But for some, a roadmap is useful. If you want to cut straight to the good stuff, without wasting too much money, then think of this article as an older sister putting her hand on your shoulder and telling you which boys to steer clear of at the local nightclub. Only less condescending (hopefully).
Sample first, unless you have money to burn and are keen to build your collection all in one go. A bit of blind buying goes with the territory, of course, and we’ve all done it – but at least sample the major categories first so that you’re not working completely in the dark.
I’ve chosen to start with a list of the top ten niche perfumes, but a list of must-sniff designer fragrances is up next. Niche doesn’t necessarily smell better than designer, but there are some differences. In general, niche caters to a long tail of tastes and quirks, no matter how obscure, whereas designer fragrances have to be made to appeal to a broader audience. But there are probably an equal number of masterpieces in the designer segment (historically) as in the niche sector. Let your nose be the final judge.
A word on how I’ve selected these ten fragrances:
First, they must be a good representative of a genre, a trend, a single note, or a style, and allow you to make a decision whether or not to further explore the genre. Hopefully, you’ll discover a bit of your own taste in the process – you love leather, but you can’t stand tonka, and so on. Each of the scents I’ve named open doors onto other scents you might like in a similar vein – or if you hate it, then at least you know to head off in the opposite direction.
Second, all of the fragrances I’ve chosen can be sampled easily through the big e-tailers such as Luckyscent, First in Fragrance, Decantshop, or Essenza Nobile. Access to niche fragrances is an issue for all of us who don’t live in or near a major city, so easy ordering over the Internet is key here. If a scent is brilliant but so obscure or discontinued as to be impossible to obtain (Norma Kamali Incense, let’s say, or one of the By Killian Russia exclusives), then it isn’t included here. You’re going to fall in love with so many expensive, hard-to-get scents on your fragrance journey anyway that I really shouldn’t add to your misery.
Lastly, all the perfumes I mention are completely UNISEX. Like Luca Turin says in The Guide, as far as he knows, fragrance has no genitalia (and that guy knows what he’s talking about).
Clicking on the fragrance links will lead you to the directory pages, where you can read more information and find stockists of where to buy.
Ok, in no order of preference at all, here are the top ten niche fragrances that every beginner should sample. (Click NEXT to begin...)