Indie Perfumes

You MAY have noticed that I’m on my summer every other week schedule.  Just so much going on that Tuesday always creeps up on my and about 8p I look up and go, crap.  May aim for doing every other until fall works better.  I’m also randomly inserting some pictures of my tropical plants from the backyard. First one over there is the banana!  I love this thing!

In the last month or so, I’ve been stumbling around in indie perfumes.  It started when I was just looking for a very note specific fragrance and google landed me in Reddit. It’s a really confusing area, always has been, and I tend to run the other direction when there is a menu of 242 perfumes on a page, and I need to pick something.

Persevered through that and found some indie lines that get recommended over and over, and I’ve been pretty surprised and pleased with many of them. I remember one point where the indie micro batch small perfumers always had a distinctive scented quality.  Now the materials that many of them are working with seem pretty good – more interesting and finished, way less crafty smelling. Do you know what I mean? Not sure I can define it better than that.

I think of the indie perfumes in a couple of tiers. There are the larger, more established indies, many who have been nominated for awards, they tend to do just a few perfumes really well, like Imaginary Authors, La Curie, Papillon, Heretic Parfums, Aftelier, DSH, Soivohle, Dusita, Zoologist, etc., etc. Many  of these have deeper raw materials and packaging budgets, though, and that’s obvious as you smell them.  I don’t want to compare them to the less well-funded indie, so I plop them up in this Niche Indie category.  In this area, the quality of materials is high, you’ll find some really unique formulations, but they also tend to be pretty expensive.  In this range, you will also find the labels on their bottles are good, easy to read, no fancy schmancy, unreadable script printing. This is really important!  Downstairs in the perfume room, every 6 feet I have a light with a magnifier to look through because some of the writing on perfume bottles is just ridiculously small or illegible. (this photo is my mango tree, which has doubled in size in a month!)

In the next indie tier, you have some pretty talented perfumers that make more scents, often have a permanent collection,  use decent to high quality materials, but then they have a lot of seasonal collections throughout the year – I guess trying out new things to see what people really like, and then some of those go into the permanent or house collection.  Some examples here – Arcana Wildcraft, Sucreabeille, Sixteen92, House of Glois, Alkemia, Deconstructing Eden, Solstice Scents, Nocturnal Alchemy (NAVA) and many, many more.  This is the area where I’m in right now. It has been surprising how good some of these scents are.  It’s also very confusing – lots of scents, lots of changes, sometimes impossible to read labels (this is a huge pet peeve, I know I’m weird) and I’m having trouble navigating it. For those of you that have done this and have some small indie faves, do you have some recommendations? Helpful hints on how to navigate? Favorites in a line?  I’d like to keep exploring, but, oh, my, it’s been a struggle sorting through them!  For March and Musette, I did find an indie called Danger Noodle. I ordered it!



(picture on the left is the gardenia – all blooming!) and then further down the line are two mandevillias or bougainvillea or – I get them mixed up, but they are pretty!)

Winners of the Heretic Dirty Coconut  – Koyel and SpringPansy.  Just click the Drop Us a Note at the top, send me an email with your address, remind me what you won. I will give you a quick reply “Got it!” email so you know it didn’t wind up in my spam filter and get the sample out to you. Congrats, I hope you love it!

  • March says:

    Danger Noodle! I wonder if it’ll smell like a snake… keep us posted. My most-irritating-mainstream-label award goes to Annick Goutal, which for awhile there was only affixing the scent names to the tie-on tags and no sticker on the bottom. They pop up like that all the time on eBay, without a tag…

  • Musette says:

    oh, and I am totally with you on illegible labels. Same with business signs – on my way to dressage I always see this sign for a…. winery? nursery? something (and something RETAIL, which makes the illegible sign even dumber); I refuse to stop, pull in and parse wtf it is they have on this curliqued script. Marketing 101, people.


  • Musette says:

    Holy cats & crackers! DANGER NOODLE? OMG!

    cannot wait.

    love this post, btw – question: would you consider Neela Vermeire’s line indie? I think I would – she isn’t owned by anybody else, is she? And I get the sense she controls every aspect of her line.


    • Patty says:

      I do, along with a lot of others, just couldn’t list them all. But for sure she is niche indie, she has definitely a high budget for creation. It’s a weird line to try and divine!

