It’s no secret that a woman’s fragrance can leave a lasting impression.
Studies have shown that long-forgotten memories and feelings are instantly evoked with a single whiff of a familiar scent. So why not make your signature perfume a standout in the vast sea of olfactory notes?
Niche fragrances—produced in much smaller runs than their mainstream counterparts—are more accessible than ever, thanks to online beauty boutiques. Though often more expensive, they incorporate purer ingredients, essences, and oils (and are often free of alcohol) so a little goes a long way. “Unlike traditional, alcohol-based scents, oil versions become stronger throughout the day,” says Leilani Bishop, a model and creator of Leilani Bishop Fragrance Oils. “The warmth of your skin actually opens them up, like a flower, so they linger.”
People paranoid of repelling fellow commuters will also appreciate their more subtle effects. “It’s not about smelling a woman from across the room the second she enters,” Bishop says. “It’s that more intimate moment, when she leans in and greets you hello with a double kiss.” Here, our favorite picks.
Inspired by Bishop’s childhood in Kauai and subsequent travels around the world as a model, these three, singular notes (Orange Blossom, Lilac and Pikake—or Hawaiian Jasmine) glide on with a roller-ball applicator. “I like to wear them in unexpected areas, like behind my neck, or across my lower back,” says Bishop—whose first name, fittingly, means “heavenly flower” in Hawaiian. “You can even layer them together to really make the scent your own.”
Artsy types will swoon over this Parisian fragrance house, which pairs renowned photographers with experienced perfumers. The result? Five unisex perfumes that bottle the feelings evoked while looking at the artist’s work. Flash Back, the latest installment, contains top notes of tangy rhubarb and grapefruit and bottom ones of vetiver, cedar and musk, and was based on Laurent Segretier’s obscure image of a face that blurs in and out of focus.
Fragrance designers at this Brooklyn studio, which means “Jewel” in Spanish, hand pour candles, soaps, diffusers, and now perfume solids and oils into minimalist ceramic vessels made on site. The clean, simple notes—such as citrus and cypress—in their purse and pocket-sized roller-ball versions will appeal to both men and women and are perfect for on-the-go touch ups.
These products are available on our sister site, BeautySage!
Created by perfumer Laurie Erickson in Northern California’s pristine Sonoma Valley, these three collections (Boutique, Exclusives and Naturals) incorporate rare natural ingredients such as western red cedar and oakmoss. With names like Forest Walk, Winter Woods and Fig Tree, think of them as go-to scents for the upscale hippie.
It takes an average of two years to create each Tommi Sooni fragrance, which contain notes inspired by the lush native flowers found in Australia (jasmine, tea tree and mimosa). The finished product is blended and bottled in an atelier outside of Melbourne, with “noses” paying homage to French perfumery traditions.
Luxurious, hand-blended formulations are the hallmark of this Italian beauty company, but the clincher? Its high-caliber ingredients are natural botanicals sourced from fair-trade, organic and sustainable farms around the world, with results that are still sophisticated enough for the style-conscious.
Cult-favorite perfumers D.S. & Durga came out with an even more cultish line called Hylnds, inspired by the dramatic myths of Northern Europe. Rare, precious ingredients are described as events rather than literal notes, but somehow you know exactly what they mean. For instance, “hunt in wood-of-wonders, melancholy thistle, for feasts, water-of-life, Caeawg’s amber wreath, smelted iron, wine-in-horn, now broken spear and empty hills.”
Glamour-loving cinephiles will adore this sensual round-bodied floral, inspired by spicy florals of the 70s and 80s, which combines feminine jasmine and orange blossom with rich dark woods and leather, plus oriental clove and coriander. Bonus? It comes with vanity-worthy vintage packaging, a keepsake DVD (the short film “Woman’s Picture,” about childhood memories of mothers’ perfumes) and classic poster that doubles as chic wall art for your boudoir.
Like liquid gold for your skin, each precious drop in this boutique exotic scent (which began in Oman) will make you feel like a jet-setting Royal. Top perfumers from Grasse, France, concoct the formulas, which are a favorite of celebrities and ambassadors. Rose, jasmine, peach blossom, waterlily, musk and frankincense evoke an opulent tradition of a bygone era.
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