The Weird Fall Fragrances You Need To Break Out Of A Pumpkin-Spice Rut

Fall is, for better or for worse, the most easily romanticized season, a few precious months offering numerous opportunities to take a good picture: a $6 latte here, a nubby sweater there, an apple-picking excursion-turned-impromptu Instagram photoshoot if you’re really feeling it.

So yes, while fall is still a season, as a concept, it’s also a cliche — and so is the idea of the consummate “fall fragrance,” a warm, cozy scent that’s like a cashmere cardigan for the senses. If you’ve smelled one, you’ve smelled them all. But there are only so many piles of leaves to step in, cups of Earl Grey to burn your tongue on, and attempts at staving off the first warning signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder before fall starts to lose its basic appeal — in which case, stepping outside your prescribed comfort zone of traditionally autumnal scents is essential.

An unusual, unexpected fragrance will change your entire mindset, taking you from pumpkin-spice zombie to, well, the kind of person who wears a perfume that smells like gunmetal and bright red roses in the middle of November. Ahead, the best fall scents you won’t smell on anyone else this year — especially not while you’re waiting in a seemingly endless line at Starbucks.

If a bolt of lightning struck a rose bush, the ensuing blaze would smell just like this electrifying fragrance: sharp and metallic to the nose at first, with a woodsy, peppery drydown once the dust has settled. Centifolia rose and lush Egyptian jasmine are perfectly pleasant on their own, but when tempered by notes of cedarwood, white musk, and fresh, green hits of basil and vetiver, those familiar florals turn into something a little dirty and downright intoxicating.

Maison Margiela Wicked Love Eau de Parfum, $180, available at Barneys New York.
It’s the stuff that lifelong fears of water are made of: Knocked off your feet by the crest of a wave, salty ocean water fills your mouth and stings your eyes as it crashes over your head. This scent captures the feeling you get when you regain your footing and, breathless, make it back to a seaweed-covered shore — dry, mineral air swirling with saline and wind against a gray sky, a storm growing off in the distance, an overwhelming sense of relief, and a newfound understanding that the ocean is fucking huge and you are very, very small by comparison.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Un Air de Bretagne Eau de Parfum, $145, available at L’Artisan Parfumeur.
A fragrance so unsettling and unfamiliar it's practically dystopian — a bouquet of genetically-modified violets wilting beneath the electric hum of flickering fluorescent lights in the empty hallway of a subterranean fallout shelter.

D.S. & Durga Vio-Volta Eau de Parfum, $260, available at D.S. & Durga.
Like that first sip of coffee so hot it burns your throat, this fragrance seems to conduct palpable heat. The espresso accord doesn’t go down easy, but it takes on a strange, compelling sweetness with the additions of cacao and creamy white tuberose. Still, it’s not enough to cancel out the eye-wateringly spicy blend of cardamom, patchouli, bergamot, and vanilla, which radiates a warmth so sensorial you can practically taste it.

Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa Cologne Absolue, $150, available at Nordstrom.
Chilled green tea, a sheer wisp of cashmere, vanilla shaved ice served in outer space: This stunning fragrance jolts you to your senses not because it’s so unexpected, but because it takes the expected and flips it on its head. Light and citrusy at first spritz with a blend of bergamot and bitter orange, the woodsy middle notes give way to soft, smooth vanilla that somehow never turns syrupy sweet.

Ellis Brooklyn Sci Fi Eau de Parfum, $100, available at Shen Beauty.
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!