From left to right: Maison Crivelli Absinthe Boréale; Stora Skuggan Fantôme de Maules; Le Labo Thé Noir 29; Penhaligon’s The Inimitable William Penhaligon; Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower.

FRAGRANCES TODAY, particularly for men, are becoming more and more esoteric. Niche fragrances that offer scent profiles beyond your typical masculine, woody musk have burst onto the scene, and stylish guys (especially those on grooming TikTok) are backing the movement while making a case for not smelling like everyone else. Indeed, there’s something about the senses that allow people to get really nerdy; often, it leads to divisive discussion as to which niche fragrance is the best. But first, you may ask . . .

What’s considered a ‘niche fragrance’?

If you’ve seen this term circling around your feed, generally, a ‘niche’ fragrance refers to brands that exclusively make scents which are developed by an in-house nose (someone who is able to portray moods, emotions and concepts into a wearable scent composition). It’s a slow-production approach to an otherwise mass produced market; these brands devote themselves to developing complex and layered scent profiles that are distinct from everything else on offer,

To help you navigate this new scented landscape, with your nose to the wind, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite niche fragrances. We’ve considered what makes for a good niche fragrance, as well as who’s who in the niche scent game. Whether you’re in search for a summer or winter scent, or something spicy or even green, one thing’s for sure: these niche fragrances won’t have you smelling like every other guy. And that’s a good thing.

The best niche fragrances for men

Le Labo Thé Noir 29

Type: Eau de Parfum

Top notes: Fig, bay leaf, bergamot

Middle notes: Cedar, vetiver, musk

Base notes: Tobacco, hay

Le Labo is a popular first foray into the world of niche fragrance. The artisanal and industrial spirit of the brand is embodied in its heavy glass vessels and clinically detailed labels that have been an enviable must have for the past years. And their Thé Noir 29 (or ‘black tea’) potion is an instant classic. Its top scent profile of bergamot and fig lend to a sweetness, balanced with the middle cedar and vetiver for some depth, which Esquire’s features editor wears daily, claiming it reminds her of summer, which is exactly why it’s best worn in winter. Spritz for a sense of warm, balmy nostalgia.

Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower

Type: Eau de Parfum

Top notes: Bergamot, melon

Middle notes: Tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine

Base notes: Musk, tuberose absolute, coconut

Another hallmark of a niche fragrance is that it contains a world of olfactive contrasts. Carnal Flower by famed French perfumer Frédéric Malle is one such world: the innocence of its cool, green melon in the top notes is offset with a fleshy musk. Balancing the fresh scents with something harder is a difficult feat without one profile taking over the other, but this niche fragrance strikes a perfect balance.

Stora Skuggan Fantôme de Maules

Type: Eau de Parfum

Top notes: Galbanum, green leaves, lemon

Middle notes: Coriander, cardamom, forest flowers

Base notes: Sandalwood, oakmoss

The bottles from Stockholm-based niche fragrance brand Stora Skuggan are otherwordly. Their spherical lids look like mythical orbs while the illustrations on the bottles give off a quirky, Scandi-vibe. Fantôme de Maules (or ‘Ghost of Maules’) is a light herbal and woody scent, balanced from the galbanum and oakmoss.

Maison Crivelli Absinthe Boréale

Type: Eau de Parfum

Top notes: Juniper berries essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil

Middle notes: Lavender essential oil

Base notes: Musk and mugwort essential oil

Absinthe was the drink of choice for artists in late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century Paris – Degas, Picasso, Toulousse-Lautrec – the addictive elixir was said to transport drinkers to deeper psychological realms. French perfumer Maison Crivelli was able to distill this artistic sentiment into Absinthe Boréale, a niche fragrance that evokes drinking absinthe under the Northern Lights: icy musk undercut by botanical aromas.

Maison Louis Marie No.03 L’Etang Noir

Type: Perfume oil

Top notes: Nutmeg, tobacco blossom, anise

Middle notes: Cloves, vanilla, ginger

Base notes: Vanilla, benzoin and tonka bean

An amber spicy one, No.03 L’Etang Noir by Maison Louis Marie is composed as a perfume oil with a roll-on applicator, a format that’s becoming increasingly popular in the fragrance world. The spice comes from the top notes of nutmeg and tobacco, while vanilla in the middle and base notes provide a clean scent profile.

Penhaligon’s The Inimitable William Penhaligon

Type: Eau de Parfum

Top notes: Bergamot, jasmine

Middle notes: Vetiver, cedar, incense

Base notes: Sandalwood, ambroxan

Another hallmark of a niche fragrance? Niche packaging. Bottles from British house Penhaligon are ornamental, with The Inimitable William Penhaligon featuring a ram’s head – how much more decadent can fragrance receptacles come? With a woody amber scent profile, this fragrance evokes traversing a haze in the fresh, earthy countryside. Why not transport yourself to where you’d rather be?

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Gentle Fluidity Silver

Type: Eau de Parfum

Top notes: Nutmeg, amber woods

Middle notes: Juniper berry

Base notes: Dry nutmeg

French perfumer Maison Francis Kurkdjian has been making waves recently for its timeless and instant classic scents, which – as online commentators have labelled – smell like . . . money. Indeed, the price of a niche fragrances tend to be higher than chemist pick ups, but it’s the rigorous and complex research that goes into these scents, plus the small batch factor (few niche scents are mass produced at the level of, say, David Beckham’s Amber Breeze) that factors into the price tag. Gentle Fluidity Silver is a unisex scent that will bring an aromatic, fresh spicy profile into your rotation.

Nasomatto Black Afgano

Type: Parfum

Top notes: Cannabis, green leaves

Middle notes: Resin, tobacco, coffee

Base notes: Oud, incense

A rich a dark woody scent, Black Afgano from Italian perfumer Nasomatto packs an air of mystery for winter. It’s the smokiest on this list. Top notes of cannabis and green leaves are herbaceous and intoxicating, undercut with depth from resin, tobacco, coffee and oud. And with a parfum being the most concentrated form of fragrance, Black Afgano is one to develop slowly throughout the day. No need for constant reapplication here.

Orto Parisi Terroni

Type: Parfum

Top notes: Raspberry

Middle notes: Birch, amber, benzoin

Base notes: Vetiver, guaiac wood, cedar, patchouli, musk, moss, tonka, vanilla

Another powerful parfum fragrance, if you were considering something for winter, Terroni by Italian Orto Parisi is a rich earthy scent. And if the colour of the concoction hasn’t given it away, it’s inspired by the roots and the land around Italian somma-stratovolcano Mt. Vesuvius, evoking the sensuality of raspberry with earthly profiles of vetiver, amber, and patchouli.

Parfums de Marly Herod

Type: Eau de Parfum

Top notes: Cinnamon, pepper wood

Middle notes: Osmanthus, tobacco leaf, labdanum, incense

Base notes: Vanilla, cedar, vetiver, patchouli, cypriol, musk

This one’s a beast for winter. The seventh fragrance from French Parfums de Marly, Herod’s strength is owed to its base of dark, rich notes. But it’s the cinnamon and tonka bean that balances it out, to give a leathery tobacco warmth.

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