I’ve been a Jovan Musk girl since I was about 12. Over the years, I’ve flirted with other perfumes: Love’s Baby Soft, Chloe, Givenchy’s Amarige. But I don't feel dressed without spritzing the woodsy perfume on my pulse points.
Of course, musk needs to dominate. But traces of sweet vanilla, earthy sandalwood, and spicy cinnamon would be nice. Please, no citrus, patchouli, or florals. And though many women dab their wrists with different perfumes depending on work and play, that's not me. I have neither the time nor the budget to deal with an extensive scent wardrobe. "Not to worry," said Guy, who has been known to wear four different fragrances a day. "I have something in mind."
At Perfumology, Guy sells designer department store perfumes, like Tom Ford's Black Orchid and Jessica Simpson's Fancy. But these commercial fragrances aren't his specialty.
Guy, 31, a graduate of Temple University's Fox School of Business, fancies himself an expert in niche and indie perfumes, considered the most exclusive scents in today's fragrance world. Jo Malone and Creed are the biggest players in this redolent genre, but most niche brands aren't nearly that big. Yet.
What niche fragrances, with smaller distributions, have in common is that they are very concentrated; essential oils are a big part of their formula (just one spray will do ya). And most niche brands are the olfactory brainchildren of a real perfumer, not a clothing designer or celebrity looking to extend his or her brand.
Although niche brands have been on the scene since the 1970s, said Nick Gilbert, owner of Olfiction, a London perfume consulting firm, it has taken 40 years for them to take off.
The first indie brand of note, Gilbert said, was Frenchman Jean Laporte's L'Artisan Parfumeur. During the 1980s, the British tailoring-firm-turned-perfume-house Creed enjoyed phenomenal growth, and by the 1990s, Jo Malone and Annick Goutal were leaders.
Around the same time, Elizabeth Taylor's Passion hit the market, and then White Diamonds four years later in 1991. The perfume world became inundated with celebrity brands. It wasn't until the last 10 years that niche perfumes started to enjoy a comeback.
Today, the proliferation of scent-driven blogs and websites, along with creative brands like Zoologist, By Killian, and Juliette Has a Gun by Romano Ricci (designer Nina Ricci's great-grandson), are helping these smaller perfume houses get the word out. As a result, the Sephoras and specialty stores of the world (Joan Shepp began offering a wide selection of niche fragrances two years ago in its Center City boutique) are upping their scent game.
“Fragrance is in the space where makeup was about 15 years ago,” said Gilbert, who quit his day job in May to start his consulting firm. He began with two clients, and today, Gilbert said, he fields dozens of inquiries a month from potential scentpreneurs.
“There has been an explosion of interest," Gilbert said, "as so many brands are really starting to come alive."
Guy, who grew up in Havertown, discovered his affinity for fragrances as a child while traveling back and forth to Israel -- that's when he could visit the duty-free shops. It wasn't until 2011, when he dropped out of law school and became a partner at the now-closed Michel Perfume Shoppe in the Shops at Liberty Place, that he figured he could make perfume his life. In 2013, Guy took over Perfume Island in the King of Prussia Mall, and the next year, when mall construction forced him to move into a kiosk, Guy changed the name of his business to Perfumology, the study of perfume.
“I'm all about smelling what's out there, learning about what people make, and finding out what customers think," said Guy, who in February released a patchouli-scented perfume, Blyss, as a love letter to his wife, Lyssa. “Who has gone too far? Who has made something remarkable? It’s fun for me.”
To find my scent, Guy spritzed test blotters with three honeyed yet peppery scents from French perfume house Olfactive Studios: Autoportrait (I liked), Chambre Noir (wait, I liked this, too), and Ombre Indigo (hold up, I think I might buy this one).
That was quick.
"Try them inside your wrists," Guy instructs. "Wear them for a while."
Ombre Indigo is still #winning. That makes sense. If I had a choice between the beach or the mountains, I'd always pick the beach. This scent is fresh. I'll take it.
"Oh, no," Guy said. "You aren't done. I’m looking for your eyes to light up, for you to shout with excitement.”
That will be the day.
We move on to Agonist Parfum's Dark Saphir. Not so much. It's just a little too floral for me. Next, Another Oud from Juliette Has a Gun. That's nice, if a bit powdery, and Imaginary Authors' Memoirs of a Trespasser. After 34 minutes, the glass counter is filled with bottles, and I can't smell anything.
"Your nose is blown out," Guy said as he handed me a small glass of coffee beans to open up my now tingling nasal passages.
I'm still not giving Guy that jubilant response he's looking for. He reaches under the counter and pulls out a box of perfumes. He takes his collection of Zoologist Perfumes from the Canadian perfume house that names all of its fragrances after animals. Rhinoceros smells like grass. Bat is appropriately dank. Then he sprays Civet, named after the nocturnal catlike animal native to Asia and Africa. Civet is considered a classic musk.
I like it. It's musky and cinnamony. It reminds me of the desert. I take some samples.
Two weeks later, I'm back at the mall.
"Are you ready to commit to one scent?" Guy asks me.
"Not just yet," I say.
No worries. He has a new perfume he wants me to try from Lubin, the oldest French perfume house. It's called Kismet. I sniff. Then I spray. It's nice. We talk. I sniff. We talk some more. I sniff some more.
"That's the response I'm looking for," Guy said. "You should always want to smell your wrist."
Oh, man. I'm happy. I think I've found her. She has notes of lemon, bergamot, bourbon, and vanilla. Surprisingly, there is a little rose and, believe it or not, a bit of patchouli. I'm surprised. Guy is not.
But it's $160 for 3.4 oz. So it will be some time before I can commit to this relationship.