10 Niche Perfumes That A) Smell Illegally Good and B) No One Else Is Wearing

If you love to smell really, really good—like, strangers-chase-you-down-the-street-to-ask-what-you’re-wearing good—you’ve come to the right place. Especially if you want that status of olfactory charm without sharing it with the rest of the perfume-wearing masses. Don’t get us wrong. We love the well-known, largely worn signature scents from designers like Dior, Gucci, and Tom Ford, and we stand by our statement that every single person who wears perfume should own at least one bottle of Chanel in their life (pick your poison here), but there is just nothing chicer than finding the ultimate niche perfume that doesn’t hail from a super-famous designer label. If you’re truly looking for a unique, signature scent, you’re far better off trolling the niche perfume market to find your fragrance soul mate. 

Unlike more mainstream perfumes, niche fragrances are produced on a much smaller scale, are not available in the popular retailers you might spot at the mall, and aren’t household names. (Although, a few on our list may well get there.) Instead, you’ll typically find the best niche perfumes at a fancy fragrance boutique, a perfume specialist, or exclusively through their own websites. That said, some might offer limited selections at super-upscale retailers like Saks, Neiman Marcus, or Bergdorfs. These types of scents are rare, *usually* expensive, and sometimes even a little bizarre in their inspiration. For example, one brand on our list, Serge Lutens, offers a fragrance inspired by the scent of teeth called Dent de Lait. Yes, really.

If you’re like us and in the mood to find a new signature scent to debut as the world starts to open up again, you’re in luck. Below, we’re sharing 10 of the best niche fragrances (in our opinion, at least) in addition to a selection of runners-up you might be into as well. Keep scrolling! Your next new perfume obsession is waiting to be discovered just below.

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: rose, violet, pink and black pepper, musk

According to the Serge Lutens website, Lutens considers the perfume-making process an art, not a job—something you'll instantly understand the second you get a whiff of any one of his remarkable French-made fragrance masterpieces. La Fille de Berlin leads with rose, but more unorthodox additions like violet, musk, plus pink and black pepper, reveal said rose's thorns. Rumor has it that Berlin It girl Marlene Dietrich was the inspiration for this scent.

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Smells like: Unisex à la '90s—a warm confection where woody Virginian cedar collides with sugar-sweet notes of cinnamon, plum, and peach.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: jasmine, saffron, cedarwood, ambergris

Born in 2009, Maison Francis Kurkdjian is a relatively new house in the perfume world. Although, that hasn’t stopped it from quickly becoming one of the most coveted among perfume connoisseurs and in-the-know beauty people. Each bottle is beautiful, expensive, and designed to be worn as an “olfactory wardrobe.” Every single scent is a prize, but Baccarat Rouge 540 is in a league of its own. It’s a sparkling collision of floral, woods, and ambers sure to satisfy any kind of fragrance appetite. It makes me think of clinking champagne glasses, shimmering chandeliers, and the blur of a ballroom.

We also recommend:

Smells like: A bouquet composed of florals from all around the world: patchouli from Indonesia, Iris from Florence, Rose from Grasse, and jasmine from Egypt.

DedCool Fragrance 01 Taunt

Key fragrance notes: bergamot, fresh dew, floral, cassis, vanilla, amber

Founded and created in Los Angeles in 2016, DedCool is, well, ultra cool. It’s our ultimate niche fragrance brand that has truly disrupted the industry thanks to its small selection of scents that are all unisex, vegan, cruelty, and nontoxic. And yes, despite all of those “granola” hallmarks, it’s still imperceptibly chic. It’s hard to choose a favorite child, but Taunt feels like a bad habit that’s, thankfully, not actually bad. Vanilla and amber at the base make it subtly sweet, but trace drops of bergamot and fresh dew make it glimmer.

We also recommend:

Smells like: Having sex in the woods—yep, I said it! The dark and brooding mood of juniper berries mingles with patchouli, sandalwood, and gossamer green florals.

Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: grapefruit, violet, rose, iris, raspberry, vanilla, and white musk

Labeling a perfume brand both famous and niche feels like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what anything wearing the Frédéric Malle’s label inherently is. Malle, a world-renowned French nose, has cultivated a collection of fragrances that will make any perfume lover drool in want and excitement. People have their opinions on which are the best (my co-worker Courtney recently scribed an ode to Portrait of a Lady), but Lipstick Rose, to me, is a fuss-free masterpiece. One spritz and you’ll be transported to the velvet- and glass-clad powder room of a vintage Hollywood starlet. The initial powdery aroma is just the warm-up. Ultimately, it will flirt with your unique skin chemistry before settling into its own special groove—something along the lines of grapefruit, violet, rose, iris, raspberry, vanilla, and white musk.

We also recommend:

Smells like: Milky, musky, and floral—a date that starts off innocently enough but ends up, well, a tad more erotic. 

