The perfume industry has its own publicity machine, and everyone knows the best-selling perfumes from the mainstream icons – Chanel, Dior, Hermes, etc. Niche perfume lines also have their own “best perfumes” pecking order, with people quickly being sent to or discovering the niche icons – Frederic Malle, Serge Lutens, Creed, etc.
There are so many small perfume lines that are full of wonderful treasures, but many of them just get lost or don’t get the attention or traction they should have. Maybe it’s a naming problem, packaging or a “too many perfumes” problem.
Whatever it is, here are my top choices for Best Perfumes Not Enough People Know About.
I’ve confined this list to larger perfume lines that have been around for a couple of years, at least. There are a lot of small perfume companies that I would like to see get more attention, but that’s a list that goes on for many pages!
What each of these lines have in common for me is that I eagerly anticipate what they will do next, waiting, Googling, hunting down each new release because I am genuinely interested in what they put out there. For a hardened perfumista, that is no small thing.
Parfums de Nicolai produces quality perfumes at a reasonable price. List after list of best perfumes will have one of these on it – New York, La Temps d’Une Fete, Number One, Odalisque, this line has something for everyone. Not loud or brash, these are beautifully blended perfumes with interesting touches that take them from pretty and ordinary into something worth spending time with.
Parfum d’Empire – Exploring history through scent. What I love about Parfum d’Empire is the risks they take. There are some perfumes they have done that send me to the corner whimpering (Ambre Russe), but even the scary ones make me deliriously happy. There’s nothing safe about any scent in this line. In a day and age when most mainstream perfume companies won’t release anything before it’s been properly tested and found completely inoffensive to anyone, I have nothing but admiration for a perfume line that does what it wants, offends whoever, then looks up and asks “You Mad?”
Arquiste – This one may be premature because they have gotten a lot of attention, but my fear is they will get lost in the churn of new releases. Their fragrances also explore history, but in more subtle, softer ways. Again, they head into the unsafe zone of making something that is true, even if it isn’t popular. My mind still turns over and over Infanta en Flor, trying to figure it out. Do I like it? Do I hate it? Why can’t I just forget it?
Amouage – Christopher Chong’s hands on the directive reins of this company have been fun to watch. He moved them slowly out of what they were doing while keeping their heritage, then beefed it up with well-thought-out new releases that brought more interest, variety and appeal to this line. There have been a couple of hiccups, but with the releases of Beloved and Interlude, this is a line that is hitting on all eight cylinders. I think we inside the niche world know them well, but this is a perfume house that still has not penetrated far enough into the general public’s perception, for reasons I can’t figure out. They should sit prominently in every upscale department store’s fragrance counter.
Parfums MDCI – For a pricy, luxury line, I love them, I really, really do. Beautifully made and a joy to wear, there are a couple in the line that aren’t really me, but this line has no clunkers. Each scent adds something unique, and every last one of them is beautiful. I could reach blind into a drawer containing MDCI fragrances only, pull out any one of them to wear and know I’ll smell amazing.
Eau d’Italie – from the gorgeous spiced incense vanilla Baume du Doge to the incense-laced Paestum Rose, every fragrance in this line has a reason for being. When you see some lines cranking out fragrance after fragrance, 7, 8, 9, 10 a year, you have to wonder why? Eau d’Italie is a departure from many Italian lines, veering off the bergamot-strewn Italian perfume stew path you normally find as they explore the richer notes that are Italy’s heritage.
Puredistance – uncompromising luxury. With an even higher reach than MDCI, it’s one of the few luxury lines that I look at the price, sigh, but get it. They are beautiful and subtle and weave around your airspace in some magical way, softly smoothing out the rough edges of a harsh world and remaking it into a lovely scented dream. I always feel about 10 years younger and 10x prettier when I put on a Puredistance perfume.
What are your underloved perfume lines and why? I’m going to put together an amazing sample set of a lot of the perfumes from my favorite underappreciated perfume lines as a giveaway. To be entered to win, just leave a comment!