Baccarat Rouge 540, Le Labo Santal 33 and Phlur Missing Person… One thing all of these perfumes have in common is that they have become cultural phenomena of late. Call it the TikTok effect, but it’s impossible to walk down the street, catch the Tube or pass a colleague at the office without being enveloped in a fragrant cloud of one — or all three. With notes of saffron (treacly and expensive), jasmine (woody and creamy), and musk (warm and comforting), it’s no wonder they have become certified compliment-earners.
Recently, however, one topic of conversation has dominated meet-ups with beauty editors and my friendship group: Everyone seems to smell the same. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Perhaps you’ve finally found your signature scent, or maybe you like to be a part of a viral beauty moment. But if you’ve had your fill, I slid into the DMs of a handful of perfume specialists and enthusiasts — the people who live, breathe and sleep fragrance (yes, some even wear it to bed) — to uncover their most unique perfume recommendations.
Here are 8 under-the-radar fragrances you can guarantee no-one else is wearing right now.
Tom Ford Soleil Blanc — a heady mix of bergamot, coconut and orange flower — tends to get all the glory, but its darker counterpart is just as moreish, according to Eudora Nwasike, a certified fragrance specialist by The Fragrance Foundation. “This is a glorious entanglement of clean, crispy white florals [think: tuberose and jasmine] on a bed of smooth, sweet and creamy notes of benzoin, labdanum [both fragrant gum resins] and vanilla,” she says. “It is an instant mood lifter on a hot summer’s day,” but it’s equally as comforting and warm when the temperature drops.
If you’d rather spend less, try: Zara Sublime Epoque Eau de Parfum, £22.99 for 80ml, with tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom and vanilla.
“With the trend towards comforting ‘skin scents’, we are witnessing a proliferation of musky, cosy and milky perfumes on the market,” says perfumologist Anastasia Gostieva, aka Scent Guide on Instagram. “Milk Musk by Molton Brown is one of the finest examples of this trend. It envelops you in a soft, musky-vanilla cloud, but fruity notes of peach and pear make it truly unique, and the woody base gives it character.”
If you’d rather spend less, try: Provenance Under The Palm Trees Eau De Parfum, £7.50 for 30ml, with vanilla and musk.
“This is a citrus-amber blend that smells like rich, golden sunlight,” says self-confessed fragrance fangirl Emelia aka Professor Perfume on Instagram. “It’s for all the citrus lovers out there that want something a bit more bold and vibrant,” — as most citrus fragrances tend to wear off after the first spritz. Bergamot and Italian mandarin give it that initial zesty fizz, but deeper notes of vanilla and rose make it last all day long.
If you’d rather spend less, try: M&S Collection Velvet Amber Eau de Toilette, £6 for 30ml, with amber, neroli and jasmine.
Penhaligon’s Cairo and Luna always steal the spotlight, but Bewitching Yasmine is criminally underrated. “This is an intoxicating blend of cool yet spicy cardamom, and the sultry smokiness of incense is wrapped in vanilla and a deep, rich oud,” says Nwasike. “It’s bound to imprint you in someone’s mind.” She says that this is a safe place to start if you’re keen to try a perfume with oud (a fragrant, resinous wood particularly popular in Middle Eastern perfume) but don’t want anything too overpowering.
If you’d rather spend less, try: Zara Bohemian Oud, £22.99 for 80ml, with oud, vanilla and black pepper, or & Other Stories The Lost Chapter Eau de Toilette, £29 for 50ml, with cardamom, cumin and sandalwood.
“This is the perfect October scent,” says Elena Menegaldo aka The Perfume Goddess on Instagram. “It is the perfect mix of summer nostalgia with sparkling lemon and rose notes, but there is a striking realisation that winter is coming soon thanks to the rum and pear.”
If you’d rather spend less, try: & Other Stories Rose Revival Eau de Toilette, £28 for 50ml, with green pear, rose petals and cedar wood.
If you're in search of a dark vanilla scent — something that isn’t tooth-achingly sweet — consider Tonka Angelica by British brand, Shay & Blue London, says Gostieva. “Roasted almonds are softened with powdery and creamy notes of heliotrope [a sweet, nutty, purple flower]. The slightly woody base makes it sensuous and alluring.”
If you’d rather spend less, try: & Other Stories Fleur de Mimosa Eau de Toilette, £28, for 50ml, with almond, musk and floral notes.
YSL’s viral Black Opium perfume certainly has its place, but if you’re after something a little more unusual, and far less sweet, try Capeline, says Emelia. “This is an absolutely luxurious blend of lily, seawater and vanilla,” she says. “If you want to smell like you have a beach house in the Hamptons, this is the one.”
If you’d rather spend less, try: Discover Intense Seasalt & Neroli Eau de Toilette, £12.50 for 100ml, with sea salt and musk.
Nwasike says that this is so good, it’s signature scent-worthy. It occupies a space in the ‘chypre’ fragrance family, which means that it’s woody and earthy. “The floral composition embodies elegance and class. It also has a burst of citrus notes [like bergamot] that is surrounded by floral accords. The exquisite powdery base makes it suitable for any season. It also layers beautifully with woody, fruity or citrus perfumes.”
If you’d rather spend less, try: Discover Fresh Bergamot Eau de Toilette, £6 for 30ml, with bergamot, lavender and jasmine.
“Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt the butterflies as you’ve been intrigued by their mystery, but at the same time felt so comfortable around them? This is what I felt the moment I sprayed this scent,” says Menegaldo. It’s all thanks to soothing rosemary, warm, smoked musk, creamy guaiac wood and spicy nutmeg.
If you’d rather spend less, try: Zara Magnificently Dubai, £25.99, for 75ml, with nutmeg and leather.
“This perfume was created by the talented and renowned perfumer Cécile Zarokian,” says Gostieva. “It’s a bold, sexy scent that evokes the experience of sipping a shot of fine cognac in the luxurious ambience of an ‘old money’ hotel lobby.” Patchouliful combines dry and woody notes of patchouli with warm, sweetened spices such as cinnamon and cloves, explains Gostieva. “It gives off a cosy yet mysterious vibe.”
If you’d rather spend less, try: Zara Sand Desert at Sunset, £22.99 for 100ml, with cinnamon, tonka bean and chocolate.
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