Cult Perfumes

Elisa on what gives perfume a cult status.

What makes a fragrance a “cult fragrance”? It’s not enough for a perfume to simply be popular; bestsellers like Coco Mademoiselle and Light Blue don’t qualify. A cult fragrance needs obsessively devoted fans, while remaining a little mysterious and under the radar. Thus its fans can form a kind of counterculture – they understand something that the general population does not.


So what enables a perfume to develop a small but intensely devoted following? The following criteria certainly help:

  • The perfume is hard to find – it’s a limited edition, discontinued, only available online or in Europe, etc.
  • The perfume has a love-it-or-hate-it quality; there is something weird or off-putting about it on first sniff, which some people end up finding addictive.

Sometimes only one or the other is true, but when both are true, you have the making of a cult fragrance on your hands.

If you read perfume blogs, you’re bound to hear about these cult fragrances over and over. With some of the below perfumes, the descriptions I read gave me desperate lemmings; they haunted me until I found a sample. With others, just the opposite was true – I actively avoided them, fearing their notoriety would make them hard to love or worse, easy to hate. Here they are in the order I managed to try them.


Ormonde Jayne Woman

I was duly enticed by Tania Sanchez’s delicious description of this scent as “lulling and unsettling in equal measure … like the call of a faraway candy house.” Available at Linda Pilkington’s London-based Ormonde Jayne shop, the eponymous feminine is a justifiably well-known cross between an amber and a green chypre, with a distinctive bittersweet spiciness. It feels both prickly and soft, like walking on a forest path covered in pine needles. However, some will find its high proportion of Iso E Super (a favorite woody material of perfumer Geza Schoen) difficult to tolerate.

Clinique Wrappings

Much like Estée Lauder’s Bronze Goddess, which is only available in the summer, Wrappings shows up in stores, in limited quantities, around the holidays and quickly sells out. There also never seems to be a tester. I was waffling over buying it unsniffed when a friend sent me an extra gift box. If Ormonde Jayne Woman is the forest it came from, Wrappings is the lit-up, tinseled Christmas tree: a clean, green pine scent sparkling with bright-white aldehydes. Bonus: The body lotion that comes in the gift box has incredible, overnight lasting power.


Kai isn’t one that I went out of my way to try, perhaps because it has a reputation as a celebrity favorite. Well, it turns out celebrities have pretty good taste in perfume, because Kai is actually a beautiful tropical floral, similar to Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, one of the best in the genre. It smells clean and expensive, like a rich woman’s bathroom, but with that slightly poisonous note of petrol that makes gardenia so intoxicating.

People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo

Count this one among the cult perfumes I avoided for years. Probably the quintessential cult fragrance, Luctor et Emergo even has its own inscrutable acronym: junkies call it “POTL” after the line rather than the perfume itself, go figure. When I received a press sample as part of an Olfactif box, I was pleased to discover I love it. Rather than the flat, floury Play-Doh accord of some heliotrope scents or a piercingly sweet marzipan accord (ahem, Serge Lutens’s Louve), Luctor et Emergo is a delicate, wearable almond-cookie floral with a hint of cherry-vanilla syrup.

Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose

This Betrand Duchaufour perfume from 2008, created for an Italian luxury hotel, is frequently cited on lists of favorite roses. After hearing about it for years and never running across a sample, I finally ordered one this year. Paestum Rose is clearly in a lineage with spicy, Orientalized roses like Caron Parfum Sacré, and it’s easy to see its influence on later, sheerer perfumes like Marni. The structure is three parts woody notes (cedar and incense in particular) and one part fruity, spicy rose (pepper, coriander, blackcurrant). Some people will smell this and think (as one Luckyscent reviewer did) “hamster litter!” but others will find it perfectly dry and refined, like holy-grail potpourri.

Which cult perfumes are in your collection? 

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Boudoir 36, perfume boutique in Catania, Sicily.




  • Marsha: Victoria, I have your article on improving your sense of smell to thank for finally being able to smell Luctor et Emergo. I could not smell it for years, then a few months of exercising my nose and I’m starting at last to smell what everyone is talking about. I have had Kai for a long time and think it smells better than the Estee Lauder release. July 31, 2014 at 7:24am Reply

    • Elisa: I see a lot of similarity between the two, but enough difference that you could prefer one or the other. I’d be interested to try Kai in the different formulations (oil, lotion, etc.). I’ve only tried the EDP. July 31, 2014 at 10:04am Reply

      • Marsha: Apologize for directing the above reply to Victoria. I keep forgetting that there is another person contributing to this blog! August 1, 2014 at 6:29am Reply

        • Elisa: Oh, that’s OK! August 1, 2014 at 9:43am Reply

  • Sandra: I guess I don’t own any cult favorites- or smelled any either!
    The only perfume I own that maybe considered cult is the shalimar ode a la vanille. July 31, 2014 at 7:58am Reply

    • Elisa: I think flankers can qualify as cult perfumes! Sometimes they get discontinued or aren’t in every store. Take some of the Angel and A*Men flankers, for example. I almost included A*Men Pure Malt. July 31, 2014 at 10:02am Reply

      • Sandra: Ooo..ok then I am a part of the cult 😉
        I looked again in my small box of perfumes- I do own Dune by Dior – it’s not really mainstream- but it is sort of- but not really a perfume people talk about. But it’s my secret- the one I wear that gets me the most compliments and when I tell them what I am wearing they cock their head and look at me strangely- like what is Dune? July 31, 2014 at 2:47pm Reply

        • Elisa: I love those “mainstream secret” scents — like secrets in plain view! Omnia is another one of those. July 31, 2014 at 2:54pm Reply

          • Theresa: I love Omnia – it is probably my only successful blind buy – I found it at a discounter. To me it smells a lot like Safran Troublant, but at a fraction of the price. When I first got it, I could only smell the scent for a few minutes on me. Now it seems like an all day scent, so my nose has sensitized to whatever it has in it. I like to wear it when I feel in the mood for something cozy. July 31, 2014 at 4:18pm Reply

            • Elisa: I think I am anosmic to something in it too — need to train my nose like you did! July 31, 2014 at 4:47pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: Does Iris Silver Mist qualify as cult?
    It was my first niche scent – and a blind buy. I was so smitten by the review that I decided to take the risk. I never regretted it and ISM is one of my most beloved and cherished scents (I’m on my third bottle now). July 31, 2014 at 8:20am Reply

    • Anne of Green Gables: ISM was the first one that came into my mind when I read the article. Since reading glowing reviews of it, I was dying to try it but of course, the distribution was very limited (not any more since the small vapourizers are now more widely distributed). I hated it the first time I tried and was utterly disappointed. But I warmed up to it slowly and now I absolutely love it. The experience was similar to my experience with Camembert cheese. July 31, 2014 at 9:51am Reply

      • Michaela: I love the Camembert cheese comparison! 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

      • Elisa: That hate to love experience has happened to me with a few perfumes! Notably difficult stuff like sharp chypres or vintage perfumes. July 31, 2014 at 10:05am Reply

    • Elisa: It definitely does! People are very passionate about that fragrance. it’s one I avoid because I can’t stand rooty irises. 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 10:03am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: I am one of the passionates! July 31, 2014 at 11:47am Reply

    • Marsha: I can finally smell iris now too! August 1, 2014 at 6:31am Reply

  • Ariane: Would Le Parfum de Thérèse count as cult? There is something mysterious and heartbreaking about the scent. And my new passion is for Narcisse Noir! July 31, 2014 at 8:42am Reply

    • Elisa: I think so! That perfume was a scrubber for me the first time I wore it! Someday I’ll work up the courage to try again. 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 10:05am Reply

      • flowergirlbee!: i have found weather a major factor in how that smells…it is a no go in the cold for me…
        get it in the right weather and it can be magic. August 1, 2014 at 12:27am Reply

  • Kat: Coincidentally I just received my beautifully packaged bottle of Ormonde woman yesterday…after hoarding the little sample I bought with the sample pack at the store in like…2007.
    Deep inhale…I’m wearing it now and nothing compares!;)
    (Except my other 10-15 desert island scents of course!)

