Perfume Notes: new perfumers on the block

Perfume Notes: new perfumers on the block, including Jan Ahlgren
Perfume Notes: new perfumers on the block, including Jan Ahlgren Credit: Jan Ahlgren, Vilhelm Parfumerie

Not only is this the most exciting time in perfume retailing ever, but I cannot ever remember a time when my nostrils have been tantalised so frequently by new and emerging talent in perfumery.

The trend for 'niche', 'indie', 'cult' perfume brands - call them what you will - probably dates back to Serge Lutens and his Salon du Palais-Royal perfumery, which showcased dozens of daring and different fragrances when it opened in 1992, marking the birth of an intriguing fragrance brand which is now loved by perfumistas the world over.

But it really kicked off in 2000, when a man called Frédéric Malle - not a perfumer, but with a luxury goods background - launched his Éditions de Parfums collection, opting for the first time to acknowledge perfumers' identities by emblazoning them on the front label of the bottle.

Since then, there's been a revolution in fragrance. Rarely now can perfume writers not find out the 'creator' behind a fragrance (once these were akin to state secrets). There's been a massive upturn generally in interest in small, independent perfumers, and a knock-on effect on the mainstream perfume world, which is now offering 'boutique' collections (Chanel Les Exclusifs, Dior Collection Privé, Givenchy L'Atelier de Givenchy, and more). Now, some of those 'indie names' are being snapped up by larger ones (Byredo by the same people who own Diptyque; Le Labo and Frédéric Malle by Estée Lauder - not that I expect that to have any greater impact on creativity or general lustworthiness than their acquisitions of MAC and Bobbi Brown make-up, in cosmetics).

So who are the next 'names to watch'? If I was a betting person, here's who I'd be backing…

Vilhelm Parfumerie Just landed at Liberty - and you know a department store is taking a brand seriously when it offers a counter positioned between the aforementioned Monsieur Malle and Le Labo. From a Swedish-born former Chanel male model-turned-accessories-designer, Vilhelm gets its name from its founder (pictured above) Jan Ahlgren's grandfather.

Room Service by Vilhelm Credit: Vilhelm Parfumerie

Bottle design legend Pierre Dinand created the sock-you-in-the-eye yellow-capped flaçons, while 'hot' perfumer Jérome Epinette (who's previously created for Byredo) did the smells - which include the wonderfully green and breezy Morning Chess, dark and smouldering Smoke Show (one for vetiveraholics), and Room Service, the wonderfully romantic inspiration for which is 'Greta Garbo taking a bath in roses at the Carlyle Hotel in New York.' 
£140 for 100ml at

Credit: Atelier des Ors

Atelier des Ors This is seriously hot off the press: I only encountered this collection for the first time last week, and am more than a little bit in love with the gorgeous blowsy gourmand Lune Féline, with its notes of praline, cardamom, pink pepper, Tahitian vanilla, musk and ambergris. Each of the five utterly sublime fragrances features leaves of gold in the 'juice'; accordingly, the prices are luxe - at £225 for 100ml eau de parfum - but worth selling the family silver for, I'd say. (Currently exclusive to Harrods Black Hall and not even online yet as they're so new.)

Haeckels Ah, Margate: capital of the perfume world, obviously. NOT! But actually, Haeckels is doing its bit to put the rapidly gentrifying Kent resort on the scent map. A completely fascinating brand, founded by a film-maker, volunteer beach warden and coastal enthusiast (NB: this man's never owned an anorak in his life), fragrances are created in their clifftop lab and (where possible) are sourced from local ingredients.

The only challenge may be remembering which fragrance you fell in love with, since the map location-inspired names include GPS 23' 34"N Picked on 25th March 2015, a sunny day (yes, that's a perfume name) or GPS 26'3"E Picked on 1st August 2015. Cloudy day. (They don't exactly trip off the tongue even when your mouth isn't full of candyfloss, do they…?) But still: worth exploring, not least because thanks to a pop-up at the Ace Hotel Shoreditch, you don't currently require an away day to Margate to check them out.

The studio at Haeckles Ah, Margate Credit: Haeckels Ah, Margate

Nancy Meilland Another young British-based perfumer (Lewes, as it happens). A trained nose who's created bespoke perfumes in the past, Nancy's now launched her own signature PAPER LEAF collection, which gets its name from the sun-print labels: Illuminé (aromatic, created to evoke that special light after a British downpour), Aquilaria (a Chypre that's woody and fireside-esque, with black pepper, Ceylon tea, woods and oakmoss) and Rosier, a dewy rose soliflore (single note scent), which is actually much more complex under its floral surface, with notes of rose geranium, green galbanum, white pear, jasmine and violet. £85 for 100ml.

Nancy Meilland, the creator of the PAPER LEAF Collection Credit: NANCY MEILAND

Thomas Kosmala An utterly charming self-taught perfumer (we're seeing more of them around), Thomas creates bespoke fragrances for many of the Middle East's crowned heads - and their extended families. Not surprisingly, then, oud is a signature note in his debut fragrances - Black Oud and White Oud - garlanded with flowers, fruits and warm sensual accords, and presented in gorgeous lacquered boxes. From £195 for 15ml eau de parfum at (NB: Nobody said this was going to be a cheap hobby, and I'll be covering the best of the high street, super-affordable scents in columns to come.) 

Thomas Kosmala's Black Oud Credit: Thomas Kosmala's Black Oud

Jo Fairley is Co-Founder of The Perfume Society - the world's first 'appreciation society' for fragrance-lovers. Follow The Perfume Society on Twitter at @Perfume_Society