How to shop for cult perfumes

After a rather wonderful book landed on our desk, we asked its author to share her tips  There's a massive upsurge in interest in perfumery - but as yet, precious few books dedicated to the subject. So:  a real labour of love landed on our desks, recently, from Scottish journalist Tessa Williams.  Cult Perfumes is a run-down of of many of the less-well-known perfume houses and fragrance stores - from Robert Piguet to Serge Lutens, Diptyque to Francis Kurkdjian, and more.  So we asked Tessa to share with us some of her tips and favourite shopping destinations...

As Tessa puts it:  'Wearing a "cult perfume" is a bit like having a masterpiece played as soon as you walk into a room: you can raise your own crescendo - it is like having your  own personal orchestra, or backing singers, depending on what era you choose to have your fragrance from.

Shopping for a cult perfume can be an exciting journey:  you may find something unique and bespoke only to you - a scent that could become your own signature tune for many years to come.

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During my research for my book Cult Perfumes, I discovered and wrote about many beautiful scents, but the link between them all, I realised, was that they had been developed out of love and passion, not created solely for a marketeers brief.

Whether it be a splash of Fracas by Robert Piguet, the exuberant tuberose recognisable from several yards away to the attuned nose, or the delicate fragrance of Frederic Malle’s Parfum du Thérèse (created by master perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, a work of art in honour of his wife), wearing a cult perfume is the equivalent of wearing fine haute couture. Not everyone 'gets' it - but there is a difference in that more people can afford to smell unique and amazing than they can be dressed in exclusive designer finery.

My advice is always to spend time choosing a perfume that matches your style, character and personality:  there are so many beautiful fragrances out there from the classic florals of Antonia’s Flowers, the sweet and light Freesia inspired perfume to the light colognes of Santa Maria Novella to the long lasting Ouds of Francis Kurkdjian.  Spend time in perfumeries, talking to the sales consultants (and learning as you go along) - and test perfumes out on different parts of your body: they can smell different on your ankles or your wrists, and at different times of the day.  Above all, see which perfume lifts your mood the best.  (That’s one of the things I love most about the creation of perfume: its ability to transform our mood by one little spray!)

My favourite London 'cult' shopping destinations

Les Senteurs  Two fantastically well stocked perfumeries in Elizabeth Street and Seymour Place.  This is the top end of unique cult perfumes;  everything from Grossmith, Creed to Lorenzo Villoresi can be found here attended by very knowledgable staff.

Avery Perfumery  This is boutique niche perfumery at its best . This tiny concept store in London’s Mayfair (they also have stores in New Orleans,and Modena, Italy) has a wonderful selection of new independent niche perfumes from Andrea Maack, Agonist, Blood Concept, Nasomatto, and Six Scents.

Roullier White  Interesting lifestyle store in Dulwich, South London, with a wonderful perfume line up: Creed, Caron, Lubin, Juliette Has A Gun, Illuminum, Blood Concept, Nasomatto, Ruth Mastenbroek and Carthusia can all be found here. They also provides a sample service in-store and on-line.

Cult Perfumes:  The World's Most Exclusive Perfumeries/£29.95 at buy here 


(Photo by F1 Colour Ltd.)