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Top 20 French Niche Perfume Brands That Are Worth A Smell

Top 20 French Niche Perfume Brands That Are Worth A Smell

best french niche perfume brands

Here are the best French niche perfume brands that you definitely need to know! In recent years, France’s long-standing perfumery tradition has been facing a real change since French niche perfumes started to offer an exciting alternative to more commercial, mass-produced fragrances. Indeed, with their artistic and one-of-a-kind scents, these French niche perfume brands breathe new life into France’s amazing tradition of fragrances. The demand for unique scents and a better experience keep soaring as today, everyone wants to be distinct in every aspect.

“Plaire à tout le monde, c’est plaire à n’importe qui.”

—Sacha Guitry

Which could be translated in English as “pleasing everyone is pleasing anyone”.

What is a niche perfume?

A true niche perfume offers a unique olfactory experience that you won’t find in department stores. It’s designed by the perfumer-creative —rather than defined and directed by the marketing departments— and retains a true authenticity. It’s another way to explore the art form of perfumery. Each of these niche perfume houses has its own strong identity and they all recognized the perfumers behind the fragrance.

Niche perfume is not a new concept though. In 2011, in his book Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent, Jean-Claude Ellena —who was made Hermès’ “first perfumer exclusive at Hermès” between 2004 and 2016— was revealing what was going on behind the scenes in the world of big-business perfumery. At that time, he was already identifying the rise of niche perfume houses as “a glimmer of free-spirited creativity in a bland, mass-market”. Indeed, according to him, since the 1970s perfume marketing has evolved for the worst when marketing departments started dictating the perfumer’s creative process.

“Perfume design is guided by a system of olfactory check boxes […] the criteria set by the marketing people. […] This technique has distanced perfumers from the judgement of their own senses and curtailed their creativity.”

Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent, Jean-Claude Ellena

Today, as marketing and storytelling reach near saturation, star perfumers are being put back at center stage. Read on to discover the most creative French niche perfume brands —listed in alphabetical order— and find your ultimate signature scent.

Top 20 French Niche Perfume Brands

Annick Goutal

Annick Goutal is a member of the French High Perfumery and remains one of the few houses to have its own in-house perfumers. The brand sticks to quality and authenticity by making everything —from the scents to packaging— exclusively in France, employing expert craftsmen to put them together by hand. Must try scent: Eau d’Hadrien.

Caron

Founded in 1904, the brand Caron was born from the meeting between perfumer Ernest Daltroff, of Russian origin, and the milliner Félicie Wanpouille. The company overturned the codes of perfumery of its time with its radical scents, where each creation is an explosive encounter between two materials that everything opposes. Must try scent: Narcisse Noir.

Diptyque

Diptyque is probably one of the most popular French niche perfume brands. The brand was founded in 1961 by three singular personalities united by strong aesthetic alchemy: Christiane Montadre-Gautrot, Yves Coueslant, and Desmond Knox-Leet. They open their first shop with two entrances (like a diptych) in Paris, Boulevard Saint Germain.

Diptyque considers the development of perfume as a creative act in its own right. A perfume must smell good without compromising its signature, the olfactory “accident” proper to Diptyque. Their scents are extremely unusual yet sophisticated, making Diptyque a go-to among loyal fans. Must try scents: Do Son, Fleur de Peau, Phylosikos.

D’Orsay

Born from a heartbeat, the D’Orsay fragrances were created when in 1830 Alfred d’Orsay —the free-spirited director of the Paris Fine Arts Department— crystallized in a perfume his unconventional love story with Lady Marguerite Blessington, married and 12 years his senior. In 2015, Amélie Huynh discovered the perfume house and decided to give it almost 200 years later a new lease of life. Working with independent noses, she traces the couple’s moments of complicity, each fragrance named after an enigmatic phrase from a stolen moment. Must try scents: Vouloir être ailleurs, J’ai l’air de ce que je suis, À cœur perdu.

Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Frédéric Malle comes from generations of perfumery expertise in the family, starting from his grandfather who founded Parfums Christian Dior. Having worked as a professional perfume evaluator and critic, Malle went on to found his own eponymous company —an “editor of fragrance”, as he affectionately calls himself— that is dedicated to promoting the perfume itself, not the brand. Frederic Malle has employed some of the greatest noses of our time and had them created without any boundaries or restrictions. Must try scents: Musc Ravageur, Carnal Flower.

Etat Libre d’Orange

Since its creation in 2006, Etat Libre d’Orange (“Free State of Orange”) has become an authentic and respected brand in niche perfumery. This French perfume house celebrates freedom of expression through scents, away from societal norms and boundaries. With an emphasis on originality, audacity, authenticity, and freedom of expression, Etat Libre d’Orange proposes surprising olfactory compositions, without any limitations in terms of creativity, raw materials, or expense. Must try scents: Like This, Remarkable People.

Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo is a Parisian perfume house founded in 2013 by a young trio from Paris. By offering the perfume creators carte blanche, the fragrance house promotes a new disruptive and uncompromising vision of perfumery, without any creative or cost constraints. By offering visitors the chance to customize fragrances, the perfume house offers an alternative to stereotyped luxury products and an alternative to mass personalization. Must try scents: Fleur Narcotique, Gold Immortals.

Histoires de Parfums

Histoires de Parfums is a luxury French fragrance house founded by perfumer Gerald Ghislain in 2000. The perfume house is an olfactory library that tells stories about characters, raw materials, and mythical years. Their bottles are reminiscent of an old encyclopedia which is exactly what the brand represents. Inspired by history, this niche perfume house creates scents that are based on famous people in the past or a specific era. Must try scent: This Is Not A Blue Bottle 1.2, 7753 Unexpected Mona.

Houbigant Paris

The renowned House of Houbigant was founded in Paris in 1775 by French perfumer, Jean-François Houbigant. From regal, eighteenth-century roots, Houbigant’s venerated, luxurious fragrances have defined the scent of noble society and revolutionized the art of perfumery through refined, iconic, and eternal essences such as Quelques Fleurs.

Jovoy Paris

For those of you who often take trips to Paris, you might recognize Jovoy Paris as a multi-brand niche perfume shop at 4 Rue de Castiglione, in the 1st arrondissement. But what you might not know is that Jovoy has its own line of fragrances! The perfume house was started in 1923 and was given a new lease of life in 2007. Now, they have over 26 perfumes in their new line and they are all the epitome of Parisian perfumery. Must try scent: Gardez Moi.

Juliette Has a Gun

Juliette Has a Gun is the brainchild of the youngest descendant of the celebrated Ricci family, Romano Ricci. Self-taught, he likes to call his creations “olfactory portraits”, constantly having in mind the precise image of the woman who will wear them. Shakespeare’s heroin prepares to do battle, “armed” with her perfume. The brand has created a varied collection and includes various interpretations of the rose. Must try scents: Not a Perfume, Pear Inc., Vanilla Vibes.

L’Artisan Parfumeur

L’Artisan Parfumeur was the result of a plaisanterie. Due to his training as a chemist, a friend asked Jean Laporte if he could create a banana scent to wear with a costume of the same fruit to a gala evening at the Folies Bergères. This was quickly followed by grapefruit and vanilla fragrances. He experimented and created original scents with “natural essences”. With the success of his first line of fragrances, Jean Laporte was named L’Artisan Parfumeur —the craftsman of fragrance— by perfume enthusiasts. Must try scents: Passage d’Enfer, La Chasse Aux Papillons, Premier Figuier.

Le Galion

Le Galion, which name is inspired by majestic seafaring vessels with their vast square sterns, evoked thoughts of freedom and escape. It was founded in 1930 by Prince Murat and made glorious by the famous perfumer Paul Vacher who created fragrances for many prestigious houses including Lanvin (Arpège, Rumeur, and Scandal). Le Galion Perfume House is back with its original, exceptional, fiery, and subtle fragrances —rare luxury and refined creations. Must try scents: Snob, Sortilège.