Byredo 1996 Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: black pepper, juniper berries, leather accord, orris, violet, black amber, patchouli, vanilla

Every time I sniff a member of the Byredo perfume clan, I’m reminded of one inarguable fact: the Swedes know how to make a truly magnetic, completely distinctive fragrance. Founded in 2006 in Stockholm, Byredo is luxurious and a little bit obsession-inciting. (Trust me—once you try one, you’ll want to try them all.) Certain scents like Gypsy Water and Mojave Ghost have gained notoriety among beauty and fragrance people, but, plot twist, I actually think 1996—a glowing scent that’s often forgotten—is the best niche option of the bunch. It’s warm, mysterious, and just when you think sweet notes like vanilla and amber might be a tad too sweet, leather, black pepper, and violet snap it back into balance.

We also recommend:

Smells like: Smoking weed and waving palo santo but elevated

Diptyque Fleur de Peau Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: musk, iris, ambrettolide, pink peppercorns

Parisian perfume house Diptyque is another brand that has become quite famous despite its still niche parameters. There are most definitely some super-popular, more mainstream scents that have come from the brand—think eau de parfums à la Tam Dao, Do Son, and Philosykos—which is why I have a soft spot for this here gem, Fleur de Peau. According to the brand, it’s a tribute to the mythical love between Psyche and Eros, which led to the birth of their daughter, Hedone. (So yes, you may just feel like a god or goddess while you’re wearing it!) It has undeniably musky DNA, but juicy hints of iris, ambrettolide, and pink peppercorns keep it misty and whimsical, not animalistic.

We also recommend:

Smells like: Rose, bergamot, patchouli, pink peppercorn, and the scintillating streets of Paris, bottled. 

D.S. & Durga Rose Atlantic Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: bergamot petals, lemon oil, linden, rose accord, dune grass, muscone, saltwater, white moss

Founded by an architect and musician in Brooklyn, New York, niche fragrance brand D.S. & Durga was born out of pure unconventionality. The brand's covetable scents seem unanticipated and off-kilter but translate in the most mesmerizing ways once they contact the skin. “We create authentic studies of real-world objects, plants, and places,” the founders explain on the brand’s website. “We weave them into narratives that transport you to far-off places, material and imaginary.” To whet your appetite, we bring you Rose Atlantic—it’s a summer spent in New England, complete with saltwater, dune grass, white moss, and, of course, rose accord.

We also recommend:

Smells like: Whatever you want it to! This layerable fragrance enhancer is sharp and applause-worthy on its own, but it really comes to life when you post-game it with other notes and concoctions. This bottle is the key to creating a scent that absolutely no one else is wearing. 

Henry Rose Windows Down Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: neroli, grapefruit, bergamot, orange flower, moss, guaiac wood, musk

The brainchild of Hollywood legend Michelle Pfeiffer, Henry Rose is the coolest, under-the-radar niche fragrance brand for people who want to smell insanely good without having to worry about the ingredients lurking in their favorite bottle. Boasting 100% transparency where their formulas are concerned, Henry Rose is at the top of the pack in terms of safe and sustainable scent. Windows Down is its latest launch, and it’s like a body-wide inhale during the first day of summer; hair blowing in the wind, a chilled citrusy cocktail, and your favorite pair of sunnies perched on top of your head. Get it—you’ll love it.

We also recommend:

Smells like: Crisp and clean, punctuated with honey-drenched neroli for a human, musky aftermath. Think a load of laundry you did at your significant other's house when it kind of smells like them and kind of smells like you. It's refreshing AF. 

Krigler Lovely Patchouli 55 Classic Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: amber, musk, patchouli, red fruits, vanilla

If you dream of smelling like the most notorious writers of the early 20th century (Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald), European royalty (Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge; and Princess Charlene of Monaco), Hollywood royalty (Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Cary Grant), or even United States political royalty (John and Jackie Kennedy), you were born to wear a perfume from Krigler. The brand’s history is exceptionally rich, and its collection of perfumes exceptionally exclusive. It’s hard to know where to start, but Patchouli 55 is a fan favorite among beauty editors and was the choice scent for Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria and the late Jackie Kennedy. There's also a dreamy nighttime version (which reads a little naughtier), but you'll have to fork over $695 to make it yours. 

We also recommend:

Smells like: Almond, lily of the valley, mimosa, musk, rose, violet, and Grace Kelly on Oscar night circa 1955 (but actually!).

Le Labo Thé Noir 29 Eau de Parfum

Key fragrance notes: bergamot, bay leaves, black tea, fig, hay, tobacco, cedarwood, vetiver, musk

Before Le Labo was purchased by Estée Lauder in 2014, the New York–based perfume brand epitomized the definition of “niche fragrance.” That said, I seriously debated whether or not to include the label in this roundup because, as I mentioned, it’s technically not really that niche due to its current owner. Plus, certain iconic scents—like Santal 33—have gained pretty phenomenal stardom. But it just felt wrong not to throw them into the mix, and every perfume that bears the Le Labo name is exceptionally special. It would have felt far too predictable to include Santal 33, so instead, I’m prescribing you with Noir 29. It has the freshness of many citrus scents, but seemingly random anchors like tobacco, black tea, and hay add an unexpected layer of richness that’s pretty damn addictive.

We also recommend:

Smells like: The most un-rose perfume of all rose perfumes. It's fiery, spicy, and full of vim and vigor thanks to ingenious additions like cumin.

Up next: And now, The 17 Most Popular Designer Perfumes of All Time

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