13 perfumes that are just as memorable as Baccarat Rouge

People often ask me what kind of fragrance I like to wear. Citrus? Gourmand? A classic white floral? My default answer used to be anything smoky, masculine – preferably niche – but I've come to realise that what I really gravitate towards is any perfume that's memorable; something you could smell once, but go on to recognise in a crowd.

I have a theory that this is the common denominator linking 'viral' scents. Pre-social media, there was Mugler Angel. Inspired by Thierry Mugler's childhood trips to the fair, Angel was sweet, syrupy and evocative. It smelt like food, not flowers or musk. You could walk into any nightclub during the 90s and locate it immediately. It went on to pave the way for the 'gourmand' category we know today.

And then we had Santal 33, a fragrance that occupied the air space of New York for most of the early 2000s. The story goes like this: Le Labo developed a prototype, but it was deemed not good enough and thus demoted to candle status (called Santal 26). Nothing much happened until Ian Schraeger, the man who founded Studio 54, commissioned a custom but very similar iteration to fill his new venture, the Gramercy Park Hotel. The guests loved it (smoky, creamy, ambiguous scents were rare at the time), and subsequently requested the brand release it to the public. Long story short, Le Labo revisited the fragrance prototype, and it was launched as Santal 33 – the personal fragrance we know and love today. A fun fact: Schraeger still pumps custom Le Labo through his hotels. If you've stayed at The Standard or Public in New York, you'll know exactly what I mean.

Nowadays, we have #FragranceTok, a corner of the internet so powerful it can turn little-known scents into global sensations. Case in point: Baccarat Rouge 540. Created by Francis Kurkdjian in 2014, the perfume was a collaboration with Baccarat Crystal to celebrate its 250th birthday. Initially, it was limited edition, but due to demand, it became a permanent fixture. While it's always been popular, Baccarat Rouge was long an insider's scent, partially because of the price (70ml goes for $369), but also because Maison Francis Kurkdjian was a niche perfume house. If you weren't really into fragrance, you'd likely never heard of it. But its unique composition – saffron, jasmine, ambergris — is difficult to ignore. It blew up on social media, called out as a scent that smelt like 'money' and 'sex'. Now, it's constantly sold out at Mecca. I can hardly walk through Sydney city without breathing it in.

I hypothesise this line of thinking also applies to Sol de Janeiro. Yes, the Bum Bum Cream is a really good moisturiser, but what's truly irresistible about it is the scent. It smells like pistachios, salted caramel, jasmine and heliotrope. It's sweet, strong and addictive. When I wear it to bed, it's on my sheets until the next wash. It's so popular, the brand is structured in a way by which they sell their products via 'scent' and not product categories. Cheirosa 62, the smell of the original Bum Bum, also comes as a lip balm, hair oil, body scrub, hand cream... the list goes on.

This might be way off, but there is some non-scientific evidence to show that uniqueness, memorability and longevity are all common factors behind viral scents. It's nice to be remembered for your fragrance, for someone to think of you every time they inhale CHANEL/Francis Kurkdjian/Dior/Le Labo or whatever it is. But it's also nice to smell unique. There will always be some who prefer quiet fragrance — background scents — but for anyone who wants their perfume to enter a room before they do (without relaying on the aforementioned suspects), I've curated a list of 13 alternatives. They're not dupes in that they smell like Baccarat or Angel or Santal, but in that they carry the same weight.

Here are 13 dupes that are just as memorable as Baccarat Rouge 540.



Matiere Premiere Crystal Saffron

Saffron links this scent to Baccarat Rouge, but Matiere Premiere's take is textured, more masculine. There's a metallic quality to it that feels clean and contemporary, but weighty notes of ambroxan and habanolide musk keep it on the skin for days.


Editions de Parfums by Frédéric Malle Rose & Cuir

This is my all time favourite rose. I took it on holiday, and a restaurant staffer asked me what I was wearing. I accidentally told her Rose Tonnerre (Frédéric Malle's other 'rose' scent) and felt so bad that that I emailed the restaurant to clarify. It does smell like rose, but it's underscored with leather and vetiver, giving it an Earthiness that's surprising but delicious. It also lasts on your clothes forever. Proof that florals don't need to be quiet.


