With a focus on individuality, high-quality ingredients and creative freedom, niche fragrances have found their sweet spot. The ritual and craftsmanship around exotic teas drove the creation of Jo Malone Golden Needle Tea Cologne, a heady spice/wood mix containing an infusion of golden needle tea from the mountains of Yunnan, China. The cologne is part of a collection of six rare-tea-based scents. “Unlike mass-produced teas, rare teas are grown in small quantities, picked by hand and harvested using traditional methods,” says Céline Roux, fragrance director for Jo Malone London. (She notes that rare tea can be as expensive as gold.) Serge Majoullier, the master perfumer for the collection, says that using an infusion process with actual rare teas is a first in perfumery and describes the process as similar to brewing tea, except the leaves are “steeped” in alcohol for an optimum amount of time.
A mindset of discovery is often where niche perfumers like to work. “If you live in the past, why would you create something new?” opines Francis Kurkdjian, the nose who created one of the world’s bestselling perfumes, Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier. “What is next is always more exciting than what you have already done.” His thoughtful, forward approach to perfume making is evident in the fragrances within his eponymous line, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Aqua Vitae Eau is billed as a “whisper” of a scent meant to trigger a craving for kisses on the neck. Featuring notes of Calabrian lemon, Sicilian mandarin, tonka bean and guaiac wood, it’s Kurkdjian’s ode to the cool-breeze-on-hot-skin mood of summer.
Originality also seems to come naturally to Kilian Hennessy, heir to the Hennessy cognac empire, who has always brought a level of sex-infused sophistication to his luxe line. Take By Kilian Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi: Rather than the heavy, musky tones expected in a perfume with a statement name like this, the floral blend uses notes of gardenia, sandalwood and tuberose to “feign” innocence. Playing off themes of temptation and seduction, Hennessy rarely sticks to a traditional script – and for good reason. “I strongly believe that [the perfume industry] is one where you have to create a surprise,” he says. “People are only excited by what is new.”
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