      Danger Noodle, yes! I don’t even care h ow it smells, I NEED it.

  • Cinnamon says:

    I’m trying to get my head round categories. I mean some things that were niche are now really established, and some of the houses you mention are less out there than others. Beyond the indecipherable script I would add having solid bottle with solid caps that stay on. Doesn’t need to be fancy — just needs to not come apart when you’re trying to look at labels, spray, etc. And love your gardenia and mango.

    • Patty says:

      Yeah, I’m having trouble with some lines trying to figure out where they go.

      Yes, solid caps. I know it’s a struggle to source those reliably. Thanks! it’s a little piece of the tropics for me, which makes me super happy.

  • Duft hoch Zwei says:

    More US indie from the top of my head:
    – Chris Rusak is so curious and active. Several of his scents are discontinued, I love Timbre, others have a lot of fans, too.
    – Libertine: Troubled Spirits and Burrow are masterpieces. But there’s more, Josh balances really well in different realms, also you may or may not be influenced by good reviews by Luca Turin some years back.
    – Boyd’s from Texas. Never smelled those unfortunately, but very much want to!

    • Patty says:

      You guys are killing me by giving me more to hunt down! Libertine looks really interesting, I had to snag that Gilded with immortelle, incense, brown sugar and light woods. Thanks!

    • Sharon C. says:

      Boyd’s of Texas make wonderful fragrances, with reasonable sizes/prices, and their customer service is excellent.

  • Portia says:

    That TINY writing on indie perfumes drives me bloody CRAZY! Gah! Impossible.
    My fave Indies are Olympic Orchids, DSH Perfumes, Aftelier Perfumes, Soivohle and Fort & Manlé.
    We have an Aussie crew called Criminal Elements that has the COOLEST sample pack I ever saw and some terrific fragrances. I think you’d definitely get a kick out of them Patty.
    Portia xx

  • Blacklagoona says:

    Indiescentlibrary is a good place to start. Kind of like a Fragrantica for the smaller indie houses. You can search by notes as a starting point. And I can’t recommend r/indiemakeupandmore on Reddit enough. Yes, it’s a little intimidating at first, but I dove in head first a few years ago and there is a wealth of knowledge there. Also, a very kind and friendly community there, which seems harder to find these days.

    On Reddit you’ll find perfume reviews, daily scent threads (I’ve found so many new perfumes from reading those posts) and reviews of the business side of these houses. I mention the importance of those reviews because there are one or two houses that are no longer reliable in terms of delivering your goods. One in particular is happy to take your money, yet there are customers that have waited over a YEAR for their perfumes to arrive, plus that house never returns emails or messages on SM. So while I enjoy supporting small independent perfumers, I also want to know the houses that have great customer service, and there are many of them!

    Some of my favorites include Arcana Wildcraft, Black Baccara, BPAL, Stereoplasm and for the sweet gourmand lover, Cocoa Pink. There are many more, these are just the houses that have worked best on my skin. There are a couple houses that have fantastic reputations, along with large catalogs, that don’t work with my chemistry, but I always recommend them anyways; Poesie and Alkemia. Even though I’ve had bad luck with their bases, my orders were shipped super fast, they have lots of interesting perfumes, and their CS is top notch.

    One last tip is checking out Ajevie for decants and samples. Unfortunately a lot of these houses don’t sell samples (I will never understand why), so Ajevie is your go-to, one stop shop to sample from many houses. Sign up for her newsletter too. She usually gets the newest collections and has stock of some general catalog stuff as well. She ships internationally too!

    I know it seems like a lot to learn but there are some wonderful scents in the indie world, just waiting for you to discover them. I hope you find a few that you love!

    • Patty says:

      I blame that Reddit group for most of the purchases I’ve made so far. Agree, they have been a huge source of info and helped get me as far as I have in navigating the tons of indies and their scents. I have tried and love Arcana, have some Cocoa Pink coming. Several others, and even though some of the scents I selected weren’t really me, I’m appreciative of the artistry. Thanks so much!

      Oh for anyone looking for that Reddit group –

  • Tara C says:

    I have not spent a lot of time exploring the smaller indie houses you list because I just don’t have the patience or bandwidth to wade through that many samples and scents, so I stick more to the indie niche like Papillon, 4160 Tuesdays, Hiram Green, Andy Tauer, etc. A friend gave me a bag of Solstice Scents samples though so I will be checking them out. Honestly though I already have enough perfume to last several lifetimes so I don’t explore much lately. I’ll be doing goid to wear what I already own.

