A while back, I showcased a bunch of weird perfumes and had a friend try them to see if they were actually weird to someone outside the fragcomm bubble. The results, while slightly unexpected, were pleasantly reassuring: even the weirdest perfumes are likely to trigger fun memories in people and stop short of scaring them away. This time, I’ve returned to the format to ask the opposite question. Are the safe, super-popular niche offerings actually as appealing as we think they are? I’ve recruited my friend V to help answer that question.
Hyped niche and indie perfumes tend to follow a few certain patterns. First of all, they tend to fall into a middle range of complexity, fleshing out a not-too-unfamiliar core concept with top-of-the-line ingredients. Secondly, they tend to have one or two distinct traits that separate them from the pack, but nothing so weird as to catch a passerby truly off guard. Finally, they are exquisitely balanced and blended, shaving off any rough edges that might lead the composition into a perfume uncanny valley of pleasant yet strange. I’ve attempted to select a range of leading niche picks that still remain staples in many collections. Without further ado, our hype train experiment, AKA V’s first impressions of nine hyped niche staples.
V: This one seems pretty basic. It’s got all of your notes that you would see in a lot of other types of perfumes. It smells clean, kind of like an Old Spice kind of vibe…it smells like your basic man’s perfume.
Armani Prive Rose d’Arabie
V: This one seems a little warmer. A little bit more feminine, maybe? Overall I like it. I think it’s well-balanced without being too sweet…I don’t think I’ll be able to tell you specific notes on any of these. Rose, vanilla, and patchouli? Well, it’s doing a good job not being dirty hippy patchouli. The patchouli can get out of hand quickly.
V: Ohh…I think I hate this one. It reminds me of Listerine mixed with perfume. It’s got an off-putting sort of alcohol to it.
Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
V: Oh yes…definitely feminine. Umm…hmmm. It’s giving me grandma vibes but I don’t hate it. It’s nice but it’s thick, you know? It’s got that sass to it. But I don’t hate it…I actually like it.
Amouage Reflection Man
V: It’s reminding me of my grandfather’s suit, freshly pressed and ready to go for Sunday. It definitely reminds me of a vintage smell – something old, or perhaps a scent that’s been around for a while. Definitely more masculine. It’s really crisp. It’s got the vibe of your grandfather and his fresh aftershave.
V: This reminds me of what the dressing room smells like at a ballet. Like a bunch of different smells colliding. They’re all very strong. I’m also getting the library old book smell.
Nasomatto Black Afgano
V: This is another really strong one – a cacophony of scents. A lot of things going on that are aggressive and in your face. It reminds me of my aunt who is a chain smoker and wears these thick-ass perfumes to cover it up.
It’s like Virginia tobacco mixed with perfume.
Amouage Interlude Man
V: Whoa. Ok, it is weird, for sure. But it’s not bad weird. It’s how I would imagine smelling – and this is the best possible way – someone who spilled an energy drink on themselves at the rave. It’s like a nice-smelling person who just spilled an energy drink on themself. You know someone who’s been at the front and has some fog machine juice on them.
Ristretto Intense Café
V: Is it rose again? I’m picking up a rose. It doesn’t seem that crazy to me. It’s just well-balanced, like the put-together mom at the PTO meeting. But she still voices her opinions a lot – she’s aggressive. It’s not crazy punch-you-in-the-face, but you still get the rose immediately.
Are there any here that you really get the hype for and understand why they’re popular?
V: Well, Aventus is just nice. It’s an everyman’s perfume. It doesn’t have a lot of strong opinions, it’s just there. I can understand that.
In terms of cool hype, I can understand Interlude for sure. It’s got a lot going on and it’s cool and different.
The Carnal Flower – I don’t understand what’s going on with that one. It’s giving me hippy vibes but you want to wear it regularly. That’s just my personal preference.
This one too (Black Afgano) I don’t know if I can get the hype for that one. The presentation is cool though, I’ll give them that.
Our experience with perfume can be magnificent, spiritual, and personal, but when it comes down to it, hyped perfumes are so often a middle ground between tastes. I’ve always been a proponent of forming personal connections to fragrances; we all have such different tastes that going one-sized-fits-all is an almost certain road to disappointment. So if you’re trying to impress someone, it’s probably better to get to know what they like instead of tapping into a supposed jack-of-all-trades. Even better? Wear perfume for yourself. Universal hype is a starting point. But your own skin is the destination – and that’s where each journey should ultimately hope to go.
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