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The Indie Fragrance Retailers Offering Olfactive Close Encounters

Published August 6, 2023
Published August 6, 2023
Scent Bar

The $45.85 billion global fragrance market is showing no signs of slowing down, and with that flourishing growth comes the search for the correct venues to display and sell products. More than any other beauty product, perfumes best sell themselves through direct physical contact—unless you ask the legions of #perfumetok followers who are happy to snap up their favorite influencer recommendations as blind buys. For those shopping in-store, a curated selection and personalized recommendations can make all the difference for deciphering the vast seas of product.

As far as stand-alone boutiques go, Maison Margiela’s futuristic high-tech space for encountering its Replica series in Singapore and Amouage’s luxurious flagship in Muscat showcase the vast potential of turning shelves and display stands into a complete company cosmos. Global travel retailer Dufry is injecting luxury into the duty-free space, while Target is reinventing fragrance at mass. But what about the multi-brand, independent boutique?

Especially in the artisan category of fragrance—where narratives, inspirations, and unconventional ingredient pairings often take priority over snapping up the bestseller of the month—a thoughtful brick-and-mortar experience is paramount. Whether it's passionate sales staff or AI-driven fragrance matchmakers, a host of independent boutiques are helping fragrance connoisseurs find their next fragrance to be. BeautyMatter rounds up the niche fragrance retailers that have waded through the tricky waters of pandemic shutdowns to now offer eager noses the opportunity to drown themselves in fragrance test strips with reckless abandon. We also spoke to the creative minds behind these enterprises to hear their take on the current fragrance market in 2023 and beyond.

Aedes de Venustas 

Established in 1995 by Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner, this perfumery first set up shop in New York's West Village before relocating to the Lower East Side in 2018. Whereas previously fragrance purchases were designated to department stores and other mass retailers, Aedes de Venustas was an early pioneer of the niche fragrance boutique concept, bringing international and independent perfume brands such as L'Artisan Parfumeur to a new market while also making way for a more considered and slower-paced shopping experience.

The store’s name stands for “temple of beauty” in Latin, and the space certainly lives up to its premise with its sumptuous Victorian-style interior, complete with lacquered mahogany furniture and colorful floral bouquet arrangements. Aside from its namesake brand, the store offers fragrant products from Cire Trudon, Memo Paris, Fornasetti, and Nomenclature (of which Bradl is a co-founder).

How would you describe the current state of niche fragrance?

Karl Bradl, co-founder: In the perfume world, things have been shaking up quite a bit in the past years. It appears that many niche perfume brands are ruling social media feeds and become the "new mainstream," so to speak, via these platforms.

At the same time, however, we see a clear trend with clients looking for exclusivity and rarity, alongside good quality. As a small perfumery, we focus entirely on this direction. In the US market, we are keeping our brand Aedes de Venustas solely in our boutique, sparking a greater demand.

What are the biggest perfume trends of the future?

KB: Hard to predict, but I think there is a big wave for unusual ingredients that awaken the consumer's curiosity: the sharp, green palm leaf extract in Palmetto [by Nomenclature] and cotton candy in the fridge in Pink Ivory by Nomenclature's Modern Eclectics collection, or the sparkling champagne note in Dom Rosa by Liquides Imaginaires, or the horse smell in Naomi Goodsir's Corpus Equus, for example.

What are your 5 bestselling fragrances?

  1. Iris Nazarena by Aedes de Venustas
  2. Copal Azur by Aedes de Venustas
  3. Adr_ett by Nomenclature
  4. Cierge de Lune by Aedes de Venustas
  5. Psy_cou by Nomenclature

Ministry of Scent

The San Francisco–based retailer offers fragrance creations from the house of D.S. & Durga, Heretic, Room 1015, Yosh, Bon Parfumeur, and Maison Anonyme, to name a few. Owner Antonia Kohl set up the enterprise in 2015 under the name Tigerlily Perfumery before rebranding to Ministry of Scent in 2022, complete with an art deco-esque logo and eye-catching displays.

As the company states: “Our mission is to present well-crafted and unique fragrances that bring beauty and joy into people's lives, encouraging exploration and playfulness in the discovery of wonderful wearable scents.” Judging by the smiling visitors and brand owners on its premises posted on Ministry of Scent’s social media account, mission accomplished.

How would you describe the current state of niche fragrance?

Antonia Kohl, co-founder: Exciting! For the past three years we've seen a tremendous increase in interest in niche and independent perfume. Our audience is getting younger, with millennials and Gen Zs using fragrance to express their personal style. During the pandemic, so many people learned and shared about niche fragrance on social media and we benefited by having an excellent sampling program for online shoppers. Our growth has continued to be phenomenal, and we love this dynamic and growing community of scent lovers.

