Scent is an important part of your identity. It communicates more than your clothes or demeanor because one can smell you without looking at or talking to you. It’s one of the most delicate yet strong parts of the human sensory experience, as scent can evoke certain memories and give off a certain vibe, desirable or otherwise. Understanding this, fashion brands inextricably tie fragrances into their brand stories, employing dreamy models and nonsensical television ads to lure in new customers.
But before there was Polo Sport, Acqua di Gio or Light Blue, there were pure perfumes, made by experts that specialize in conjuring scents outside of the world of celebrity fashion. Here, we round up a list of the best niche perfume brands you should know, from centuries-old houses that used to supply fragrance to royal families to newcomers that customize made-to-measure scents. This list, in alphabetical order, includes our top 20 picks of the finest perfume brands in the world. If you’re still using Axe, it’s time to graduate up to one of these.
1. Annick Goutal
Price range: $110 – $310
Why you should know them: Annick Goutal is a member of the French High Perfumery and remains as one of the few houses to have its own in-house perfumers. The brand sticks to quality and authenticity by making everything – from the scents to packaging – exclusively in France, employing expert craftsmen to put them together by hand. Annick Goutal has been named part of the Top 5 Perfume Brands at retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
Price range: $165 – $185
Why you should know them: Arquiste was founded by Mexican architect Carlos Huber who used to be an interior designer for Polo Ralph Lauren. He moved to New York for Arquiste, which soon won prestigious titles such as Fashion Group International’s Best Fragrance Entrepreneur Brand and the Fragrance Foundation’s Top 5 Brands Launched in the U.S.
Price range: $110 – $220
Why you should know them: BYREDO is a Swedish fragrance house that fuses unique cultural references from South Asia. Founder Ben Gorham, half Canadian and half Indian, draws from his mother’s Indian roots, making distinct scents that merge the East and West. BYREDO sources materials for their scents from all over the world, but all of their products are ultimately made and assembled by hand in Sweden.
4. CB I Hate Perfume
Price range: $80 – $210
Why you should know them: CB, short for Christopher Brosius, used to be a taxi driver and founded I Hate Perfume because of his passengers who wore “some horrible scents.” Out of anger and enthusiasm, he wrote a manifesto, where he swears off perfume as ”a substitute for true style,” and now creates custom-made scents that each have stories as unique as his.
5. CIRE TRUDON
Why you should know them: We’ve seen CIRE TRUDON from their collaboration series of candles with Japan’s Undercover. CIRE TRUDON makes fragrances as well, whose scents trace back all the way to 17th-century France. They used to supply candlelight to the courts of Louis XIV, Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon, and remain as royal and in vogue as in those days, being represented by top luxury fashion agencies and retailers around the world.