If you’ve visited any niche fragrance store recently, you’d be blown away by the sheer quantity available. The diversity on offer can be mind-blowing and very intimidating. This is where this article comes in handy.
Decline of Celebrity and Designer Fragrances
The fragrance market ain’t what it used to be and niche fragrances are on the rise. The steady decline of the celebrity fragrance category is gathering pace. Designer fragrances that used to fly off the shelves are increasingly being discounted.
The numbers below speak for themselves. These figures are for the world’s largest fragrance market, the USA. But these are international trends, according to industry analysts NPD Group, The Business of Fashion and Perfumer & Flavorist. Amid all the number-crunching, there’s a discernible shift to niche fragrances. They have added almost $250 million to the fragrance market since 2014.
Changes in the Fragrance Market
66% – the decline of the celebrity fragrance market in department stores from 2011-2014.
6% – the drop in overall fragrance sales from 2015 to 2016.
1% – the sales growth of prestige fragrances.
Rise of Niche and Indie Fragrances
There are simple reasons why niche fragrances have taken off in the past 10 years or so. Many consumers got tired of designer fragrances increasingly starting to smell the same and they wanted an element of individuality and to feel special. If you want a fragrance that’s unusual and sometimes pushes the boundaries of what a perfume should be, you’ll find it in the niche category. This is not to say that designer fragrances are all the same and therefore on the way out.
For the purpose of this feature, I will use the term “niche” to include “indie” and “artisanal” fragrances, as they too have limited distribution. This is my definition of niche fragrances.
Niche Cologne Brands for Men to Try
If you’ve visited any niche fragrance store recently, you’ll be blown away by the sheer quantity available. The diversity on offer can be mind-blowing and very intimidating. So this is where this article comes in handy.
I’ve selected four brands worth exploring: Creed, Penhaligon’s, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle and D.S. & Durga. They all reflect the best of niche. I could list many more, but they are a good start.
Creed Men's Cologne
Heritage is an important factor in the perfume business and this Paris-based company has no shortage of it. Founded in 1760 by as a tailoring business, today Creed is known for its high-quality fragrances with a price tag to match. After its founding, it became a favorite among Europe’s monarchs, with numerous commissions and royal warrants to its name. Creed starting selling its fragrances to the public in 1970. The sixth-generation Olivier Creed is currently the in-house perfumer.
Highly recommended: Creed Aventus EDP has a huge cult following, bordering on the religious. But there are also other very worthwhile Creed fragrances to be on the lookout for. There are many listed notes for Creed Imperial Millésime Impérial EDP, but its standout ingredient is ambergris. This rare and costly ingredient is a by-product of the digestive system of the sperm whale. It gives this fragrance a magnificent musky smell.
Price: $215 - $1,180 USD
Penhaligon's Men's Cologne
Another heritage brand, this UK niche fragrance house was founded in 1870 by William Penahaligon in London. What started out as barbershop is today known as the brand for modern gentleman who appreciate a touch of tradition. There are more than 70 fragrances in the Penhaligon’s catalogue, including Blenheim Bouquet EDT (originally launched in 1902), Hammam Bouquet EDT (1872) and Juniper Sling EDT (2011). So expect to be spoilt for choice.
Highly recommended: For something more recent, the Portraits Collection offers the brand’s balance of modernity and tradition. There are already 13 fragrances in the collection. Penhaligon’s Much Ado About The Duke EDP gets my vote, though. It features an irresistible combination of rose, leather and gin ’n tonic notes.
Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle
Paris-born Frederic Frédéric’sgrandfather founded the illustrious Christian Dior Parfums. In 2 000, he decided to launch his own niche fragrance company, which would focus on complete creative freedom and the best ingredients available for the perfumers. All the fragrances have the name of the perfumer on the bottle, which is still quite revolutionary. Over the years, numerous modern classics have been launched by Frédéric Malle, including Pierre Bourdon’s French Lover EDP, Maurice Roucel’s Musc Ravageur EDP and Dominique Ropion’s Vetiver Extraordinaire EDP. So rest assured, quality is always at a premium.
Highly recommended: Love lavender in your fragrance? Then you can’t go wrong with CarlosBenaïm’s Music For A While, which was released earlier this year. It’s pure compliment-bait, thanks to its mix of pineapple, fruit, patchouli, caramel and vanilla notes. Yes, it’s slight sweet, but the master Benaim keeps it admirably light and airy.
Price: $62 - $320.
D.S. & Durga
Forget the completely inappropriate “hipster” label, this NYC-based perfumery was founded by David Seth and Kavi Moltz in 2007. Their company offers a thoroughly modern take on niche fragrances with small-batch fragrances and quirky story-telling. There’s huge diversity in their 64 fragrances, ranging from Burnt Citrus to Rose Atlantic.
Highly recommended: Named after the classic Pixies song, Debaser conjures up all sorts of boozy rock ‘n roll connotations. Instead, you get a fig-dominant fragrance that’s superb from start to finish. Iris, coconut milk and tonka bean notes also feature in the beautiful mix.