What started out as a trickle has become a veritable flood. We’re talking about the deluge of parfums on the market, especially from big designer brands.
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As designer becomes more niche and niche becomes more designer (it’s so confusing), this highest fragrance concentration (also called perfume, pure perfume and extrait de parfum) is becoming the all-important way to exalt quality.
If you know your fragrance history, you’ll know there’s nothing new about parfums, per se. Many of the classics (Chanel No 5, Guerlain Mitsouko, Caron Tabac Blond, etc) were originally released in this concentration decades ago and revered by those who’ve had the good fortune to smell vintage versions of them.
Taking their cue from these grandes dames, many niche brands only do parfums and those that haven’t realise they’d better do so quick-quick if they’re to maintain their air of exclusivity.
If an Eau Fraiche (anything from 1 – 3%) and Eau de Cologne (2 – 4%) are the lowest fragrance concentrations according to the amount of oils, then a parfum is the highest (20 to 30% upwards), but even here there is lots of variation, depending on which online guide you consult.
To add to the confusion, just because it says “le parfum” on the box doesn’t mean it’s a parfum. We’re looking at you Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal Pour Homme Le Parfum EDP Intense and others like it.
The same goes for “elixirs”. The name implies something rich and concentrated but doesn’t automatically mean it’s a parfum. Best advice: read those boxes carefully.
Another area of contention: performance (and probably the worst way to judge the quality of a fragrance). Just because it’s a parfum doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever and let everyone know how fabulous you are. Who hasn’t tried to scrub off an EDT they didn’t like but which remained with them for the rest of the day?
So now that we’ve clarified matters as much as we can, let’s get to our selection of best parfums. With all this talk of quality, you can bet that you’ll be paying top dollar for some of these. You have been warned…
Where known, the name of the perfumer is included in brackets after the name of the fragrance.
Our Shortlist: Best Parfum For Men
Hermès Terre D’Hermès Parfum (Jean-Claude Ellena)
There are fragrances and then there are modern classics. Sometimes we’re guilty of over-using this term. But if we’re strict in its application, Hermès Terre d’Hermès would surely deserve this accolade. Both in terms of its innovation and influence.
The original from 2006 has Jean-Claude Ellena’s minimalist, but bold style all over it. Nothing is gratuitous in this most elegant of scents that blends the sunny bitterness of grapefruit, subtle earthiness of cedar and mineraline qualities of flint to balanced perfection.
For the 2009 parfum version, also created by Jean-Claude Ellena, there’s no doubt this is still TDH (when a scent is so dear to us, we allow ourselves such abbreviations).
The citric opening has been heightened and shiso accentuates the freshness with its sharp spiciness.
The flint note evolves into an almost burnt treatment of oakmoss, woody and benzoin notes.
Although this first flanker is not as well known as its illustrious predecessor, we think it’s very special indeed.
Other top options to check out from the French luxury goods brand: Hermès Voyage d’Hermès Parfum (2012) and Hermès Galop d’Hermès Parfum (2016).
Roja Parfums Diaghilev Parfum (Roja Dove)
Wowzers, isn’t this 2013 release from the British niche brand over-the-top in a vintage-y style! All good things, we hasten to add.
Perfumer and brand founder Roja Dove’s time at Guerlain shows in this extravagant perfume (we’re talking almost $900 for 100ml). It’s inspired by Sergei Diaghilev, the charismatic Russian-born founder of the Ballets Russes that dazzled, delighted and shocked Paris audiences in equal measure in the early 20th century.
There’s always a lot going on in Roja Dove creations and Diaghilev takes it to the max with 33 raw materials, according to the company website.
The opening notes of fresh citrus and anise-like tarragon give way to the fruits and florals of jasmine, tuberose, peach and blackcurrant.
In the final act (aka the drydown), things get really intriguing. The earthiness of patchouli and moss meets the animalic qualities of a leather accord and civet (don’t worry, no mammals were harmed here, more than likely it’s a synthetic musk) and warm spice of cloves and nutmeg, with added depth from labdanum and benzoin.
It’s kinda grand and a peak into a window of old-school perfumery that might frighten some with its sensual dirtiness.
