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The past decade has witnessed a significant shift in the way men choose their personal fragrances. Over the last 8-10 years, there has been an explosion in the rise of niche fragrance houses, which stand in stark contrast to the mass-produced department store scents that dominated the market for so many years.
Today, guys seek originality and quality in their fragrances just as much as they do in the clothing they wear. Much like Swiss watchmaking, these fragrance houses are devoted to the craft and art of producing timeless, unique, and luxurious scents designed for the discerning nose. They defy the trends of alcohol-heavy, overly fragrant, and often ‘sport’ labeled mass-market brands. Their packaging often draws inspiration from old-school apothecaries but incorporates modern, high-end, and raw ingredients, many of which are sourced sustainably and without cruelty.
This movement extends beyond solely fragrance brands, with esteemed fashion houses like Armani and renowned luxury candle makers such as Cire Trudon, creating in-house, high-end fragrance lines, bringing their unique sensibilities to the niche olfactory world. Even the chic and curated upstate New York hotel, The Maker, introduced a small personal fragrance line that took the scent community by storm.
We have noticed that many of these houses are combining traditional cold-weather notes like woods, ouds, or incense with light citrus or marine notes. Vanilla seems to be the “it” ingredient of the moment, proving that just as in the clothing world, the fragrance sphere has its own olfactory trends. Also, most fragrances are now considered unisex, allowing the wearer to choose whatever suits their personal taste without the confines of traditional masculine or feminine leaning notes.
As we step into the cozy embrace of cooler months, here, we present our favorite colognes for Fall/Winter, where artistry and individuality take center stage.
Le Labo – “Lavande 31”
Any discussion of the artisanal fragrance movement would be remiss without acknowledging the olfactory revolution that Le Labo helped initiate in the mid aughts. From personalized bottles to the use of natural and raw materials, the brand effectively merged an apothecary aesthetic with luxury sensibilities. There was, and still is, a time when you couldn’t stroll too far in NYC without encountering the scent of Santal in an elevator or on the subway. Their latest release for 2023, Lavande 31, is a contemporary twist on Lavender, blending the essential oil with bergamot and amber undertones, resulting in fresh and earthy composition that is uniquely Le Labo.
Perfumehead – “Cosmic Cowboy”
Perfumehead, a new artisanal fragrance brand launched in 2022, perfectly embodies the essence of a contemporary, chic persona. Based in Los Angeles but crafted in France, this brand has taken the olfactory world by storm, earning widespread acclaim and adoration via their innovative scent compositions, stylish packaging, vivid descriptions, and a curation that creates a uniquely L.A. experience. “Cosmic Cowboy” is a captivating blend of smoky, spicy, musky notes, evoking the rich and mysterious atmosphere of a 1970s Sunset Strip night. Drawing inspiration from cultural influences such as art, film, music, literature, and poetry, Perfumehead is poised to be a prominent player in the coming years.
Trudon – “Mortel Noir”
Anyone familiar with high-end candles is likely to recognize Trudon. This luxury Parisian house has been providing candles to French cathedrals and nobility since 1643. In 2017, the house launched its in-house fragrance line, taking its storied expertise in creating ethereal scented candles and applying it to personal fragrances. The results were precisely as one would expect: fragrances that exude mystique and are deeply rooted in Trudon’s historical legacy from the very first whiff. In 2023, they introduced Mortel Noir, a fragrance that blends frankincense, pepper, and rock rose, creating a rich and captivating scent that truly transports you to the heart of an old French church on a winter’s day.
Armani Privé – “Santal Dan Sha”
Giorgio Armani is no stranger to fragrances. The brand has produced numerous olfactory successes over the years, making it difficult to keep track of them all. The high-end, niche Armani Privé fragrance line, distilled from rare and luminous raw materials, is truly designed for the discerning nose. Encased in luxurious art deco bottles, these fragrances not only smell exquisite but also exude chic elegance. New for 2023 and already a massive hit, Santal Dan Sha offers the finest, creamy sandalwood in a sensual and tranquil composition.