    • Patty says:

      I know! It is daunting, but niche was daunting many many years (decades?) ago, and it was a lot smaller. There was a time that the small indie smelled a lot like candles, but many of them are way past that, so it’s fun to see what they are doing.

  • Kathleen says:

    I don’t really know what category he falls under and what tier of indie; however, I’m a fan of Jeffrey Dame. He creates out of Arizona. My favorite EDP is JD Duality and favorite perfume oil and body cream is Desert Rose.
    I also love Diane St. Clair perfumes, especially Casablanca.
    Gorgeous tropical plants Patty!

    • Patty says:

      I think I’d put him in there. He does some interesting work. Thanks, Kathleen! I’ll look into Diane St. Clair.

    • Maya says:

      I am finally trying Dame Perfumery. I have some samples coming in today or tomorrow. St. Clair Scents’ Casablanca is incredible. Thanks for the reminder to try some of her other perfumes. Many of the indie perfumes that I have tried seem somehow “unfinished” so they don’t interest me as much as niche.

    • VerbenaLuvvr says:

      Another Dame to try — Dark Horse. It’s in my top 5 fave fragrances. Jeffrey is so generous with his samples, too. Waiting for some new creations from him!

  • Shiva-woman says:

    I had to jump on on this! I’ve become an Indie-Niche devotee. I went from Serge Lutens, collecting a lot and moved onto many you mention, some big houses, medium–always European. And then I found House of Matriarch, Aftelier, Sonoma Scent Studio, DSH, Providence Perfumes and Solstice Scents among others. THESE are what I wear and love, more than my Chanels, Guerlains, Zoologists, Imaginary Authors, Masque, Pappilion–whatever. Like most of us here, I’ve an embarrassing amount of juice and not enough lives. Solstice Scents is a fantastic bang for the buck, with great personal service that rivals any, and something for everyone. You may not want to smell like popcorn or a damp cellar but try the Estate Rosewood, or Manor on Fire, or Attic or Private Eye, or Wardrobe, or Solstice Kyphi or…. She does produce a lot, and yes, it’s seasonal, but after a few years, you start to get the rhythm of what she’s doing. I’ve loads of her scents and steer somewhat clear of the gourmands, of which she has a dedicated fanbase, (and even some of those have won me over). But Angela St. John is great. And I have finished her bottles. (Finishing any bottle is a rare accomplishment). All of the above houses are really worth checking out. There are some I’ve left out, but I’ve not been disappointed by these smaller houses, and these days, I actively seek out these scents because I think the quality is better, and, while I am not an “only buy American” type, there is a uniquely Anerican cast to these perfumes with the ingredients they source and their interesting profiles. There is a wild and unimpeded imaginative quality. HOM is probably more in this category. I highly recommend searching some of these out and exploring what scents are like this side of the pond.

    • Patty says:

      Yeah, I’m sort of getting that you have to be patient in this area, it’s just a different way they do things since it is not mass produced. I have not braved Solstice yet, that scent list is anxiety inducing! So I’m waiting until I’m looking for a particular note there and then dive in, but I may try a couple of those you list. I found one on there, Island Blackstrap, that sounds interesting – Coconut, dark rum, pineapple, sugar cane, simple syrup, blackstrap molasses, caramelized sugar, oak barrels, tropical flowers, splash of sea spray, vetiver, tonka.

  • Carolyn says:

    Oh my gosh, I love indie perfumes. Particularly the smaller ones that you seem interested in exploring. Three of my favorites…Nui Cobalt Designs (seasonal collections and a small permanent collection), Hexennacht (huge permanent collection and some seasonal offerings) and Death and Floral (permanent and seasonal offerings). All are incredibly talented female perfumers using good quality materials and they provide excellent customer service and a great deal of interaction with their client base.

    • Shiva-woman says:

      Check out Solstice Scents. I think you might like some if her offerings.

    • Patty says:

      All the indie people came out! I’ve tried Hexennacht and Death and Floral and have liked the both. I did a straight up peach fragrance since that’s what got me there to begin with, and they are really good. I’ve been impressed so far, and I wasn’t expecting that. Very happy to nose around in an area that has come so far over the past few years!