Wow, this smells fantastic! And at the price, it should be, you say. Jokes aside, by now you should be able to tell that parfums tend to be on the pricier side and fragrances from this British brand are always expensive.
The company has also produced a mind-boggling array of scents (heading for the 200 mark any day now) since its founding in 2008, so sifting the best from the rest is a project in itself. This 2016 release is one of their standouts.
The opening is rich with the rosy fruitiness of raspberry and spicy leatheriness of saffron. There’s an element of freshness from a note of violet leaf too.
Pine gives it aromatic appeal and sets it on a forest-y-woody path to the drydown featuring creamy sandalwood, the pencil shavings-like softness of Atlas cedar and oriental warmth of Dehnal oud (this variety of the precious ingredient is known for its quality).
It’s not officially listed but there’s certainly the synthetic Cashmeran, with its woody muskiness, in the mix.
You’ll get compliments, people will want to be your best friend when you wear this stuff. Not that we wear fragrances for those reasons, but it is that good.
Other BTV perfumes worth checking out: Boadicea The Victorious Blue Sapphire (2013), Boadicea The Victorious Valiant (2013) and Boadicea The Victorious Dasman (2018).
Jeroboam Vespero Extrait de Parfum (Vanina Muracciole)
In a world of hype and over-exposure, this Paris-based niche brand doesn’t get the attention it should. Let’s do something about that, shall we?
It was founded by François Hénin, the man behind the Jovoy niche fragrance boutiques in cities such as Paris, London, Doha and Seoul. So clearly the entrepreneur knows quality when he sees / smells it and that same high standard applies to his own perfume company.
A 2017 release, Vespero starts out fresh and fruity with notes of apple, pink grapefruit and bergamot.
When those dissipate, there’s an animalic leather vibe with hints of floralcy from geranium and jasmine.
François Hénin loves his musks and perfumer Vanina Muracciole interprets that in the most seductive way in the drydown where an amber accord is intertwined with earthy patchouli.
All Jeroboams are well worth sniffing out. Their last release was in 2021, so we hope to see something from them again soon.
Nishane Hacivat Extrait de Parfum (Jorge Lee)
Thanks to the huge popularity of Creed Aventus, any fragrance with a pineapple note is inevitably compared to that best-seller.
So let’s state categorically: Aventus doesn’t own pineapple and this 2017 release from the Turkish niche brand’s Shadow Play Collection should be judged on its own merits.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, there’s juicy pineapple galore in the opening. Citrus notes of bergamot and grapefruit ensure it’s not too icky-sticky sweet.
Fresh jasmine continues the fruity tropical vibe of the intro, with patchouli and its biotech equivalent Clearwood bringing clean depth.
The bitter oakmoss in the drydown makes a pleasing contrast to the sugary aspect.
Nishane Karagoz Extrait de Parfum (2017), also from the Shadow Play Collection, sees grapes and pineapple in action. Well worth sniffing out too!
Chanel Bleu de Chanel Parfum (Olivier Polge)
Both the EDT (2010) and EDP (2014) versions of Bleu de Chanel (created by Jacques Polge) are defined by their refined take on citrus and cedar notes, among others. While they have different emphases, they are not radically different fragrances. Bleu de Chanel Parfum is not a reinvention of the modern aromatic-woody classic, but it certainly offers a new dimension.
Featuring notes of lemon zest, bergamot and mint, the opening pulls you in immediately with its crisp spiciness. It’s dangerously addictive, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing more re-sprays than usual.
Notes of lavender and geranium build on the freshness of the intro with their aromatic greenery.
The drydown of sandalwood (sustainably sourced from New Caledonia) elevates this fragrance above its EDT and EDP predecessors. Smooth and creamy, it’s a grown-up, big boy treatment of the precious wood. Cedar enhances the woody character of the fragrance, while the synthetic Iso E Super gives it velvety muskiness.
Bleu de Chanel Parfum is polished perfection. It’s been another best seller for Chanel. And justifiably so. Some people have accused it of being “boring”, “safe” and “predictable”. We disagree. It’s Chanel at its classic and classy best.