    Now I need to find my sample of Kai because I have heard it was overly simple for the price…but since I love EL Tuberose Gardenia I guess I’m gonna be trying it.

    Also avoided POTL for years…should also see if I can locate my sample.

    And since Im looking for a replacement for Parfum Sacre now of course I need to try Marni and Paestum Rose.

    And Clinique wrappings sounds…intriguing too

    Eliza – wonderful (though lemming creating;) article! July 31, 2014 at 8:50am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Kat! Paestum Rose is not as dark and peppery and dusky as Parfum Sacre, but I do see them as being in the same general family, so do try it! July 31, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

    • Nina Z: You shouldn’t have to replace your Parfum Sacre. It is fairly easy to find the old version of it. I bought some on ebay, but also some recetly at Diva in St. Helena, CA (call them, don’t send email). August 1, 2014 at 10:00pm Reply

      • Elisa: Thank you for your vintage tips! It’s good to know what is relatively easy to find and where. August 1, 2014 at 11:39pm Reply

  • briony: I absolutely love Iris Silver Mist but then I’m a bit of a sucker for a rooty iris. I think I’d regard Bulgari Black as my first cult fragrance. That weird vanilla rubber niff made me want to search out obscure and different accords and made me realise that perfumes don’t have to smell of flowers. July 31, 2014 at 9:14am Reply

    • allgirlmafia: Good point. I own and appreciate Bvlgari Black. I hardly wear it tho. July 31, 2014 at 9:18am Reply

    • Michaela: Bulgari Black is on top of my wish list. I had similar feelings when I first met it, and now that I read Eliza’s article I thought of it as a cult fragrance. July 31, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

      • Michaela: Elisa’s. Sorry. July 31, 2014 at 10:37am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes definitely. I had to smell Black a few times before I realized what all the fuss was about, and now we own a bottle, but my husband wears it more than I do. I think it smells more interesting on him. July 31, 2014 at 10:09am Reply

  • allgirlmafia: I doubt anything Ralph Lauren would be classified ‘cult’ but his now discontinued Glamourous is an all time favorite of mine.

    Otherwise my taste tend to veer to the vintage. I have 4 little cherised bottles of Aromatics Elixir (with another coming in the mail) and 3 miniature Cabochard (what was a strong like is quickly becoming love) and I recently snatched up a small bottle of Ma Griffe at a thrift store and have been well pleased. July 31, 2014 at 9:15am Reply

    • Elisa: Anything discontinued can achieve cult status really…I know a lot of people pine after the previous version of Lauren.

      Aromatics Elixir is another one that, even though widely available, almost has a cult following. July 31, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

  • lauren: I adore Kai and OJ Woman. I think cult perfumes nearly always turn out to be my favorites. I would add Manoumalia, Mahora, and Amouage Tribute to the list. Great post! July 31, 2014 at 9:17am Reply

    • Elisa: Good additions! I only just tried Manoumalia this year, too — another one you might like is Amoureuse by Parfums DelRae. July 31, 2014 at 10:11am Reply

      • Mel: Amoureuse is exquisitely beautiful – another favorite from Parfums Delrae is Bois de Paradis. My cult scent would be SL’s Chypre Rouge. I think you can only get it “over there” in a bell jar. Oh, and Tea for Two by L’Artisan. I discovered it just as it was being discontinued. July 31, 2014 at 3:06pm Reply

        • Elisa: I love Bois de Paradis too! I went through a decant and am always on the lookout for more, but I don’t think I *quite* need a full bottle, at least not at full price. July 31, 2014 at 3:07pm Reply

  • Portia: Hey Victoria,
    I have a bottle of Iris Pallida, the LE L’Artisan release and Tea for Two by the same house.
    Though only a cult hit at my house, I have a stockpile of Versace Blonde. Cacharel Liberte and Boucheron Trouble so I will never be without.
    Portia xx July 31, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

    • Elisa: Tea for Two is definitely a cult perfume! I haven’t managed to find a bottle since it was DC’ed but I do have a large decant. July 31, 2014 at 10:11am Reply

      • briony: I love Tea for Two. I managed to get my paws on one of the last bottles in the Artisan Parfumeur shop in Covent Garden before it was discontinued and the shop closed for good. July 31, 2014 at 11:56am Reply

        • Elisa: Jealous! Spicebomb is my mainstream substitute. July 31, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Michaela: Very interesting article! I’d love to try these perfumes if I get the chance.
    I think my love-or-hate perfume is among my winter staples, Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant. But it’s very easy to find, and I’m not sure it has such a small but devoted following to be considered a cult perfume. If I remember well, one of Victoria’s articles points it as a market failure. July 31, 2014 at 9:28am Reply

    • WJ: I don’t know whether it’s a cult perfume and I don’t care too much – it smells wonderful :-). July 31, 2014 at 9:49am Reply

    • Elisa: I wanted to love that one so much! I couldn’t get comfortable with it and gave my decant away. I hope I run across another sample some day and can give it another shot, since you never know how your tastes will change. July 31, 2014 at 10:12am Reply

  • Rachel: BPAL’s Snake Oil July 31, 2014 at 9:43am Reply

    • Elisa: That reminds me that Black March and several other CBIHP scents are pretty culty. July 31, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

      • Liz K: Yep, Black March, Under the Arbor, and Wild Hunt must be in my collection at all times or I get a bit twitchy. July 31, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

        • Elisa: The one time I tried to visit the store it was closed. 🙁 July 31, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

    • Nancy: Indeed, Rachel – and how about the cult limited editions like Formula 54? August 27, 2014 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Jeanette: Cult Perfumes: I think Elysium by Clarins should be included. For some reason they don’t make it anymore. Also, a Laura Ashley fragrance that I bought in their boutique. I think it was the original fragrance. It has a beautiful glass decanter. I loved it so much I went back and bought a couple more. Good thing because I don’t think it’s available anymore. July 31, 2014 at 10:06am Reply

    • Elisa: I had not heard of that one — just looked it up on Fragrantica. It sounds lovely. Overall I really like Clarins’ fragrance line — I don’t know if they still make Par Amour and Par Amour Toujours but they are both great. July 31, 2014 at 10:14am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Is OJ Woman only available in London? I tested at a department store in Munich. Anyway, it was very distinctive and I liked it a lot. Paestum Rose happens to be one of my favourite rose perfumes. I never imagined that it could be off-putting for some people. I love NVC Mohur even more. Do NVC perfumes count as cult perfumes? July 31, 2014 at 10:11am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, perhaps she has better distribution in Europe! I don’t think it is available anywhere in the US.

