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Niche Perfume & Classic Fragrance Intermediate – Perfume Education 201


Niche Perfume and Classic Fragrance for Intermediates - Perfume Education 201Welcome to Niche Perfume and Classic Fragrance for Intermediates – Perfume Education 201 – the intermediate/advanced list of suggestions for fragrances to smell, with input from our panel of experts (aka our blog commenters).

You can tackle the fragrances on this list if you’ve done your basic course of Niche Perfume 101, where we covered some perfume basics and suggestions for where to start in your sniffage. There´s also a permanent link to that post in the left-hand column of this blog.

You know you’re a bona fide fragrance freak if you have your own decanting supplies. Get in the habit of carrying around a baggie of empty vials with you — if you ask nicely, you can often get a baffled SA to let you make a sample of something “for later.” Don’t forget your labels and your waterproof pen! Those teeny Zip-Loc baggies are useful if you’re worried about a vial of something leaking, and the pipettes or bulb syringes are great for decanting things from flacons. It’s hard to find decanting supply places that sell in smaller quantities. March likes Pilotvials; Patty recommends SKS Bottle or Exotic Fragrances. Small (1ml) and larger (2) vials are useful, along with  3 or 5ml perfume atomizers. Plastic atomizers tend to be cheaper, but if you’re going to store a decant for awhile, get the glass ones. You get what you pay for: very cheap plastic atomizers tend to leak. Super-fantastic decants of rare or uber-expensive stuff might be better off in one of those little glass screw-top bottles, just big enough to contain the juice. Remember: heat, light and excess air are the enemy of fragrance.

This Niche Perfume and Classic Fragrance for Intermediates – Perfume Education 201 is for those of you who have a comfort level outside the department-store and mainstream fragrances most folks are familiar with. We have no doubt there are people out there – including some of you readers – who have a higher natural level of sophistication than we do regarding fragrances. Maybe you took your first sniff of some really leathery fragrance, or some civet-ripe vintage treasure, and thought you´d died and gone to heaven. If you are like us, however, you probably just thought you´d died. (Or you were smelling something that was dead.)

We each have our fragrance litmus test – the scents we smelled, and smelled again, and re-smelled until our feelings went from disgust to love. For Patty, those scents are Muscs Khoublai Khan, vintage scents, and indolic (means fecal-smelling) jasmine. For March, those scents are leatherfests like Bandit and S-Perfume Lust.

Anyway, if you think it´s time to broaden your horizons a little and continue your Perfume Education into the best perfumes for an intermediate perfumista  – if you can smell a little leather, or maybe some musk, and not toss your cookies in the nearest trash can, here´s a list of best fragrances we think raise the bar in terms of challenge and interest. Just like the last list, it´s a nonscientific sample and undoubtedly reflects our biases. Dig in and enjoy. Just remember – like your first oyster, your first mouthful of, um… caviar or Stilton, and some of the other firsts in your adult life, you may not love it the first time. And that´s okay.

One additional note on the groupings — these are judgment calls, many of these scents can easily fall into more than one of our categories (e.g., weird AND leather). We stuck it where we thought they fit best, but it’s a coin toss on some, don’t sweat over the classifications. Just smell them. We’ll leave this one up with a permanent link so you can always refer back to it.

You Should Smell:

