Fragrances often contain more questionable chemicals than skincare, so I gave up synthetic fragrances around the same time I made the switch to green beauty. Prior to that, I was a perfume junkie with a sizeable collection of weird and wonderful niche perfumes (I used to love brands like Frederic Malle and Comme des Garcons). I’ve been on the hunt for complex, interesting and long-lasting fragrances ever since, and this post will focus on some of my favourites so far.
Strange Invisible Perfumes:
One of the most respected names in green perfumery, Strange Invisible Perfumes create fragrances that are as sophisticated as their mainstream cousins. Created by Alexandra Balahoutis, these complex fragrances are handmade in Venice, California, and packaged in exquisitely-crafted weighty bottles. I’ve tested three or four of their fragrances, and my favourites so far are Aquarian Rose and Magazine Street.
Aquarian Rose is an airy, aquatic rose scent. The rose has good staying power, but it has a breezy quality that stops it from smelling like something your grand-aunt would wear. The aquatic quality of the scent comes from the unexpected addition of aniseed-y marjoram. I’m usually not a fan of liquorice/aniseed notes, but it is cleverly used to give the composition a warm yet refreshing herbal kick. Sandalwood gives it heft and staying power. This has been my signature scent for the last two years, and I love it. Despite being rose-heavy, the scent is very unisex. It is worth a try, even if you don’t particularly care for rose fragrances.
Magazine Street is described as “an opulent perfume inspired by New Orleans… Vanilla, vetiver, magnolia, and botanical musk conjure lush gardens wild with history and balconies of black iron lace.” Based on the notes alone, I didn’t expect to love this fragrance, but it has become my favourite date-night fragrance. I always get compliments when I wear this. It smells expensive, and the combination of sweet and floral notes with green vetiver gives it a subtle quirkiness that feels modern. It has good sillage for a natural scent, and it morphs into the perfect “your skin but better scent” after a couple of hours.
Both these scents are amazing, but they are not exactly wallet-friendly.
Aquarian Rose is US $385/$625 for 50/100ml and Magazine Street is $265/$425 for 50/100ml. Available via their website.
I’ve only tried Balance from this line, and I love how unique and original it is. While Strange Invisible Perfumes is elegant and polished, Sigil Scent has a rawness to it that feels handcrafted and artisanal. Balance starts off with a bang, and it assaults your senses with its nose-tingling blend of cistus (labdanum), “singed flowers,” tobacco and “blades of grass.” It has a strong, astringent quality to it, with a pronounced cistus note. Fans of subtle, pretty scents may not like this scent, but it’s a well-executed scent with a strong personality. The overall effect of the scent is more masculine than feminine (if you still believe in such labels). It’s a must-try if you like green, earthy scents.
$90 for 50ml. Available via sigilscent.com
This Australian indie perfume line is a recent discovery, and I love Samuel’s thoughtful and quirky interpretations of popular fragrance genres. He’d sent me a number of sample vials to try, and I ended up picking two of his citrus scents. I don’t normally love citrus (I gravitate towards earthy, smoky and incense-like scents), but his citrus scents have a spicy quality to them that make them different from scents that smell like cheap deodorants and household cleaning products.
Amyris Summer is described as a fresh woody floral with a hint of dry exotic spice. The notes include lime, neroli, jasmine sambac, cardamom, cypress, ravensara, sandalwood, benzoin, frankincense and oakmoss. The fragrance starts with a fresh burst of lime and neroli. As it settles down, the citrus notes subside to reveal a creamy woody heart with a hint of jasmine. I can smell the cardamom and sandalwood in the deep drydown, but the rest of the notes dissolve into each other to create a well-balanced scent with good sillage. The lime is present throughout, but it never takes over. Like most perfumes in this list, Amyris Summer is perfectly unisex and will most likely get you compliments.
Spicy Mandarin is one of Samuel’s favourite scents, and I really didn’t think I’d like it because I’m usually not a fan of orange/mandarin scents. Some mandarin scents can feel sickly-sweet, but this is a grownup, elegant take on mandarin. There is a sharp, acidic quality to the top notes that reminds me of the act of peeling mandarin skins. The addition of nutmeg, black pepper and frankincense gives it pomander-like scent that feels very autumnal. This is a great citrus for the colder months.
$75/$175 for 30/100 ml. Available via samuelgravan.com
In Fiore’s Julie Elliott is one of the most talented perfumers I know. Her skincare line is based on the idea of using natural perfume as medicine, and she’s a genius at twisting naturals to create complex fragrances that feel classic and directional. When I’d spoken to her earlier this year, she’d mentioned that she uses wax bases (a blend of beeswax and jojoba) for her perfumes because they allow individual notes to shine through (unlike oil bases, which can create a more muddled end result). Being the perfectionist that she is, Julie’s fragrances are housed in solid brass mirrored compacts that take luxury to the next level!
Fumee D’Ambre is a smoky amber scent. The In Fiore website describes it perfectly: “Mystery unfolds into a smoky invitation of incense, Madagascan vetiver, and dark patchouli leaves, then drifts gently into the velvety musk of sweet amber.” The overall effect is very seductive, in a dark, enigmatic way. Although the notes don’t mention any oud notes, it reminds me of high-quality oud fragrances, most notably Lalique Hommage a L’Homme. The fragrance stays close to the skin, but the compacts are designed to be carried around so you can reapply them throughout the day.
Vetiver Sambac is a grassy jasmine scent. The jasmine is strong, but the wooly vetiver and heady Omani frankincense add unexpected contrasts that make the fragrance new and exciting. It smells intoxicating, and it’s definitely worth trying if you like attar-inspired fragrance lines like Montale and Amouage. This is my top pick from In Fiore so far.
$85 for 7.4ml Available via infiore.net
Lilfox founder Alexis Rose is a trained aromatherapist and skilled perfumer. I’ve only tried Foret Vert No. 2 Perfume Oil from the line, and it’s a compelling, beautifully-crafted scent. Lilfox describes it as “a unique woody floral perfume with intricate layers of mossy polished Earth. Bulgarian Rose and Violet leaf mingle with Wild Green Vetiver to reveal a creamy yet smoky dry down.”
The fragrance is very well-blended, and although I can smell the violet leaf, vetiver and rose, they meld into each other, making it hard to distinguish the individual notes. There is a lingering vanilla accent that infuses a whisper of sweetness to the composition. It’s an easy yet distinctive everyday scent that will appeal to a number of men and women. Despite being an extrait de parfum, it doesn’t last more than two hours on my skin, but the purse-friendly rollerball makes it very easy to reapply!
$95 for 10ml. Available via lilfox.miami
© 2018 JustAskArjun. All opinions/views are my own. I accept press samples for review consideration, however, all products are treated with the same level of scrutiny. This post contains no affiliate links.