When it comes to choosing a men’s fragrance, many guys start their search with a classic designer product like Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male or Bleu de Chanel. But if you want to find a new signature scent, the world of niche fragrances is definitely worth a look. In contrast to designer brands available at countless department stores and duty-free shops, niche or independent perfumes are typically made in smaller quantities and sold only in specialty stores. Independent perfumers have more artistic freedom, and they often set new trends with their innovative formulations and daring concepts.
How to Buy Niche Fragrances
There’s no accessory more personal than a fragrance, and so there’s really no wrong way to choose your next one. If you’re not sure where to discover scents beyond a tried-and-true bottle from Ralph Lauren or Dior, try exploring online boutiques that specialize in niche brands—Luckyscent, Aedes, and Tigerlily are good places to start. These sites not only offer expert recommendations, but also samples for as little as five dollars and discovery sets that allow you to try a handful of scents from one brand. In addition, reviews from online databases like Fragrantica and Basenotes give detailed insight into nearly every fragrance under the sun.
Although designer brands typically market a scent as a men’s fragrance or a women’s fragrance, these days most niche brands forego gender categories altogether. There’s really only one rule: If you like a scent, you can wear it.
With scents inspired by everything from the Wild West to Paris in the ’60s, the indie fragrances below all offer something truly unique.
Cowboy Grass by D.S. & Durga
Vetiver, a variety of grass, has the ability to go from dry and earthy to leathery and smoky, and it has formed the basis of many popular niche fragrances of the past few years. Brooklyn-based D.S. & Durga plays up the ingredient’s rustic qualities with sagebrush and thyme to create a scent that evokes the American West.
[$175 to $260; dsanddurga.com]
Rook by Rook Perfumes
Founded by doctor-turned-actor-turned-perfumer Nadeem Crowe, Rook Perfumes launched in 2018 as an exploration of memory and emotion through scent. Crowe’s signature creation, Rook, contrasts notes of birch tar and tobacco with guaiac wood and musk for a fragrance that straddles the line between dirty and clean.
[$135 or $4 for a 0.75ml sample; luckyscent.com]
L’air Barbès by 19-69
Swedish brand 19-69 gives the counterculture of the 1960s a modern Scandinavian upgrade. Its L’air Barbès bottles the aroma of the bohemian Barbès district in Paris and has a distinctly urban vibe: Notes of aldehydes and ambroxan evoke the smell of concrete in the rain.
[$66 to $188; nineteen-sixtynine.com]
Fougere L’Aube by Rogue
Rogue Perfumery by perfumer Manuel Cross offers modern interpretations of vintage fragrances. His Fougere L’Aube takes the classic fougère base of lavender and oakmoss, which has served as the basis for lots of men’s fragrance offerings in the 20th century, and brightens it with fresh citrus and bitter galbanum notes.
[$85 to $156; rogueperfumery.com]
Biblioteca de Babel by Fueguia 1833
Founded in Buenos Aires, Fueguia 1833 takes inspiration from Argentina’s natural splendors and cultural history. The company’s Biblioteca de Babel fragrance is inspired by the Jorge Luis Borges story of the same name, and it’s a complex but cozy woody scent with notes of cedar, South American cabreuva wood, and cinnamon.
[$153 to $306, or $6 for a 1ml sample; fueguia.com]
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