Huffpost Style
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Mary Orlin Headshot

6 Indie Perfumes You Need to Sniff Now

Posted: Updated:

Twice a year fragrance lovers descend upon New York City for the tour de force that is Sniffapalooza.  One of the fragrance event group's signature perfume odysseys is the annual "Spring Fling," a weekend event that explores scents all over the city.  While many large perfume houses introduce new scents to our group, Sniffapalooza is also known for the debuts of small boutique labels. I love discovering new fragrances and sharing the stories.  While we tried over 100 scents, I fell in love with six of them, all different, but complex and interesting.  Some are just launching, others have been around for a few years, but all are making a big splash in the perfume world.

Atelier Cologne
Could there be a cuter team in fine fragrance than Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel of Atelier Cologne? I think not.  Their passion for redefining what a cologne scent can be is infectious, so much so that I find myself at their tiny store purchasing Orange Sanguine Colonge Absolue.

What is Cologne Absolue? Traditionally perfume is categorized by concentration of aromatics, the perfume oils, from eau de cologne (the lightest) to eau de toilette, then eau de parfum and pure parfum (the strongest).  Most eau de colognes have about 3 percent concentration of the perfume oil, and are light, fresh citrus based scents that don't stick around too long.  Sylvie and Christopher are big fans of cologne, but wanted to create fragrances that last longer, so they developed their fragrance family as cologne absolue with 12-20 percent concentration. They blend the traditional citrus with other notes such as wood, vanilla or moss.

One of the things that makes Absolute Cologne unique is that Sylvie and Christophe are telling stories through fragrance. A breakfast in the south of Italy inspires Orange Sanguine. A walk through a forest in the morning inspires Trefle Pur. These fragrances are capturing a moment in time. I am not a citrus fragrance lover. But after I tried Orange Sanguine, I couldn't get it out of my mind. The main note in Orange Sanguine is blood orange. The top note is just like cutting open a blood orange and squeezing the slightly sweet juice out. There's also a bitter note from bitter orange, a green note from geranium, and the base has sandalwood and tonka bean.

I also love Atelier Cologne's latest scent, Ambre Nue. It's not that common to find an amber with citrus notes.  Here green mandarin and bergamot mix with a heady orchid found in the mountains of northern Italy that they say smells like amber. It's unexpected and mesmerizing. Vanille Insensee is another non-traditional scent, a mix of gourmand and citrus. Close your eyes and you would swear you are smelling a vanilla bean and not a perfume.

Atelier Cologne pays attention to the little details. Caps covered in leather, a flat bottle feels good in your hands, and the perfume's story is on the back label. They customize cases, such as this leather travel case, which is a nice touch.

Eau d'Italie
Technically this perfume house was not part of the Sniffapalooza tour, but I had read about this new line of fragrances inspired by the Hotel Le Sirenuse in one of my favorite places, Positano on the Amalfi Coast.  Lafco New York carries the Eau d'Italie line so I made a special trip to try them on. Marina Sersale's family opened Le Sirenuse in 1951.  She and her husband Sebastian Alvarez Murena were inspired by the hotel's 50th anniversary to create a signature scent reminiscent of Positano. The sun warmed terra cotta roof tiles, citrus and ocean air are all blended into this perfume.

They were only planning to do this scent as a one-off, but it has become so popular among indie perfume lovers that the the line is growing, with perfumes inspired by other places in Italy.  I in love with two of the perfumes.  Magnolia Romana, a beautiful white floral with a green note that smells of fresh cut flowers. Baume du Doge, a rich, spicy and complex aroma, is inspired by Venice and has sweet and warm notes of cardamon, myrrh and, surprisingly, wild fennel.

Kelly & Jones
Wine and perfume together?  Absolutely.  Scent Sommelier Kelly Jones has created a fresh and modern line of fragrances inspired by wine aromas.  She's not bottling wine in a perfume bottle but capturing and blending notes in wine.  You can read more about Kelly in this profile.