Les Bains Guerbois

Founded in 1885, by François Auguste Guerbois, the Spa Les Bains Guerbois quickly became the Parisian temple of beauty and well-being, where artists such as Manet, Monet, Zola, Renoir, Proust, and high society meet. In 1978 the establishment was renamed Les Bains Douches, and became one of the most famous nightclubs in the world. In 2015, Les Bains was transformed into a 5-star boutique hotel and revived its club and Spa along the way.

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Jean-Pierre Marois, the heir of the place, reinvented Les Bains Guerbois by launching a first signature Cologne and a perfumed candle in 2016. Since 2017, an Eau de Parfum collection has been launched. Each fragrance is an olfactive journey to a specific year and story of its rich past of more than 135 years. Must try scent: 1885 Bains Sulfureux.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian

After creating Jean Paul Gaultier’s “Le Mâle” more than 25 years ago, Francis Kurkdjian opened his custom perfume workshop in 2001 before co-founding his eponymous house Maison Francis Kurkdjian, where he expresses his contemporary vision of perfumery and his freedom to create. Several iconic fragrances were born, such as Baccarat Rouge 540, inspired by the red color resulting from the fusion of crystal with 24-carat gold powder, or Aqua Universalis, a fresh eau de toilette with a clean, timeless accord.

Memo Paris

Memo Paris fragrances are the result of a work carried out between the artistic director Clara Molloy and her husband John. The brand, founded in 2007, imagines perfume as a journey and builds its identity around magical destinations and intense raw materials evoking the travel memories of the founders. Memo fragrances allow themselves to do anything: no limitations in the choice or in the quality of the desired ingredients. Must try scents: Corfu, Vaadhoo, Marfa.

Parfums de Nicolaï

In 1989, Patricia de Nicolaï — who is the great-granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain— and her husband Jean-Louis Michau founded Parfums de Nicolaï. From the beginning, the house of Nicolaï has taken devotion to top quality and complete creative freedom as its credo, maintaining a distinguished elegance that never bows to the diktats of marketing. Today, Parfums de Nicolaï is one of the jewels of the independent French perfume industry, whose products are exported around the world. Must try scents: Cap Neroli, Musc Intense, Fig-Tea.

Stephanie De Bruijn Paris

Stéphanie de Bruijn grew up in the Grasse region, and it is in this place with such special scents that she fell in love with Perfume and what it represents. In 2008, she opened her intimate and confidential boudoir-laboratory, at 52 rue de l’Université, in the heart of the 7th arrondissement of Paris. She puts her know-how of excellence at the service of each composition. Must try scents: L’île aux Cygnes, Antigone.

Sylvaine Delacourte

Sylvaine Delacourte, Perfume Creative Director for 15 years at Guerlain, created over 70 perfumes, including Insolence or the very first Petite Robe Noire. In charge of Custom Design Perfumes for Guerlain VIP clients, she designed perfumes reflecting the infinite nuances of a personality that make someone unique. Sylvaine Delacourte’s signature is to create perfumes that are faceted, refined, and steeped in delicacy, in contrast to punchy, overwhelming perfumes. Must try scents: Valkyrie, Lilylang, Vahina.

Trudon

Founded by Claude Trudon in 1643, the Maison Trudon quickly became the Royal Wax Manufacturer. In the court, the light of the Cire Trudon candles danced on the walls of Versailles, lit the French corridors, and was appreciated by Louis XIV and Napoleon, in all the major churches of the country. In 2017, Cire Trudon launches its first fragrance collection. Must try scents: Aphélie, Elae.

The Best Niche Perfumeries in Paris

If you want to learn more about these French niche perfume brands, I’ll encourage you to plan a trip to Paris! Indeed, the city of Light regroups literally all the contemporary niche perfumeries as well as all the grand houses. As you can see on the map above, these niche perfume houses are conveniently located a few meters from each other in the 1st arr. near the Louvre, and in the 3rd arr. in Le Marais.

Et voilà! I hope this guide to the best French niche perfume brands will help you find the signature scent that is uniquely you! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment below.

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