Once on a date with a fairly new boyfriend a few years ago my new beau presented me with a beautifully wrapped package. As I tore into my unexpected gift I uncovered to my dismay a fancy bottle of perfume. I was quite frankly a little insulted. “Is he having a problem with the way I smell?” immediately went through my mind. He sensed my reaction and tried to put me at ease by saying he was gifting me the perfume because the scent I was wearing reminded him too much of an ex-girlfriend he would prefer to forget. He gave me a very expensive bottle of perfume that at the time I had never heard of, Annick Goutal’s Eau’d Hadrien (yes my new beau was loaded). I was ignorant at the time of the great gift he had given me, obviously he thought if he was going to ask me to change my scent it would be less offensive if the perfume was one of the world’s most expensive at the time. Since our sense of smell is the sense that brings a memory back the most vividly, I didn’t want him remembering his ex when we were together so I gave up my mixture of Issey Miyake’s L'eau d’Issey with a base of Fresh’s Milk Body Lotion (now discontinued) and started wearing the Eau’d Hadrien
I was not exactly thrilled about this because my signature scent of L’eau d’Issey and Fresh’s Milk Lotion was my calling card at the time, one that had strangers telling me how wonderful I smelled. The Eau’d Hadrien did not mix well with my skin chemistry, it smelled like bug spray when it hit my skin so after awhile I just went without scent. My new boyfriend turned out to be a playboy and we broke up so I gave the bottle of Eau’d Hadrien to a friend of mine and she smelled like a lovely citrus and orange grove the moment it hit her skin (which I believed is what you ideally smell like when you use Eau’d Hadrien).
Once you find a perfume, fragrance or cologne you love, you claim it as your own and state to the world, “this is my signature scent!”. Well that is fine but for the last few decades there is a great chance that many people around you are shopping around the same places to buy their scents (department stores, Sephora, airport duty free shops) so as you walk into a crowded room don’t be too surprised if your scent is not as original as you think it is.
That is why I recommend you start looking off the beaten path for a scent that is your’s truly and also offers an olfactory experience when seeking it out.
In the last few years there have been a few brands both old and new that have created a magical, lovely and at times a bespoke experience when seeking out your signature scent. Many of these brands have gone back in time to how fragrances were created hundreds of years ago and have followed the model of the apothecary. Some brands have gone into the future and have reinvented fragrances by creating them to recall olfactory experiences from around the world that are more unisex in nature.
Here are a few picks of artisanal brands and olfactory destinations located in New York City but available world wide that are making it easier to truly find a signature scent that you can feel quite confident no one else in the room is going to be wearing.
On the cusp of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, as you walk down gritty Orchard Street with its small contemporary art galleries and fashion forward independent brands there you will find Aedes Perfumery. The shop is petite, dark and romantic. You almost feel trepidatious by entering but once you do you enter you are immediately enveloped into Aedes’s world of highly curative perfumes from over 75 small independent brands all over the world. Their excellent staff is trained to educate their customer on different olfactive groups and let you explore their scents and what works for you. Aedes also has their own perfume, AEDES DE VENUSTAS. Housed in aubergine glass that is baroque yet futuristic, AEDED DE VENUSTAS offers nine very different scents and experiences, it is definitely a boutique you can lose a whole afternoon in. They also offer candles and home fragrances which make for unique gift giving.
In neighboring Nolita, the neighborhood has lately become a destination for artisanal perfume and fragrance brands lining the small streets along with other high-end independent boutiques. One of the latest brands to join this unique enclave is Claus Porto. Just entering the shop is an experience in itself with a 42 ft long archway made entirely from Portuguese cork, which visitors can step into and admire Claus Porto’s signature products. The brand is over 130 years old and stems from Portugal and built its name on hand-crafted, artisan fragrances which draw on ingredients from Portugal’s lush countryside. All the artwork is from their decades old archives and besides fragrances you can find soaps, candles, diffusers, bath and body and stationary, all which make for perfect gifts.
