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… and if you have heard of them, then you’re likely a niche fragrance addict and you and I would be good friends. Y’see, I am totally over the mainstream fragrance offerings – cloying candy, predictable and instantly identifiable scents.

There are exceptions; I’ll always keep a bottle of Thierry Mugler Alien for old times sake but for the most part, I steer away from the boring Britney Spears hype (sorry Britney, I do love you) and instead favour nuanced, carefully curated creations more often found in niche perfumeries.

While travelling in San Francisco and Los Angeles, I stumbled across some niche perfume stores – what better time to beef up my already bloated fragrance assembly? I’m no expert but here are my feels.

Atelier Flou – Paradis Paradis

Atelier Flou is a niche French line which launched in 2010. It pains me to admit that this bottle drew me in. LOOK AT IT, it was made for my vanity. Dat lid makes a satisfying sound when clasped shut, I can’t even.

Decadent fragrances that you’ve never heard of…

Delicate and feminine, Paradis Paradis is like an authentic iris bed, brightened with bergamot. Iris creations are often super-duper powdery and there is definitely a powdery element in play here, although plenty of green and cedar notes prevent soapiness.

Top Notes: Jasmin, bergamot, baies roses
Heart Notes: Iris
Base Notes: Vanilla, cedar

Paradis Paradis strikes some resmblance to Estee Lauder White Linen, though the former is more airy. I often associate fragrances (and people) with colours: if Paradis Paradis were a colour, it would be white.

Available at: Lucky Scent for 245USD. Selfridges may or may not carry it.

Tauer – Rose Flash

Tauer Perfumery is a Switzerland-based independent perfume house founded by chemist, Andy Tauer. The oh-so-lovely sales assistant described Rose Flash as a ‘jammy-rose’ and I couldn’t have described it better myself! Rosehip jam is a big thing in my culture (any other Eastern-Europeans feel me?) so Rose Flash feels like home, very nostalgic. Despite the foody reference, there are sufficient balsamic resin notes goin’ on as to not veer into edible territory.

Decadent fragrances that you’ve never heard of…

The honeyed viscosity softens as it wears, leaving a sweetened woody rose with a dash of spice (clove, perhaps? Andy opts not to list notes). A good example of a contemporary rose that retains some old school glamour.

Rose Flash has phenomenal longevity on my skin and trails nicely (to those who entered the lift after me, you are WELCOME).

Available at: Lucky Scent for 63USD

I Profumi di Firenze – Vaniglia del Madagascar

This brand has a cute story, artist Miryana Babic created a line of fragrances based on recipes commissioned by 16th century Queen of France Catherine de Medici, using the same ingredients used during the renaissance.

Vanilla has developed a bit of a bad reputation; synonymous with plasticky fragrances reserved for teenagers. Vanilla del Madagascar is a genuine vanilla bean, sharpened with top notes of lemon and sexified (making up words now) with notes of amber. Though there is no mention in the note breakdown, I maintain that there is some smokiness in the dry down.

Decadent fragrances that you’ve never heard of…

Top notes: Lemon
Heart notes: Floral notes, amber notes
Base notes: Vanilla

Yes, this is a sweet one and yes, vanilla is the predominant note throughout but it’s bloody easy to wear and I recommend it to all vanilla lovers.

Available at: Beautyhabit for 110USD or Lucky Scent for 160USD

Dame Perfumery – Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli

Founded by a father/son duo (awww), Jeffrey Dame is a fragrance veteran, having worked with Estee Lauder and the like before launching a niche perfumery in 2014.

Story time: I am forever searching for the perfect heliotrope. Some years back, I did some work in niche fragrances (vague, aren’t I?) and I noticed that heliotrope is more prevalent in masculine creations but I adore it, so the never-ending quest began. If you’re unfamiliar with heliotrope, it’s a magnificent purple flower that smells much like almond or marzipan, but (when done well) much crisper and less gourmand/foody.