Editions by Frédéric Malle Music For A While

More Frédéric Malle, but this is one of the most interesting perfumes I've ever come across. It's a big fragrance with notes of lavender, pineapple, patchouli and sugar. While it sounds sweet, I find it quite masculine, warm, seductive. I think it's the ripeness of fruit tempered with the soapy-ness of lavender. Tempting to gate-keep as I love it so much, but it deserves the praise. Carlos Benaïm left no crumbs with this one.


Louis Vuitton Fleur du Désert

Fans of the amber category will love Vuitton's Fleur Du Désert. It opens with honey and cinnamon, before drying down to a smoky floral base (think jasmine, oud, rose). Decadent and bold, it's perfumer Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud's interpretation of a vegetal desert oasis.


Maison Crivelli Hibiscus Mahajád

Maison Crivelli's Extrait collection sits at about 33% concentration. To put this in context, traditional eau de parfums sit around 15-20%, and toilettes 5-15%. It's powerful — a single spritz will occupy the air around you all day — but undeniably delicious. Described as hibiscus tea amongst a gemstone market, it's juicy and extremely bright, a perfect mash-up of fruit, flowers and spice.


Serge Lutens Fille En Aiguilles

This is resinous, dry and very aromatic. There's a festiveness to it — arguably due to the pine and dried fruits — but notes of  ISO E Super (the 'skin' molecule made popular by Esentric Molecules) keep it modern. If you want to smell like a forest, this is what you should be reaching for.


Maison Crivelli Patchouli Magnetik

How to describe Patchouli Magnetik? Milky, sweet and confident, this perfume smells kind of like a summer storm. It's heavy, metallic and laced with sensual patchouli, but white peach and gardenia imbue a sweet freshness. It really has to be smelt to be understood, but one guaranteed to get you compliments.


BDK Parfums Pas Ce Soir

Pas Ce Soir should come with a warning. Fruity, warm and hedonistic, it's the type of perfume that hits the back of your throat when you breathe it in. There's cocoa, pear, tangerine, quince chutney, jasmine, ginger and an overdose of patchouli for depth. It's deliciously addictive and not for the faint of heart.


Mugler Angel

The original and arguably the best, Angel walked so the rest of the cult fragrances could run. To me, it's got the same qualities as Baccarat — it feels expensive, unique, luxurious. It's feminine but not in a girlish way. And most importantly, it stands out in a crowd (no doubt due to the praline and patchouli).


Costa Brazil Aroma

What's unique about Aroma is that it lacks a top note, so it feels very warm and developed as soon as it's applied to the skin. Resinous and woody, it's inspired by the trees of the Amazon rainforest. I love how dry but rich it is. Of all the scents I wear, it gets me the most compliments.


YSL Libre 

Libre is proof that you don't have to seek out obscure scents in order to pack a punch. Spicy and sexy, it's a bold floral complete with blackcurrant, petitgrain, lavender, cedarwood and vanilla. It's not heavy or cloying, but there's a strength to it that's really appealing. In my opinion, it perfectly balances masculine and feminine facets, as well.


CHANEL Gardenia

Florals typically err on the softer end of the fragrance spectrum, but Gardenia from CHANEL's Les Exclusifs collection is creamy, luxurious and beautifully long-wearing. It's true to its namesake — it smells like summer — but there's a sensual, nectar-like quality that gives it depth. Interestingly, it was made in honour of the Camellia flower, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's favourite flower, albeit one with no scent.


Byredo Velvet Haze

Velvet Haze is my forever favourite Byredo scent. Inspired by the free-spirited 60s, it's intoxicating and spicy. Blending coconut water, cocoa absolute, patchouli and ambrette, it's warm to begin with, but dries down to a smoky, spicy base. Comforting, nostalgic and pleasurable.


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