Want something a bit more exclusive from Chanel? You can’t go wrong with Chanel Coromandel Parfum (2019) and Chanel Sycomore Parfum (2022), both from the quality-assured Les Exclusifs de Chanel range.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Extrait de Parfum (Francis Kurkdjian)
We all knew Francis Kurkdjian was a highly accomplished perfumer before he launched his own eponymously named niche house in 2009. And then from 2012, he upped his credentials even more, as the king of oud, with a succession of top-quality releases.
These include Oud EDP (2012), Oud Satin Mood EDP (2015) and Oud Silk Mood EDP (2018). All available in extrait de parfum concentration and highly recommended.
In an interview on Everfumed when asked about working with oud, he said: “It was basically an alternative to me of using the animalic notes that I love, which are more and more forbidden in perfumery.” While we wouldn’t describe Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Extrait de Parfum as particularly animalic, boy is it good!
Infused with slightly peppery and resinous warmth, elemi from the Philippines opens this 2018 release. There’s then the waft of fine and luxurious musk. Interesting to note that Kurkdjian uses Ambrettolide, the Givaudan-produced vegetal musk renowned for its smoothness and floral undertones. It mingles with a soft take on cedar and creamy, but (thankfully) sugar-free vanilla.
Oud is one of the most precious ingredients in perfumery, and the Laotian variety is especially prized for its depth and variations. Every time we smell it in this extrait de parfum, we get something different. From leathery and woody to fruity to powdery. It’s deftly complemented by Indonesian patchouli, with its earthy and woody nuances.
From the listed ingredients on the brand’s website, there’s no doubt the best have been used to produce one of the most sophisticated oud perfumes around. It’s impeccably smooth, yet full of character.
For better and for worse, Clive Christian has become synonymous with the phrase “the most expensive perfume in the world” when No 1 Imperial Majesty was revealed in 2006.
Some quick facts about this limited edition (only 10 bottles), according to the British brand’s website: 500ml of absolute perfume oil in a Baccarat-designed polished crystal bottle with an 18-carat gold collar and a five-carat white diamond for $150 000+.
With all the hype surrounding this company, we were almost determined not to like this 2018 release. Just to be contrary. Sometimes we can be like that.
However, Clive Christian Noble XXI Cypress is an exquisite fragrance from top to bottom. Slightly bitter petitgrain and bergamot announce themselves in the opening.
They are wrapped in a finely fresh take on cypress and a perfectly balanced spicy trio of clove, nutmeg and ginger. Amber, so over-used in recent male fragrances, is elevated to the poshest resinous powderiness, with support from cedar and oakwood.
It’s a long time since we’ve come across such a seamless scent. While “cheap” in comparison to the afore-mentioned mindblower, it will still put a dent in your finances. Just so you know…
Cartier Déclaration Parfum (Mathilde Laurent)
Cartier Déclaration Parfum was launched in 2018 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the classic original.
At first, there’s the freshness (bitter orange) of the original. And then there are powerful and seductive hits of leather and spice (cardamom, cumin).
The base features standout notes of wood (cedar, amberwood) and vetiver.
If this all sounds terrifically deep and smoky, that’s because it is.
If we had to compare the two, the original has more of a sparkling quality, whereas Cartier Déclaration Parfum goes into darker and denser territory. It’s a fitting tribute to the original, while still standing on its own merits.
Other parfums to check out from this consistently great house: Cartier Pasha de Cartier Parfum (2020) and Cartier Pasha de Cartier Noir Absolu Parfum (2023).
The name alone sounds terrifically aristocratic and with its inspiration from the St Edwards Sapphire (apparently the oldest gemstone in the British royal collection), this 2019 release from the London-based niche brand radiates quality.
Bergamot and mandarin introduce citric sunniness to the composition. It’s fresh and on the right side of sweetness.
Jasmine (intense and heady) is partnered with beautifully rendered orange blossom (honeyed and sensual). Their indolic character is given sparkle ’n shine with the synthetic Ambroxan.
Patchouli and moss balance the slight sweetness with earthiness.
The arrival of Dior Sauvage Parfum in September 2019 was no surprise. The French luxury brand launched Dior Sauvage EDT in 2015 and Dior Sauvage EDP in 2018. Both huge successes. The fact that Chanel had also launched the parfum version of its mega-seller, Bleu de Chanel, in 2018 meant it was just a matter of time for Dior Sauvage Parfum to hit the shelves.
