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Upon Second Sniff: BeautyMatter's Esxence 2022 Niche Fragrance Shortlist

Published July 3, 2022
Published July 3, 2022

For artisanal fragrance creators and enthusiasts, Esxence is akin to a mecca: four days of industry insights, networking, and fragranced scent strips galore, with visitor numbers this year reaching 9,000 and 279 brands exhibiting. BeautyMatter touched down in Milan to offer our viewpoints on the industry—our founder Kelly Kovack spoke on the panel “The Importance of Stories and Story Telling in Perfumery: A Literary Salon/Press Review” alongside fragrance journalist Sarah Colton, strategic communication expert Wouter Wiels, Nez magazine co-founder Dominique Brunel, perfumer Sarah Baker, and author Rafaela Capraruolo—and scope out all the olfactory glories the industry has to offer.

“We are witnessing a veritable renaissance for Artistic Perfumery, with a considerable increase in the numbers of international and Italian brands that have applied to take part in the event,” states Silvio Levi, co-founder of Esxence and Director of the Essencional Study Centre, which is dedicated to Artistic Perfumery R&D. “Attention has been returning in recent years to the importance of our sense of smell and people have rediscovered the fundamental role it plays in the everyday experience of individual wellness.” In Italy alone, the artisanal perfumery branch had an annual turnover of  €270 million in 2021, constituting 30.6% of fragrance sales overall.

The fragrance category has been witnessing a burgeoning influx of interest in recent years, with billion-dollar acquisitions and booming expansion plans. Here is our shortlist of fragrance brands with their finger on the (perfumed) pulse.

Established Players


Based in Istanbul, the fragrance house founded by Mert Güzel and Murat Katran offers enrapturing extrait de parfums. Inspirations range from the asteroid in The Little Prince (B-612) to the Bosporus waterways (Boszporusz), with the company’s latest release, the Time Capsule collection, offering up collaborations with industry legends Dominique Ropion, Anne Flipo, Jean-Louis Sieuzac, and Carlos Benaim in order “to tell mysteries of humanity’s experiences” via the concepts of time, action, belief, and place. Nishane, spelled “nişane” in Turkish, translates to mark or symbol, and the brand certainly has left an impressive imprint on the fragrance landscape.

Pierre Guillaume Paris

Timeless modernity is perhaps the best way to describe the olfactory stylings of nose Pierre Guillaume, whose career began at age 25 by emulating the scent of his father’s cigar cellar. The resulting fragrance, 02 Coze, was hailed as “Europe’s coolest new fragrance” by New York Times scent critic Chandler Burr upon release, and Guillaume’s brand has been on an upward trajectory ever since, with almost 330 points of sale across 25 countries to date. From best sellers like Le Musc et La Peau (a second-skin scent comprised of seven different musks, a precursor to the “you, but only better” perfumes of the late 2010s) to the dark gourmand creation Anti-Blues, inspired by the paintings of Narrative Figuration spearhead Jacques Monory, Guillaume weaves together complementary and contrasting notes in an intriguing fashion that has become a memorable olfactory signature.

Etat Libre d’Orange

Etat Libre d’Orange may have gained notoriety with Sécrétions Magnifiques—the polarizing blood, sweat, saliva, and sperm-scented creation—but the company has proved itself an innovator many times over, from the upcycled Les Fleurs du Déchet to the transhumanist-inspired The Ghost in the Shell. Its latest release, an ode to the strength of one’s inner child thanks to a cocooning blend of cinnamon, vanilla, chestnut, and rum, is simply tired Frustration, proof that Etat Libre d’Orange founder Etienne de Swardt isn’t afraid to voice what many of us are thinking on the inside.

Masque Milano

Italy has a legacy for craftsmanship, and Masque Milano is no exception to that reputation. Founded in 2013 by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, the house’s approach to creation is one of the Opera of life in four acts: experiences, inner monologues, relationships, and dreams. Just like a well-crafted operatic production, their fragrances don’t give away the entire plot at the start, instead evolving through stages of exquisitely combined materials such as the milk accords and carrot heart of Lost Alice ( a reference to the Mad Hatter’s tea party) and the glossy lipstick and hazelnut accords of Times Square.

Ulrich Lang New York

An exceptional fragrance can create an entire image with one spray, which is why Ulrich Lang’s marriage of contemporary photography with high-end perfumery makes for such a well-rounded pairing. An image of clouds by visual artist Elspeth Diederix equates to the light and clean-smelling aromatic profile of Lightscapes, a composition of lemon, cyclamen, and violet leaf, while a portrait of Belgian art dealer Roger Szmulewicz photographed by  Erik Swain laid the foundations for the brand’s first men’s fragrance, Anvers, which pairs the masculine classics of raw materials (bergamot, lime, leather, moss) with unexpected contenders like sesame, honey, and guava. Similarly to a striking image, one is drawn in for a second inspection.