Robert Piguet Parfums
Fracas by Robert Piguet is one of the world's classic perfumes.  It was one of my very first signature fragrances and I've rediscovered it recently and still love it.  I find the buttery, creamy and heady tuberose fragrance captivating.  If you don't know it, and you love tuberose, go out and get it now. And while the brand has been around since the 1940s, I was excited to learn that the perfume house is having a bit of a revival, launching five fragrances as the Nouvelle Collection. It's a scented journey, through Bois Noir, Casbah, Notes, Mademoiselle Piguet and Oud.

My new favorite is Mademoiselle Piguet, a beautiful fragrance full of lush orange blossoms, a hint of fresh green note and a slightly sweet finish with tonka bean. I am also very impressed with Oud.  I can't tell you how many oud scents I've tried in the past few months; this is the new trend for perfumes (better than the sweet, sticky fruit bombs). It's made from a resin called agarwood, from the Aquilaria tree that grows in southeast Asia. Piguet does oud right, as it's a sultry, spicy and complex fragrance that makes you take notice but doesn't overwhelm.

Spadaro
Kim Spadaro started out as a designer, creating spaces through light, music and scent. She studied aromatherapy and learned how fragrance could not only evoke memories but also heal.

The first fragrance she made was for a friend battling cancer. The inspiration for the patchouli, sandalwood, bergamot and black pepper fragrance was a trip to Spain and a fervent dance experience in Majorca. "My friend said to me 'you know I'll never be able to pursue my dream but i want you to do something for me I want you to go for this and turn it into a perfume.'" That was all the motivation Kim needed to realize her dream.

She knew people loved the fragrance she made for her friend, and they were asking for it for themselves. That fragrance has become Noche del Fuego, and it has a perfume oil concentration of 18 percent. It is her signature scent and the first in her line of Spadaro Luxury Fragrances.

Two other travel-inspired scents followed, Sole Negro and Doux Amour, both clocking in at 20 percent perfume oil concentration. I'm a fan of Doux Amour's floral bouquet of jasmine, Casablanca lily and ylang ylang. "I want my perfumes to be a beautiful experience created by fragrance based on my interpretation of places I've been."

Kim created the Spadaro Foundation in honor of her friend who passed away and her mother, who died suddenly of cancer. Kim says 4 percent of Spadaro's proceeds will go towards helping women's and children's charities. While she loves being an artisan perfumer that it's not easy.  "I am completely self-funded," she says. "It's challenging battling against mass brands and their giveaways, but I believe in what I have, I believe in what we're doing."

Providence Perfume Company
When you think of natural perfume, you probably conjure up images of hippies and vials of essential oils.  Charna Ethier is the child of what she calls hippie parents and grew up on a commune. "As a teenager I longed for glitz and glamour to get away from the commune," she says.  "One of my first jobs was working at the perfume counter at Macy's which I thought was the ultimate in sophistication."

She would make blends of essential oils for her friends. "I would constantly adjust each fragrance because the wearer would ask for a little more of this or less of that." So naturally, Charna became a natural perfumer, launching her own line, Providence Perfume Company about two years ago. "I wanted to make my own perfumes and not be restricted by cost."

She says she's most attracted to the exotic and rare ingredients, and as many perfumers do, she finds inspiration in her travels. "I became obsessed with osmanthus," and she created the smokey Osmanthus Oolong, her first of 11 fragrances.

Charna chose the name Providence Perfume Company because she is based in Providence, Rhode Island, and also because she liked the meaning of the word providence.  "I liked that the dictionary listed definitions of providence to mean, 'the foreseeing care of nature over the creatures of the earth,' and 'luck, fate, fortune.'  Perfect for the natural perfumer."

Charna's newest perfume is Hindu Honeysuckle, with a burst of fresh cut sweet honeysuckle and a note of jasmine.  Some of her other secents -- Eva Luna starts out with a surprising top note of carrots and has a creamy heart of tuberose.  It reminds me of Bonte's Bloom by Honoré des Prés, made by well-known natural perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. Tabac Citron, with lemon and tobacco, is Providence Perfume's top seller. "Citrus scents tend to be universally popular," Charna says.  "Tabac Citron's unique pairing of citrus and blonde tobacco makes it unisex and eminently wearable." I also think that these fragrances are wearable for any time of day or night. The perfume oils stay close to the skin and are more intimate.