The opening of Dior Sauvage Parfum is all about freshness. Calabrian bergamot and mandarin notes give it some juicy oomph, while cardamom brings a dash of warm spice and elemi adds an element of smokiness. Taking their cue from the cardamom and elemi, Virginia cedar and a leather accord increase the warmth. A raspberry note is just detectable in the background.
But it’s the smooth and creamy sandalwood that’s prominent in this stage of the fragrance’s progression. The brand claims that this ingredient is sourced from a Sri Lankan plantation where the trees are grown wild after initially being cultivated for a few years. The base has an oriental vibe, with vanilla absolute and tonka bean keeping things gently sweet.
If you equate a parfum with powerful performance, you might be disappointed with this one. But if you prefer a more personal experience with your fragrance of choice, you will find much to enjoy.
We must mention Dior Sauvage Elixir (2021). One of François Demachy’s last creations as in-house perfumer before he was replaced by Francis Kurkdjian, this parfum-level blend of spices, lavender and woods surprised many of us just when we thought we’d seen it all from the Sauvage range.
Electimuss Black Caviar Parfum (Marco Genovese)
To call this 2019 release from the London-based niche brand “intriguing” would be a massive understatement.
Taking its inspiration from the decadence of emperors Severus and Nero, it opens with the saltiness of caviar. The savoury gourmand note is made even more appealing with a chic coolness, as if on ice. A note of animalic oud adds to the richness.
There’s aromatics aplenty from notes of rosemary, sage and lavender, with the latter standing out with its fresh and spicy, almost aniseed-y facets. The woodiness of vetiver, patchouli and oakmoss is maximised in the drydown.
From start to finish, it’s delicious stuff.
All fragrances from this house come in pure parfum concentration and we also recommend Electimuss Mercurial Cashmere Parfum (2021) and Electimuss Vici Leather Parfum (2022).
The last few years have seen a boom in extrait de parfum concentrations, as consumers demand the best available quality and powerful perfumes on every level. Sensing this shift, the clever people at Byredo launched the Night Veils Collection.
There’s plenty of blackcurrant in the opening of this 2019 release from the Swedish niche brand. Its fruity piquancy blends with the leathery warmth of saffron.
A voluptuous and dirty rose stands proudly in the heart of the scent. Incense amplifies the unashamed oriental atmosphere.
In keeping with the best raw materials, it settles sensually on a base of ambrette, the natural musk, while patchouli brings its characteristic earthiness to the rich composition.
We also recommend Byredo Sellier Extrait de Parfum (2019) and Byredo Tobacco Mandarin Extrait de Parfum (2020).
When the original is one of our favourite roses, we approach any variation with a mix of trepidation and anticipation.
So what makes the OG Ormonde Jayne Ta’if EDP so special? It’s an earlier release (2004) from the London-based niche house’s Signature Collection. And perfectly captures the goal of founder Linda Pilkington “to combine elements which define true elegance: the quality of English craftsmanship, the art of French perfumery and the sensuality and natural harmony of the Orient”.
And the 2019 elixir? It lives up to its promise of maximising the intensity from the start with honeyed saffron, rosy pink peppercorns and the fruitiness of date oil.
Next up: freesia, jasmine and orange blossom – fresh and sweet at the same time – all in admiration of the star of this scent show, Taif rose. Linda Pilkington was enchanted when she visited the Saudi Arabia city (famous for its rose farms which harvest well over 300 million flowers to produce the finest rose oil, according to the Saudi Tourism Authority) and here the queen of florals is delectably sweet and powdery.
All these elements play their part in the original but in the elixir version, there’s the added Cambodian oudh. Argh! Not another rose-oud combo, you may cry. Er, absolutely not. Ormonde Jayne wouldn’t churn out one more take on the popular genre (okay, you can tell we’re big fans of the company).
In fact, this particular partnership works a charm with its woody-animalic dynamic enhanced by the honeyed sweetness of broom and muskiness of an amber accord.
Overall, a triumph of the highest order.
