11 Unique Perfumes That Everyone & Their Mother Won't Be Wearing

Photo: Courtesy of A Dozen Roses.
As we're sure you are all aware, today is one of the most revered and important days of the year... Happy National Fragrance Day! Okay, yes, that's not a real thing outside of some fragrance marketer's brain, but still, we're pretty psyched. It gives us an excuse to talk about one of our favorite topics: things that smell good.

To celebrate, we decided to talk about how to avoid one of the most annoying perfume pitfalls — cologne clones. Yep, that awkward moment when you're in the elevator, minding your own business — jamming out to those sick elevator-music beats — when you catch a whiff of the woman next to you, and she smells exactly like your own signature scent. Not really a crisis of epic proportions, but still, kind of annoying.

The problem with buying anything that some department-store counter guy aggressively spritzes at you is that there is a higher proportion of people getting bushwhacked with the same sales pitch. And, while there's nothing wrong with loving a scent that everyone else (and their mothers) loves, too, for those of us who like to feel like special little snowflakes with our beauty picks, it can be a drag.

The answer? Niche perfumes. These small-batch, off-the-beaten-path scents can feel truly personal and unique. But, the process of finding them is a bit of a treasure hunt — no one is spraying them in your face as you walk through a crowded department store. You have to seek them out.

"Finding a niche scent is a totally different process," says David Frossard, creative director of Frapin and co-owner of Liquides, a niche "perfume bar" in Paris' Haut-Marais district. "I like to say that commercial fragrances are working [like a] 'mirage' — they make you dream with Brad Pitt or Claudia Schiffer. The customer buys the fragrance to feel like those icons."

Niche fragrances, however, are about quality and creativity. "A niche fragrance requires the consumer to have a good understanding of his or her personality, of what he or she wants to smell like and want to express," he says. "You have to know who you are first and then take the time to discover the fragrance, the stories behind the fragrance, the ingredients and how the smell evolves with time and on the skin. Commercial fragrances are made to be standardized and to please more people. I have nothing against standardization — it’s fine for more non-emotional products — but when it comes to perfumes, creativity is what you have to look for!"

If you're ready to embark on your niche-perfume journey, but not sure where to begin, Frossard recommends you head to the web for initial research. Websites like Now Smell This, Fragrantica, and LuckyScent have exhaustive reviews of all the best indie perfumers, written by true fragrance nerds.

Frossard says that during this discovery stage, it's important to experience scents in person. If you have the chance, visit niche fragrance "meccas," like his Liquides boutique, Aedes de Venustas in NYC, or the aforementioned LuckyScent on the West Coast. If you're not near one of them, do some more digging online to find stores in your area that carry some of the more notable indie brands. Chances are, they'll also have a good selection of other lesser-known brands for you to explore.

To help get you started, we've rounded up 11 perfumes from some of our favorite fragrance brands and ateliers. These are the eaux that have captivated, enchanted, and entranced our noses — they might just do the same for you. Just don't go jumping into any elevators with us.
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Photo: Courtesy of A Dozen Roses.
Think you know rose perfumes? Well, get ready to have everything you know upended. There's nothing sickly sweet or powdery about this juiced-up bloom. The rose absolute and "electric pink rose" are invigorated with a shot of green tea, violet leaves, musk, and cattleya orchid for a vibrant, funky-fresh take on everyone's favorite grandma note.
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Photo: Courtesy of Olivine Atelier.
The notes for this vegan perfume oil may seem a bit ho-hum: stargazer lily, gardenia, musk, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla. Been there, smelled that. But, one whiff of this gorgeously warm and enveloping scent and you'll realize everything you ever knew about those notes was just plain wrong. Something about how founder Julie Wray has combined them makes for one of the most intoxicating aromas our noses have ever had the delight of sniffing. How much do we love this scent? We think the name says it all.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hi Wildflower Botanica.
This Brooklyn-based, small-batch perfumery is a recent discovery of ours and we're seriously digging what it's serving up. The products use ethically sourced botanicals and are inspired by "wildflowers, faraway places, and familiar evocations."

We've been repeatedly sniffing and applying this spicy floral scent, which brilliantly combines notes of bourbon vanilla, sandalwood, balsam, pink pepper, ylang ylang, jasmine sambac, and pink grapefruit. The result is a fragrance that transports us to the shores of Hawaii — which is where we'd much rather be right now, rather than stuck in this weather purgatory of still winter, not quite spring.
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Photo: Courtesy of Les Liquides Imaginaires.
We'd like to say that the reason we were drawn to this scent initially had nothing to do with the fact that it's part of a trio of fragrances inspired by wine, but you know us too well and that would just be a flat-out lie.

