The under-the-radar perfumes that will have people stopping you in the street

Sweet and sour: Somerset-based perfumery Ffern has designed its latest scent around rhubarb
Sweet and sour: Somerset-based perfumery Ffern has designed its latest scent around rhubarb

We are a nation obsessed with scent: the UK fragrance market is worth £1.8 billion annually. Of course, many of Britain’s bestselling perfumes are the big blockbuster launches from fancy fashion houses or juices fronted by popular celebrities. This doesn’t always make for the best buy, as you can probably guess. In fact, some of the most appealing perfumes fly under the radar but have a level of allure no household name can match.

Because who likes to smell like everyone else? Perfume is the ultimate final flourish to your outfit: longer-lasting than a slick of statement lipstick and, if chosen thoughtfully, instantly joy-inducing, comforting or sensual. While there are some perfumes you spritz on in the morning and they melt into your skin like a daily uniform, others are show-stopping, maximalist, olfactory works of art that will have people stopping you in the street asking you what you’ve got on.

They don’t necessarily have to be punchy and overpowering (because too much of a good thing applies to fragrance, too) but they are the sort of scents that leave an addictive trail.

This month, London department store Liberty opened the doors to its new Fragrance Lounge, which is full of head-turners. With an aim to democratise the world of perfume – which, let’s face it, can be quite intimidating – it has an inviting space where you can sit down to discover new fragrances at your own pace.

Inside Liberty's new Fragrance Lounge
Inside Liberty's new Fragrance Lounge

A new perfume is certainly an investment, with many costing more than £100, so it’s pleasing to be able to take your time before you buy. Don’t worry if you can’t get to Liberty, there are lots more new perfume brands that deserve a little attention, especially in National Fragrance Week (March 18-24).

Whether you’re into light, breezy scents or full-on, in-your-face florals, here are some perfume brands you may not have yet discovered:

Matiere Premiere

Cult scent: Vanilla Powder, from £35 for 6ml

Vanilla Powder by Matiere Premiere
Vanilla Powder by Matiere Premiere

All of the perfumes designed by French perfume house Matiere Premiere are based around highlighting single ingredients, such as leather, rose and saffron, in unexpectedly high doses. The brand’s runaway success is Vanilla Powder. While many perfumes containing vanilla smell sugary and unsophisticated, this concoction is anything but. White musk and coconut powder with Madagascan vanilla make for a real show-stopper.

Ffern

Cult scent: Spring 24, £89 for 32ml

Spring 24 by Ffern
Spring 24 by Ffern

The clever idea behind Somerset-based perfumery Ffern is that it is based around loyalty: subscribe and you will receive its new creation – one of only four a year – as the seasons change. Its latest scent for Spring, launching on Wednesday, is based around rhubarb. The scent has all the sour and sweet charm you’d expect from the springtime vegetable, with added sharpness and warmth from ginger root and grapefruit rind. Consider this perfume an invigorating jolt for the new season.

Perfumer H

Cult scent: Ink, from £130 for 50ml

Ink by Perfumer H
Ink by Perfumer H

One of Britian’s few classically trained perfumers, Lyn Harris is behind many of the bestselling perfumes of the past 20 years. Familiar with Miller Harris? That was Lyn’s brand until she exited 11 years ago. The signature grassy scent to Sam McKnight’s haircare range? That’s Lyn, too. In 2015 she launched the discreet, understated luxury fragrance brand Perfumer H. All of Harris’s creations are unconventional but compelling: the perfume Ink is inspired by the smell of blue ink on white paper, with notes of papyrus, vetiver and cedarwood.

Phlur

Cult scent: Missing Person, from £26 for 9.5ml

Missing Person by Phlur
Missing Person by Phlur

Inspired by “memories, moments, experiences and feelings”, Phlur is the sort of brand that Gen Z adores. But don’t let that put you off; you will love it too. All of the perfumers behind the label have created some of the most recognisable classics, such as Le Labo Santal 33, Glossier You, and Byredo Gypsy Water. The creamy, white musk of Missing Person is the sort of perfume that smells strangely familiar, like the cosy jumper of a loved one.

& Other Stories

Cult scent: Solar Essay Perfume Oil, £15 for 6ml

Solar Essay by & Other Stories
Solar Essay by & Other Stories

Don’t dismiss this perfume because it’s from a high street clothing brand: & Other Stories’s fragrances are completely underrated and come in at a great price point. If you aren’t a fan of spraying perfume or find them too overpowering, try an oil, instead. Solar Essay is the perfect holiday scent – think sun-drenched skin, light wafty kaftans and a whiff of sunscreen. Close your eyes and you’ll be on a beach in Ibiza.

Bleu Nour

Cult scent: Neon Violette Perfume Oil, £36 for 6ml

Neon Violette by Bleu Nour
Neon Violette by Bleu Nour

Born and raised in Paris, the perfumer Nour Ibrahim came to fragrance through an unusual pathway: she has synaesthesia, a rare neurological condition which means people experience things through their senses in different ways. It could mean experiencing colour as a sound or, as in Ibrahim’s case, translating colour into scents. Neon Violette is the brand’s best-seller: a deliciously fruity perfume with notes of orange, black pepper and fig. Mouthwatering indeed.

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