What are the biggest perfume trends of the future?

AK: The marketing position of "seduction" feels tired; young perfume buyers are more interested in creativity and self-expression. Gendering of fragrance is over; men no longer fear the flower. Men's fragrance is on fire; our customer base is now over 50% male presenting, and young guys are the new collectors. Price sensitivity is overshadowed by quality and originality; people will invest in what they feel is a work of art.

What are your top 5 bestselling fragrances?

1. Cherry Punk by Room 1015
2. Unknown Pleasures by Kerosene
3. Followed by Kerosene
4. Plum in Congac by Scents of Wood
5. Vanagloria by Laboratorio Olfattivo


An acronym for “Modern Urban Sensory Experiences,” Muse is the first niche fragrance retailer of its kind in NYC’s Harlem neighborhood, nested in a historic brownstone building. Founder Kimberly Waters set up the space to bring the magic of artisanal perfumery to her local community. Alongside brands like Nasomatto, Gallivant, and Olfactive Studio, Muse is the exclusive East Coast stockist for Maya Njie, a London-based fragrance house which marries West African and Swedish culture in its fragrances.

The space’s interior feels both welcoming and polished, with sleek furniture accompanied by colorful artworks in a setup that merges an intimate homely space with a boutique experience. The space regularly hosts in-person events with brand owners like Maya Njie and Gallivant’s Nick Steward to give its customers even more insight into the creative process behind their favorite scents. Those unable to visit in person can book a virtual experience to guide them through the space’s collection.

How would you describe the current state of niche fragrance?

Kimberly Waters, founder: I continue to believe that individuals still desire to smell different, and niche fragrances offer that ability. Niche fragrances are the talk of social media influencers, content creators, and enthusiasts. With that being said, its high visibility allows people to be curious and explorative.

Yet I have not seen or smelled many exciting niche scents lately. I’m waiting for the cycle of creativity to happen again in this space. Because things are circular, I’m confident that it will happen very soon.

What are the biggest perfume trends of the future?

KW: I’m not sure what the future trends of perfume will be. However, I’m hoping that there is some great discovery of a unique raw material that takes the space to even higher levels.

What are your top 5 bestselling fragrances?

  1. Los Angeles by Gallivant
  2. Les Fleurrs by Maya Njie
  3. God of Fire by Stephan Humbert Lucas
  4. Rose Shot by Olfactive Studios
  5. Iris Cendre by Naomi Goodsir

Scent Bar

Also known by its digital presence, Luckyscent, Scent Bar is the company’s physical iteration with locations in NYC, Hollywood, and downtown LA. Brands include new entries and cult names alike—Kerosene, BORNTOSTANDOUT, Chris Collins, Tauer Perfumes, and Xerjoff—set atop white shelves organized according to fragrance themes such as fruity floral or gourmand rather than brand-specific arrangements; a minimalist setting for a maximalist perfume offering. 

The company was founded by graphic designers Adam Eastwood and Franco Wright in 2002. “We often describe Scent Bar as a ‘wine bar’ for fragrance, a place where you can sit and relish extraordinary scents for as long as your schedule will allow,” they state. Therefore the Scent Bar shopping experience is one of a bespoke consultation, where it is less about the shopper seeking out a specific brand and more about finding the perfume that speaks to the feeling or style they are searching for. Putting customer satisfaction before the immediate sale, Scent Bar also offers complimentary samples for shoppers to try out fragrances at their own pace.

How would you describe the current state of niche fragrance?

Franco Wright, co-founder: Niche is evolving and growing at an unprecedented rate … and in a very much exciting way. Brands and creators continue to innovate, especially pushing the boundaries with raw materials. Design, branding, storytelling, sustainability, social media—there’s so much vitality surrounding niche.

What are the biggest perfume trends of the future?

FW: Sustainability, “clean,” vegan, eco-friendly, these are purpose-led ideals that we’re seeing a lot of now, and would imagine much more so in the future. Also, more and more fragrance consumers are becoming collectors—so I believe we’ll see the mini size perfume options (e.g., 10ml) gain in popularity, allowing collectors to continue to expand their fragrance wardrobe with relative affordability.

What are your top 5 bestselling fragrances?

  1. Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules
  2. Mango Skin by Vilhelm Parfumerie
  3. Delina by Parfums de Marly
  4. Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
  5. Bois Impérial by Essential Parfums

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