      Good comparison since they’re also done by Duchaufour and yes, I think they count! July 31, 2014 at 10:16am Reply

      • Austenfan: Ormonde Jayne is widely available in Europe but has no distribution in the USA. July 31, 2014 at 12:32pm Reply

        • Elisa: Thank you, I will ask V to update the article! July 31, 2014 at 12:33pm Reply

        • Colognissimo: … but then on the other hand, there are all those American indie brands like Aftelier, EnVoyage, Olympic Orchids or Smell Bent that are absolutely impossible to come by in Europe – so much so that for us Europeans condition #1 basically translates to

          “The perfume is hard to find – it’s a limited edition, discontinued, only available online or in the US, etc.” July 31, 2014 at 6:50pm Reply

          • Elisa: And I’d be curious to know if there are more common perfumes in the US that have cult status in Europe! July 31, 2014 at 7:08pm Reply

            • Anne of Green Gables: Sonoma Scent Studio! Because of shipping restrictions, I had to wait until my trip to the U.S. to try SSS perfumes. Demeter is also hard to find here. I haven’t seen Donna Karan perfumes (e.g. Cashmere Mist) other than DKNY perfumes. August 1, 2014 at 3:21am Reply

              • rainboweyes: I think also Dawn Spencer Hurwitz scents aren’t available here (I’d love to try Iridum and her new Scent of Hope).
                I also tried to purchase DelRae Mythique in the spring but it’s no longer available at First in Fragrance and Essenza Nobile 🙁 August 1, 2014 at 3:32am Reply

                • Elisa: I was lucky enough to get my hands on a little Scent of Hope — might wear it today! August 1, 2014 at 9:44am Reply

  • deborah: i have Kai and adore it! I never considered it a cult fragrance, hmmm. July 31, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh I think it is! The first time I heard of it, years ago, my friend who wears it was almost hesitant to tell me — I think she was worried about looking like a snob. July 31, 2014 at 11:16am Reply

  • Rafael: Diorling July 31, 2014 at 10:35am Reply

    • Elisa: All those old Diors have very devoted followings! Diorissimo and Diorella too. July 31, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

      • Joy: They are all favorites of mine. I loved those older Dior fragrances. I would often sacrifice to purchase a bottle of Diorella or Diorissimo. I am going to try a Del Rae to see if I can find something. I purchased a bottle of l’eau Sauvage as it used to smell very much like Diorissimo. Although I like it, it does not have the complexity and depth that Diorella had. July 31, 2014 at 12:36pm Reply

        • Elisa: I love the old Dior print ads so much. Some day I want to get one framed.

          Isn’t Le Perfume de Therese supposed to have simlarities to Diorella too? July 31, 2014 at 12:41pm Reply

  • Hannah: This is something that I’ve been thinking about, because I’ve been craving almond fragrances and let led me to Luctor et Emergo. Nobody ever mentions it unless they’re talking about cult favorites, and then they have to mention it. There aren’t that many reviews for it on basenotes or fragrantica either. If there’s no devotion, is it really a cult favorite? July 31, 2014 at 10:36am Reply

    • Elisa: Isn’t it interesting that it always gets mentioned when you’re talking about cult fragrances? Maybe the following started back on MUA. I do think it’s a great perfume. July 31, 2014 at 11:18am Reply

    • Marsha: Look at it on Lucky Scent August 1, 2014 at 6:38am Reply

  • Sandra Levine: Is Habanita a cult fragrance? Its notorious description on one perfume site was something like, “A prostitute eating a burrito.”

    Tabac Blond is another candidate. July 31, 2014 at 10:38am Reply

    • Rafael: LOVE both of those. Habanita and Tabac Blond. Anything that smalls, dark, illicit, nefarious…. Jolie Madame. July 31, 2014 at 10:47am Reply

    • Elisa: That’s a hilarious description!

      Pre-reform Carons for sure. July 31, 2014 at 11:19am Reply

  • Karruka: I’m wearing Calling all Angels by April Aromatics. If this wonderful incensed concoction is not a cult fragrance, I don’t what is! July 31, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, I have heard many good things about that perfume! I love the name. July 31, 2014 at 11:21am Reply

  • Patricia: I would add Feminite du Bois, the original one by Shiseido.

    Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum is a cult favorite in the making since everyone is trying to get some, and none is available! July 31, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes! Also Nombre Noir!

      Oh god, don’t even talk about. I want to try it so bad and I haven’t even gone looking, I know it will be dispiriting. July 31, 2014 at 11:21am Reply

    • Kat: Thanks for mentioning this one. I have a sample headed my way, right now…and I can’t wait to try it! July 31, 2014 at 12:42pm Reply

  • Shoshi: Mitsouko July 31, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

    • Elisa: Absolutely. I tried and failed to love it but I probably haven’t tried the right formulation/vintage yet. July 31, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

  • Joy: I love Cabochard and miss its elegant bottle with the velvet bow. It has a unique fragrance that is like entering a very clean horse barn early on a bright morning, leather, old wood, groomed horses. It is very unique. I’m sorry it is no longer available.
    Joy July 31, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

    • Elisa: Joy, have you tried Aramis (for men)? I am not too familiar with Cabochard but I’ve heard they are very similar in style. July 31, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

      • Joy: I used Aramis a lot at one time. Now that you have suggested it, I should visit the men’s fragrance counter and try it again. I recall that it had a lot of sillage, but very outdoorsy.

        Joy July 31, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

        • Elisa: I wonder how the current version holds up? It reminds me of Azuree without the citrus or Jolie Madame without the violet. July 31, 2014 at 12:30pm Reply

          • Joy: That is exactly how I remember Aramis. July 31, 2014 at 1:19pm Reply

          • allgirlmafia: I love Jolie Madame (real bad) and have been meaning to try Azuree for a while. Sounds like I need to look into Aramis as well. July 31, 2014 at 2:00pm Reply

            • Elisa: They all have that bitter quinoline-style leather which works so nicely in a chypre setting. July 31, 2014 at 2:08pm Reply

    • Courant: Cabochard is available on line. A very experienced Basenotes contributor commented recently that the reformulated Cabochard is ‘terrific’. Happy to point you in the direction if you still love it July 31, 2014 at 4:07pm Reply

    • Nina Z: Since this was very popular back in the day, there is a lot of vintage Cabochard around. I found a 1 oz bottle of extrait from an antiques dealer for a good price, so if you love this, hunt around for the vintage. August 1, 2014 at 10:04pm Reply

  • key change: While I don’t think this one quite falls into the category of having generated a cult following, I think Seville a l’aube had such unbelievable hype around it because of the book. And I know that no small number of people rushed to order–and even blind purchase–the bottle! A sample is currently winging its way to me, actually, and like I said I don’t know about cult following, and my knowledge about all things perfume is severely lacking compared to most here, but I just thought I’d throw the pairing of a perfume with a sizzling story as a pretty neat way to at least cultivate the beginnings of a following 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 11:38am Reply