Les Liquides Imaginaires launches scents in trilogies, all centered around a singular concept. The Eau Sanguine trio is devoted to everyone's favorite alcoholic beverage. Dom Rosa is inspired by rosé champagne, and that's exactly what it smells like — and we mean that in a good way.

The notes of champagne, grapefruit, pear, rosa damascena, clove, incense, cedarwood, and vetiver combine to create a fragrance that starts off bubbly and effervescent, but dries down to a warm, floral finish that still manages to maintain hints of that initial freshness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tata Harper.
The brand claims this scent, which it calls "liquid love," can help heighten sensuality and stimulate the senses thanks to a "blend of 10 of the world’s most potent aphrodisiac essential oils." We can't really speak to that, but we can tell you this smells effing amazing.

Davana, orange peel, ylang ylang, sandalwood, violet leaf, rose, frankincense, and grapefruit (who knew grapefruit was an aphrodisiac?) create a heady scent that is big on impact without being overpowering or cloying. It lingers on the skin, leaving behind a trail of soft, warm florals with a hint of hypnotizing citrus freshness.
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Like your scents on the green side? Then, check out this fresh new pick from Nest Fragrances. It features wild fern, Himalayan cedar, verbena leaves, and vetiver for a crisp, fresh perfume. If words like "powdery," "soft," and "heady" make your nose crinkle in disdain, then this one's for you.

Nest Fragrances Verde Eau de Parfum, $68, available March 24 at Sephora.
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Photo: Courtesy of Byredo.
We have a longstanding love for this Stockholm-based niche brand — founder Ben Gorham brings a minimalist design aesthetic and an outlier's approach that mesh together to create some of the most truly unique fragrances on the market today.

His latest launch is a hair perfume that is meant to be spritzed on in the a.m., releasing whiffs of scent throughout the day. Our favorite is Gypsy Water — a fresh floral with a slightly earthy undertone, achieved using a mix of bergamot, lemon, pepper, juniper berries, incense, pine needles, amber, and sandalwood.
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Photo: Courtesy of Frapin.
Edgar Allan Poe may seem like a strange inspiration for a fragrance, but when you hear the specifics, it's actually rather romantic. While the name is an homage to one of Poe's most famous poems, the scent itself is an ode to Poe's afterlife. Specifically, the mysterious entity that leaves three red roses and a bottle of cognac at Poe's gravesite every year on his birthday.

To bring that enigmatic moment to life, the perfume has notes of rose de mai, rosa damascena, rose oxide, black pepper, saffron, red wine, cedar, and amber. The result is a warm floral with a slightly spicy edge.
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Photo: Courtesy of Atelier Cologne.
Maybe it's just us, but we kind of wish fig would get more love in the fragrance world. There's just something so dreamy about a fig-based scent. Case in point: this new eau from Atelier Cologne.

Part of the brand's four-piece Collection Azur — which "celebrates the elegance of citruses, the traditional ingredients of a cologne, by blending them with natural raw material coming from regions where the sea and sky become one" — this delicious scent blends fig leaf and "salty fig" (just go with it) with notes of bergamot, anise, cardamom, iris, and tonka bean.
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Photo: Courtesy of Krigler.
The epitome of a heritage scent, this eau de parfum was created in 1912 and still continues to endure and enchant. The secret is in the handmade formula, which boasts notes of mimosa, lily of the valley, rose, and white musk. The resulting scent is a super-feminine, sophisticated floral that is saved from being too heavy by a fresh, slightly bubbly undercurrent. Hey, if it was good enough for Grace Kelly...
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Photo: Courtesy of Olivine.
Yes, this is another Olivine pick, but hear us out. We got hooked on this scent through another product the brand makes, the Love + Salt Beach Mist. In addition to giving us the soft, touchable, beachy waves of our dreams, we noticed without fail that every time we spritzed it on, someone in our immediate vicinity would comment on how great it smelled.

Meant to "capture the ultra-relaxed, sensory paradise that is a beach day in Hanalei, Hawaii," this vegan scent starts with a trio of lilies — stargazer, tiger, and water — and has a base of tonka bean, musk, and sandalwood. It's a sun-drenched fragrance that manages to be summery without smelling like every other "summer" scent on the market.
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