The behind-the-scenes of fragrance creation is a fascinating world. And, in my opinion, perfumers have one of the most creative and expressive jobs in the process. Not only do they work with lovely odors all day, but also they get to meet well-known designers and celebrities in the process—think Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Vera Wang.
Department store counters are chock-a-block full of new and popular scents, but perfumers really soar when they compose so-called niche fragrances. Produced in limited quantities and sold at specialty boutiques, these scents defy the conventional. They use rare ingredients, smell like nothing else, and generally cost more. True uniqueness has its price!
The recent Elements Showcase in New York City presented a niche-fragrance lover’s dream come true. Housed under one roof were hundreds of novel scents hailing from Haiti to Europe, Morocco to the US. Perfumes from Spain and Italy were particularly in abundance.
In fact two of the five finalists for The Fragrance Foundation’s Indie fragrance award originated in Barcelona. Part of the foundation’s annual FiFi awards held in June, the Indie award winner was announced at Elements.
The winner of the prize was Amber Oud ($395) from By Kilian, a fragrance house founded in 2007 by Kilian Hennessy, grandson of the founder of LVMH. Part of his Arabian Nights Collection, Amber Oud is soft and warm with a touch of spice. It combines two elemental ingredients: amber, a rich, earthy, and resinous scent, with oud, a prized fragrance from the Middle East that is derived from the Agar tree. Other notes include bay leaf, Madasgascar vanilla, benzoin from Laos, and cedarwood. Perfumer Calice Becker from Givaudan created Amber Oud.
In addition, there were four Indie runner-ups, who were also in attendance at Elements..
Cuirelle ($185) by Ramon Mondegal Barcelona is a leather-scent, darkly sweet and spicy scent with a boozy twist. Master perfumer Ramon Mondegal represents the fourth generation of a line of distinguished Spanish perfumers.
Le Cherche Midi No.30 Eau d’Hiver ($80), created by perfumer Cecile Hua, takes you on a crisp morning’s walk along a wood trail. It was inspired by the perfumer’s love of the Japanese shiso leaf and it’s aromatic green notes and red spice undertones.
Rima XI by Carner Barcelona (90€/$120) was inspired by the work of 19th Century Spanish poet Gustavo Adolfo Becquer. It’s a softly spice-laden fragrance that contains cardamom, black pepper, mint, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander. Sonia Constant is the perfumer behind this enveloping scent.
Terrasse à St-Germain by Jul et Mad ($280) is a woody, floral, musky fragrance meant to conjure up a chance encounter on the terrace of a Parisian café. Created by perfumer Dorothée Piot, this scent contains notes of grapefruit, tangerine, rhubarb, freesia, lotus, blue rose, musk, sandalwood, and patchouli.
For more information about Elements, check out its website and explore the many exhibitors and their unique wares.