An Individual Scent
You don’t need me to tell you the difference between a mass-market fashion brand and a smaller designer label.
Oh sure, you can pick up some great things on the high street but if you’re after something a little special – something that not every other guy will be wearing – you need to go niche. And the same is true when it comes to your choice of fragrance.
Big designer brands might have the marketing muscle but in terms of creativity, originality and quality the smaller boutique brands are where it’s at right now. And without the huge budgets and celebrity endorsements, their success is entirely down to how they smell.
Wear a boutique fragrance and you send out a message that you value individuality, exclusivity and craftsmanship. In short, that you’re gentleman and a connoisseur.
So here are ten boutique men’s fragrances worth checking out. Some of them you may be familiar with, some not, but they’re all well worth a sniff…
Vetiver Extrait By Roja Parfums
The Fragrance: With a price tag of £275, Vetiver Extrait might be a considered purchase but this punchy, warm vetiver, enhanced by nutmeg, celery and caraway, is super-concentrated and has almost unrivalled staying power.
So much so, in fact, that you’ll still be able to smell it on your skin and clothes a whole day later.
The Brand: One of Britain’s most acclaimed perfumers, Roja Dove’s luxury fragrances are famous the world over for their complexity and uncompromising use of the finest perfume ingredients.
With strictly limited distribution, Roja Parfums is one of the few houses that warrant use of words like ‘haute’ and ‘luxe’.
Also Worth A Spray: Roja Parfums Fetish Pour Homme. Hyper-masculine, animalistic and big on leather and musk, with floral notes of violet and jasmine, Fetish is, as the name implies, sexy stuff.
Celtic Fire By Union
The Fragrance: The concept behind Union was to create fragrances that celebrate the botany of Britain but with a boutique twist. As if to prove the point this fantastically peaty number, with its blend of intensely smoky birch tar and bog myrtle, also throws in a dollop of Marmite (no, really).
A deliciously dark and autumnal fragrance, it’s a real antidote to mainstream eau de toilettes.
The Brand: Created by British perfumer Anastasia Brozler, Union features four distinct fragrances celebrating ingredients sourced in the UK – from Highland pine resin and bracken to wild thyme from the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia. They come in cool Union Jack bottles too.
Also Worth A Spray: Holy Thistle. The polar opposite of Celtic Fire, this bracing, green fragrance – with hints of pine resin and bay leaf – is perfect for daytime. Fresh and faintly medicinal, but in a good way.
Artillery No 4 By Angela Flanders
The Fragrance: Based around the earthy aroma of vetiver, No 4 is a warm, woody and leathery fragrance tempered by lavender and bergamot to give it a lighter, almost barbershop freshness.
It has a price point not dissimilar to premium designer brands, making it great value.
The Brand: A small, thoroughly British boutique brand, founded in Shoreditch in 1985 by former costume designer turned perfumer Angela Flanders. It’s developed a loyal following of customers seeking originality from their eaus.
Also Worth A Spray: Oudh Noir. About as masculine as a fragrance gets (think woodsmoke and gentlemen’s clubs) this fantastically rich, warm fragrance is definitely worth considering.
Patchouli 24 By Le Labo
The Fragrance: If you’re the type of guy who moans about fragrances not lasting more than a couple of hours on your skin, Le Labo’s Patchouli 24 will silence you forever.
Earthy, tenacious and big on patchouli, it’s ferociously strong stuff and few mass-market fragrances can beat it for staying power.
The Brand: Founded by Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi, who had both previously worked for Giorgio Armani fragrances, the New York-based perfumery label Le Labo has become something of a cult brand for those seeking quality, originality and minimalist chic.
The numbers in the names, incidentally, refer to the number of notes in each fragrance.
Also Worth A Spray: It’s worth giving all of Le Labo’s fragrances the once over but especially good are the super-woody Santal 23 and Bergamote 22, which is fresh and zingy yet warm and creamy all at once.
Blood Oranges By Shay & Blue
The Fragrance: If you like fresh, citrus-based fragrances but find them a little too ‘clean’ smelling for evening and are disappointed by their longevity this fragrance from Shay & Blue might be the answer.
As the name suggests it’s a deliciously juicy citrus scent but it’s pimped-up with musky, leathery notes to give it a warm sensuality and a versatility often missing from citrusy fragrances.
The Brand: The brainchild of former Jo Malone Global General Manager Dom De Vetta and up-and-coming perfumer Julie Massé, Shay & Blue may only be a couple of years old but it’s already gleaned the admiration of press and perfume enthusiasts.
