Perfume is one of the most personal things a human can own. Some people like sweet floral scents; others much prefer darker musky smells. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying a perfume from a well-known company. After all, they are the easiest to find. But there are plenty of under-the-radar perfume brands to get acquainted with.
These modern companies often use innovative blends, selling scents that you just won’t find in your local Boots. They tend to be a little more expensive than some perfumes on offer, but most only require a single spritz to work their magic. There’s fragrances inspired by literary tales and the animal kingdom, ones that are designed to take you to another place in the world, and even a few referencing your favourite everyday things. (Think leather, velvet, and gin and you’re on the right tracks.)
A good portion are cruelty-free, allowing for a sustainable and ethical purchase that won’t leave you in cold sweats at night. And many are unisex, making them an ideal present for anyone. So whether you’re looking to buy your partner a unique Valentine’s gift or you just fancy a change of scent, here are the names you should seriously be considering.
1Shay & Blue
Founded in 2012, Shay & Blue’s London-based atelier is the home of artisanal fragrance. Skilled experts take oils distilled in Grasse, France, and mix them, leaving each fragrance to mature for over three months. The brand’s collection of scents aim to offer something different with smells ranging from citrusy limes and blood oranges and fruity watermelons to spicy caramel and woody leather. Each £100ml fragrance, which comes in a dazzling blue bottle, will set you back £55. Mini fragrance sprays start from £25 while a bottle of parfum is a little pricier at £145. Shay & Blue also sell matching hand and body creams as well as candles.
In 2014, two men — Ash Huzenlaub and Konstantin Glasmacher — started a unisex fragrance brand. Now, the minimalist-looking Commodity has over 50 products spanning perfume, home, and body. There are three collections: Platinum is full of rich scents like leather, Black centres on more mysterious smells such as book, gin, moos and velvet, and White is for revitalising fragrances like gold, tea, and nectar. Every bottle looks the same, allowing you to really hone in on the scent, rather than its outward appearance. Prices start from £24 for travel sprays and range up to £120 for an 100ml platinum scent.
Mixing creativity with fragrance in the most wonderful of ways, Imaginary Authors’ scents transport you to the middle of a novel, filling your nose with smells of the ocean and romantic midnight walks. Each fragrance is styled as a story — the layers of the fragrance make up the beginning, middle, and end of each tale. You can source your favourite at Bloom Perfumery for £90 for a 50ml bottle.
The self-described British scent specialists pride themselves on creating fragrances that change throughout the day and aren’t constrained by gender. Every singleLaboratory Perfumes fragrance is inspired by the outdoors from the UK’s green and coastal areas to the French countryside and Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Five scents currently exist: Amber, Gorse, Tonic, Atlas, and Samphire. Each vegan perfume is made in the UK using eco-friendly and cruelty-free ingredients and will cost you £65 per 100ml.
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll swoon at the offering from Zoologist Perfumes. The Toronto-based company started in 2013 and promises to take you to the natural habitats of wild creatures through the power of scent. Each fragrance is named after a different animal with insects like moths, and mammals like elephants and pandas. There’s even one inspired by a T-Rex. Plus they’re all ethically sourced, using synthetic musks instead of ones derived from real animals. The only downside is that a 60ml bottle costs £145 at Bloom Perfumery.