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Fragrance Friday: 4 Underrated French Perfume Brands Worth Your Attention
— Updated on 5 July 2023

Fragrance Friday: 4 Underrated French Perfume Brands Worth Your Attention

— Updated on 5 July 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

Welcome to Fragrance Friday, where each week we’ll be keeping you abreast of the newest and most iconic releases in the dynamic world of men’s fragrances. Born out of the desire to showcase one of the most overlooked, yet versatile, elements of any discerning man’s style this weekly column will help you finesse your own signature scent. This week we focus on some underrated French perfume brands that deserve your attention.

A few weeks ago I rounded up some of my favourite Italian perfume brands, from the inescapable freshness of Aqua di Parma to the lushness of Xerjoff. Consider this a bit of a follow-up then, hopping over to another important part of continental Europe and a country that’s inseparable from the perfume industry.

That’s France, of course, and you simply can’t have a discussion about some of the world’s most storied perfume brands without giving a heavy nod to La République Française.

Much like in Italy, walk into any of France’s most noted hotels and you’ll get an idea of how tightly meshed some of these historic perfume brands are to French luxury. Similarly, head along to any of the boutiques from legendary houses like Creed or Houbigant to get a sense of France’s long-held admiration for the art of perfumery.

The following are symbols of luxury, again reiterating how big of a deal perfume is in Europe and how, even if you weren’t sold on the idea of fragrance being an essential part of a man’s style, it’s well worth looking at these stalwart brands, both old and decidedly modern.

They are also ones that fly under some radars and hence qualify as underrated relative to their quality. I’m talking about brands like Kilian, Maison Francis Kurkdijan and BDK – high-end fragrance houses that often get lost in the conversation about French perfumery. A conversation that’s most often dominated by the likes of Creed, Christian Dior, Memos Paris, Le Labo and, of course, Chanel.

In France, there are almost too many brands to choose from. Icons like Lubin, D’Orsay, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Guerlain have been left out simply because I haven’t really gone hands-on with many of their perfumes before. I’m strictly sticking with what are feel are some vastly underrated French perfume brands, but I’ll likely decide to flip that and do a “best of” round-up in a subsequent Fragrance Friday.

Granted, the following perfume brands aren’t exactly unknown. They just often get left out in discussions as mentioned above. Labels like Kilian and BDK have long been held in high regard by anyone with even a fleeting interest in niche perfumery, but those who typically linger on the surface and rarely peer beyond the designer brands should be paying attention to these.

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Out of all the fragrance houses on this list, I find Kilian the be one of the most interesting. Kilian Hennessy is a seasoned pro at putting out these unique high-end scents that are both distinctive and divisive. One of my favourite perfumes to date has been Rolling In Love, but there’s also Angel’s Share which I wrote about in a previous Fragrance Friday dedicated to scents that smell like your favourite spirits.

Kilian is probably best-known commercially for being Rihanna’s favourite perfume brand, with Love, Don’t Be Shy specifically being her favourite scent. That one’s more targeted towards women, but it’s not overly so – it could just as easily be marketed as a unisex fragrance.

BDK Parfums

Some of my favourite fragrances of the year have been coming from BDK, a relatively young brand headquartered out of Paris. Founded by David Benedek when he was 24, the independent label has a few award nods to its name, namely for the excellent Rouge Smoking which has become one of its most beloved expressions.

Tabac Rose and Villa Neroli have been heavy in circulation for me, and are two great examples of how seamless a BDK profile is. The latter, with heavy bottom notes of vanilla absolute and vetiver from Madagascar, as well as patchouli from Sulawesi and labdanum resinoid from Spain, really validates the very specific approach BDK takes with its ingredients.

Maison Francis Kurkdijan

Although it’s still difficult to come across in Australia (Mecca stocks the brand – that’s about it), Maison Francis Kurkdijan is worth the effort it takes to land on scents like the patchouli-rose bomb of Lumière Noire or the poetic, woody brilliance of Baccarat Rouge.

Francis Kurkdijan founded this label back in 2009 alongside former Ernst & Young associate Marc Chaya, where the duo has shown time and time again how much creativity is still left in the space. They were so successful in building up distinctive, high-value fragrances that LVMH bought a majority share in the company a few years ago.

Maison Crivelli

Created in 2018 by Thibaud Crivelli, this label is an absolute show-stealer at its best moments, like the alluring Bois Datchai and the rich Ambre Chromatique. Masion Crivelli offers very specific fragrances that are closer to one-note scents, keeping the profiles rather tight so its perfumers can really go hard on notes and explore different nuances grabbed from minimal ingredients.

That desire for specificity is no more evident than in some of the label’s latest releases like Hibiscus Mahajad and Patchouli Magnetik, both fragrances that take powdery approaches to their hero ingredient and let them evolve with different supporting notes from top to base. These are divisive niche perfumes, presenting a love or hate that can be rewarding or damning. Boldness counts for a lot in niche perfumery so I’d recommend ordering samples before taking the full dive.

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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