    • Elisa: You’re right, there was SO much hype around that perfume when it came out! That has really died down, but I think it’s a great fragrance. A friend of mine wears it and the sillage is beautiful. July 31, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

      • key change: That’s true–it was probably more of a fad, but a huge one at that. You’re right that it’s definitely died down, though. July 31, 2014 at 3:08pm Reply

        • Elisa: I think in the end it was sort of similar to Sweet Redemption, which came out around the same time. July 31, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

  • Liz K: I personally love Luctor et Emergo in both EDP and EDT but can see how the scent could be polarizing. For me it is the ultimate cozy bedtime scent.
    I have been trying to get my hands on a bottle of Wrappings for years. Used to have it but lost some perfumes during a move and that was one of them.
    I haven’t ever smelled OJW nor Paestrum Rose and remember thinking Kai was just ok. Maybe time for a re-sniff of Kai.
    I would agree that Jungle L’Elephant might be classed as a cult fragrance. July 31, 2014 at 11:41am Reply

    • Elisa: I think expectations play a big role with these perfumes — when you want to love something it can be a disappointment, when you’re afraid of it sometimes you surprise yourself by how much you like it. That’s what happened to me with both Kai and POTL. July 31, 2014 at 11:49am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: If ”discontinued” can bring cult status, then I have some!
    Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne
    Le Dix

    Ormonde Jayne is also available in Rotterdam (Lianne Tio Perfumes). July 31, 2014 at 11:56am Reply

    • Elisa: Absolutely — I almost included Theorema. I feel very lucky to have bottles of both Theorema and Fendi. July 31, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Kat: Love Ormonde Jayne Woman, as well! Regarding Fendi, I do a lot of side-by-side comparisons with various samples against my Fendi. So far, it’s still ‘mi numero uno’. 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 12:49pm Reply

      • Elisa: Fendi reminds me of Coco but yeah, I prefer Fendi. July 31, 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

    • JennyJo: Ooh… Le Dix… I have a small bottle, half finished, and a small full one, still sealed. I dread to think any further. 🙁 August 1, 2014 at 1:53am Reply

    • JennyJo: Vintage Arpège; I own a bottle of extrait which sadly has gone off by now.

      Detchema. It’s on offer regularly on Ebay, but I’m afraid to buy any, I bought a bottle of Infini by Caron some years ago (for a lot of money), and it arrived unsealed, half used and smelling absolutely horrible. August 1, 2014 at 2:03am Reply

      • Elisa: I don’t buy a lot of vintage perfumes, but I’m very protective of the ones I have! My vintage of Shalimar is just beautiful. August 1, 2014 at 9:46am Reply

  • briony: A perfume that probably should have cult status is that lovely Theo Fennel Scent that they discontinued so fast I hardly got a chance to sniff it. Another I think of as a cult fragrance (although it’s probably not as it’s widely available) is Guerlain’s Apres l’Ondee. That’s just so beautiful I think every perfumista should have it. July 31, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Elisa: Also, Feu d’Issey! But I’ve never tried it so I can’t really write about it. 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Mary K: I’m a big fan of Luctor et Emergo and I do talk about it online when the chance presents itself. Another one that is hard to find that I like is MH Fleurs de Sel. July 31, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Elisa: At some point I want to explore the Miller Harris line more — the only one I’ve tried is Geranium Bourbon, and I loved it enough to buy a full bottle. July 31, 2014 at 12:18pm Reply

      • Gían: Oh gosh, u guys are missing the ultimate Miller Harris– L’aire rien. Want to get people talking? Wear that one. And that one too has been sadly d/c’d– but I kid u not not, it’s one of those rare fragrances that force people around u to sit up & take notice. July 31, 2014 at 11:00pm Reply

    • rainboweyes: Another vote for Fleurs de Sel. I love it in the summer! July 31, 2014 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Maria B: My closet is a repository of discontinued fragrances. Probably the one that would most qualify for cult status is Andy Tauer Orris, which he released in small quantities.

    I also have Theorema, the Calice Becker Cuir de Lancôme, Institut Tres Bien Cologne à la Française, extrait versions of fragrances that are still around but only in weaker concentrations. I’m glad to have all of these, but looking at them makes me a little sad because these beauties should still be available to the world. July 31, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Elisa: Cuir de Lancome is one of my all-time favorite perfumes.

      Have you tried Tauer’s Dark Passage? Also hard to come by — a really delicious chocolatey patchouli/iris combo. July 31, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

      • Maria B: Oops! I guess I missed that one. 🙂 Thanks for the tip. July 31, 2014 at 12:59pm Reply

        • Elisa: It’s amazing if you can find any! July 31, 2014 at 1:01pm Reply

          • rainboweyes: I think also Tauer’s discontinued Orris has a cult status… Unfortunately I missed it 🙁 July 31, 2014 at 3:15pm Reply

  • Lucas: I think that one of those “cult” perfumes is PHI Une Rose de Kandahar from Andy Tauer. Mostly because it was produced from a very limited batch of Rose oil Andy got and that it sold out in a couple of weeks. I’m happy to have a bottle of my own.

    Do City Exclusives from Le Labo qualify as cult fragrances. I don’t think so, especially that I’m not lusting over any particular one… July 31, 2014 at 1:05pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh wow, is that sold out already? I’ll have to be sure to really appreciate my sample!

      They might except I don’t hear too much about any of them. I do know someone who loved the aldehydes one, but I don’t hear it mentioned very much otherwise. July 31, 2014 at 1:09pm Reply

      • Colognissimo: Yep, if I remember correctly, stocks did run out as early as mid january or so!

        But then, some time ago, Andy Tauer wrote on his blog, that he had managed to get hold of another batch of Afghan Rose Oil. So apparently there’s hope PHI will back at the end of the year. July 31, 2014 at 8:14pm Reply

  • Tim: Whow. Read only the head of this and initially thought Peastum Rose. Visiting the south of Italy from time to time I definitely can state that this one captures the “mezzogiorno`s” atmosphere precisely with its dark & mineralic twist. There`s lots of joy in it as much as there is a certain melancholia one can detect very much in these fine Calabrian or Apulian people (my girl Comes from there), the landscape, the ancient places, the way of life. I just ordered a back-up bottle and some decants of it and use to wear it when she`s down there while I stay here in Heidelberg :-).
    Other cult ones I pretty like are the original Missoni & Aria Missoni, Nobile Gucci, Tauer`s Carillon pour un Ange, Jungle Elephant, Mazzolari Lui, the masculine Anthracite version and even L’eau bleu d’ Issey Miyake, Iris Silver Mist, oh well … and others. Enjoy! July 31, 2014 at 1:38pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh that’s lovely! Sometimes I wear Le Troisiemme Homme when my husband is away, as it reminds me of him. You are right that there is someting melancholy about Paestum Rose.

