Niche Fragrance: A Beginner’s Guide

The right fragrance can elevate your mood, boost your confidence, and draw others in. Unfortunately, most stores make finding that fragrance a confusing, high-pressure situation. And with only a limited selection of the usual uninspired brands, you can easily suffer from “same scent, different bottle” fatigue. It’s no wonder so many people steer clear of fragrance counters!

Niche, A Whole New Experience

Experiencing fragrance is deeply personal, and boring department store scents just don’t offer the intense sensory connection you can get from a more uncommon fragrance. That’s where niche fragrances come in. If you’ve heard the term, but don’t quite know what it means, niche fragrances are made by artisinal fragrance studios that focus on using high quality ingredients and an attention to detail. Because they don’t have to appeal to a mass audience, the perfumers have more creative freedom to come up with unique, surprising blends. Production is on a smaller scale, and these scents are often only sold in boutiques. Basically, if you don’t want to smell like everybody else, niche fragrances are the way to go.

We’ve poured our hearts (and noses!) into creating one of the country’s finest collection of niche, hard-to find fragrances from independent and innovative brands. You’ll discover evocative fragrances that truly speak to you, revealing the emotive power of scent. Explore our collection here.

If you’re new to the world of niche fragrance, trying sample sizes is a fantastic way to discover your new favorite scents. You can experience any number of fragrances, at a fraction of the cost of a full bottle, before you buy. This is the perfect way to explore how a scent makes you feel, its staying power, and how it evolves on your skin before making an investment. Fragrance should be fun, and what’s more fun than trying a little of everything you like? (Smallflower offers convenient sample sizes for all our niche fragrances.)

Bright and colorful bottles of perfume with different shapes and no labels

Fragrance 101

Eau de What? With so many terms, it can be tricky to navigate the world of fragrance. We’ve rounded up our customer’s most common questions and created a guide to help you on your path towards becoming a niche fragrance aficionado! Read on to learn everything you need to know to get started.

Concentrations

Eau Fraiche

The lightest type of fragrance, with 1-3% perfume essence in a base of alcohol and water.

Eau de Cologne

Typically fresh, light & fruity, composed of 2-5% perfume essence in alcohol and water. The oldest term for fragrance, also used in North America to refer to scents for men.

Eau de Toilette

Popular and affordable, made with 5-15% perfume essence in an alcohol base.

Eau de Parfum

Favored by many niche brands for its longevity, composed of 15-20% perfume essence in alcohol.

Extrait de Parfum

Longer-lasting than any other type of fragrance, with 20-40% perfume essence in an alcohol base.

Other Helpful Terms

Top Notes

The first thing you smell when you spray a fragrance; these are the lightest notes that evaporate first. Sometimes referred to as “head notes”.

Middle Notes

Also called “heart notes”, these compounds make up the body of a fragrance and are usually used to determine the fragrance family.

Base Notes

The longest-lasting component of a fragrance, these notes bring richness and depth while boosting the strength of lighter top and middle notes.

Sillage

The trail of scent left behind by a perfume; perfumes with very strong sillage can fill a room, those with little sillage stay close to the skin.

Longevity

How long a fragrance lasts on your skin; affected by the concentration of perfume essence, as well as other factors like where you apply and what fragrance family the scent belongs to.

Fragrance Family

A classification system that puts individual perfumes into different olfactory groups based on their dominant notes. The four main families are Floral, Oriental, Woody and Fresh, which can then be further divided into sub-groups.

Scent Guide

Amber

A lemon with two slices and leaves

A purple orchid with yellow spots

A green slice of cucumber in front of splashing water

Amber

Comforting and warm, amber provides a beautiful base for many fragrances; it is sweet, resinous, and woody.

Citrus

Popular due to their rich history and classic appeal, citrus scents are often refreshingly tart or deliciously sweet.

Floral

Eternally popular, floral fragrances feature a single bloom or a beautiful bouquet, and can be fresh, soft, or sweet.

Fresh

Clean and invigorating, fresh scents can feature zesty, ripe citrus, crisp greens, or cool aquatic notes.

A pile of assorted round chocolate truffles

Green leaves with flecks of dew

Rectangular pices of old, worn leather

Dark brown truffles with four slices

Gourmand

Inspired by luscious desserts, indulgent gourmand notes can conjure sweet childhood memories or sensual pleasure.

Green

Superbly fresh and stimulating, green notes capture the allure of nature at its height.

Leather

The distinct smell of leather is primal and sensual; compositions can be warm and velvety, or dry and smoky.

Musk

A perfume-maker’s secret weapon, musk is an animalistic essence that adds warmth and sensuality to any fragrance.

A piece of unpeeled ginger, a pink flower, and two leaves

Pieces of oud wood

A pile of incense with smoke trailing from it

Tree rings inside a cross section of a tree trunk

Oriental

Warm, spicy, and seductive, oriental fragrances feature intensely rich blends of exotic woods, resins, flowers, and spices.

