ScentXplore promotes the recognition of excellence in niche perfumery, whether for brands, perfumers, distributors and content creators. Our annual AWARDS selection process is unique – with the exception of Lifetime Achievement, awards in all the categories are chosen by the attendees themselves, via a thorough voting system.
The true niche fragrance lovers are the ones who speak.
2023 Award Categories
Brand Concept & Portfolio
Originality. Focus on the scent. High quality. Creativity. Exclusivity. Those are terms frequently used to differentiate niche perfumery from mainstream perfumery. In order to be original, niche brands avoid using focus groups, following trends or creating fragrances solely based on cost effectiveness. They are concept driven, and not afraid to tackle unusual themes and notes. Mainstream clothing brands are not necessarily passionate about fragrances.
Niche brands focus on the scent itself. They differentiate themselves by offering fragrances with the finest and rarest ingredients, which sometimes come from very specific places, not easily sourced.
Niche brands are all about high quality. Instead of appealing to marketing tools to convince the largest possible audience to buy their fragrances, niche brands stand out for taking inspiration from art, history, nature, places and memories. They are more creative. And by working on a smaller scale, with limited points of sales and typically higher prices, niche brands end up being more exclusive and are associated with sophistication and luxury.
ScentXplore would like to honor our participating brands which offer a well formulated and executed concept along with a portfolio that shows a great range of genres and versatility within their creations.
Criteria: For this category, only brands with a minimum of 6 fragrances are eligible.
One of the beauties of niche perfumery is the chance to interact directly with the brands. Sometimes with the perfumer, the artistic nose, or even the owner. Although this could be a reality up to the mid 1900s, the massification of the perfume industry made this impracticable. Speaking with a perfumer, until recently, was inconceivable. An average consumer could eventually have the opportunity to participate in a focus group, but their input would still be a drop in the ocean. One could know someone working for a fragrance house, but that someone would probably have limited influence on the creation of a perfume.
Of course, the approachability of niche brands is only possible due to smaller production batches and a tighter sales chain. They don’t need the “approval” of the general public. As such, niche brands are more likely to listen to consumers and get straight feedback from them in real time if that’s what they want. It’s all more democratic, with a better understanding of the consumers’ needs.
ScentXplore would like to honor niche brands which excel in approachability and offer consumers a certain level of deeper connection, accessibility and inclusiveness – the chance to be part of the process.
Criteria: For this category, all our participating brands are eligible.
Fragrance of the Year
What is a good fragrance? Evidently, it’s a matter of taste. Or maybe memories. We all know that the sense of smell is the strongest of all and that each individual associates a smell with their own personal memories. The smell of their beloved grandmother, or the fragrance they wore in the midst of a break-up… However, once that first barrier is crossed – the emotional barrier –, perfume wearers take other criteria into account. Although the aesthetics of a bottle and the brand itself play an important role in the selection process, even if unconsciously, performance seems to be nowadays the most important criteria, both in mainstream and niche perfumery.
But niche consumers tend to have a more seasoned nose, enough to take into account the artistry, dynamics and originality of a fragrance. The concoction of notes and accords, sometimes done in an unusual way, and how the composition evolves on the skin are fundamental. Niche consumers are more likely to wait for the heart and base notes to reveal themselves, while mainstream brands have only a few seconds to conquer the consumers’ attention. In any case, like any other category, the choice is yours.
Criteria: All fragrances released by ScentXplore’s participating brands from: January 1st 2023 through November 30th 2023 are eligible.
Rising Star Perfumer
Up until the massification of perfumery, which began in the late 70s, perfumers were mysterious and secretive, working in the shadows. They were so scarce that few people actually knew a perfumer. They used to compose a much smaller number of fragrances. A single fragrance could take up to 5 years to be finished. Perfumers were more hands-on and freer to exercise their creativity with their own palette. By the 90s, quantity and variety became more important than quality and complexity.
Not able to launch original fragrances to fulfill the constant demand for novelty, fashion designer brands started to launch variations, and a sea of flankers flooded the market. The vast majority of perfumers were now working for fragrance houses, also known as oil houses. Very few designers kept in-house perfumers. To cope with the pressure, seasoned perfumers began to share their tasks with a team of junior perfumers and lab assistants. His or her role was diluted. But the boom of niche perfumery at the turn of the new millennium brought back the role of a traditional perfumer. Rather than reverse-engineering their knowledge and talent to comply with a briefing, perfumers now have more freedom to create. Most of them receive a broader, concept-oriented briefing, where they can dare more.
