Scents & sensibility: a look at the world's most sought-after fragrances

By Lauren O'Neill | 04 Apr 2022 | Style, Design

The most extraordinary smells can stop us in our tracks. Here, Tempus discovers the remarkable perfumes defining our signature scents

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Fragrance has long been known to leave a lasting impression and, thanks in large part to Gen Z influencing an overhaul of the beauty industry with their sophisticated appreciation of quality, as with the boom in skincare in recent years, attitudes to fragrance are also shifting.

In Q1 of 2021, a year into the pandemic, perfume sales surged 45% when compared to the same period the previous year (particularly in the luxury sector) as people sought to find comfort through scent – and, no doubt, escapism too. We’ve all experienced a moment where a familiar scent has stopped us in our tracks, transporting us to a bygone place or moment. Scent is powerful. It has the power to evoke memory, and the power to alter mood.If you’re looking for your next signature scent, or just to treat yourself to something new, try a spritz of something from one of these specialist perfumers. 

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This French perfume house was founded in 2009 by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, and businessman with an eye for the arts Marc Chaya. At the very beginning of his career, aged just 24, Kurkdjian created what went on to become one of the world’s most iconic fragrances, Le Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier. The brand’s collection is loyal to the tradition of luxury French perfumery, with a contemporary vision. With what is described as a ‘wardrobe’ of fragrances, the house seeks to create a number of ‘sensory adventures’ and inspire emotion through its scents.

Launched eight years ago, Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540 (below) has had something of a renaissance recently. Sweet, warm, and intoxicating, it combines top notes of saffron and jasmine with amberwood, fir resin and cedar. For Kurkdjian, the power of this intense scent lies not only in its careful composition, but in its silage – the trail a perfume leaves behind once its ingredients disappear. Created to celebrate crystal manufacturer Baccarat’s 250th anniversary, the fragrance was originally available only in 250 numbered, crystal bottles but, because of its popularity, it was later launched in partnership with Baccarat under Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Baccarat Rouge 540, £215 for 70ml

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This Parisian fragrance house takes its inspiration from Asian culture and its appreciation and respect of nature. Each of its three collections pays homage to the traditional ceremonies at the heart of Japanese heritage, customs in which flowers, incense and teas play a major role. Founded in 2017 by husband and wife, Clara and John Molloy, Floraïku follows the success of the duo’s niche perfume house Memo Paris, launched a decade prior. The name Floraïku is a nod to the haiku – a small, three-line poem rooted in Japanese literature – which co- founder and poet Clara creates to tell the story of each perfume.

Perhaps the most interesting and innovative of Floraïku’s scents is its Shadowing collection. Comprising just two fragrances, Between Two Trees and Sleeping on the Roof (below), these can be worn alone or layered with any other Floraïku scent to create a light or dark ‘shadow’, making your fragrance truly unique. Sleeping on the Roof is the light shadow, described as floral and musky with green accents. Containing notes of sandalwood, geranium, lily of the valley, orange blossom and amber musk, it will lift another fragrance when worn side by side.

Sleeping on the Roof, €255 for 50ml

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Established in 2015, this independently owned, niche luxury British perfume house launched into the global market in 2019. Founded by Luke Granger and Jason Collison, it is driven by the creative forces behind brands such as Boadicea the Victorious and Thameen. Inspired by Ancient Rome and their obsession for perfume, which was woven throughout their everyday rituals, the name Electimuss is Latin for ‘to choose the best’, with the founders citing a shared obsession for ‘creativity and quality.’ Working with a selection of talented perfumers, including Julien Rasquinet, Christian Provenzano, and Sofia Bardelli, this relatively new-kid-on-the-block has expanded rapidly and now boasts 17 fragrances across four collections.

Mercurial Cashmere, part of the Nero Collection (previous page), is currently gaining a lot of attention thanks to its sweet, spicy and seductive scent. Telling the story of the god Mercury – who was fickle and untrustworthy but adored for his wit and irresistible charm – it has a spicy citrus top featuring Madgascan pink pepper and Italian bergamot, with a base of oud, musk, vanilla and cedarwood.

Mercurial Cashmere, £225 for 100ml

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More widely known for its luxury skincare, where it has been an elite staple for three decades, La Maison Valmont launched its first collection of perfumes in 2020, taking CEO Sophie Van Guillon back to where she began, in fragrance.

Storie Veneziane by Valmont is the embodiment of the company’s motto ‘Where art meets beauty’ – inspired by the vibrancy of Venice, and combining Sophie’s technical expertise and nose with her partner’s (Valmont president and artistic director, Didier Guillon) love of art, the seven bottles are all sculpted works of art featuring Venetian masks, each in a different colour, hand-blown by a master Murano glassblower, with caps trimmed in dyed saddle leather in Venetian tradition. This storytelling runs throughout its boutiques, including its latest, Parisian flagship store La Maison Valmont pour Le Meurice, where a bold Murano chandelier takes centre stage alongside a personalised selection of artworks curated by Didier himself.

The latest scent in the collection is Zafferano I, launched at the end of 2021, a unisex scent inspired by trade at the San Polo Marketplace, which fuses saffron, bigaradier flower, and oud essence.

Storie Veneziane Zafferano I, £451 for 100ml

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The man behind this eponymous perfume house is a true artist, citing photographer, filmmaker, fashion designer and hairstylist alongside perfumer on his impressive CV. Prior to launching his own line, he took on the role of creative director at Shiseido and challenged gender rules with the idea for the first ever unisex perfume, Féminité du bois, a vision brought to life in 1992 by perfumers Pierre Bourdin and Christopher Sheldrake. 30 years later, the fragrance is now sold under his own brand, Serge Lutens, launched in 2000, where it remains one of its bestsellers.

The unique scent, which heralded a new approach to how we perceive and wear perfume, perfectly blurs the line between feminine and masculine, with the warmth of cinnamon and ginger, earthiness of cedarwood, musk and cloves, and sweetness of orange blossom, peach and rose.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of this revolutionary and timeless scent, Serge Lutens has launched this signature perfume in a limited-edition bottle, available exclusively at Harvey Nichols.

Féminité du bois, £110 for 50ml