Calé Fragranze d'Autore

Created in 2008 by Levi, Calé Fragranze d’Autore focuses on listening to fragrance, and following its narrative and the resulting emotions rather than note pyramids. For this year’s Esxence, the company provided a virtual-reality and exanaural sound-fueled exploration of two fragrances: Roboris and Libera Mente. Designated booths offered a 360-degree VR experience in Death Valley just prior to rainfall for Roboris, and a busy city moment followed by a retreat into a peaceful Japanese garden for Libera Mente, allowing the participant to listen to a coordinating soundtrack and inhale the smell of each fragrance. Roboris, a woody amber scent created in collaboration with Mark Buxton, echoes this landscape with desert-appropriate notes such as cactus, amber, and sandalwood, with violet leaf, jasmine, rhubarb, and wisteria nodding to vegetation which follows rainfall. Libera Mente, made in partnership with Maurizio Cerizza, pays homage to its garden landscape with watery notes, magnolia, fir, and vetiver, while watery notes, ginger, and seaweed, echo the splash of invigoration one finds in a buzzing city.

Creative Mavericks


From its tea, to incense ceremonies, Japan is a land of rich olfactory histories and traditions. Aiming to capture these experiences in a bottle, the brand has released fragrances including Hanamizake (a pairing of sake and cherry blossoms), Rakugan (an ode to the nation’s delicately crafted sweets), and Sumo Wrestler (inspired by the scent of the hair oils used by sumo athletes). J-Scent’s Black Leather fragrance already garnered the brand an accolade in the Pure Beauty Global Awards’ Best New Niche Fragrance category.


The legacy of Édit(h) fragrances dates back to 1905, with the opening of manufacturer Moriyama Inc., which creates traditional stamp pads known as shuniku. The brand’s creative director Kentaro Kuzuwa channels the manufacturing, expertise, and materials for shuniku into perfumery, resulting in beautiful creations such as the smoky tea notes of Souchong journey, the rum-meets-rose of Rose Mojito, and the yuzu and geranium-infused Yuzuki.

Christèle Jacquemin

There is a haunting beauty to Jacquemin’s creations, the lingering question of what notes the nose picked up on that pulls one right back in. Each creation is inspired by the photographer’s travels, from the crispness of frozen ice in the French Alps for Enlightenment (recreated with notes of white sage, black spruce needles, and iris) to the sheer yet grounding notes of hinoki, vetiver, and rosemary in Impermanence (inspired by a stay in the Shanghai town of Jinze). One Esxence visitor was even moved to tears upon smelling one of the brand’s creations—if that isn’t a ringing endorsement for the power of Christèle Jacquemin’s fragrances, we don’t know what is.


Take your craft, but not yourself, seriously is the modus operandi for Swiss perfumer Andreas Wilhelm, a welcome antidote to an industry often marketing prestige and the proverbial velvet rope. Each creation is actually an offset from bespoke creations for clients, the little gems that got lost along the way. To put a spin on the saying, one person’s reject is another’s romance, and the resulting eau de parfums are anything but second choice. Think sea breeze and pineapple notes in Blue 3135C and an orris, leather, and ginger in Blue 3135C. The brand goes beyond disclosing the ingredients: the entire formula for each scent is printed on the bottle. For those needing a little more guidance, he offers Perfume Hacking Kits, DIY kits along with formulas for two of his fragrances (the spicy amber Black C and woody oud fragrance Yellow 130C). Simply put, Andreas Wilhelm is a man of the people, and we at BeautyMatter salute his transparency.

The Naturals

Hiram Green

Since 2013, perfumer Hiram Green has been crafting all-natural fragrances. What some might see as business foresight given the immense interest in this fragrance category, was an attempt to dismantle any preconceived notions of drawbacks to eschewing synthetic ingredients. What began with the opulent, tuberose-focused Moon Bloom has now blossomed into a seven fragrance-strong collection, with the leather-themed Hyde winning the Art & Olfaction Artisan award in 2019. For his latest creation, Arcadia, Green imbued the fougère genre with his own olfactory signature, blending herbal lavender with refreshing bergamot, traversing a floral heart of jasmine and rose before landing on a smooth base of sandalwood, tonka bean, and patchouli.


Naturals for a new generation, Floratropia blends minimalist aesthetics and convenient refill pouch packaging  with handmade fragrance created in the legacy-rich perfume destination of Grasse. From the lightweight iris of Le Ciel to the spicy floral of Le Feu, the range shows that consumers looking to minimize their carbon footprint needn’t compromise on fragrance enjoyment or aesthetics.

Home Fragrance


While like any self-respecting rock ‘n’ roll enterprise, Coreterno has consumers covered, from illustrated T-shirts to hedonistic eau de parfums with names like Punk Motel, we’re especially betting our bottom wick on their home fragrance line. Releasing candles from their restrained lives in a bourgeois household, founders Francilla Ronchi and Michelangelo Brancato have created a visual identity that is best described as a (pleasant) acid trip into the Baroque era. Traditional oil portraits of the grand dames and high-flying gentlemen of society get punkified with Bowie lightning-strike makeup and anarchy symbols on collars, surrounded by gold leaf embellishments. Matching what’s inside the vessel to the outside, creations include the invigorating grapefruit and juniper berries scent The Revolution, and the aptly named The Pleasure, which contains sensual notes of rose and jasmine.


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