Haute Parfumerie

01 Mar 2014
9 min read
What defines a niche fragrance? Is it the use of rare as oppose to mass-produced ingredients? Antioco Piras explores haute parfumerie and looks at the finest in floral, fresh, oriental and woody scents for FOUR International Luxury Supplement…

“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” Coco Chanel

Her black hair, picking up tones of brown in the Mediterranean sun, met her glowing sun-kissed skin, yet the only thing I could think of was the journey her perfume was taking me on. Inviting, warm, sweet, vanilla. Fields of lust, passion and desire. I was only 13, but at the time I was so in awe of the perfume she wore that she became my childhood crush. Only years later did I realise that it was because of her scent, Casmir by Chopard. And what that scent did for me, at the time, was unexplainable. I fell in love with this perfume so much that I bought it for my mother, so I could smell it as often as possible.

My mother was a young beautiful woman and the person who most inspired me. From Motown to fashion to the endless amount of perfumes she would safely guard and still has on her dressing table, such as Chanel No5, Paloma Picasso, Dior Poison, Givenchy Organza, Cacharel Anais Anais, Yves Saint Laurent Opium and many more. I would raid her cupboard and open all of the perfume bottles, spraying the room until I would practically pass out from the fumes. That or my mum would scream the house down when she walked in for wasting her fragrances!

Living in Zimbabwe as a child, perfumes were not easy to come by. Whenever I travelled or whenever anyone I knew was travelling, I’d ask them to bring back perfumes. My first collection included Calvin Klein Obsession and Eternity, Jazz by Yves Saint Laurent, Fahrenheit by Dior and Joop! to Minotaure by Paloma Picasso. The list is endless.

After many years, my obsession with fragrances is still unquenched. As I mature, so does my taste. I have become more fascinated with niche fragrances and my nose couldn’t be happier with what’s currently on the marketplace. Not only do I want to explore scents and acquire fragrances, I also want to create my own. So I decided to learn about scents and understand the craftsmanship of a multi-billion dollar industry.

My next business venture will be a boutique hotel in St Tropez. The choice of location driven by none other than my passion for perfume— St Tropez being just a 20-minute drive from Grasse, where I can go each day and study the art of perfumery.

For me, the curiosity of the olfactory sense is endless. As with every perfumer, the quest to create a perfume that personifies who you are and how you see the world is something that flows through my veins.

Smell is our most primitive, yet least understood sense. Fragrances capture moments in our lives, remind us of beautiful memories and give us a sense of glamour. We use many different products that can give us unspoken pleasure. From taking a morning shower, washing our hair and shaving to using body lotions and a spray of perfume. The everyday ritual alone puts us in contact with a range of fragrances that have the ability to influence our mood and frame of mind. And yet, we don’t put much thought into what actually goes into the process or the art of the final product.

There was one woman, a great woman, who had ideas of how women should look and smell. She took her couture line of clothing globally and created a fragrance that would iconise her. Thanks to Coco Chanel and her concept of retailing a fragrance in a glass bottle, sold over the counter—Chanel No5—we have the flourishing and overwhelming perfume industry of today.

Let’s not get bogged down with the almost 1,500 new commercial fragrance launches every year. As this is the Luxury Edition, I want to showcase the niche perfume houses that work tirelessly to bring us restored fragrances of old and unique scents combined with intricate notes.

I’ll begin with one of my favourite perfume houses, Creed. The dynastic perfume house has been producing fragrances for over 250 years and was once the favourite of Queen Victoria and Napoleon Bonaparte. Over the years, Creed has created more than 200 fragrances, many of which are still among the present collection of about 45.

Established in 1760 by London tailor James Henry Creed, within two decades it was under Royal patronage, with a commission from George III, for whom Creed created the scent Royal English Leather (1781).

When Oliver Creed took over the company, in the 1980s, he created an amazing fragrance that is still one of their bestsellers today: Green Irish Tweed (1985). It’s a classic fougère fragrance, with top notes of iris and lemon verbena, middle notes of violet leaves and base notes of ambergris and Mysore Sandalwood. Oliver has designed many other classics, including Millesime Imperiale (1995), one of my personal favourites, Spring Flower (1996), Original Vetiver (2004), Virgin Island Water (2007), Aventus (2010) and their latest release, Millesime 1849 (2013). Unlike many other perfume houses, Creed doesn’t employ outside perfumers, preferring to construct perfumes in house.

Few perfumes are marketed purely on their price. Yet, there is one company that allude to themselves as ‘the world’s most expensive perfume’, which has ensured them a cult status with celebrities and royalty around the world. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Beyoncé, David Beckham and Elton John are among the notable fans of this house, known to the elite as Clive Christian.

