Selecting the right perfume is like curating fine art — an entirely subjective process, the result of the body’s ephemeral response to an intangible idea, a feeling, or a memory. It’s also a matter of chemistry, as sometimes a scent we love is one that our skin forgets, vanishing after a short while, whereas a fragrance that fails to excite in the bottle can dance to life on the wrist.
Here we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite scents that, despite the uniqueness of each, have one thing in common: the ability to evoke an air of seductive mystery, conjuring images of secret gardens and lands we’ve yet to explore.
Dyptique, the result of a collaboration between three artists in Paris—a designer, a theatre director, and a painter—approaches perfumery with a special kind of artistry. And while the brand offers fragrances in the floral and fruity families, its true specialty is on the spicier, woodier end of the spectrum. Philosykos is a blend of fig leaves and white cedar, pulling notes from their foliage and bark for a fragrance that would call to mind an autumnal walk through shadowy groves. Ever the experts in scent pairings, Dyptique offers samples upon purchase that have been carefully curated to compliment the eau de parfum you’ve chosen.
Tokyo Milk is the brainchild of designer Margot Elena, who has been crafting luxurious formulas for over a decade. Part of the magic of the brand is her meticulous eye when it comes to packaging details; each line by Tokyo Milk is quirky and decorative. This scent, the star of Tokyo Milk’s Dark Line, is a tantalizing combination of sultry and sweet. Playing on the earthy aromas of absinthe, vanilla salt, cut greens, and crushed fennel, Arsenic No. 17 boasts all of the ephemeral qualities of a stroll through dark woods after the rain.
Estée Lauder, during her lifetime, was certainly one of the reigning queens of the cosmetics industry. As a young woman, she became fascinated with her uncle’s work as a chemist; at the time he owned a company called New Way Laboraties, which produced creams, lotions, rouge, and fragrances. Lauder began working with him and enjoyed a prolific career, and was the only woman to make Time Magazine‘s 1998 list of the twenty most influential business geniuses of the twentieth century. Tangier Vanille plays with the exotic aromas of Madagascar Vanilla, Italian Bergamot, and Bulgarian Rose. Subtle notes of amber, sandalwood, and musk round out this fragrance and evoke the vibrancy of Tangier Vanille’s inspiration: the bazaars, palaces, and gardens of Morocco.
Fashion designer McQueen’s first foray into perfumery brings us McQueen Parfum For Her, which totes itself as a scent “for the woman who blooms in the dark.” Inspired by vintage perfumes that tend to lean towards floral notes, this fragrance is derived in essence from three night-blooming flowers: sambac jasmine, tuberose, and ylang ylang. The result is a dusky, exotic garden in a bottle — and a beautiful bottle at that.
Frédéric Malle has been making waves in the perfume world since 2000. He comes with an impressive pedigree; his grandfather, Serge Heftler-Louiche, founded Parfums Christian Dior. Malle’s company name came of something of a surprise in an industry dominated by eponymous labels; rather than naming the company after himself, he made the bold decision to bring the focus back to the integrity of the product. Portrait Of A Lady is a scent that creator Dominque Ropion describes as “baroque, sumptuous, and symphonic.” The result of hundreds of trials, this fragrance is toted as containing the strongest ever concentration of rose essence and patchouli heart.
The latest offerings in XJ’s Shooting Stars collection, this pairing comes in an exquisite collector’s set. The opulent packaging alone makes these perfumes fit for royalty. Amber Star is derived from ambergris, which is perhaps the diamond truffle of the perfume world; the substance is derived from a rare secretion by sperm whales, sweetened by its time spent in saltwater. Star Musk, on the other hand, compliments the earthy notes of Amber Star with a sweet and spicy play on mandarin peel and cloves. Whimsical and sweet, this pairing is a seductive journey across the Orient.