I’m always on the hunt for a signature scent. Something that smells undeniably like me. And since seasonal shifts mean whole new color palettes and beauty regimens, what better time than now to find a new perfume to reinvent myself? Plus, I recently took a perfumery class, which piqued my curiosity about how professional perfumers work.
I set out to meet some of the most inventive niche perfumers, who are making small batches of perfume that last for a few seasons, until it’s time to create something new. In today's world of mass marketing and celebrity fragrances, finding a niche scent that no one else knows about feels even more special. Frederick Bouchardy, a founder of the Elements Perfume Showcase (a twice-yearly event which is a great place to discover new fragrances) and Joya perfumes, summed it up best. “I want to do this for a long time. I want it to not be everywhere," he said. "I want people who love it to not smell it on everyone else.”
Click through to learn about the five best small batch perfumers.
HYLNDS by D.S. & Durga, Spirit of the Glen, $180 Scent Story: David Moltz, the nose behind D.S. & Durga, just launched a new line called HYLNDS. His travels and hikes yield some of his greatest discoveries. “I want to be able to make a story. I want someone to close their eyes and smell and be brought to that specific time and place," Moltz said. "I’m really into doing tremendous amounts of historical research. I try to figure out aromatic cues that might help paint that picture.”
Smells Like: The accords in this scent are inspired by all aspects of whiskey production. It “opens fresh and fruity, releases oak in the heart, and finishes with rich, vanillic wood reminiscent of The Glenlivet 18.”
Scent Story: "Natural essential oils are a nice way to do your own bespoke thing. My main view on natural is that I know what materials I'm buying and where they come from. A big part of my investment is buying stuff that's good for the world. [Perfumery] is real expression," said Joya's founder, Frederick Bouchardy. "It's making stuff that's not supposed to be on trend. I actually think it's very easy to make a good scent. I want to make something iconic--someone's signature scent."
Smells Like: The top notes open with a strong citrus-grass blend of grapefruit and cypress. It dries into heart notes of rose bulgar, ginger and orange blossom, finally settling into cedarwood and amber.
MCMC, Hunter, $45-$95
Scent Story: MCMC’s Hunter was my favorite of all the scents I tried. Founder Anne Serrano-McClain is invested in teaching people about the power of scent for creating new, positive memories. She says, “I taught at a youth program, called El Puente, for 14-15 year-old girls to make their own perfume with their story.”
Smells like: Inspired by her friend’s guitar playing and cabin building, Hunter is “crafted with tobacco absolute, organic Bourbon vanilla and balsam fir, and is best worn with a flannel shirt.”
Forager Botanicals, Woodland, $120
Scent Story: “Perfume is very seasonal for me. In the spring I like blossoms and green twig. In the summer I want something more heavy," Forager founder Casey Coyle said. "So much of it is actually being able to identify the plants. I wanted to make something really simple, soft and pretty. Something not everyone has, that not everyone knows about. I’m embracing the smallness." All Forager Botanicals are free of synthetics, color, and parabens.
Smells Like: Woodland is a unisex fragrance with notes of cedarwood, high alps lavender and sweet, rich herbs.
Scent Story: As the company’s name suggests, creator Christopher Brosius doesn't like “the idea of a one-size-fits-all perfume, mass-marketed to the public.” To put a finer point on it, the CB I Hate Perfume Manifesto says, “Perfume is too often an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape.” Each of the line's scents are drawn from “realistic, truthful representations of scent experiences,” with names like “In the Library” or “Where We Are There is No Here.”
Smells Like: Smoky Tobacco is one of CB I Hate Perfume’s signature premium accords—which means a concentrated version of the accord. This smells like dried tobacco in a pouch, with a touch of cherry.