Decadent fragrances that you’ve never heard of…

Invigorating and sparkling on first spritz, MHP matures with a soft powdery undercurrent that is distinctly ‘clean’ – so unobtrusive that it could easily be mistaken as ‘my skin but better’. I must admit, the label had me hesitating; I dislike patchouli with such a passion and thankfully, this doesn’t pull any patchouli on my skin.

Top notes: Mate, lime peel, aldehydes
Heart notes: Heliotrope, iris, rose, tiare flower
Base notes: Patchouli, amber

If you loved Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver, be sure to check out this Dame perfumery offering, both are creamy heliotropes that evolve into delectable skin scents. Both would be holy grails for me IF ONLY they exhibited better longevity, but I’m not averse to an extra evening spritz.

Available at: Dame Perfumery

Niche perfume stores in Los Angeles & San Francisco

If you are ever in San Francisco, you MUST visit Tigerlily Perfumery. Ask for Ashley, she spent almost two hours educating me on various brands and she’s so passionate about fragrance 🙂 I purchased three of the four fragrances at that store! They will be introducing US shipping on their site soon but put that store on your bucket list, it’s blissful.

I purchased one fragrance at The Scent Bar LA (Lucky Scent is their site), the store is well stocked but if I’m honest, the service was mediocre and I picked my fragrance alone. Maybe I came at a bad time, it was a little busy. They do sell samples on their site, which is handy.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know what your favourite fragrances are in the comments!

xxkarima

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  1. Love the Scent Bar! It’s definitely a place to both interact and have some privacy while testing some new niche & indie concoctions 🙂 They are definitely the most agile and comprehensive in their niche selection. From the houses you mentioned, I used to love I Profumi di Firenze, still have half a bottle of Caterina dè Medici.
    We temporarily moved away from the Bay area a couple of years ago, never got enough time to stop by the Tigerlily. Definitely, it’s a great spot.

      1. I surely will – it’s home, after all 🙂 More or less. Another Lily, twisted type, is even more enticing, but that’s what expected from Brooklyn, after all, to be the ultimate curio shop of all kinds of treasures.
        http://twistedlily.com/
        You get carried away in time, space & get lost in between the dimensions at I Hate Perfume shop – have you experienced any?
        http://cbihateperfume.com/

        Really, NYC is a perfume mecca. This is one of a few things I miss about the East Coast.

  2. Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur, Vero Profumo Mito, Parfums Delrae Bois de Paradis to name a couple. . . I think you hit the Scent Bar at a bad time. I find their service great.

  3. Such a beautiful entry to your blog, I love reading about fragrances!

    I’ve always had a “sweet tooth” for perfumes, I think it’s one of my biggest passions. I’ve tried so many fragrances through the years and I never get tired of searching for a new favorite. Currently I am wearing one of my top favorites and it’s Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel. It has some sort of edge to it that is both elegant and self assuring and I love that about perfumes- the sense of confidence and comfort they give to you,

  4. Alien is my signature scent. Since I was little I was drawn into more ‘difficult’ fragrances. I haven’t found anything interesting in mainstream offerings for years. Have you tried any of the I hate perfume scents?
    Rosehip jam stuffed donuts! ( yep, I’m a fellow EE)

    1. Hey G 🙂
      Alien has become my signature scent also. A lot of people associate me with that fragrance 🙂
      I sniffed a few I hate perfume scents but they were a touch sharp on my skin.
      We do the little rosehip jam stuffed biscuit roll things 🙂 SO GOOD <3
      x

  5. Hi Karima! I also love Juliet Has a Gun, and you definitely should try Serge Lutens Kubla Khan. It smells like a barnyard when you first put it on and dries down to this incredible musky sexy skin smell. It’s divine! I also love Le Labo scents. I am wearing Labadum (sp?) this summer.