Also, look out for these releases in the Ormonde Jayne Elixir Collection: Isfarkand, Ormonde, Osmanthus, Royal (all launched in 2019) and the latest Gold (2022).
The original EDP was released in 2006. Apart from becoming one of the best-sellers of that decade, it’s also responsible for tempting men over to the dark side of so-called “female fragrances” with its pure deliciousness.
The unisex parfum version was released in 2020 and while not as busy as the original, it’s just as enticing.
It makes a gorgeously decadent statement from the start with a large helping of truffles – animalic and musky. Juicy plum brings a touch of fruity sweetness.
A combo of rich boozy rum and tropical florals – ylang-ylang and orchid – leads the way to the earthy patchouli drydown.
It’s been hyped to the max but justifiably so.
Orto Parisi Cuoium Parfum (Alessandro Gualtieri)
LEATHER! The bottle wrapping for this 2021 release from the Amsterdam-based niche brand (apparently a reusable vegetable leather) announces its intentions from the start with its brooding animalic potency. Perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri always makes a big statement with his creations.
We reckon there’s a large dose of isoButyl quinoline (the ingredient used to produce leathery earthiness) assisted by the spiciness of black pepper and the smokiness of incense and cade wood oil at work here.
That might intimidate you if you’re more used to smoother, more commercial takes on the genre. It’s given delicate sweetness with notes of orange, violet and vanilla.
The drydown maintains the deep and dark mood with labdanum and patchouli.
It’s unequivocally bold and will reward those with more adventurous tastes.
Ex Nihilo Fleur Narcotique Extrait de Parfum (Quentin Bisch)
The Paris-based niche brand’s debut fragrance (2014) from the Initiale Collection remains one of their best-sellers and has developed an enthusiastic cult following over the years for being a truly addictive fruity-floral fragrance both men and women can wear.
The extrait version from the Quintessence Collection, created by the same perfumer, doesn’t rework the original in a major way (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) but there’s more of the ping factor to it.
The fruity freshness of notes of bergamot, lychee and osmanthus gets it going.
The floral heart is where it all happens. The almost rose-like peony is supported by a lavishly lush bouquet of white florals – jasmine, freesia and orange blossom.
The drydown is a tad restrained, with the creaminess of sandalwood and earthiness of moss mingling with clean white musks.
Also look out for Ex Nihilo Outcast Blue Extrait de Parfum (2022).
If you spend as much time on social media as we do, you’ll know this French brand has become incredibly popular in recent years.
We’re still waiting for the wave of positivity the blurb for this perfume promises. But in the meantime, this 2022 release has grown on us much more than we expected.
It commences with notes of lavender, sage and bergamot – fresh and aromatic – and then onto the citrus-y tones of palo santo. The trendy wood (burnt for its cleansing properties) has featured in everything from Tom Ford Ébène Fumé EDP (2021) and Billie Eilish Eilish No. 2 EDP (2022) to Byredo Open Sky EDP (2021) and Zara Boisé Vibrant Leather EDP (2021). The richness of plum (not too sweet) contributes a fruity facet.
The drydown belongs to the creaminess of sandalwood, with a snippet of oud in the background.
Hugo Boss Boss Bottled Parfum (Suzy Le Helley & Annick Ménardo)
Almost all the big designer brands are releasing their long-running money-spinners in parfum versions – Paco Rabanne 1 Million Parfum (2020), Armani Code Parfum (2022), Calvin Klein Eternity For Men Parfum (2022), Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Elixir Parfum (2023), et al. This is one of the better ones.
The original Boss Bottled EDT from 1998 (gosh, has it been that long!) became a staple of many men’s fragrance repertoire with its combo of fruitiness (apple), spiciness (clove, vanilla) and woodiness (sandalwood, cedar, vetiver).
While the 2022 parfum version has none of the fruitiness of the OG, it more than compensates with its depth, thanks to the teamwork of Annick Ménardo (co-creator of the original) and Suzy le Halley.
First, there’s the woody spiciness of olibanum, followed by the earthy powderiness of orris concrete and a fig-tree accord.
It’s smoothness all the way in the drydown with the softness of cedar and leather.
For those more attuned to the machismo of some of the Boss Bottled iterations, this one might take time to appreciate.
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Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.