      Sounds like you have a ton of cult favorites in your collection. July 31, 2014 at 1:40pm Reply

      • Tim: Elisa 🙂 wonderful! It`s nice to celebrate missing a beloved one. I grow myself a beard when she`s down there. And south Italy is paradise for vintage perfumes – last year “Füchslein” brought Fabergé “Kiku” (strange soapy-gardenia-suntan lotion scent in an ugly plastic “canister”). Another cult one to me is “Sybaris” by Puig, kind of Immortelle-fougère and VERY spicy. July 31, 2014 at 1:52pm Reply

        • Elisa: “soapy-gardenia-suntan lotion” sounds pretty great to me. July 31, 2014 at 1:57pm Reply

          • Tim: Yes, it`s really nice. It`s a so called “splash-on cologne” version which is romantically named “Kiku 33” and comes in large 200ml bottles of yellow plastic. Back then on the phone it was like: “Tim, there`s Kiku 33. Shall I buy them.” – “Them???” – “Yes, five bottles.” So we can really make a Kiku-fest 🙂 The real Kiku EdP (EdT?) has a cult-following indeed. July 31, 2014 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Elisa: Victoria, I was surprised to see that photo is of a shop in Italy — it looks so much like Aedes de Venustas in NYC! July 31, 2014 at 1:42pm Reply

  • Gían: I don’t know if this counts as a “cult” fave but I know I certainly get a bit loopy about vero profumo’s Rubj- & in both Extrait AND EdP versions! They’re just so naughty & entrancing! July 31, 2014 at 2:09pm Reply

    • Elisa: All those Vero Profumo scents are pretty culty — so lustworthy and yet so expensive! July 31, 2014 at 2:11pm Reply

      • Gían: I swear Elisa, hand to God, no other perfume I wear ever forces people to stop & ask “WHAT are WEARING?!” Usually in good way but sometimes with a crinkled nose, lol- but always astounded. The only other perfume that I ever wore that people regularly remarked on was L’Occitaine’s Neroli & always only by men & always positive. Men very clearly seem to like orange blossom in my experience. July 31, 2014 at 2:20pm Reply

        • Elisa: Oh yes I have a little bit of Rubj and it cracks me up, because it’s SO dirty and sweaty! But also somehow beautiful.

          Completely agree about orange blossom. I always get compliments on Frederic Fekkai (another hidden DC’ed gem) and NR for Her. July 31, 2014 at 2:26pm Reply

          • Gían: I’m already on TPC looking for a decant of FF! July 31, 2014 at 2:29pm Reply

            • Elisa: I hope you can find some! It’s just a really beautiful fresh, simple orange blossom with a touch of honey. July 31, 2014 at 2:31pm Reply

              • Gían: Oh gosh, I couldn’t find any samples or decants of FF but… I *was* able to find a full bottle for sale on a discount site. It was a blind buy, but ur description of it was just too good (& I’d also heard about it a few times before), & like most men (in my experience) I love orange blossom too, so it seemed like a safe bet. Finally it was only $45 for 1.7 oz. Also, on the same site I found a 3.4 oz. bolly of JPG’s now d/c’d Fleur du Male (another orange blossom) for just $38. No regrets here! August 1, 2014 at 2:27pm Reply

                • Elisa: Hurrah, please report back and let me know what you think! August 1, 2014 at 2:28pm Reply

                  • Gían: I def will! P.S. I love ur articles on here just as much as Victoria’s. My favourite being ur article on Osmanthus, which along with Ylang Ylang, OB, & Lily are by far my favourite floral notes. It is to my hair-pulling frustration that I can NOT, for the life of me, find a good, true Osmanthus solifleur!!! The closest I could find was Hove Tea Olive but it still falls far too short of the real thing. Can’t find a good Ylang-Ylang solifleur either for that matter. Ugh! But I digress– thank u for ur the pleasure of ur wonderful articles! August 1, 2014 at 2:46pm Reply

                  • Elisa: Oh gosh, the osmanthus article was actually by Elise Pearlstine — I know, how confusing. She’s the real expert on natural materials! August 1, 2014 at 2:48pm Reply

                    • Gían: Ugh! How embarrassing, I’m sorry! Yes- confusing! All this time I thought u were both the same person! All articles by u I ascribed to her & obviously vice-versa. Yikes! But thank u for clarifying! August 1, 2014 at 3:00pm

                    • Elisa: No need to apologize. 🙂 I don’t think she’s written anything here for a while, so anything you read in the past 6 months or so was probably me. August 1, 2014 at 3:03pm

                  • Gían: Elisa- I got my bottle of FF yesterday & have spent the past 2 days exploring it. It’s wonderful. So gentle & unobtrusive & yet utterly beautiful! Like a shy OB. My grandma is dying of advanced Alzheimer’s & this is exactly the kind of perfume that reminds me of her. Between this & a Rose fragrance (which is really the flower I associate with her- my English Rose), I’m gonna have a hard time deciding which perfume to wear to honour her… I love it! Thank you so so much for this recommendation. August 6, 2014 at 9:40pm Reply

                    • Elisa: I’m so so happy to hear that!! I’m really glad you like it. Thank you for letting me know 🙂 August 7, 2014 at 12:12am

    • Gían: Oh! Also Tom Ford’s Velvet Gardenia & Donna Karan’s Gold- both now sadly d/c’d. July 31, 2014 at 2:12pm Reply

      • Elisa: DK Gold is another of my all-time favorites! I have 2 backup bottles. July 31, 2014 at 2:18pm Reply

        • Gían: Lol! Me too! July 31, 2014 at 2:21pm Reply

  • silverdust: If we’re considering “love it or hate it” as criteria, would Agent Provocateur count? I only ask because it’s one of the few scents out today that actually has some sillage and longevity. It’s one of the few that favorably react with my skin chemistry. July 31, 2014 at 2:10pm Reply

    • Elisa: I LOVE AP! And it’s definitely not in the usual popular style — it has the bitterness of “real” chypres. July 31, 2014 at 2:12pm Reply

      • Absolute Scentualist: Oh, I love AP! In fact, I’ve liked most of what they’ve done though the original is still my favorite. I just wore it yesterday layered over Molton Brown’s Patchouli & Saffron bath and body products. They work really well together and I can’t recommend them enough. It was such a nice day here and a few small sprays made me feel like a tigress all afternoon. 😉 July 31, 2014 at 2:21pm Reply

        • Elisa: I have been making mental notes for an upcoming “best of autumn” post and AP is on my list 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 2:25pm Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: One of my first cult loves was Lea Extreme. I’ve already gone through almost two bottles and have one squirreled away for when I run out of what I’m using now. It knocked me right off my feet and despite the price, I had to stock up when it was still available years back.

    Other loves I think qualify include VW Boudoir, TG Annam (I’ve acquired about 10ml in bits here and there and find it so pretty and comforting though not worth the price I used to see on Ebay most often), a couple Indults, Hello Kitty Momoberry (loved that one and wish they’d bring it back since it was so fun), Rose 31, LZ Lilacs & Heliotrope, EdI Paestum Rose and a long gone perfume oil called Pink Manhattan whose few remaining drops I have I still cherish. I also own and love a few ELDOs and if I had to pick my faves, would choose Divin’Infant, Rossy de Palma, Noel au Balcon and Don’t Get Me Wrong, Baby.