Oud

Highly prized for centuries, oud is an exotic wood resin with a rich scent that balances between pungent and sweet.

Smoky

Dry, yet rich, smoky notes add an alluring warmth, calling to mind burnt wood, worn leather, or pipe tobacco.

Wood

Warm and complex, woody notes can evoke the earthy richness of a forest or the dry opulence of exotic wood.

A woman with dark hair and red nail polish sprays herself with an atomizer perfume bottle

The Signature Scent

We’re all familiar with the idea of a signature scent, that tried-and-true fragrance you can spritz on without a second thought. A signature scent is like your favorite sweater, something classic and comforting that simply makes you feel like you. But you wouldn’t wear your cozy sweater for a night on the town or in the heat of summer. So, if your clothes change depending on the occasion, the season, and even your mood, shouldn’t your fragrance do the same? After all, it’s just as much a part of your personal style as your clothing, shoes, and accessories are. Go ahead, wear that spicy oriental for date night, enjoy a bright chypre on the first day of spring, and splash on some uplifting citrus cologne when you need a boost. And on the days when you’re just not sure what to wear… simply reach for your signature scent.

Shared Fragrance

In the world of niche fragrance, the words “for men” and “for women” are appearing less and less. Traditional perfumery typically separated scents by gender, offering fragrances designed to smell feminine or masculine. But many modern perfumers have eschewed that idea in favor of creating “shared fragrances” that are meant to be worn by anyone who enjoys them. After all, there’s no reason a gent can’t appreciate a rose scent, or a gal can’t be delighted by a deep, woody blend. You should feel free to explore any note you like, so let your nose, not a label, guide you!

The niche fragrance counter at Merz Apothecary

 

Exclusive Niche Fragrance Brands

Looking for a scent you won’t find at the local department store? Smallflower has what you’ve been searching for. We’ve spent years sniffing out the best niche fragrance brands from around the world, resulting in one of the finest fragrance collections you’ll ever experience. Each line tells fascinating stories through scent, and we’re here to help you discover the story that truly speaks to you.

A bottle of Diptyque Tam Dao Eau de Parfum

A bottle of Aqua Universalis Eau de Toilette by Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris

Niche fragrances can be as classic and comforting or as unusual and thought-provoking as you desire. Parisian icon Diptyque is renowned for its chic, memorable fragrances that often become beloved signature scents for both men and women. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris creates ultra-wearable, effortless blends.

A bottle of China White Extrait de Parfum by Nasomatto

A bottle of You or Someone Like You Eau de Parfum by Etat Libre d'Orange

On the other end of the spectrum, Nasomatto and Orto Parisi push the boundaries of traditional perfume with astounding results. Etat Libre D’Orange gives its perfumers ultimate creative freedom, culminating in some of the cleverest concoctions you’ll have the pleasure to sniff. Created with a bold, uncompromising vision, The Different Company offers modern French luxury fragrance with enticing yet elusive notes.

A bottle of Burning Barbershop Eau de Parfum by D.S. & Durga

A bottle of Boccanera Eau de Parfum by Orto Parisi

Inspiration comes in all forms when it comes to creating niche fragrances. Ancient folklore and Americana are interpreted into captivating elixirs through D.S. & Durga’s incredible vision. Juliette Has A Gun imagines a renegade heroine ready to take on the world, armed with her perfume. Italian-born Orto Parisi imagines the body as a garden and scent as the mirror into the soul.

A bottle of D600 Eau de Parfum by Carner Barcelona

A bottle of Brooklyn Eau de Parfum by Gallivant

Carner Barcelona crafts contemporary scents with the vibrant spirit of its namesake Spanish locale. Inspired by the effortlessly cool vibe of the world’s most creative cities, GALLIVANT creates evocative fragrance blends that transport you with a single spritz.

A travel-size bottle of 1969 Eau de Parfum by Histoires de Parfums

A bottle of Fathom V Eau de Parfum by BeauFort London

Those who feel like they belong to another era will be drawn to Histoires de Parfums and Parfums de Marly, lines which pay homage to history. Looking back at the darker elements of Britian’s past, BeauFort London bottles powerful stories of the sea, trade, and war.

A bottle of L'Air Du Desert Marocain Eau de Toilette by Tauer Perfumes

A bottle of Mister Marvelous Eau de Parfum by Byredo

Artsy types will appreciate Tauer Perfumes “scent sculptures”, true works of genius guided by the creator’s unique instincts. Design aficionados are in love with the understated elegance of  BYREDO’s packaging—a perfect foil to the unexpected essences within.

No matter what type of aroma you’re drawn to, there’s a niche scent for you. Explore this enchanting world of fragrance with Smallflower.

Shop Niche Fragrance at Smallflower.com