New Notes – “New Leather”
A new luxury player in the niche fragrance world, Milan-based New Notes, is creating quite a buzz with their use of reworked raw materials and hi-tech molecules in a transparent and eco-friendly manner. Their fragrances are designed to adapt to the wearer, providing a unique and mysterious olfactory experience based on the wearer’s own chemistry – in effect remixing versions of classic scents. “New Leather” combines Bergamot, Labdanum, Suede, and warm Woods invoking a chic, personalized stroll in the park on a fall or winter evening. Available exclusively in the US at luxury boutique Osswald NYC, this is a brand you’ll surely be hearing more about.
The Maker – “Stag”
When The Maker Hotel opened in upstate New York in the summer of 2020, it coincided with many New Yorkers spending more time outside the city, marking the celebration of Hudson as the new ‘it’ town on the scene. What started as an immersive, eclectic, bohemian hotel has grown into a collection of bespoke and lifestyle products, including a niche, responsibly made fragrance line that is quickly becoming a modern classic. Stag, the 2022 Indie Fragrance Foundation of the Year winner, is a rich woody scent that blends palo santo, agarwood, and leather creating an irresistible aroma best worn during the cooler months.
Tom Ford Private Blend – “Myrrhe Mystère”
Most fragrance enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the launch of a new Tom Ford Private Blend fragrance, and the release of Myrrhe Mystère in the past year was no exception. This Private Blend release is an amber woody scent that combines resin, myrrh, and vanilla to create a seductive, rich, and intoxicating winter-leaning fragrance that the Tom Ford label has perfected. The fragrance is presented in a luxurious, deep amber iteration of the now iconic retro-modern bottle shape, instantly adding an air of elegance to any décor.
D.S. & Durga – “Deep Dark Vanilla”
Since its inception in 2007, D.S. & Durga has emerged as one of the most prominent “indie” fragrance houses. This success can be attributed to their meticulous attention to sourcing raw ingredients, evocative fragrance descriptions, and trendy packaging. The brand has ventured into exciting collaborations with notable figures like menswear designer Todd Snyder and the historic Carlyle Hotel in NYC helping keep them on the cutting edge of culture and catering to the tastes of the discerning and fashionable individual, all while remaining relatable. Their latest offering for 2023, “Deep Dark Vanilla” blends vanilla absolute with cypress, patchouli, orchid, and pepper to craft a warm, smoky gourmand that synthetic vanilla cannot replicate.
Henry Rose – “Menace”
Founded in 2019, Henry Rose has experienced a remarkable surge in popularity within the fragrance world. The company proudly emphasizes radical ingredient transparency as one of its defining features and holds the unique distinction of being the only fragrance house to be both Environmental Working Group Verified® and Cradle to Cradle Certified.™ Though Menace can be considered more masculine-leaning in terms of its notes, all of their fragrances are crafted to transcend gender boundaries. Packaged in a stunning glass bottle, Menace is an intoxicating aquatic musk that blends deep marine notes with musk and cypress. It’s a fragrance suitable for year-round wear, transitioning seamlessly from Fall/Winter to Spring/Summer.
Atelier Versace – “Tabac Imperial”
Inspired by their groundbreaking and visionary Atelier clothing line from 1989, the Atelier Versace fragrance collection made its debut in 2021, boasting a dazzling ensemble of 12 meticulously crafted, high-end scents. Exceptional craftsmanship and the highest quality ingredients take center stage in this collection of unisex fragrances, which bring together some of the best internationally renowned perfumers from around the world to offer their unique interpretations of various aromatic themes and olfactory stories. In the enchanting ‘Tabac Imperial,’ you’ll find a harmonious blend of tobacco, honey, patchouli, and benzoin, dancing together to create a fragrance of opulent elegance, sure to resonate with those who appreciate the finer things in life.
Arquiste – “Indigo Smoke”
Since its establishment in 2011, Arquiste, a renowned niche luxury house, has been captivating olfactory enthusiasts with scents inspired by historical sites and evocative moments. In 2023, Arquiste introduced “Indigo Smoke,” a fragrance inspired by the rich history of lapsang souchong tea and the dedicated monks of 1646 in Fujian. This fragrance presents a complex and exquisitely deep blend, incorporating elements of black tea, woods, vetiver, bergamot, and incense. It transports the wearer to a specific time and place, just as Arquiste intended, evoking the ambiance of incense-filled temples in Wuyi Mountain.
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