ScentXplore would like to honor these heroes, who play a fundamental role in perfumery.
Criteria: New perfumers that have shown outstanding quality within their niche perfume creations in a time-span of at least 5 years.
Up-and-coming niche brand
At the turn of the millennium, the perfume industry was saturated. Consumers wanted more, and so niche perfumery boomed. A decade later, it became much easier for aspiring perfumers to access raw materials, tools and education to make their own oeuvres. But only a fraction of them thrive. A niche market is by definition challenging, where the small and unknown compete with the big and famous, and the return on investment is far from predictable.
Niche fragrance brands must constantly prove their worth. Niche fragrance consumers are typically more demanding in terms of quality, originality and even social responsibility, in addition to, of course, an attractive smell and impeccable performance. Niche brands also need to be profitable despite working with smaller batches and limited resources and distribution. They need to excel in making themselves visible and relevant in a sustainable way.
ScentXplore would like to honor our participating new brands who have been overcoming market barriers and shown a promising worth to niche perfumery.
Criteria: For this category, only brands with up to 5 years of existence and a minimum of 6 fragrances in their portfolio are eligible for this award.
One of the main characteristics of niche perfumery is its limited distribution – undeniably part of its appeal. Independent fragrance brands tend not to have the same capillarity as the major clothing and accessories brands and their respective presence in shopping malls, duty frees and department stores. Therein lies the crucial role of niche fragrance distributors/retailers. They are essential to make niche fragrances more known and accessible to consumers.
Those are companies that bet big on fragrances that normally do not have mainstream appeal, or brands that are little known, therefore with less predictable sales and higher inventory costs. They invest in sales personnel with exceptional knowledge. Due to the inherent high stakes of the niche market, most of their owners/managers are visionary, knowledgeable and passionate about niche fragrances. They see the potential of brands that can make a difference.
ScentXplore would like to honor these players who are essential to niche fragrance consumers.
Criteria: For this category, all our participating distributors/retailers are eligible.
The term blog was first used in 1997, referring to a sort of interactive online journal, generally focused on a particular subject. Roughly at the same time, as a response to the massification of the perfume market, niche perfumery started to boom. In 2000, the Basenotes forum and database were established. In 2001, Céline Verleure launched the first blog focused on perfumery, and named it Osmoz. Nez was started in 2007 with the creation of the online magazine auparfum.com. Fragrantica was founded in 2005. Parfumo in 2008. Meanwhile, perfume historians, former industry employees and aficionados started to create blogs so they could share their knowledge and interact with like-minded people. A few years later, with the YouTube boom, several bloggers became vloggers.
Translating smells into words is quite an endeavor. It not only requires a lot of knowledge, which traditionally has been limited, restricted or even secretive – but also a great ability to describe, contextualize and make fragrances relatable to the general public.
ScentXplore would like to honor our colleagues who create content related to perfumery and play an invaluable role in the fragcom.
This category is split into two awards:
Most Impactful Content Creator – Writing (blogs, columns, books)
Most Impactful Content Creator – Vlogging (social media)
Criteria: Any content creator is eligible for these awards as long as they have a blog, column, or social media channel that has produced consistent and relevant content for at least a 12-month period, or at least one written and published book.
Lifetime Achievement – Dominique Roques
Dominique Roques has dedicated more than three decades of his life to sourcing precious ingredients that are crucial to the perfume industry, understanding not only them but the people involved in local communities around the world
Known as the “cueilleur d’essences”, or the collector of essences, Roques travels non-stop around the globe, whether studying the sweet extracts of vanilla bean in Madagascar and tonka bean in Venezuela, or the dry resins of benzoin in Laos and frankincense in Somaliland, a place to which he is very attached. With a solidary personality, the concerns of this world-renowned authority range from the implementation of sustainable extraction methods to the improvement of labor standards of collectors who live in precarious and dangerous living conditions due to the climate, crime and greed. Roques’s studies allow us to better understand the geography, history and culture of local communities, what is behind the entire perfume chain, from the source of raw materials to the finished formula in the laboratories of leading fragrance houses. Due to the focus on natural and precious ingredients, niche brands rely heavily on Roques’s outstanding work.
ScentXplore humbly acknowledges Dominique Roques’s contribution to the perfume universe with our Life Achievement Award.