I am a perfume snob. I admit it willingly.
I’ve had the privilege of watching some of the most amazing perfumers in the industry at work. I’ve seen firsthand how many years it takes to hone their craft. I can’t help getting peeved when people call themselves perfumers because they’ve completed an online course.
Some have an innate ability to understand how raw materials work together to create the liquid poetry of perfume, but for most it takes three years of school, then an apprenticeship, then years of practice to develop a signature style. Having cut my teeth in the niche end of the perfume business, I tend to buy fragrance from brands with impeccable pedigree. Snobby or not, I won’t be apologising any time soon.
On a recent trip to the US, I came across a shop in San Francisco that opened my mind to brands my ‘perfume prattism’ would once have caused me to overlook. Tigerlily is in the Mission District and is run by Antonia, who has a passion for micro niche perfumery, especially for brands from California’s Bay Area.
I spent a blissful afternoon with her as she expertly guided me through the stable of interesting scents available in her store. Below are three brands you should definitely discover if you are in the US. They create unique scents for those who walk on the edgier side of fragrance, and their founders were kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
Yosh Han became obsessed with perfume after discovering a local perfumery in Aspen. She convinced the owner to hire her and it was there, working amongst the beautiful bottles, that she aspired to create her own line. She completed a two year apprenticeship at the store and is now based in San Francisco. Her work is featured in some of the leading stores in the US, including Barneys in New York and Lucky Scent in LA.
Han says “I am inspired by ideas, emotions, places, raw ingredients, unique combinations and collaborations. Sometimes, I’ll ruminate on an idea for months or years until the right moment blossoms.”
My pick from the Yosh range is Sombre Negra, a smouldering, dark fragrance with notes of Vetiver, Cedar and Juniper. It’s the perfect date night fragrance – built to impress and cause a swoon or two. You can almost imagine a mysterious international spy wearing Sombre Negra. It is so much more than it seems, very complex and very sophisticated.
Bruno Fazzolari has a unique perspective on fragrance thanks to his synaesthesia, a neurological phenomenon that causes him to see colours when he smells things. Fazzolari is an artist who began experimenting with fragrance about 12 years ago. It became an obsession. Five years back he created a fragrance called Five for one of his exhibitions, and it went on to become the foundation of his line.
“Since I have visual responses to scent,” Fazzolari says, “colour is a huge part of how I understand fragrance. I’m usually developing a visual element and a perfume at the same time – it’s an integral part of how I work.” When you purchase a perfume from the range, you will receive a miniature print of the artwork that inspired the fragrance.
My pick from Bruno Fazzolari is Lamp Black, a fragrance inspired by the smell of ink in a printing studio. The darkness of the ink is uplifted with notes of grapefruit, a blend that makes it a perfect fragrance for anytime and anywhere. Tigerlily had run out when I visited, but Bruno kindly personally delivered a bottle so I wouldn’t go without.
West Third Brand
Michael Probst is the (well-travelled, judging by his Instagram) man behind West Third Brand. Probst was inspired to create fragrance by his childhood at the family’s farm in Napa Valley and by his eccentric French grandmother, who he often accompanied perfume shopping. As a creative director earlier in his career, he spent hours in the lab with perfumers creating fragrant products for some of America’s most recognised brands. Creating his own brand was a natural progression.
Probst says “Most my fragrances are a combination of intuition, notes/journals from years ago mixed with budding new inspirations/experiences, then lots of patience because there are trials – many, many trials – before we land on a final scent.”
My pick from the range is Vert Vetiver and Probst agrees. “Every man must have both a Tobacco and a Vetiver fragrance,” he says. Vert Vetiver is a green, lighter take on Vetiver which is normally portrayed as dark and earthy. Fresh citrus, Fennel and Cedar complement the Vetiver, making it an outstanding aromatic fragrance perfect for day wear.