Also Worth A Spray: Oud Alif. The company’s latest fragrance and first foray into oud territory is warm, smoky, chocolaty and leathery and, with alif meaning ‘alpha’ in Arabic, it clearly has ambitions of being king of the ouds.
Amyris Pour Homme Maison By Francis Kurkdjian
The Fragrance: A fusion of warm, smoky oud, powdery iris, fresh mandarin and Jamaican Amyris (a resin derived from a wood so flammable it’s known as torchwood), it also has a hint of chocolate. Intriguing, complex and fun.
The Brand: Francis Kurkdjian has little to prove as a perfumer – he was the man who created Jean Paul Gaultier’s iconic Le Male fragrance after all – and his own fragrances allow him free rein to experiment without overtly commercial pressures.
Also Worth A Spray: Francis Kurkdjian Oud. A fantastic oud fragrance that has a sweet, intoxicating edge.
No88 By Czech & Speake
The Fragrance: Launched at the beginning of the eighties, Czech & Speake’s No 88 is superbly grown-up and English with an uplifting barbershop freshness. It features a floral heart of rose and a dry, woody base of vetiver and sandalwood.
Like the decade which saw its launch it’s big, blousy and bombastic.
The Brand: Beginning life as a company that sold – of all things – bespoke bathroom fittings inspired by Edwardian elegance, Czech & Speake opened its first shop on London’s Jermyn Street, home of some of England’s finest tailors, and eventually went on to produce some of Britain’s best shaving accoutrements, and fragrances.
Also Worth A Spray: Czech & Speake Frankincense & Myrrh Cologne. Fantastically festive this combination of two ancient ingredients also features basil, cedarwood, orange and lemon to round it out and ensure that it’s the kind of fragrance you can wear all year round.
Green By Byredo
The Fragrance: Launched in 2008, this fragrance was created as an homage to the fragrances worn by Byredo founder Ben Gorham’s father back in the 1970s.
Dosed with orange petitgrain, violet, jasmine and sage it’s – you guessed it – intensely green (think fresh leaves) and floral. Perfect for summer.
The Brand: Stockholm-based Byredo, founded by Gorham and perfumers Olivia Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette, displays all the stylish simplicity you’d expect from the country that gave us Filippa K and J.Lindberg.
Focusing on craftsmanship and quality it now sells in twenty-two countries but remains a cult brand.
Also Worth A Spray: Bullion. Created with one eye on the lucrative Middle Eastern market this rich, dark, woody and musky fragrance is sweet, leathery and sexy. Diametrically opposed to Green it’s just as good and, more importantly, has a fantastic name.
Geranium Pour Monsieur By Editions de Parfums Frédéric
The Fragrance: Created by perfumer Dominique Ropion, Geranium Pour Monsieur is a delightfully fresh and spicy fragrance built around a big geranium note, adding in aniseed, peppermint and sandalwood for good measure.
It has the long-lasting freshness of classic fougère fragrances, which traditionally have lavender and coumarin (which smells sweet and hay-like) in their composition but achieves it in a different way.
The Brand: An umbrella company using an array of talented noses, olfactory svengali Frédéric Malle introduced the Editions de Parfums at the turn of the new millennium as a way to showcase the individual talents of his favourite perfumers.
The brand has since become a favourite of fragrance connoisseurs and beauty journalists alike.
Also Worth A Spray: Vetiver Extraordinaire (another Ropion creation). If you love the earthy, woody, slightly leathery and smoky smell of vetiver you’ll love this – it features nearly three times as much vetiver as most vetiver fragrances.
Dreckig Bleiben By Dreckig Bleiben
The Fragrance: Created by perfumer Mark Buxton, someone with projects for Le Labo, Givenchy, Cartier and Commes des Garçons on his CV, German fragrance Dreckig Bleiben (‘stay dirty’ in English) is fantastically woody and ever so slightly tarry.
The bottle is quirky too, with a lid fashioned from century’s old reclaimed housing timber.
The Brand: Conceived by designer Stefanie Mayr, brand designer Daniel Plettenberg and Buxton, the idea behind the fragrance was to create something that was “a rejection of superficiality” – the universal goal of all boutique fragrances.
Also Worth A Spray: Right now Dreckig Bleiben is all there is. Now how’s that for exclusivity?
So there you have it, a raft of interesting and complex fragrances from some amazing boutique fragrances houses. Each one provides an alluring alternative to what mass-market brands have to offer and are proof that, if big is beautiful then small is definitely more interesting.
If you’ve tried any of the scents showcased today or have your own boutique fragrance discovery to share, let us know in the comments section…