For a migraine prone and scent-sensitive person, I am oddly fascinated with fragrances! Not every scent triggers the headaches, but a lot of them do. Since I’m about as smart as a rock about this, I love to test various perfumes to find the ones I can wear freely. This is how I originally discovered the vast new world of niche perfumery.
So what exactly makes a brand “niche”?
According to The Fragrance Foundation, niche fragrance brands are “artisanal perfume studios whose production is on a much smaller scale, and whose presence in mainstream retail stores is minimal or non-existent.” Basically, they are small scale brands with limited distribution, which makes them hard to find in regular stores. That is why the names of retailers that carry niche perfumery are passed down almost like trade secrets.
Many niche fragrance devotees agree that these scents tend to be more unique than their department store counterparts. In many cases, niche perfumes are made with higher quality components, and feature more complex fragrance compositions, which in turn directly translates into higher price point. From my experience, on average niche fragrances tend to cost about twice as much as similar designer perfumes.
My own journey to niche perfumery started with Zents, a brand that was founded by a fellow scent-sensitive person. At different points in time, I have owned every single perfume they carry, and none of them caused me to have a headache. However, Zents does not have a vanilla fragrance that I like, and that’s how I eventually discovered Atelier Cologne [I feel like they went mainstream recently though]. In an effort to be more adventurous, I started buying small sample vials of other niche perfumes online.
During one of my sample hauls, I came across Santa Eulalia Barcelona 1843 Obscuro. Both my husband and I fell in love with its spicy, strong aroma pretty much immediately! Obscuro is a moody, mysterious spicy oriental, very much like the best-selling mainstream giants Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf and YSL Opium, except deeper and more complex. I actually find both Spicebomb and Opium quite interesting! Both fragrances have been out for a while now, and yet they are still a step ahead of most department store perfumes.
Obscuro boasts the notes of Incense, Star Anise, Peru Balsam, Leather, Saffron, and Amber, that form a lovely unison. The beautiful thing about fragrances is that they smell different on different people. My husband’s skin keeps more of the saffron, leather, and balsam, and mine holds on to amber, star anise, and incense.
Provision Resonance Eau de Parfum is the latest addition to my niche fragrance library, and I am already addicted to it. This brand launched only a few weeks ago, but I believe they have a bright future ahead. Provision scents are crafted in small batches by a professional perfumer Sherri Sebastian, and currently only 7 stores nationwide carry the range. Resonance Eau de Parfum combines comforting notes of Cork absolute, Spanish Labdanum, Olibanum, and Vanilla absolute; it’s like a hug in a bottle, so warm and gentle! The lasting power is incredible as well: I spray once on bare skin in the morning, and can smell it on myself until the next time I take a shower, so the longevity on me can exceed 24 hours!
If you are looking for a good place to buy niche fragrances, I highly recommend Mills Pharmacy. Their retail locations are a thing of beauty – everything inside the stores feels luxurious and high end, yet very approachable. If online shopping is more your thing, Mills e-store is always well-stocked with some of the most unique boutique products I’ve seen, including rare perfumes and creme de la creme of global beauty brands. This historic apothecary has been around for a while – Mills celebrated their 70th anniversary last year! It combines the convenience of having state of the art compounding, pharmacy, and apothecary all in one place. Mills pharmacists can create prescriptions with multiple active ingredients, even the discontinued ones, while avoiding potentially harmful fillers like sugars, dyes, alcohol and preservatives.
My husband and I recently took a one-day trip to metro Detroit, and ended up driving by one of Mills locations, so I asked him to stop to check out the store. It was so fun to walk through the aisles looking at the brands one would be hard-pressed to find at other drugstores. Mills felt more like a boutique than an apothecary, and that’s what I love about it. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend you stop by, if only to window shop! Be warned, though, after seeing all the pretties from brands like Chidoriya, Antonym, Kaia Naturals, and other fabulous companies, it would be pretty hard to leave without buying a little something-something as a treat. 😉
Do you own any, or have you tried niche fragrances before? What is your favorite perfume for special occasions? Let me know in the comments below!
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