5 Niche Fragrance Houses to Watch

Fragrance has had a bit of a Renaissance lately–online communities like PerfumeTok have created accessible spaces for scent-lovers to share their fragrant love. While this is certainly a positive, the overconsumption of so many perfumes, so many brands, can make us feel like we’ve seen it all. If you’re looking for a new fragrance and can’t break free of what seems like the same thing over and over again, look to these 5 houses for something new and exciting.

DS & Durga are a husband/wife duo who create unique fragrances in Brooklyn. D.S. (David) is a self-taught perfumer, while Durga (aka Kavi) is an architect. They describe their scents as narratives, as “fragments of half-remembered myths and imaginary landscapes that invite exploration.” Intrigued yet? I had the chance to try three from their collection. 

Black Magenta is a magical burst of just-peeled pineapple which twists into black amber, conjuring dreams of nighttime cityscapes, iris twilight, tobacco in a dark New York City pub. Rose Atlantic is a delightfully salty floral–think sea spray landing on your nose while you sniff a red rose, the wind tossing your hair as you stand on a mossy shore. My favorite is Steamed Rainbow, a distinctive fresh fragrance that manages to capture that steamy, vapory smell of a hot spring. Also present in the notes are red mandarin, blue almond flower, indigo grass, and violet. You know that disappearing rainbow you can only see when looking at a waterfall from a certain angle? That’s what this smells like.

Thameen London is a house that hails from–you guessed it–London. Like DS & Durga, Thameen places great emphasis on storytelling. Centered around tales of British heritage, the perfumes are consciously-crafted with high-quality, long-lasting ingredients that create one-of-a-kind niche fragrances. I love the new Bravi, inspired by the opera house in Covent Garden. It has notes of tuberose, ginger, and walnut milk, concocting a warm and totally individual scent experience that exudes opulence–perfect for a night in the theatre. 

Another option for the dramatic-at-heart is the gorgeous new Sparkling Jo by Vilhelm Parfumerie, a French house that calls itself a library. Vilhelm’s bottles are all identical, marked by their saffron-yellow labels, inspired by a piece of Bakelite from a Parisian flea market. A marriage of the nostalgia of the past with the modernity of the present, these fragrances are a true olfactory experience. Sparkling Jo was inspired by Josephine Baker, famous French dancer, and features notes of champagne, juniper, ginger, ambergris, and more–it smells like clinking a glass of bubbly in a dimly lit Parisian bar in the 1920s. Also try the Discovery Set to get a taste of the brand’s bestsellers. 

At Maison Crivelli, perfume is considered an art form, unpredictable and ever-evolving. This house’s fragrances serve as a kind of alchemy for the wearer–emotional, evocative, and true. This French brand creates some of the most unexpected, even exotic fragrances–my personal favorite is Fleur Diamantine, an icy-cold white floral with notes of jasmine, neroli, mint, and saffron. Visit the website for an audio-visual experience to fully immerse yourself in the ambiance of the fragrance. U.S. shoppers may purchase from this house at Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue. 

Finally, do not miss the bizarre and beautiful hidden world of Etat Libre D’Orange. Another French-founded brand, ELDO makes some of the most unusual fragrances in the game. Their perfumes have been known to feature polarizing notes including blood and adreneline accords, but don’t let that deter you–their fragrances aren’t only for the daring adventurer. They make two of my favorite everyday scents, I Am Trash (a hyperrealistically-fresh basket of apples, oranges, and strawberries) and You or Someone Like You (mint leaves, grapefruit, and rose, inspired by the blue skies and water of L.A.).