25 Of The Coolest Non-Basic Fragrances You'll Be Wearing This Fall

Ah, fall, the season when we’re inundated with a slew of new fragrance launches. If it seems like there are more and more perfumes coming out each year than the previous, that’s because there are: In 2012, for starters, there were 1,400. By 2014, that number increased to 1,620. It would be understandable for even the most ardent fragrance lover to be fatigued by all those choices. And the volume, combined with the same-y-ness of most of what’s out there (is it us, or is just about everything a fruity-floral these days?), makes finding something truly unique or special extra-challenging.
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Fortunately, we're here to help! Want to smell like outer space? We got you. More into the fragrance equivalent of an Indian desert? It’s in here. Interested in a perfume that’s a dead ringer for the scent of makeup? Yep, that’s possible, too. Click through to discover some of fall’s most unusual, most captivating, and most non-basic scents.
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Raise your hand if you’ve ever bought a fragrance just for its bottle. Okay, so it’s not just me. But Narciso not only looks amazing, it smells amazing, too — intense florals, soft woods, skin-like musks. And just when you think it can’t get any better than that, in comes vetiver, earthy and a little dirty. It’s sexy, but it doesn’t hit you over the head.
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The brand describes the scent as “safari leather,” with elements of “giraffe neck...sand...lion mane...gazelle hoof...green monitor lizards...and heat.” Having never been on safari, I can’t say whether this is, in fact, accurate. But for fans of patchouli-laden or musk-heavy scents, this is a great one. It smells like the inside of a very expensive handbag, with strong blasts of cardamom, which is spicy and almost minty in its sharpness.
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Lovers of Thierry Mugler’s classic Angel who are ready to move on to something new — but not for a total departure from that cotton-candy world, please consider Noir Exquis. It shares Angel’s warm, sugary vibe, minus its fruitier sensations. Instead, you have coffee, woods, and a lovely orange moment. It’s gourmand, for sure, but without any of the overwhelming sweetness that sometimes comes with scents in the category.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Noir Exquis Eau de Parfum, $165, available at L'Artisan Parfumeur.
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If you typically steer clear of grapefruit scents because they're too sporty, you may want to give this one a sniff: It takes grapefruit’s bitterness, softens it with lavender and cedar, and brings it further out of typical cologne territory thanks to a helping heaping of rhubarb and clove. It’s bracing, but sensual.

L’Occitane x Pierre Herme Pamplemousse-Rhubarbe, $62, available October 28 at L'Occitane.
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Frankly, it’s a missed marketing opportunity that Kim K. isn’t the face of this new scent. (I’m sure somewhere out there, Kris Jenner is all over it.) It’s an odd inspiration for a fragrance, that’s for sure. (Although it’s not like a nebula — see slide 7 — makes a ton of sense, either.) The scent itself is also strange, but in an interesting way: a little incense, a little moss, a little...maple syrup accord. (True story.) It’s as singular as its namesake.
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Right around this time of year, especially since we're here on the East Coast, we start fantasizing about what tropical destination we want to escape to once the weather really starts to get slushy and gross. To make those beachy daydreams more vivid, we turn toward citrusy, sparkly florals like this one. Where many fruity-florals turn sickly-sweet on the skin, this one has vetiver and cocoa bean to cut that fruit-punch sensation, and allows the scent to settle into a soft, powdery-woody sensation.
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According to scientists, we know that deep space tastes like raspberries and smells like rum. But what about a nebula? Our friend C. Alex Young, PhD, associate director for science, heliophysics science division, at NASA (!), says those can smell like "rotten eggs and vinegar (sulfur compounds), mixed with a touch of dairy-barn cow (ammonia)...and topped off with a hint of almonds (hydrogen cyanide)." That is a lot of smells. So is it far-fetched, then, for this nebula-inspired fragrance to smell like nutmeg and limes? Maybe, maybe not. It also manages to capture the feeling of outer space’s cold stillness, which is pretty cool.
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This is the scent equivalent of sitting on a leather couch in front of a roaring fireplace while gorging yourself on black licorice. That is the exact smell: leather, smoky woods, anise. If that's your idea of a good time, allow me to introduce you to your new signature fragrance.
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If your taste in fragrance tends to lean toward the cologne side of the spectrum, this is a great option. It’s got all the freshness of traditional colognes (zesty citrus notes; yuzu, specifically), but is made modern thanks to generous helpings of basil and clove. Yet it’s super-mellow — you will feel your blood pressure lowering after you spray it on.
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If you’re wondering what type of light this scent represents, my first thought was, “at the end of the tunnel.” Let me back up: This is a true floral — jasmine and ylang-ylang are the stars. And it’s quite sharp, at first spray. But you know the way your eyes struggle to adjust when you’re coming out of a tunnel into broad daylight? Lights gives you that sensation. It takes some time to adjust to it on your skin. But after a few minutes, it smells comforting and familiar: all violet-y and soft, with the jasmine hanging out in the background.
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As fans of Minaj’s six previous fragrances know well, half the fun is in seeing what the bottle for each new launch will look like: a miniature bust of Minaj with a fabulous hairstyle/cap, adorned with an even-more-fabulous bustier situation. But don’t ignore what’s inside! This time, the scent is a blend of coconut, frangipani, and sweet citrus. The tropical vibes are strong — if you find yourself suddenly wanting an umbrella drink and playing “Trini Dem Girls” at top volume, we totally feel you.
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The original version of this sexy-spicy-citrus scent was created for men, but since so many women were wearing it, the company decided to slightly tweak the formula and make it more lady-fied with the addition of a sweet pistachio note, and loads of amber. The inspiration? Kulfi, a frozen dessert popular in India. Tread lightly: It is very, very potent.
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Sometimes, okay, frequently, fragrance releases are kind of bonkers. Witness Jasmine Fauve, whose press notes describe it as a “poisonous leather flower.” Let us translate that for you: Yes, it contains jasmine, along with a lot (A LOT) of lily of the valley, but it is thankfully light on what the brand calls “animal accord,” which to our nose is just an intense way of saying “something slightly funky in a good way.” So, what do you actually have? A sensual, musky floral with a noticeable hint of orange blossom. Put plainly, it’s a new take on a classic fragrance construction.

