Ready to find scents in the city? Just as you color your hair between seasons, there is no better time to swap out that tired body mist you’ve been spritzing every morning for one that is fresh, new and special to you. It seems like a new designer perfume comes out every week, but if you’re looking for a signature scent that you won’t smell on everyone else, these fragrance shops offer lesser-known and exclusive options. From shops that offer cool classes where you can customize your own aroma to stores that sell bottles from around the globe, you definitely won’t find the bulk of these scents in any given department store.
Perfume stores in NYC
Like the boudoir of a prerevolutionary French courtesan with a bit of a perfume-hoarding habit, Aedes de Venustas is bedecked with a profusion of fresh-flowers scented candles ($35–$275). Fragrance lovers Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner opened the shop—which name means “temple of beauty” in Latin—in 1995 as a way to bring over high-end European scents not available in the U.S. They continue to stock more than 50 niche and haute lines, including Maître Parfumeur et Gantier and Thirdman.
Though Atelier products are sold by Bergdorf Goodman and Sephora, you’ll find a larger assortment plus the in-demand and exclusive Jasmin Angélique cologne ($75 and up) at the rough-hewed Elizabeth Street flagship. What makes the scents so distinctive? Creators Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel combine the freshness of perfume’s lightest scent, eau de cologne, with the long-lasting power of eau de parfum, to develop a happy medium they call “cologne absolue,”and we’ll admit the blend is absolutely amazing.
This Meatpacking District boutique is named after owner Kilian Hennessy (he’s also a descendant of the creator of the top-shelf cognac brand). And much like the ingredients in a great cocktail, all of the fragrances here are totally intoxicating. Apple Brandy (a unique accord of apple liqueur and woods, $295) is a top-seller—it’s inspired by the Big Apple. Ask the staff for a free sample and take it for a test drive.
Ben Gorham, the pro-basketball player turned perfumer behind these unisex perfumes, opened his Soho storefront in June. You might notice similarities between Byredo’s squat glass bottles and its first U.S. store—they’re equally minimal and frills-free. But it’s fragrances, like the gloriously musky Bal D’Afrique (a strong blend of bergamot, lemon and African marigold, $145 and up), will tantalize your nostrils and keep you coming back for more.
Since perfumer Ernest Daltroff founded the brand in Paris in 1904, Caron has been heralded for its bold, femme-fatale scents. At this Art Deco–style boutique, each of its perfumes can be purchased in prepackaged bottles ($115–$700) as an eau de toilette or eau de parfum, or as a so-called fountain fragrance (.25oz $115, 100ml $520) in pure perfume form. With the latter option, your selection will be dispensed from one of the giant Baccarat crystal decanters into a bottle with a ground-glass stopper, which is then tied with a gold braid and wrapped in polka-dot packaging that has remained unchanged since the 1920s.
Owner Christopher Brosius loathes mainstream fragrances with their excess synthetic musks and lack of creativity. But as one can tell from even a cursory stop at his Brooklyn scent gallery, where the team hand-decants perfumes in the back, only someone who loves scent could make ones this creative. Brosius was once the perfumer for the groundbreaking line Demeter, which specializes in representational aromas. To wit, In the Library (absolute 2ml $13, 15ml $95; water perfume 150ml $80) smells vanillic and dusty, like aged paper, transporting you to a time when your head was buried in an old paperback.
Founded in 1961 by interior designer Christiane Gautrot, painter Desmond Knox-Leet, and theater director and set designer Yves Coueslant, Diptyque produces wearable yet edgy scents created in the tradition of fine French perfume making. All are inspired by far-flung travels, including the cult-favorite L’Autre (100ml $120), which evokes Moroccan spice markets, and Olène (100ml $120), which captures the narcissus, wisteria, jasmine and honeysuckle of Venice.
Sandwiched between East Village bars, this cozy fragrance shop is one you don’t want to pass by. More than 200 oils line the shelves and the option to customize your own scent (for an extra $5) makes the perfect gift. If you’d rather revive an old favorite, the staff here can accommodate that, too. (You come in with a discontinued designer fragrance, and the shop will try to match the scent for you).
No brand has tapped into Americans’ love for clean, transparent scents better than English perfume label Jo Malone. Although the label famous for fragrances such as Lime Basil & Mandarin (30ml $60, 100ml $115) and Earl Grey and Cucumber (30ml $60, 100ml $115) has branched out a bit with its Cologne Intense collection, which includes darker scents such as Velvet Rose & Oud (100 ml $145) and Amber & Patchouli (100 ml $145), even those manage to stay true to a signature lightness.
Founded in 2007 by former chemical engineer Eddie Roschi and perfumer Fabrice Penot, who developed the Armani Privé and Acqua di Gio lines, Le Labo creates scents that are built around a primary ingredient using a blend of essential oils. Calling the Nolita store its “lab,” the brand boasts hand-mixed rather than factory-made perfumes: Each time a sale is made, a staffer takes the ingredients from an industrial-size refrigerator on the premises and decants and mixes the fragrance on the spot. The bottle is then stamped with the date for freshness (which remains optimal for a year) and the customer’s name.