indie, unless Demeter would qualify? It’s bigger than the ones you mention but still doesn’t really fall into they other cathegories, I think? I don’t know much about them either to be honest.
    A fun and difficult task you’ve set us here.


    • I don’t think Demeter can be considered even niche brand: their perfumes are sold in hundreds of stores in Canada and the U.S. In my classification I put them into “mall scent.” Their perfumes are too simple for me so I wouldn’t want to use them even at the bargain price you can get them (I bought three 50 ml, I think, bottles for $15 but use them as linen spray once in a while).


    • I have one roller-ball perfume from Pacifica – French Lilac. But I’ll admit that I almost never check them out so I don’t even know which perfumes are current, which are new.


  8. A lot of the niche perfumers are quite minor but i wonder how would you classify Parfums de Nicolai? Major or minor? To me she’s major, but I I don’t think the brand has much traction Stateside.
    Royal Apothic caught my eye too, so I’m glad they have at least one pretty amber out there, I really like their packaging and this counts for something. Perfume should look good as well as smell lovely and I like to see a house making an effort.


    • I think that Parfums de Nicolai is rather a “major” brand, especially now when they improved their bottles. Companies should pay attention to packaging! Even the most accessible perfumes still are luxury items and they should feel like such.


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