25 Jul These are the best 5 cult fragrances on the market

Want to smell cool, irreverent and in the know? Then bypass the usual Chloe, Armani and Bvlgari scents you’ve some come to know and love at your local department store, and head straight to an obscure website (or cult beauty haven Mecca) to score one of the more artisan fragrances.

Niche perfume brands have sprouted as quickly as their eclectic ingredients over the coming years. Industry analysts reported that slowly, small niche perfume brands are already stealing their market share from the £17 billion fragrance industry ($AU29 billion).

As ‘Cult Perfumes’ author Tessa Williams puts it, ‘wearing a “cult perfume” is a bit like having a masterpiece played as soon as you walk into a room: you can raise your own crescendo.”

It certainly sounds interesting!

Niche perfumers can afford to go bolder, using scent notes like ‘books’, ‘tobacco’ and ‘whiskey’ alongside the more traditional rose, tuberose and current favourite, oud. They also launch in limited quantities so that you feel smug sporting one of these on your shelf, unlike their more designer, mass produced counterparts.

So are cult fragrances really worth the clout? Do they smell, and invoke feelings of alternative curiosities, androgynous style and intellectual empowerment, or are they just whiskey-scented hype?
Here are some of my favourite fragrances on the market:

Commodity Bergamot is an energising, gender-neutral blend of bright, green notes and stark, bracing citrus. Precious woods and amber hues support the composition’s citrus signature, while amyris oil from the Dominican Republic imparts a creamy, final effect. Bergamot is part of Commodity’s Platinum Collection, which includes scents that are rich, indulgent, and luxurious. The citrus notes are strong upon application, yet the fragrance settles down into softer, barely perceptible note that emanates a subtle power and is ideal for work.

Did someone say date night? Dominique Ropion’s for Frederick Malle Carnal Flower is your secret weapon.The tuberose base emits an almost carnal smell, superimposing in a flower-shop freshness, camphorous violence – spicy and animalic – and milky sweetness. Camphorous fragrances  are not very pleasant when you smell them apart from some of the other ingredients that they may be added to because they emit a sharp, cooling, pungent aromatic scent which assaults the nose. They are contained in such products as eucalyptus, pine, and any other fragrance that has a clinical, sharp, disinfecting type smell. They are however used to varying degrees and with good success in other arrangements of fragrance to give a product a different and unique flavour. This mysterious equilibrium has always fascinated perfumers – and I think its sensuous complexity is the perfect celebration of woman! 18 months were necessary for to create a modern version of that theme, an “olfactive Everest” that only the most talented perfumers are capable of reaching. You’re worth it!


Nest Black Tulip is a best seller at Sephora. This seductive floral fragrance features notes of black amber plum nuanced by the aroma of pink pepper and Japanese violet. Undertones of Indonesian jasmine and patchouli add to the mysterious complexity of this scent. The modernity, the movement of the petals, the rich, dark colours… “the minute I saw the photograph of the black parrot tulip, I was inspired to create,”, says Nest founder Laura Slatkin. Nothing screams sexy quite like notes of black amber and pink peppercorn — which is why this alluring mix is best spritzed after the sun goes down, on a heady tropical holiday before you dance the night away.

Byredo Gypsy Water needs no introduction. Tap into your inner bohemian with this vivacious, woody scent laced with bursts of citrus, incense, pine and orris. Described as ‘the cult-favourite, ‘it-girl’ fragrance for the free-spirited at heart’, this fresh yet woody scent fuses the smokiness of campfires with the freshness of forest pine, before being laced with notes of bergamot, lemon, pepper, juniper berries, incense, pine needles, orris, amber, vanilla and sandalwood. I see why this appeals to the inner-city bohemian: the opening is crisp and outdoorsy, all vibrant citrus, cool juniper and sharp pine needles. Floating incense and the sweet earthiness of orris transport you to those camp sites under an inky deep blue sky studded with brilliant stars, surrounded by pine trees, with a hint of smoke cutting through the chilly night air. As the fragrance wears on, golden amber, creamy vanilla and luscious sandalwood make themselves be known. Wear to an inner city bar, followed by a warehouse party where you are sure to dream about visiting Cuba with your fellow guests.


While the aforementioned fragrances make me feel, sexy, powerful or exotic, Jo Malone Lime, Basil and Mandarin Cologne just makes me decidedly happy. The fragrance house’s signature scent, peppery basil and aromatic white thyme bring a refreshing twist to the scent of limes, resplendent of a citrus cocktail in the Caribbean breeze. This perfect weekend scent thrives on a main mandarin note, where the super-fruit sets the scene with a delicate compote of sweet and sour red fruits overlaid with a twist of exotic pink pepper warmth. We then settle in the basil, a heady, sweet scent that is powerful and decisive, romantic and purposeful. Finally, amberwood elevates the scent to a modern classic, where a sophisticated woody note blended with clove and cinnamon is layered with a charred smokiness to ground the lighter notes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image credit: Getty images

Words: Alina Berdichevsky