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100 Fragrances Every Frag-Head Guy Should Try, part 27: The Legends Of Niche Part 3 - The 2000's

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The Legends Of Niche, Part 3 Ė The 2000ís

The 2000ís have brought about a new explosion in both niche perfumes and in the number of people discussing them. Itís cheap and easy to order or trade samples online and other interested people are just a mouse-click away, so itís become quite simple to try even the most obscure scents. While it could be argued that this has led to todayís glut of overpriced but repetitive niche scents (seriously, if any niche perfumers read this and youíre working on yet another lipstick iris, please just stop Ė we already have enoughÖ), it has also led to some really nice obscurities becoming collector favorites.

82. Costes by Costes

If completing this list has taught me anything, itís that an awful lot of cult classics and critical favorites are creamy, slightly feminine-leaning mixes of sandalwood and incense with varying degrees of woods and flowers on top. Santal Noble, Avignon, and 10 Corso Como have all basically followed this, as well as other well-loved expert picks like Guerlainsís Bois díArmenie or Chantecailleís relatively new but heavily buzzing Kalimantan. Well, add to that list another niche favorite, 2004ís Costes, the perfume of the famous French hotel.

My best guess is that the appreciation of this type of scent is something that comes late in a perfume obsession. If you start with mainstream scents and move your way through classics and the easier niche, difficult-to-grasp but still pleasant creamy wood and incense scents seem to become favorites after the nose has had enough experience to recognize the components that make them special (honestly, it takes some experience to smell and fully appreciate the subtle differences between the different kinds of resins and woods). Oh, and for the record, the final frontier are the incredibly complex classic floral aldehydic chypres, which makes it seem especially cruel that I put those at the start of this listÖ

Anyway, Costes is a great mix of sandalwood and incense, slightly bright with lemon and deep with smoky woods. If Iím not making it sound special, itís because what makes Costes great is the interplay between the deep creamy aspects and the surprisingly high pitched brightness of the supporting smells. Like fresh orange juice and coconut water over fragrant bamboo on a bright morning with dewy grass outside, these happy elements form a taut counterpoint to the pensive, meditative smoky woods and incense, like a beautiful sunny dawn spilling bright sunlight into an ancient sacred temple.

83. LíAir du Desert Marocain by Tauer Perfumes

LOL, itís yet another creamy sandalwood/incense niche favorite. I should probably have made a day of just theseÖ

Anyway, LíAir Du Desert Marocain has become a serious cult favorite over the last few years, being quite the Basenotes darling. In addition, while most of these scents Iím lumping it in with tend to enjoy most of their popularity on the feminine side of unisex, LíAir seems to be quite solidly popular with the guys. That being said, itís no more masculine than any of the others Iím comparing it to, itís just an interesting observation.

LíAir kicks off with a sweet, fruity top that leads to the creamy mix of sandalwood and resins. This is where that trip to the essential oil shop that I suggested a while ago would be coming in handy, because LíAir, at its heart, is a study in rare resins and balsams. Some balsams are actually quite fruity smelling, so this is makes for an interesting continuity from the fruity topnotes as the scent progresses. Simultaneously, the deep, almost mulchy mossy grassiness of opoponax and labdanum provide a deep green backdrop while the sandalwood meshes with incense and a pinch of almost-gourmand vanilla in a creamy focal point. Itís a wonderful scent, and one that many here have actually tried, so if youíve enjoyed LíAir, donít be afraid to give these other sandalwood/incense niche legends a try, too.

More tomorrow - I'm not done with the 2000's yet...

Updated 17th November 2011 at 09:50 PM by rogalal



  1. Birdboy48's Avatar
    Uh oh, there's only room for less than 20 now !

    I'm likely not the only one who will be sad to see this fascinating and informative project come to an end.
  2. teardrop's Avatar
    Rogalal, l've been following your series with great interest & finally l feel compelled to comment. lt seems l have now reached the "creamy woods & incense" stage of my perfumista-hood, having only recently tried & liked LADDM, among others. (l'm definitely nowhere near the aldehydic chypres yet!)
    l love your description of Costes, especially the evocative final sentence. lt sounds absolutely heavenly, & is now going on my to-try list!
    Thanks for your wonderful writing, you've clearly put a lot of work, & love, into this series!


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