Classics and reissuesChanel No 5. You may hate it, you may despise the aldehydes, but you need to sniff it anyway, preferably in the parfum or the EDP. Christian Dior Diorling and/or Diorama, either the vintage or the reissue. Whether done by Roudnitska originally or the reissues by Roja Dove, these are classic, complicated scents. All of these are valuable to see how far a pefumer can go in creating something complex and beautiful, or in the case of Diorling, A High-Strung Drama Queen that you can’t help but love. Houbigant Apercu — you can still buy it, and it is still stunning. Also, you may not want to wear them, but resniff elevator-clearers like Piguet Fracas and Dior Poison, great fragrances that maybe shouldn’t be worn to work. In fact, the entire Piguet oeuvre, new and vintage, is worth a sniff (Bandit, Fracas, Visa, Baghari, and anything else we forgot.)
Leather – There are a lot of great hard-core leathers. Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman, Knize Ten, Caron Tabac Blond, Caron Yatagan, Tauer Perfume’s Lonestar Memories, Rochas Femme (vintage), and Kolnisch Juchten are all worth smelling.
Incense – Any or all of the Comme des Garcons Incense series scents, Armani Prive Bois d’Encens, Donna Karan Black Cashmere (incense/woods), Norma Kamali Ceremony or Incense, Etro Messe di Minuit (incense or mildew?), Chanel No. 22, Josef Statkus, Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande, Diptyque L’Eau Trois.
Green Chanel No. 19, Carven Ma Griffe, Miller et Bertaux No. 3, Balmain Vent Vert (preferably vintage), Gres Cabochard (ditto), Tauer Perfumes Reverie au Jardin (green/lavender).
Musk– You’re ready for the big girl panties and the big boy bed, so head right for the Big Daddy, MKK, Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan. You did say you’re all grown, right? Over 21 for sure? Well, let’s just keep going. Don’t make that “ew, peas” face, this is an excellent education, and you may even love it – lots of people do – CB I hate Perfume Musk Reinvention. The most universally loved musk would be Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur. Kiehls Musk is the old-timer that has its fans.
Tea Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan or Comme des Garcons Series 1: Leaves (Tea), Parfumerie Generale Harmatan Noir (tea with a little mint, Patty’s favorite tea of all time); L’Artisan Tea for Two, Annick Goutal Duel (mate tea).  These are all a niche perfume
Gourmand — There are two vanillas that are just exquisite, Indult Tihota and Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille. The only other sort of gourmand niche perfume that we think is interesting, even if you hate it (sorry, March) is Serge Lutens Borneo 1834. There’s a chocolate note in there that allows us to stick it in with the gourmands, but it’s not a sweet chocolate, and it’s all covered up by cobwebs, dust and other yummy notes that make Borneo a singular oddity in the world… take that how you want. Luctor et Emergo’s People of the Labyrinths (aka POTL), love it or hate it, you need to make sure you’ve smelled it. Others recommended by our panel of experts: Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale, Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum, L’Artisan Vanilia or their Epices coffret, Parfumerie Generale Aomassai (also a love it or hate it), Rochas Femme, new version (cumin!)
Skank, glorious Skank — You’re a nice girl or boy? Okay, sure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace your inner sinner from time to time. To assist you in knowing what we are talking about, try some of all of these: Mona di Orio Nuit Noire, Bal a Versailles, Jicky parfum, Delrae Amoureuse, Miller Harris L’Air de Rien, Bella Bellissima Perfect Night.
Iris – Another niche perfume from Serge Lutens fits here perfectly, Iris Silver Mist. Cold, metallic, strange, beautiful, with a charming little spicy drydown. It is an education on how rooty iris smells.
RoseMDCI Rose di Siwa, sweet, beautiful, haunting, the perfect rose; or Lancome Mille et Une Rose, another perfect rose. If your taste in roses runs more to the dark, complex and fit for searching for your next victim in the middle of the night, Frederic Malle’s Une Rose and Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit are required sniffing. Other recommended roses: The Different Company Rose Poivree, Le Labo Rose 31.
Violet Guerlain Attrape-Coeur and Caron N’aimez Que Moi parfum are the perfect violets, one light and one dark.
Chypre– Bonus points if your budget will allow you to do Guerlain Djedi. Yes, it’s vintage, discontinued, rarer than slug’s teeth, but even if it’s just a small amount, the strange weirdness of it is worth sniffing. Coty Chypre, EDT or EDP, is the monster that started it all. Miss Dior, a complete classic. Smell Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon for a “modern” chypre. Others: Paloma Picasso, Caron Alpona.