Its easy to step into Olfactory from the outside as the boutique is an explosion of all the colors of the rainbow. That is when the Olfactory adventure just begins. The friendly staff will guide you into their process for creating your very own perfume. First you will explore their core scents that are created using the finest and natural and sustainable ingredients. Second you will explore different variations of your core scent by adding accords that help enhance and customize the scent. Third you will chose the color of your of your bottle and help personalize it and like magic you have your very own custom scent! A plus is that the ingredients are vegan, organic, sustainable sourced, Phthalate And Paraben Free and the packaging is sourced locally. Scented candles, body lotions, body wash and gifts are also available so you can shop for yourself and your loved ones in a sustainable manner.
Is a perfume brand founded in New York City in 2006 and has a mission to customize your scent with a made-to-order bottle to ensure the freshest fragrance at the time of purchase. Created in collaboration with the world’s top perfumers and using only the highest-quality essential oils, Le Labo creates scents that are vegan and cruelty free. The brand’s fragrances, hand-dipped candles, and body products are designed to enrich the senses. Once you select your scent they will freshly blend your bottle and then personalize and engrave your bottle for you. There are also grooming, hair, body, home accessories and an eclectic set of oddities available at this rustic and earthy shop that helps ensure you are creating a unique experience for yourself.
When Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter first met, little did they know that their love for cologne and scents would spur a brand that is dedicated entirely to cologne. Hence Atelier Cologne was created so colognes could be worn as pure perfumes. With six olfactory groups they have created over 38 scents that range from flowery scents to nights full of the essence of tobacco. All made in France using ingredients native to France. Atelier Cologne products are with 0% paraben, paraffinum liquidum, GMO, animal derived ingredients, colorants, sulfates and made by artisans and craftsmen. Their charming boutique also offers candles, bath and both, travel sizes and gift sets.
Malin+Goetz is a skincare brand that operates like an apothecary using the simplest ingredients to provide a healthy product for your skin. They have a curated collection of fine fragrances, each inspired by a traditional perfumery ingredient with a modern interpretation and are perfect unisex scents. The shop shares its owners spare, less is more philosophy with clean minimal lines that is reflected in its packaging. The brand also offers besides skin and fragrances, candles, hair, body products, soap, beauty and gifts.
Deceim, the beauty brand that has been revolutionizing the beauty world has created a brand of unisex perfumes and fragrances called Avestan. And just like Deceim has brought new concepts to beauty, Avestan has brought new concepts to fragrances by focusing on experiences and scents that bring back memories from world travels. Wonder what an aromatic visualisation of firewood near a tent in Tanzania smells like? Or what the inside of a violin atelier smells like? The smell of copper in a Budapest architecture? Well with Avestan you will be privy to these unisex fragrances that work with the magic of olfactory memory. Currently they have over 15 scents that all included besides fragrances, candles, body and hair products.
Santa Maria Novella is a apothecary brand from Florence, Italy that can trace the beginnings of its formulation from 1221 with the official pharmacy opening in 1612. Thus the Officina Profumo - Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (Perfume and Pharmaceutical Oficine of Holy Mary Novella) was born with an emblematic name that gave precedence to perfume or the ephemeral rather than the curative aspect of more spiritual inspiration, the medicinal or pharmaceutical. They catered to royalty, nobles and merchants worldwide and today Santa Maria Novella offers a multitude of aromatic waters, colognes, candles, home accessories for both men and women (even pets). Its a brand draped in history and with a staff that is more than happy to help explain the centuries old formulas that have been past down the ages.
MiN NY is a fragrance brand that operates on a conceptual philosophy of our definition of what constitutes a fragrance. Set in Soho’s Cast Iron District, MiN NY have created over 17 fragrance with such names and experiences as “Shaman” for mystical time travelers, “Moondust” because the moon it is said the moon smells of gunpowder after a desert rain. “Old School Bench” to bring back memories of pencil shavings and vintage desks. The brand also offers candles, haircare, gifts, eyewear and a highly curated selection of artisanal perfume brands from around the world.