Clive started out designing luxury bespoke interiors and kitchens, before buying out a historically rich perfume house, Crown Perfumery, in 1999. Clive Christian Pure No1 even has a place in the Guinness World Records, as the world’s most expensive perfume. The reason behind its high price tag is the high quality and rarity of the raw ingredients used, including Rose de Mai, a rare rose in blossom for only three weeks of the year. 50-year-old Indian sandalwood is also used, as is Tahitian vanilla, fermented for six months and crystallised to take on a soft spicy note of cherry liquorice. The men’s version, with Indian sandalwood and Arabian jasmine, creates a unique fragrance.

Attending a ‘Meet the Perfumer’ event at Harrods, London, earlier this year I was given a unique brand insight by company ambassador and spokesperson Victoria Christian.

I tried No1 for Women on my skin for the first time and preferred it to the men’s variation. I learned that most men acquire the women’s fragrance and vice versa.

For Frederic Malle, whose grandfather founded Christian Dior perfumes and whose mother is an art director for Dior, it was somewhat inevitable that he would go on to play a role in the perfume industry. Frederic is one of the most critically acclaimed perfumers of the 21st century, yet he hasn’t actually created any of his own perfumes. He has handpicked some of the greatest noses in the industry to create his Editions de Parfums. Malle worked at the Roure Bertrand Dupont laboratory, in Argenteuil, France and, subsequently, as a fragrance consultant for Christian Lacroix, Chaumet and Hermes, before establishing his own company in 2000.

With little advertising budget and no A-list celebrities to endorse the brand, Frederic had one priceless asset: unrivalled industry contacts. And so he began by drawing up the concept for Editions de Parfums. Malle brought together Michel Roudnitska, Bertrand Dupont, Jean-Claude Ellena, Sophia Grojsman and Dominique Ropion. He commissioned each of them to create a unique fragrance, without a brief, but with the instruction of using the best possible ingredients that money could buy. The notable fragrances of the Editions de Parfums collection include Carnal Flower, the distinctive Geranium Pour Monsieur and Le Parfum de Therese, a fragrance with notes of tangerine, cedar and vetiver.

Frederic Malle, Clive Christian and Oliver Creed are just a few of my favourite parfum houses. Here are a few more fragrances to see you through wintertime:

Nasomatto Duro: Perfumer Alessandro Gaultieri doesn’t expose his notes, unfortunately, but this bold and opulent scent has strong woody notes, spiked with leather and spices. It is the essence of masculinity and it is incredibly bold. It is my absolute favourite!

Frapin 1697: Yes, the very same Frapin as the historic Cognac house. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour embodies the essence of this company in a bottle. Complex aromas of dried fruit, spices, leather, amber and wood, with the vanilla touch imparted by oak casks. Boozy!

Armani Prive Ambre Orient: Inspired by medieval Arabian tales of 1,001 nights. A smoky scent of vanilla and dark wood, aromas of sandalwood and patchouli with thyme, labdanum and amber, spicy cinnamon and pink pepper.


Boadicea the victorious Jubilee EDP,for her

Charlize Theron should’ve worn this fragrance in the Dior advert, not J’adore! Gold, glamorous, elegant and feminine. The top and middle notes are most dominant, including cardamom, saffron, pineapple, jasmine and violet leaves. It is just stunning.

Best worn: all year round.

Projection: 7/10. Longevity: 10 hours.

Shay & Blue Atropa Belladonna, Natural Spray Fragrance, for her

This floral, fruity fragrance would not be out of place in the Côte d’Azur. With just the right dose of freshness and sweetness to complete your summer look of flowing silk kaftan, while sipping on a watermelon cooler at Club 55 in St Tropez. Notes of jasmine, blackcurrant, patchouli and vanilla.

Best worn: summer.

Projection: 8/10. Longevity: 7 hours.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris femme EDP, for her

Suited to a fashionable and impulsive girl-about-town by day, who, come nightfall effortlessly slips to the most sophisticated and stylish of champagne bars, accompanied by Amyris femme! This fragrance sparkles with Jamaican Amyris and Florentine iris, wrapped in a wonderful lemon blossom.

Best worn: late spring/ summer.

Projection: 8/10. Longevity: 7 hours.

Le Labo Ylang 49 EDP, unisex

Close your eyes and picture yourself being in the most beautiful, exotic garden surrounded by ylang-ylang and Tahitian Gardenia. This buttery fragrance has hints of peach and apricot, yet a comforting warmth from the oakmoss and sandalwood. Because of its floral inclination it could be considered feminine, but this fragrance really has no sexual boundaries.

Best worn: late spring/ summer.

Projection: 10/10. Longevity: 8 hours.


