Knowing where to begin with the world of niche perfumery can be tricky. The options for brands, price points, styles and availability are numerous and it’s easy to get lost in all the different choices. You might even be wondering what on earth niche perfumery actually is? We’ve put together this guide to help you hone in on some of the brands that are really easy to get into and fall in love with, to help you start your niche journey with ease.
What is niche perfumery?
Niche, art or artisan perfumery is a very vague and ill-defined concept. It started off as perfumes which were in limited distribution – ie smaller brands – and whilst this may retain an element of truth, there is a trend nowadays for big brands to buy up successful small houses so as to make them appear to have that cult status. Here at The Sniff, we use ‘niche’ to describe anything that operates, or appears to operate as an independent, artistic or artisanal brand, but we bear in mind that this can be quite flexible.
Where can I buy it?
Interesting perfume can be hard to find so if you are looking to try out some niche scents there are shops which can help you although many of them are based in big cities. In London, Bloom Perfumery stock an excellent, curated range. Jovoy Mayfair offers the opportunity to try a wide range of different brands and Les Senteurs completes the big London trio.
Aside from physical stores, the internet is your best friend if you want to start experimenting with the niche world. Facebook groups such as Eau My Soul offer the chance to get recommendations from established ‘fragheads’ (yes that is really what they call each other) or feel free to browse our archives to search for particular scents that take your fancy – at the end of each review we list where you can buy the fragrance from.
What brands should I start with?
Some brands are easier to get into than others in terms of composition and you’ll find as you experiment that your nose becomes more attuned to what appeals to you and works on your skin. When starting out, we wouldn’t advise that anyone splurges on a super expensive bottle of something; buy samples first and wear it in your everyday life before you commit. The prices of niche bottles of fragrance range from ‘affordable’ to the ‘holy crap I need a second mortgage for that’. Buy slowly and with consideration and you won’t go far wrong. We’ve listed brands below which hit the sweet spot of being good value for money, interesting, but easy to like all at once.
This French brand fly a little under the radar and it’s always been a mystery to us as to why that would be. They combine great compositions with a classical elegance which isn’t stuffy or old fashioned. The word ‘timeless’ springs to mind. Pluie de Soleil, L’eau de Phaedon, Cendres de The, Hesperys, Ilanguara, and Pure Azure are all great fragrances from this brand which will definitely have you smelling different without reinventing the fragrance wheel entirely.
Fun and quirky, 4160 Tuesdays are a UK-based brand who could have ‘friendly’ as their tagline. Their range is vast and sweeps from scents that smell like Scarborough beach in the summer right through to sophisticated ambers and classical structures. They are always doing interesting projects such as crowdfunding and their scents come in a range of sizes so it’s easy to try something out affordably before getting a big bottle.
The best thing about 4160 Tuesdays and one of the reasons we had to include them here, is that they are the sort of brand you can just ring up, or pop into their London studio, and they’ll talk you through what you might like. It’s that personal level of service and detail that really lifts them above the competition.
You can read our interview with 4160 Tuesdays and our experience of undertaking one of their workshops.
Another brand with a huge range is Pierre Guillaume. Like their sister brand, Phaedon, this is another great brand to try when you want to get into niche. Their range encompasses pretty much every type of perfume you could want, from the sweet to the smoky, and they are incredibly wearable whilst being away from the norm. Pierre is known particularly for the sophisticated way in which he weaves edible, or gourmand, elements into his fragrances, but there is something in this house that will cater to just about any taste.
Gallivant are a UK-based brand we have only recently discovered, but we have been impressed by how light, modern and minimalist their scents are. Without exception, every single one we have tried has been easy to wear and versatile. They are all inspired by and named after famous cities so one day you might be channeling Tel Aviv and the next London, via Berlin and Amsterdam. The scents come in 30ml bottles and prices start at £65, so you don’t have to splurge on a massive 100ml bottle that you might never get through – more brands should take note.
The creative force behind Strangers, Prin Lomros, teaches film studies in Thailand so as you would perhaps expect, many of his scents have films as their inspiration. There is a spicy/sweet theme we notice in a lot of their range, but they are accessible and easy to wear as well as retaining interesting reference points – for example in their Salted Green Mango, Prin recreates a particular fruit which isn’t easy to obtain in Europe, so the fragrance has a vague familiarity but with a really interesting twist.
Brocard aren’t widely available, only being available from Bloom Perfumery London in the UK as far as we can tell, but they are worth checking out for the fact that they offer excellent quality scents at very reasonable prices. As such, they’re great for experimenting with new notes or formulas that you want to try, but might not be ready to spring for an expensive bottle of yet. We’ve heard reports of their prices rising recently, and indeed they have also added a lux line of scents to their range (with lux price tag), so try them before they become too expensive to splurge on.
Rouge Bunny Rouge are probably better known for their make-up, but please don’t be put off their scents if you are a more conservative gent. They make excellent, unisex fragrances too. They’re one of those rare brands that we would be very happy to own every single scent by, and it’s not often you can say that – even with brands you love.
The Rouge Bunny Rouge style is slightly more challenging than some of the brands we’ve mentioned above, but their fragrances really are ones you can fall in love with, and their excellent online delivery means that they are really easy to get hold of and try.
Our final brand for getting into niche perfume with is Bon Parfumeur. This brand make scents designed for layering together to create something bespoke to you. The fragrances are very pleasant on their own, with the ability to layer being an optional extra. The range of individual scents they offer is also huge, and they do little gift sets which come with a number of scents for you to try combining. Prices start from £38 and the bottles are smaller sized so you don’t have to worry about spending a fortune on buying the wrong one. Fragrances are numbered rather than named and the numbering refers to what type of scent they are so the whole layering process is made a little easier to navigate.
The other stuff
The key to finding your way into niche perfumery is samples and experimenting with an open mind. Trying things out that you wouldn’t normally expect to like can bring such wonders into your fragrance wardrobe. Don’t try to find a single fragrance to fit every occasion. Start by getting something that works in your day job and work up from there. Before you know it you’ll have fallen down the rabbit hole of fragrance!