Five Reasons You Don’t Need To Buy Niche


Post by Anne-Marie


Caution being my middle name, I was never tremendously adventurous in sampling niche fragrances, even at the best of times. Now that it’s the worst of times (a low Aussie dollar and much higher shipping costs), I’m not buying niche at all.

But a tight budget forces you back on your own resources: if you apply a bit of cleverness and an open mind, it is amazing the treasures you can find amongst the stuff cluttering up the shelves and inventories of mainstream sellers and discounters.

Here are five inexpensive (well under $AUD 100) options to try if you are looking for fragrances that are off-beat, avant-garde, or beautiful in an inexplicably un-beautiful sort of way.

Five Reasons You Don’t Need To Buy Niche

Molinard Habanita FragranticaFragrantica

Molinard Habanita (perfumer unknown, 1921)

Towering in its originality, Habanita is so weird it never smells dated. Although famous for its association with cigarettes, tobacco is not listed as a note in Habanita. I get dirty leather, vanilla, jammy fruit, and vetiver. Florals? I suppose so, but I don’t smell them.

Femme Rochas 2013 FragranticaFragrantica

Rochas Femme (Edmond Roudnitska, 1943)

Chypres smell ‘niche’ because they are not fashionable for the mall customer any more. Femme is a meltingly beautiful fruity chypre, often likened to Guerlain’s Mitsouko but less austere and much easier to wear. I prefer the post-1989 reformulation to the vintage versions I’ve tried.

Bvlgari Black FragranticaFragrantica

Bvlgari Black (Annick Mernado, 1998)

Like Habanita, Black is famous for a note it does not possess: tyre rubber. Black is mainly leather, vanilla and smoky tea. Comforting, edgy, and so alluring. Someone should write a novel where the main character wears Black. Would they be male or female? You decide.

Estee Lauder Knowing FragranticaFragrantica

Estee Lauder Knowing (Elie Roger, 1998)

Lauder is so mainstream you can buy it anywhere. If Lauder could establish a counter on the moon, it would. This makes it all the more wonderful that Knowing is still in the line-up. It’s a rose chypre so intelligent, so commanding and so dark that the best way to wear it is not with a pencil skirt and stilettos – for that would be too predictable now – but with jeans and a simple cotton shirt.

Lalique Encre Noire FRagranticaFragrantica

Lalique Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson, 2006)

Encre Noire is a crisp, nothing-to-hide vetiver. You might find it linear and one-dimensional. Or, conversely, you might love that it takes ease and good taste for granted. It needs confidence to pull off something as apparently simple as this.

It was easy to think of five examples of ‘alternative to niche’. I could easily rattle off more, but I’m interested in hearing your ideas. What would you pick?

18 thoughts on “Five Reasons You Don’t Need To Buy Niche

  1. Habanita. Deep dark and fabulous. So I bought a bottle. Reformulated to powder. Sold asap.
    Encore Noire is still fabulous.
    Does Serge count as non-niche now that we can actually buy real bottles in real stores in Australia?
    Thanks Anne-Marie, great round up.


    • Hi Greennote, sorry Habanita didn’t work for you. Was that the latest version, in the low, square bottle? You might still pick up the bottle pictured above. There was heaps of that sloshing around the internet a few years ago.

      Niche is a tricky definition I know, for me it’s a combination of cost and availability. You can buy Serge in Australia these days, but not cheap. 😦


  2. Hey there Anne-Marie,
    Great line up of fragrances, they stand up against almost anything niche.
    I’m going to add my beloved Shalimar, Kenzo Flower and Tabu.
    Portia xx


  3. Hi Anne-Marie. I love all those you’ve mentioned except for Lalique Encre Noir that I’ve never tried. For me there’s always Shalimar and in summer I love Terre d’Hermes Eau Tres Fraiche and I am also partial to Lush’s Lust. Now that is a big perfume. Maybe not the most subtle and it’s definitely not in good taste, but I love it.


    • I was going to add one or two from Lush. I’ll save them for another post. They certainly smell quite different from the mainstream!


  4. Molyneux Quartz (I don’t know which iteration I have, I don’t think it’s the most recent) is a summer go-to for me. Fresh and citrusy, and it lasts. And it’s practically free.


    • Yes, that’s a great hidden gem! Don’t see it mentioned much. I think Angela may have given it a great review on NST a few years ago.


  5. Thanks for this beautiful reminder! I was thinking the very same thing last night as I adored my collection. I have mostly designer and celebrity and I am completely enchanted. My latest FB was Alien and I couldn’t wait to get up this morning and drench myself with that space oddity. Another fabulosity is Kiehl’s Musk. She was called, “the love oil” back in the 20’s!


    • Gosh, I have not tried Kiehl’s Musk for ages. I remember reading it as fairly dirty, but other people find it clean. Musk is so different on people.

      I don’t care for Alien but I can completely see why people love it – deliberately artificial is not something the designer houses dare to do very often.


  6. I think Bvlgari has several that are very unique.. Au The Vert was a gamechanger and is still gorgeous, and the violet in Pour Femme has just enough plastic doll-head weirdness in it to make it seem niche-ish to me.

    Rive Gauche also seems niche now.

    Fun post!


    • Agree with all those. Bvlgari’s Omnias and Jasmins have never attracted me, but Pour Femme is terrific. The teas can all be picked up cheap if you know where to look. Love Rive Gauche – smells again as the name implies (after the arty, creative part of Paris).


  7. Meant also to add Emeraude, which is dirt cheap here in the States and not half bad after all these years, although the vintage is still far better (and not too hard to come by)


    • Yes indeed, it was once so popular that there is still plenty around. It’s a smart choice for anyone looking for something a bit out of the ordinary!


  8. Thanks for the great post Anne-Marie. You reminded me of the beautiful Knowing. I didn’t know it was still on the market and I’m going to look for it because I loved it back then.
    My contribution is: Gucci Rush and Dsquared She Wood. I always get compliments when I’m wearing either of them.


    • I don’t know She Wood – you have piqued my interest. Easy on the wallet too. And Rush! Not for me, but it’s an amazing scent. Knowing is easy to find. I didn’t smell it back in the day – dunno how I missed it – so I don’t know how the current version compares to the older. As far as I know, long-time wearers are reasonably happy …


  9. Great post Anne-Marie, especially apt as we watch the dollar fall and GST rise.

    I’d add a few to your list as well, all of which I’ve seen for under $100 at Priceline, MyChemist etc

    * YSL Pour Homme
    * L’Essence de Cerutti
    * Dior Homme
    * Juicy Couture Dirty English
    * Terre d’Hermes


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