Le Labo Bergamote 22 EDP, unisex

Subtle, yet noticeable. A citrus-based fragrance, complemented with the addition of spices, particularly nutmeg, which blends perfectly with the bergamot. Although it is the grapefruit, however, that makes this one so irresistible. There is a unique warmth to this fragrance thanks to the musk, woods and amber.

Best worn: spring/ summer.

Projection: 7/10. Longevity: 7 hours.

Bamboo Harmony By Kilian EDP, unisex

A moment of spirituality. A fragrance that perfectly blends eastern and western cultures. The white tea, bergamot, bamboo and neroli takes you to a time of the Shanghai International Settlement, almost as if two cultures combine their freshest notes to create this unique fragrance. The bitter orange and fig completes it with elegance.

Best worn: summer.

Projection: 7/10. Longevity: 6 hours.

Andrea Maack CovenEDP, for her

An incredibly unique fragrance, with deep earthy tones. Imagine walking through a forest after a rainstorm, where everything is at the height of its projection: mossy, green, wood and damp soil. A strong vetiver fragrance that is very different to anything else on the market.

Best worn: late summer/ autumn.

Projection: 10/10. Longevity: 10 hours.

Annick Goutal Eau D’HadrienEDT, unisex

Suitable for both sexes, Eau D’Hadrien is a beautifully balanced aromatic and citrusy fragrance. A tangy tart with variations of Sicilian lemon and citron and a light note of mandarin. This, combined with the ylang-ylang, acts as a sweet cherry to top the tart. Calming on the mind and body.

Best worn: late spring/ summer.

Projection: 6/10. Longevity: 6 hours.


Dark Saphir by Agonist Parfums EDP, unisex

Bordering oriental and floral, this deep fragrance has dominant notes of rose and pungent violet leaves. A well blended and raw, yet elegant fragrance. The vanilla and tonka bean in the base notes are subtle, but help to soften the fragrance.

Best worn: winter/ spring. Projection: 9/10. Longevity: 10 hours +.

Boadicea The Victorious Blue Sapphire Extrait di Parfum, unisex

This fragrance could have been made for Arabic royalty; it evokes sensations of gold, marble and wealth. The green notes and orange top notes works like a charm, but the warmth of the oud and patchouli complete this fragrance, which oozes luxury and opulence.

Best worn: all year round. Projection: 10/10. Longevity: 10 hours +.

Creed Royal Oud EDP, for him

Probably the most interesting of the oud fragrances. A stunning mix of spices and citrus notes with lemon, pink pepper and bergamot, which takes your olfactory perception to a completely unique and diverse place. A perfect balance between occidental and oriental that fits the Creed brand to a T.

Best worn: anytime, just avoid hot days. Projection: 8/10. Longevity: 9 hours.

Byredo Seven VeilsEDP for her

A playground of vanilla flavoured candyfloss and caramel coated candy. This seductively sweet oriental fragrance has a naughty indulgence to it, but also a dark mysterious side. The Tahitian vanilla flower and tiger orchid complement the pimento berries perfectly, while the sandalwood base note calms the fragrance.

Best worn: anytime, just avoid hot days. Projection: 9/10. Longevity: 8 hours.


Robert Piguet Visa EDP, for her

When a fragrance has undisputed class it will stand the test of time, just like Chanel No5. 1945 was the year in which Monsieur Piguet first released the fragrance of refined simplicity. Considered a woody, which I feel limits this oriental fragrance, with beautiful notes of peach, patchouli, pear, leather, sandalwood and ylang-ylang. Sophisticated.

Best worn: all year round. Projection: 8/10. Longevity: 7 hours.

Serge Lutens Feminite Du Bois EDP, for her

Opulent and sophisticated, with amazing top notes that hold all the way through. With a good kick of spices, ginger, cinnamon and cloves, yet a gentle sweetness that catches your nose, with peach and vanilla. Well-suited to a strong woman who knows her mind. A masterpiece.

Best worn: all year round. Projection: 9/10. Longevity: 8 hours.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian OUD EDP, unisex

Simple by name, but not by its nature. Oud is fit for a Persian prince, who surrounds himself by the most expensive spices, leather and raw silks. The pepper facets are sublime, while the saffron brings out the leather expression of the oud, with the patchouli tying it all together.

Best worn: autumn/ winter. Projection: 10/10. Longevity: 10 hours+.

Blood Concept0 Black Series EDP, unisex

I was looking for a cuir-based fragrance and I think I’ve found it. Venturing on the dark side, 0 Black Series is inspired by Kinbaku, meaning ‘tight binding’ in Japanese—heavily linked to the art of bondage. Raw, slightly vulgar, with an abundance of leather. Ideally, the notes of blood orange are more dominant, as it is a brilliant combination.

Best worn: autumn/ winter. Projection: 9/10. Longevity: 9 hours.

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