Fueguia is an Argentinian sustainable perfume brand that uses only certain natural ingredients, being often very unique and used for the first time in perfumery. These ingredients being used in perfumery are also a great challenge due to the fact that climate change affects the availability, quality and prices of the different botanical species. Because of the scarcity of these ingredients, Fueguia 1833 produces only limited series of fragrances, using the finest natural ingredients available at the time of production. Each bottle shows the year and the lot number of the fragrance that is enclosed – a progressive number from 1 to 400 being engraved on a crystal bottle of each perfume. The boutiques are dark with well crafted vitrines highlighting the scents and adding to the luxurious and unique event of sampling the limited edition fragrances.
Marianella Soap Bar is the brainchild and passion project of mother and son team Marianella and David Foote who recreate the soaps and scents of Marianella’s nostalgic travels and her Venezuelan childhood spent making soaps and beauty products by hand in her grandmother’s kitchen. The fragrances and soaps makes the most luxurious one of a kind bath and body products with no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, No Parabens, No Harsh Chemicals and No Animal Testing, all made in the U.S.A. Their beautiful, light, airy and cheerful shop features their custom fragrances, soaps, beauty, bath and body, home fragrances and gift sets (they just started a monthly subscription box).
The Scentarium is by appointment only and once there, its owner Sue Phillips will help you create a bespoke signature fragrance that captures the essence of you and gives you a custom perfume to wear and cherish. Whether its just you or a party of 50, Sue Phillips will educate you on perfumery and help you decide what is right for you by introducing you to groups of scents and then mixing and matching to get the unique scent that you desire. Sue also offers her own scents that she has created throughout the years.
Bond No. 9 New York is the first American parfumerie to be headed by a woman, Laurice Rahmé, who gives homage to New York City by giving every New York neighborhood a scent of its own. The brand is very civic minded, campaigning for and spreading peace internationally and raising funds for the cause via their universally loved “Scent of Peace”. The store itself is a Alice in Wonderland experience that will have you browsing through the city via your olfactory senses.
Founded by Kilian Hennessy, Kilian is a luxury perfume brand that seeks to create perfume the way it was made in the late 19th and the early 20th century, but adding a contemporary twist at the same time. Kilian’s concept of their “eco-luxe” philosophy that each bottle can be refilled and kept for a lifetime help put them on the map worldwide. There are over 35 scents in the collection, each telling a story with names like “Arabian Nights”, “Asian Tales”, and “In the Garden of Good & Evil”, every scent evokes ultimate sophistication and timeless luxury.
Think of Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle as a publishing house for the industry’s very best Perfume Designers. As their editor, Frédéric Malle guides them individually through their creative process to ensure that they are always transcending their limits. Together they create works of art that will be the perfume classics of tomorrow. With a team of 13 perfume designers, the shop resembles an elegant home, a contemporary interpretation of a 1930s Parisian apartment with the clinical design of a fragrance laboratory. There are celebrated features including Frédéric Malle’s own signature smelling columns and refrigerated perfume cabinets. Besides helping educate the customer on olfactory elements, there are limited editions, candles, home scents, beauty and gifts.
Twisted Lily is a unique fragrance boutique and apothecary featuring hard to find niche, indie and natural fragrances from all over the world. This Brooklyn bright and cheery boutique curates fragrances that are created from just a few blocks away to the far side of the globe. Twisted Lily also features modern apothecary products such as skincare, grooming and beauty lines.
Besides finding your signature scent, all the brands mentioned are perfect destinations for thoughtful, unique, beautiful gift giving for the holidays.
I am now confident when I walk into a room that my scent is as personal and unique to me as my fingerprint. I will not reveal the brand or formulation I chose because this is truly “my signature scent”. My fragrance will forever bring up vivid memories of just..me.
By Natalie Rivera