Ex Nihilo Jasmin Fauve, $225, available October 1 at Bergdorf Goodman.
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According to Urban Dictionary, smoke show is defined as: “A word used to describe a sereously [sic] hot girl (must not be overused and abused on medeocarly [sic] hot woman!)” Oy. Fortunately, that nonsense has nothing to do with this fragrance, which is a sensual blend of spices, leathers, and woods. Throughout the day, the scent shifts and changes, and never seems to smell the same way twice.
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Solid perfumes can be hit or miss — sometimes they’re melty, sometimes they’re greasy, sometimes they don’t smell like much. But this new brand created by Isabelle “Sabé” Masson (who helped found a little cosmetics company called Sephora), is both highly concentrated and made with a blend of oils and butters (shea, tiare, mango) to help the fragrances blend into the skin and stay put. Priced at a reasonable $25, and with 15+ scents that span from florals to leathers, it’s a low-risk way to try something new.
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As the designer himself once told us, “I don’t like natural. That’s a little lazy,” so it’s no surprise that his latest scent smells like nothing you might actually find in nature — but in a good way. Initially, it comes off like a very expensive after-dinner drink: plummy, rich, and sugary. On the skin, it warms up and gets soft and powdery, and that sweetness then gives way to a sexy, creamy jasmine. And let’s take a minute to appraise that OTT bottle: It is, as the kids say, a lot of look. If you’re the sort who likes dramatic entrances, spritz this all over and let it announce your arrival.

Marc Jacobs Decadence, $70, available in October at Sephora and Bloomingdale's.
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If the original version of this iconic scent (incense-y, spicy, jasmine-y) is too strong for you, you may want to try this iteration. Black Opium is sweeter (like a warm, sugar-y vibe) and less smoky than its predecessor. And what's that new note? Coffee! Yep. It's energizing, like a shot of espresso. Think of this as the ideal pre-party pick-me-up.
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The very first fragrance from Prada’s quirky, sporty sister brand could not be more delightful. From the bottle, a gorgeous blue base (etched with the brand’s signature matelassé design) and cherry red cap, to the scent (a truly pretty white floral with the slightest hint of wood and pepper), Miu Miu is every bit as charming as its design.
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This is a relaunch of a popular, limited-edition unisex fragrance that came out in 2011. So, if you missed out on it the first time, you’re in luck: Not only has it been given a stunning new bottle, but this amber-y, citrus-y, spicy scent is the ideal fragrance for easing into the cooler fall weather. It’s slightly warm, enveloping, and has a decent amount of staying power. Caution: If you don’t like amber, this is definitely not for you.
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If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I would like to smell like a fancy French macaron,” then you need this fragrance. The debut scent from the L.A.-based clothing brand is heavy on notes like melon, apricot, and honey, and there’s a pleasant white floral and jasmine vibe running through it. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your preference), the sweetness doesn’t linger, instead warming into a soft, musky situation throughout the day.
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There isn't a lot of literal honey smell in this scent; it's more an evocation of it. Think honeyed fruits, such as apple, pear, mandarin, and raspberry, as well as some soft jasmine, and sandalwood. It's a truly lush fragrance — enveloping, inviting, and cozy, like your favorite fall sweater.

Isabel Toledo Crystal Honey, $52.50, available September 20 at Lane Bryant.
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One of the biggest challenges in perfumery is creating a long-lasting citrus scent. In this one, a trifecta of bergamot, orange blossom, and grapefruit is anchored by basil and incense, creating a steady sensation of freshness, but not like a household cleaner. It’s more similar to a bright, sunny day that no blackout shade could hope to hide.
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Bam, right off the top, it's a smell that will be immediately familiar to any lipstick lover: Waxy and resinous (that’s galbanum, for you), and then powdery and boozy (that’s the vanilla). It is a very specific scent and it's impossible to say whether it’s good or not. That's for you to decide — and what makes this, and many fragrances in the Replica collection, utterly fascinating.

Maison Margiela Paris Replica Lipstick On, $125, available October 1 at Barneys New York.
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If that wonderfully evocative name doesn’t hook you, the smell — a bright, sparkling rose with pink pepper, delicate sweetness (raspberry!) and amber — will. Unless, that is, you don’t like the smell of roses. Part of us wishes that it was a little more sinister, like its name implies. But, instead, you’re getting a lovely fresh rose fragrance that smells pretty true to nature.

Byredo Rose Of No Man's Land, $145, available September 10 at Byredo.
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The “0.2” refers to the amount of time in seconds it takes to fall in love at first sight, according to "science." We can’t really speak to whether that’s true. But what we can say is that ⅕ of a second apparently smells like mint. Spearmint, bergamot, and light musk create this ultra-fresh, unisex scent. The good news is that it doesn’t smell like mouthwash, the typical downfall of most minty fragrances. The bad news? It is gone in a flash, just like its name implies.
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