  6. My favorites are:
    – Vero Profumo; Mito edp (magnolia, green citrus) and Rubj edp (passionfruit, cumin, orange blossom)
    – Frederic Malle: Lys Mediterranee (ginger lilies, seawater)
    – Tauer: Incense Rose (rose, incense), Phi (rose, apricot), and Carillon pour un Ange (lily of the valley)
    – Ormonde Jayne: Ta’if (rose, saffron) and Frangipani (frangipani, lime)
    – Serge Lutens: A la Nuit (jasmine)

      1. Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani is a beautiful summer floral. It has that sparkling lime note in it that just makes me think of an a clear green, like peridot.

  7. Wait, what? You have Eastern European roots? I’m Polish, and yes, rosehip and rose petal jam are the taste of my childhood, especially as a donut (pączek) filling.

  8. I’m curious to know if you’ve tried any fragrances with oud? Its very popular in the Arab world, and some of the “mainstream” fragrance companies (such as Tom Ford, Valentino, Lancôme, Viktor & Rolf, etc.) come out with editions of their popular perfumes but include oud w/ them, for its very popular here. They’re usually more expensive, but theres a lot of demand, and most of the big name companies are catching on to the fact that it can make them plenty of money. A little more “niche” are the Arab companies that sell the oud in a purer form (theyre usually in oil form, since theyre so potent) but its very hard to get ahold of overseas. I don’t quite expect it to catch on in, say, the US, since its quite the opposite of all the sweet-candy like fragrances that dominate the market. But its definitely unique and smells extremely sexy, even when its from the mainstream companies. The color I would say, is gold, because it makes the fragrances and the wearer smell SO expensive, and its quite a rich scent. (This may or may not be influenced by the fact that all the rich people I know here always smell strongly of oud).

    1. My uncle is a big fan of oud perfumes and he had me custom purchase a special one in Dubai 🙂 It was the oil form.
      Unfortunately oud is a little smoky for my liking, love it on others but I can’t really be surrounded by it all day.
      xx

  9. Rosehip jam all the way! 🙂 I always try to go and sniff some niche when I am in some bigger cities, but never really had any help and could never decide by myself.
    I really love this post Karima. Makeup brushes and this… YAS!

    1. Rosehip jam is the BEST 😀 A good sales assistant is so key in picking a perfume, once they get to know your taste, they can make recommendations before your nose gets tired!
      xx

  10. Thank you Karima. I’m thrilled you had a chance to experience my Dame Perfumery Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli. It is lovely. And Tigerlily San Francisco is my favorite perfumery, just marvelous. I appreciate then mention. J.

  11. I’m soooo glad you said that about patchouli…..if I read that word, it immediately puts me off as it reminds me of hippy shops (no offence, I go to them a lot) and eBay clothing. I kind of want to try this one though….

    Out of interest, what are you favourite mainstream perfume pics?

    1. Patchouli is such a no no for me, unless it’s so subtle that it’s barely a whisper. Some of my favourite mainstream perfumes: Alien, Chanel No19, I like a bit of Flowerbomb here and there but everyone wears it, which turns me off.
      xx

  12. Hi Karima!

    Thanks for your amazing review as always. My question (a few, really) is about the longevity of a sample. Do you know if the longevity of the sample is the same as the actual perfume? What about longevity of Paradis Paradis in particular? I got a few samples from luckyscent and I love Paradis Paradis. But it’s all but disappears 2 hours later! And another related question: where and how much of the fragrance do you apply (and is it different for a sample and the perfume bottle)? I know it’s a lot of questions but I think you see what I’m getting at here 🙂
    Thanks in advance!

  13. Yep, we would get along great! My favorites: Parfum Delrae Mythique, Chanel 21 Rue Cambon, Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman, Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese, and Commes des Garcon Kyoto. For today at least!

  14. Hi Karima, are there any Australian niche perfume stores that you would recommend? Since you hinted at working at one before, haha. Love your blog and your YouTube channel, I love your sense of humor and writing style!

    1. I’ve tried researching niche-specific fragrance stores in Sydney and honestly, there isn’t a whole lot out there (unless someone else has recommendations?!). I’ve taken to ordering samples of Lucky Scent 🙂
      xx