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Our Edit Of The Best Fragrance Brands From 2018: Curionoir, Ostens and The Harmonist

We’ve just had a terrific year for fragrance launches. 2018 saw an incredible variety of beautiful fragrances come to the market but perhaps more remarkable, was the number of interesting new brands that launched, with whole collections of exceptional fragrances.

Launching an entirely new brand is bold. To say nothing of expensive. There are already many, many lovely perfume brands already available, so new launches really need a strong point of difference, a clever, never-before-done angle on scent to stand out on the already overcrowded scent shelf. Otherwise, what’s the point? The perfumed path-to-purchase is littered with enthusiastic failures.

But we’re in the middle of a big change within the perfume world, Euromonitor’s recent report stated a paradigm shift happening with us modern consumers, as we search out a more personalised, sustainable and sophisticated fragrance choice. We are informed and bold perfume-shoppers now, and we want a contemporary scent, not something our parents wore – even though we love to be reminded of these nostalgic scent-memories.

Last year saw a surge in new brand launches from modern perfumers and creatives wanting to bring a little disruption to what can often be a slow-to-change industry. We’ve selected the three that most impressed us with the quality and originality of the fragrances, ones that made us double-take on both the scents themselves and the ideas behind their construction. We urge you to try them.

Curionoir – a botanical story 

When we met Tiffany Jeans, the founder of New Zealand based Curionoir fragrance house, we instantly connected with her gentle and reflective vibe. Her fragrances are conjured from loving memories of her Maori heritage, family rituals and traditions involving her grandparents love of their land and knowledge of indigenous botanicals. She works with French perfumers on formulas and then completes the small batch fragrances in her Auckland store.

Tiffany’s artful aesthetic, which is all dark romance and ethereal wistfulness, extends not just to the deliciously saturnine fragrances but also to their intensity, as they are all extrait strength and presented in glass-stoppered bottles, as she prefers the more thoughtful ritual of stroking the scent onto skin. She is a superb storyteller through her fragrances, by the time we’d worked our way through them we wanted to move to New Zealand to experience the landscape she talks so freely about.

There are currently seven fragrances, of which Opia, with its clear ring of woody elegance and Dark Bouquet, a mash up of richly floral botanicals experienced through a veil of romantic desperation, are our favourites. You may also want to try Pūrotu Rose, a smoky floral inspired by a Maori tangi (funeral) where the fragrance of fresh roses picked from Tiffany’s great grandfather’s land mingled with the smoky aromas of food – cooked within the ground – to celebrate his life. Try the range at The Conran Shop, or indulge in some 4ml pocket sized trial scents via the website.

Ostens – fragrant sustainability

There’s a lot to be excited about with the new Ostens collection. Firstly, there’s the high-quality ingredients that make up the Préparations perfume oils of Rose, Jasmine, Cashmeran, Cedarwood and Patchouli, offered in the highest (legally allowed) concentrations. Then there’s the ground breaking transparency of what goes in the bottle, listing the supplier, International Flavours & Fragrances and LMR Naturals (IFF – LMR) on the fragrance label in a move that will have other brands clutching their pearls, as supply houses are normally kept hidden behind the scenes.

The brand’s commitment to a sustainable supply chain is also impressive, IFF- LMR use block chain technology to track ingredients and invest heavily in supporting farmers to grow sustainably all over the world. Many brands say their ingredients are top quality and sustainable, Ostens can actually prove it.

Finally, and most importantly, there’s the fragrances themselves. The delicious oils are perfect as anchor notes, worn on their own, where they sing out with clarity or as ‘underneath’ notes to other fragrances, allowing you to personalise and bespoke your final scented hit. Rose Oil Isparta, made with Turkish grown damascena roses, has a hint of lychee and the richly floral Jasmine Absolute, we also love the smooth Patchouli Heart, which pimps up any chypre fragrance it’s layered under and adds a weighty elegance to more fly-away citrus and floral perfumes.

The Impression eau de parfums take the individual notes and amplify the story. I.F.F LMR perfumers have been given free run at creation. Sophie Labbe’s Patchouli Heart No 2 (there are two patchouli Impressions because the founders Laurent Delafon and Chris Yu loved both the creations which made it to the final edit) is a soft and elegant interpretation on the note and Alexis Dadier’s Cedarwood Heart is a pine and tobacco-drenched wood fragrance you won’t realise until the moment you inhale it, is exactly how you want to smell. If you’re quick you can catch the pop up store on London’s Blandford Street, which is open until 28th Feb 2019, or see the range online.

The Harmonist – thoughtful selection

It’s still not easy to discover what’s best for you, scent-wise, it’s too much hard work having to smell everything. The part American, part French brand The Harmonist has come up with a clever way to find your perfect fragrance by making your stars align. In a nutshell, The Harmonist Feng Shui’s you, via an online questionnaire and suggests fragrances that sits in harmony with your inner self, in some cases even adding missing elements via the fragrances. We’re all trying to lessen our stress and improve our wellbeing, and this ability to relate to inner balance and empower through your scent fits neatly into the zeitgeist.

The fragrances are constructed around the five elements of Feng Shui, water, metal, fire, earth and wood, using the characteristics of the philosophy to create scents from ingredients best matched to each element. Strangely, when we tested them we found we were indeed drawn to the one ‘picked’ for us by the Feng Shui directive. Obviously you don’t have to have the recommended one, but it’s a great jumping off point. We loved the innovative discovery idea, introducing you to a scent through other emotions and nudging you in a direction you might not have thought to go.

The bottles are refillable – hurrah -and there’s a monthly reading chart on the website to act as a support for those who are really involved with the philosophy. It’s addictive and surprisingly calming to link scent selection to emotional wellbeing. It’s a quality selection of intriguing fragrances, but we’re currently wearing Golden Wood, a grounding oaky, nutty wrap that seems to glow on warm skin, there’s a hint of mandarin, a blur of comforting maltiness and worn leather.