    The “Celebrities love this scent” in my collection is Monyette Paris. I wore it and all its flanker products during a very fun and romantic weekend followed by a really great time in my life, so now whenever I wear it or enjoy the fabulous candle, it brings back really lovely memories. July 31, 2014 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Elisa: You’ve got a ton of cult faves too! RdP is my favorite ELDO and possibly my favorite rose perfume, period. I also love a lot of the Liz Zorn and SSS scents. July 31, 2014 at 2:28pm Reply

      • Elisa: PS another celeb favorite is Child. July 31, 2014 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Absolute Scentualist: Oh, and I had to add two more of my favorites–L’Arte di Gucci edp for which I’d give up many things to own one more bottle and MFK Absolue Pour Le Soir because it is so love it or hate it and I love it enough to own both a decant and after about a week of swooning over it every night, a bottle as well. I’ll probably never need another one since I think this bottle will last me for life. A little bit goes a very long way. 😉 July 31, 2014 at 2:31pm Reply

      • Elisa: L’Arte di Gucci is so amazing! July 31, 2014 at 2:32pm Reply

      • Nina Z: I’m another huge fan of L’Arte di Gucci! One of my very favorite rose perfumes. August 1, 2014 at 10:07pm Reply

  • JanLast: If I were of Celtic origin, my name would probably be O’Cult. From the old Guerlain Dawamesk to the quirky Ayala Moriel Zangvil, these scents find their way into my perfume cabinet and settle in. Slumberhouse Pear & Olive, Hove Perfumes Creole Days, 4160 Tuesdays Shazam! and Dark Heart of Old Havana will be worn sparingly as I don’t want to be without them. Then there is Roxana Illuminated GreenWitch, Ava Lux Absinth, Soivole’s Kentucky Bourbon Rose & so many more, sigh. July 31, 2014 at 2:20pm Reply

    • Elisa: I almost included Pear & Olive — it seems to have developed a big following very quickly.

      Soivole scents are really special. My hubs wear Meerschaum and there are a few I really like, including the super-weird Rosa sur Reuse. July 31, 2014 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Cybele: Homage Amouage is cult, and Le Labo Oud 27 and Rose 31 have also some cult quality. July 31, 2014 at 3:28pm Reply

    • Elisa: The whole Amouage line, almost! Also Patchouli 24 maybe — I love that one. July 31, 2014 at 3:32pm Reply

  • solanace: I think my old black Armani qualifies as cult. It never fails to make me feel like the elegant woman I am not. Also, Rosine´s Rose d´Homme, my favorite from the brand, gets a lot of love on line, but I only own a sample. Recently tried Bulgari Black, definetely a cult, weird and polarizing. I´m dying to spray it on me again! July 31, 2014 at 3:31pm Reply

    • Elisa: I’m a huge fan of Rose d’Homme! I’ve gone through two decants. July 31, 2014 at 3:33pm Reply

      • solanace: This is the one Rosine I want a FB of! July 31, 2014 at 5:37pm Reply

        • Elisa: I’d love one too. But I’d also like a FB of Rose Praline. July 31, 2014 at 5:38pm Reply

  • atlas: What about Scent Intense by Costume National. Not everyone talks about it but it has a great fan base. July 31, 2014 at 3:42pm Reply

    • Elisa: I think I have a sample of that somewhere! Need to dig it up. July 31, 2014 at 4:47pm Reply

  • Cyn: My absolute cult favorite is Chaos. I could bathe in it! July 31, 2014 at 5:17pm Reply

    • Elisa: Chaos is fantastic! I love Black Cashmere too, and DK Signature — all those early DK’s were so good. July 31, 2014 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Brilliant post, Victoria! And thanks to all the readers who chimed in and gave me so much to think about and so many previously unknown scents I now must sleuth out!

    Since I notoriously like perfumes that apparently nobody else does, even new launches I embrace tend to vanish quickly. I am apparently one of the few people who enjoyed the sweet, girlish sweatpea scent of Lulu Guinness- I also love the opaque, retro bottle; I adored the original Kate Spade with its lush, tuberose, gardenia jasmine- it was so floral and feminine, it made me want to pirouette; I loved Agent Provocateur’s scent from last year (drawing a huge blank on the name; I’ll get back to you) that came and went from Nordstrom’s at the speed of light, and I love a lot of old school scents like Nocturnes de Caron, the original Oscar de la Renta, YSL’s Nu (which I think was reincarnated as Tom Ford’s Black Orchid) and Guerlain’s L’heure Bleu. I like scents with a strong, definitive character: I don’ want to just smell vaguely “nice” or “pleasant” or “like flowers.” Like jewelry, I think perfume should make an impactful statement- it shouldn’t be overwhelming or choking, but it should damn well make its presence known, or you have wasted your money. I like perfumes that are unabashedly female, either girlish and charming or womanly and wanton, but androgyny isn’t my thing, except in Bulgari Black- I like that kinky, rubber note and the aforementioned Tom Ford Black Orchid, which smells deliciously louche and borderline nasty on a man or a woman. I also love Bulgari’s Jasmin Noir, possibly because perfume is all I can afford from Bulgari!

    There is an LA jeweler named Sage who makes perfumes named after colored stones, and I adore her “Moonstone” and “Turquoise” scents. And you all know how much I love Loree Rodkin’s Gothic 2 and Gothic 3.

    I recently smelled a new and horrifyingly expensive scent at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills: it was called “Diaghelev” so naturally, as a ballet fan and a fan of all things turn of the century and decadent, I had give it a sniff. I was blown away. The sales lady was confused when I said it was “pleasantly nasty” but I explained that it had a strong, animalic note, a sexy body funk layered with patchouli incense that I thought was sexy to death, but would probably be lethal if worn in 88 degree weather, but I’d love to revisit it in December! I think it was $500!!!!

    I could go on and on…. there is not much I love more than obscure perfumes! xoxo. July 31, 2014 at 5:48pm Reply

    • Elisa: Hi Lynn, this one is mine actually. 🙂 I think Nu is underrated. And yes, Diaghelev — I have a sample of that. Very rich in both senses of the word! It reminds me of Guerlain Vega, that old-school, heavily aldehydic style of floral from the 20s and 30s. July 31, 2014 at 5:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: This article is by our wonderful Elisa! I take no credit here. 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 7:09pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: The Agent Provocatuer scent I was referring to is Petale Noir- it smells of lotus, hyacinth, leather and a few other yummy things, very floral, intoxicating and apparently too much for the general public. And, I forgot to notice the heavyweight chaps of all ‘nasty sexy’ scents; Vivienne Westwood’s Boudoir, which smells like…. ovulation and roses and bubblegum and Le Labo’s Musc 23, which is a white musk with a seminal subtext.They are either total aphrodesiacs or completely repellant, depending on your point of view, but without question, they are not for the squeamish or uncertain. July 31, 2014 at 5:53pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, I heard good things about Petale Noir but never got to try it.