White Flower – Let’s cover both ends of this. Money is No Object – that has to be Shalini and CB I Hate Perfume Cradle of Light, and Cradle of Light will do double duty by covering some of the skank area too. On the lower budget end, Parfums de Nicolai Number One, a gorgeous white flower niche perfume without a lot of perfuminess often associated with white florals. There are millions in this category — Serge Lutens’ A La Nuit and Datura Noir are killah; we also like Caron Acaciosa and L’Artisan La Haie Fleurie du Hameau (white and dark). Other fan favorites: Malle Carnal Flower (tuberose and wintergreen) and Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle (tuberose and death uh, mothballs camphor) — someone’s going to get their writing Crayon taken away if they keep dissing the gorgeous Tubereuse Criminelle, Miss March.
OudMontale Black Oud for the dark oud, and Montale Cuir d’Arabie for your “Get out The Whip, Sailor” Oud. Light oud? you’re reading the wrong blog, ouds should never be light.  Okay, one light’ish oud is Montale’s White Oud. Happy?  Updated later – By Kilian Oud just try any of his oud perfumes – pure, rose, incense, amber, doesn’t matter, they are all great.
SmokyAnnick Goutal Eau de Fier, CB Burning Leaves, Kolnisch Juchten, Le Labo Patchouli 44.
Patchouli Borneo (again), Montale Patchouli Leaves (most suggested), Mazzolari Patchouli, Jalaine Patchouli, Prada (March’s favorite, go figure.)
VetiverHermessence Vetiver Tonka, The Different Company Sel de Vetiver, Le Labo Vetiver (skanky!), Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire. This list could go on for days, there are so many great vetiver scents, and most of them are niche perfume.  Guerlain Vetiver is a great classic vetiver fragrance.
Weird (aka Love It or Hate It). We dare you; live a little — Commes de Garcons original parfum; Kenzo Jungle Elephant; Bvlgari Black; Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia; Kolnisch Juchten (vintage – smell like a pickled half-smoke!), Serge Lutens Miel de Bois (honey? or funny) Annick Goutal Eau du Fier (blacktop! oil!), Cumming (seriously). Special award to L’Artisan Dzing! (“what … what is that smell?”), Annick Goutal Sables (“is someone wearing … syrup?”)  The weird category is clearly populated by almost all niche perfume.
AmberSerge Lutens Ambre Sultan is the grandaddy of all great ambers, but by all means, if you’re adventurous, take a sniff of Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe or Laura Tonatto Amir. Other winners: Montale Blue Amber, L’Artisan Ambre Extreme.
Random Fruits Fendi Theorema (oranges touched by an angel), L’Artisan Premier Figuier (fig, regular or Extreme, in this case Extreme being creamier and figgier)
Virtual Reality – Keep working your way through CB I Hate Perfumes. We love Memory of Kindness, Wild Hunt and Greenbriar 1968 (pipe). Serge Lutens Chene is a wonderful woody scent.
Smell Because We Say So – Any of the JAR parfums, don’t care which, just start somewhere and smell one. Then start working on the Carons. You can start at the more accessible Poivre and Tabac Blond, but anywhere is fine as long as you start. (March says: I don’t love Caron’s base, and even I think you’re a fool if you don’t smell the Carons. Just Do It).  Special mention of two niche perfume lines to smell not only because the fragrances are beautiful, but because you get the idea of how a perfumer’s style works across their line: Ormonde Jayne, Tauer Perfumes (both lines have a huge following on this blog and elsewhere in perfumery fan circles.)
What some call Men’s Scents, and we call ours because we’re greedy that wayCarons — L’Anarchiste, 3eme Homme, and loads of others plugged in elsewhere here under individual notes.
If You Ever Get The Chance: (rarities that didn’t wind up listed above) any of the Gobin Daudes; IUNX Splash Forte; Donna Karan Chaos; Christian Dior Jules.

The same rules apply  to Perfume Education 201 as in Perfume Education 101 — like Barbies, There are No Rules in Perfume. You like what you like, don’t let anyone tell you that $6 perfume you’ve loved on since you were 16 isn’t beautiful, because if it’s beautiful to you, that’s all that matters. There is no “correct” taste to have here, scent is highly individual, and it should be fun. If you start taking this seriously, you need a new hobby. 

Surrender to Chance has a Niche Perfume and Classic Fragrance Perfume Education 201 sampler pack with many of these fragrances for purchase.

Perfume Love for Everyone!

This content was originally published here.

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