      Another fun “boudoir” scent is Fifi Cachnil — a great rosy, sweet tobacco scent with saffron. July 31, 2014 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Katy McReynolds: Bvlgari Black, how I love thee! Since I began my perfume journey, there are only two bottles in my extensive collection that are almost empty. One is the Bvlgari Black, do not fret, I have a new bottle and Chanel Número Cinq EDP, which my beloved will happily replace once it is empty! I would place Olympic Orchids Dev 1 on this list along with Chopard Madness, Mauboissin Histoire L’Eau, Tom Ford Black Orchid, Versace The Dreamer, Bal A Versailles, Donna Karen Gold, Alien Absolue, and rounding out this list with Norma Kamali Incense, the only one of these I have not smelled nor ever owned but would love too! July 31, 2014 at 8:03pm Reply

    • Elisa: My friend Brian loves Norma Kamali Incense! I recently gave him my decant of DK Labdanum, and he said they have a similar feel, though the DK is quieter. July 31, 2014 at 8:56pm Reply

  • Colognissimo: Actually, I would never have described Paestum Rose as a cult fragrance. I know it got very good reviews from some people, Chandler Burr among others. I also know that others seem to have certain reservations, which I personally find quite difficult to comprehend – I myself am definitely among those who simply adore the stuff and just can’t imagine what fault you could possibly find with it. On the other hand, not only did I never encounter anything even remotely resembling a hype about the fragrance, but I also never came across real hate for it either. Instead the negative reviews just seemed to find the fragrance boring and bland. So basically: yes, I think it’s a brilliant fragrance, and yes, some people just don’t seem to get it, but is that enough to make it a “cult perfume”? I actually quite doubt it, especially since in my opinion it lacks that weird or off-putting, yet addictive quality you so rightly mention as a criterion for becoming cult.

    As far as my own candidates for cult perfumes are concerned, I definitely agree with the previous commenters about Iris Silver Mist. I would also like to add Tubereuse Criminelle and Muscs Kublai Khan, the latter of which has now gone back into restricted distribution and therefore also fits the rareness bill. Then one might include the discontinued Vétiver EdT by Annick Goutal, the recently discontinued Guerlain classics (Vega and Sous le Vent, if I remember correctly), possibly the city exclusive/discontinued Mon Numéros by L’Artisan Parfumeur as well as – for us Europeans – all those American Indie brands. And even if I don’t quite agree with your choice of Paestum Rose as a cult fragrance there IS indeed one of the Eau d’Italies that might be a strong contender: Sienne l’Hiver, which not only Bertrand Duchaufour himself a couple of years ago singled out as his best work so far, but which also has got the required degree of weirdness. July 31, 2014 at 8:06pm Reply

    • Elisa: It’s a judgment call on whether something is truly “cult” or not , and it changes over time. But when you say you “just can’t imagine what fault you could possibly find with it” … well, someone will always be able to find fault with what you love! I’ve seen people wrinkle their noses at all my favorites.

      I considered both Tubereuse Criminelle and Muscs Kublai Khan for this list, but I wrote about TC recently, and don’t have any MKK on hand at the moment. July 31, 2014 at 9:02pm Reply

    • rainboweyes: Agree on Sienne d’Hiver, it’s a very unusual scent and one of my winter favourites (although maybe a tad too masculine to me, that why its cousin Dzongkha gets a lot more wearing). August 1, 2014 at 4:02am Reply

  • nemo: I have not tried any of these, but I have heard of most of them! Is it odd that I really really want to try Paestum Rose now because some people think it smells like hamster litter? I love the smell of pine and cedar shavings 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 9:29pm Reply

    • Elisa: You will love it then! It’s got a strong cedar note but there is also other interesting stuff going on 🙂 July 31, 2014 at 9:49pm Reply

  • nozknoz: Every now and then I wish I’d bought The Party in Manhattan while Luckyscent had it. Sigh.

    I’m really glad I have some Paestum Rose decants and Kai. July 31, 2014 at 10:11pm Reply

    • Maggie: Oh yes, nozknoz! I too deeply regret not purchasing The Party when it was available; a cult perfume if ever there was one and now gone for ever.

      The only other fragrance I suffered as deep a regret over not purchasing was Indult Isvaraya and then, of course it was re-introduced last year – really, this almost never happens – and I snapped up a bottle straight away. July 31, 2014 at 11:10pm Reply

      • Elisa: You gotta snap those rarities up when you find them. Regrets over lost perfumes are worse than regretting buying something you didn’t really need. July 31, 2014 at 11:49pm Reply

    • Elisa: I considered that one for this list! never tried it but I almost ordered a sample to see what it’s like. July 31, 2014 at 11:48pm Reply

  • Lynley: I’d add Carnal Flower. I’m sure nearly every ‘perfumista’ has heard of it if not tried it, whereas I’d be an unknown to most others.
    Also M7 and Nu by YSL? August 1, 2014 at 2:21am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, Carnal Flower! I think it’s interesting how people tend to pick one tuberose (this, or Tubereusue Criminelle, or Fracas …) and get really into it. August 1, 2014 at 9:45am Reply

  • spe: Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus, Armali La Femme Bleue, Cartier So Pretty, Philtre d’ Amour.

    OJW is my favorite from your list. August 1, 2014 at 10:44am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, La Femme Bleue! So very elusive. I wonder if I’ll ever try it.

      I love So Pretty. I wish I’d bought a bottle when it was still available. The drydown of Yvresse is similar, though. August 1, 2014 at 10:47am Reply

  • Ariadne: L’Arte di Gucci EDP is my current idol to worship in my cult-of-one. It smells exactly like a small vial of perfume I rec’d as a gift in the ’70’s that was called Kismet. I have no idea where the giver purchased it but he had it in his bag after a Athens to NYC flight.
    I also concur with Tim re: Kenzo Jungle. I am going Jungle for Fall 2014. Brrrrrrrr…..says Eartha Kitt. August 1, 2014 at 3:57pm Reply

    • Nina Z: You are not alone in your love of L’Arte di Gucci. August 1, 2014 at 10:10pm Reply

  • Nina Z: Very cult-y perfume right now is Mohur extrait. Very rare. Very expensive. A friend of mine with a huge collection bought a 50 ml bottle of it! Not kidding. I sniffed it and was truly stunned. She said the look of joy on my face was wonderful (I’m kind of picky) and ended up giving me a small decant so I guess that qualifies me as owning some too. And I must be pretty cult-y myself because I own bottles of OJ Woman, vintage Parfum Sacre, Theorema, and Gucci L’Arte di Gucci, plus a decant of Paestum Rose. And now I’m lemming some Kai. August 1, 2014 at 10:16pm Reply

    • Elisa: Your collection is very cult and wow, I’m super impressed with your friend and that 50 ml extrait!! August 1, 2014 at 11:38pm Reply

  • Anne: My loving a perfume seems to be the “kiss of death” for it (in my little world, anyway) …My current crush is EL’s Tuberose Gardenia; I hope they never discontinue it…(my tuberoses are in full bloom right now and it is the most “true-to-the-flower” scent I have ever experienced)… and although Estee Lauder doesn’t often discontinue, I was SO disappointed…years ago…when Pavilion was discontinued; it was one of the three introduced as “The New Romantics” in 1978; the other two being White Linen (which was an acquired taste for me, but I do love it now) and Celadon, which I honestly don’t recall what it smelled like. Pavilion was just a beautiful scent and I got compliments wherever I went. Sad. Another (though hardly a “cult” line, I know) was Armani’s Sensi. Loved that. Another mentioned here, Del Rae’s Amoureuse, is one I would wear “for me”, but not in public…isn’t that silly? It just seemed too…”too”? You know? Sadly, I lost my half-full bottle (a FB purchase) in a move…it must have sensed that it embarrassed me in public. 😉 Would love to try Kai for the tuberose! August 2, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Elisa: Tuberose Gardenia is a favorite of mine too! And White Linen.

      For Sensi — have you tried Moschino Couture? They have a similar feel, though Couture adds blackcurrant. YSL Cinema is similar too. August 2, 2014 at 12:34pm Reply

      • Anne: I haven’t, Elisa, but will have to track some down! I have had Cinema and liked it. Thank you! August 2, 2014 at 12:39pm Reply

        • Elisa: Sadly it’s getting almost as hard to find as Sensi … sob! I’m working on an article about more of these “lost perfumes”…. August 2, 2014 at 12:41pm Reply

          • Anne: Will be so interested in reading that, Elisa! I often wonder if I have just such a different sense of what smells “divine”, to have had so many that I considered my signature scent at the time, discontinued…honestly, I’m almost afraid to fall in love with one for fear of jinxing it! ;)…and then there are some which I never “got”, that go on forever… (Sigh) August 2, 2014 at 12:52pm Reply

            • Elisa: I think it’s our fate as perfumistas to like the weirdly beautiful stuff that isn’t likely to be commercially successful. It’s cruel! August 2, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

              • Anne: That must be it… Always on the trail of the ultimate “HG” fragrance (though Tuberose Gardenia may actually be “the one”), though. 🙂
                I guess the “quest” is part of the fun! August 2, 2014 at 12:59pm Reply

                • Anne: Really want to track down the Clinique “Wrappings”now, as well…sounds very interesting! August 2, 2014 at 1:02pm Reply

                  • Elisa: It’s very pretty if you like aldehydes! August 2, 2014 at 1:03pm Reply

                    • Anne: Elisa, just read some reviews and about the notes…sounds really interesting (patchouli doesn’t play nicely on me, however)…do you think it’s anything like Azuree? (Just off the top of my head, here, haven’t done my homework) I want to love Azuree…(had a friend who wore it beautifully) but it always manages to make me feel slightly queasy (and they hide it behind the counter like they’re ashamed of it!) 😉 August 2, 2014 at 3:58pm

                    • Elisa: I don’t notice any patchouli in and I don’t think it’s anything like Azuree either — it’s really a sparkly woodsy/pine scent. The original version may have been different. August 2, 2014 at 6:08pm

  • Anne: Ah, and Princess Marcella Borghese… how I loved that! Again, “kiss of death”. Does anyone else remember “her”? August 2, 2014 at 12:37pm Reply

  • hajusuuri: I think the JAR perfumes could be considered cult perfumes. I don’t own any (yet). August 2, 2014 at 10:53pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, yes! I’ve never tried any — they’re somewhat intimidating! August 3, 2014 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Star Girl: A subject dear to my heart! I’m a collector of ‘cult’ fragrances – discontinued, vintage or the original version of some, existing fragrances. Invariably they contain those old skool ingredients that I love like oakmoss and civet. I find that they’re less syntheticy, not as sweet, have greater depth and longevity than many modern fragrances. And, I know I’ll never run into someone who smells like me. This week I wore Le Dix, Gucci 3, Boucheron, Masumi, Mystere de Rochas and Deneuve. Perfume is one of my greatest pleasures. My cult fragrances are kind of like my secret. Just even hearing your readers mention the names of other favourites (like L’Arte and original Oscar) is thrilling. The one that eludes me – Chaos. One day… August 3, 2014 at 3:15am Reply

    • Elisa: I too would love to find a bottle of Chaos someday! Your collection sounds like it would be very fun (and educational) to explore. August 3, 2014 at 12:46pm Reply

  • Peter: Love-or-hate-it quality: Sécrétions Magnifiques (Etat Libre d’Orange), the tension between a wonderful floral and perspiration. Weird but beautiful. Is it wearable? August 3, 2014 at 9:06am Reply

    • Elisa: True! And there is maybe one person who loves it for every 10 that hate it. August 3, 2014 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Anne: I just thought of another that got my “kiss of death”…Truest, by Tiffany. Loved it. Fragrantica says, “Trueste by Tiffany is a Floral Fruity fragrance for women. Trueste was launched in 1995. The fragrance features sandalwood, plum, amber, jasmine, cedar and rose”…Did you ever try it, Elisa? August 3, 2014 at 3:10pm Reply

    • Anne: Forgot the “e”, there. “Trueste” August 3, 2014 at 3:11pm Reply

      • Elisa: Nope, never tried that one! I know Gaia of The Non-Blonde is a fan of the original Tiffany. August 3, 2014 at 3:14pm Reply

  • sandipants: any of the amouage attars. i managed to get 1-8mls of each of them during an enormous split before they were all pulled from the american/european market. it’s tribute that i cherish in gollum-like fashion!!!

    and then there’s helmut lang’s cuiron. my first “partial” bottle that i bought off a fragrance forum.

    the problem is that i end up rarely wearing my precious elixirs, knowing that they are ephemeral & once gone….”poof.” i try to remind myself that you should wear what you love & love what you wear! August 3, 2014 at 11:15pm Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, I didn’t realize all the attars had been pulled!

      I do the same thing (hoard my rare gems) but I made a resolution this year to get better at that and I think I’m making progress. August 4, 2014 at 9:19am Reply

  • Rose: I’m not sure if any of my perfumes qualify as cult. My most recent perfume loves that are not buyable in average perfume depts’ are Lumiere Noire by Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Cuir Fetiche by Maitre Parfumier et Gantier. I think both are cult worthy, especially the Lumiere Noire which has all the trappings of an elegant alluring evening perfume. (I’d been looking for the perfect evening perfume for a long time – one that feels contemporary yet classic with a good sillage without being overwhelming, I’m deeply impressed with it!).

    I’m currently seeking Chanel 19 in vintage parfum extract, a bit pricey but the reformulations are far more heavy on vetiver I feel, probably because of restrictions on oakmoss. I suppose the difficulty of buying it in vintage makes it a bit cult

    Ormonde Woman is one I can’t handle, precisely as you say because of the Iso E, but it was a useful experience in as much as I can identify Iso E very quickly now! August 4, 2014 at 3:40am Reply

    • Elisa: Lumiere Noire is great! It reminds me of L’Arte di Gucci, in fact, one of the cult perfumes that’s been named a few times in the comments!

      Perfumes that reportedly contain a lot of a given material can be so helpful in that way, can’t they? There is supposedly a lot of Iso E Super in Tresor as well. August 4, 2014 at 9:17am Reply

  • Eva S.: Love your article! 🙂
    I don´t think I own any cult perfumes, but PHI Une Rose de Kandahar is my great love and so dear to my heart.
    It was given to me by a person that means the world to me so it has a special meaning besides from beeing my favourite rose forever and ever.
    I know it can be hard to find because of the limited amount.
    Among my small collection is also Montale Attar, Jour d´Hermes, Chanel no 5 elixir sensuel. August 6, 2014 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Elisa: It’s such a pretty powdery almond rose! August 6, 2014 at 4:30pm Reply

  • Moochie: No one ever mentions Piguet’s Bandit,,,,,I like this scent from 1944,,,,,,,,, August 30, 2014 at 10:46pm Reply

  • zane: to me the most “cult” love/hate perfume is BY Dolce&Gabanna (leopard print) October 3, 2014 at 5:33pm Reply

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