Scent is intimate. A deeply personal affair. It tugs at our core memories; patchouli tracing the silhouette of your grandfather smoking his pipe late in the evening, and labdanum with its soft and milky presence, takes us to lazy sunday mornings spent in a lover's arms. It's for this reason that fragrance can also be sentimental. We douse ourselves in specific notes not just in the hope that they will sharpen our presence as we enter a room, but for armour; for comfort; as a way of holding our loved ones near, albeit on a spritzed lapel or with a dab on our wrist.
And while fragrance can be many things, it has always felt absurd to view it as gendered. Nothing in Fantasy by Britney Spears will make it smell more enticing on female-identifying folks. It will slap you in the face with its sugary scent regardless of who wears it. In my mind, the marker of a good parfumerie is its ability to recognise this. To craft a fragrance not with an intended wearer in mind, but to render a sense of place or simply a feeling. That's why below, we're rounding up a list of 10 perfumes that do this well. Below, find the gender neutral fragrances that we buy on repeat.
1. LE LABO Ambrette 9
This could easily have been any single on of Le Labo's signature fragrances. While I'm partial to Thé Noir 29 and Vetiver 46, it's Ambrette 9, nature's only naturally occurring musk, that is my favourite universally flattering skin scent. A gentle and clean contender for the best gender neutral fragrance.
2. AESOP Tacit
If you fancy a herbaceous scent, then Tacit is your next five year obsession. The inclusion of yuzu and basil make it a particularly energising choice, perfect for the warmer months when you're seeking something to cut through the heat.
3. BYREDO Sundazed
If you're forever chasing the sensation of summer in Italy, then simulate it with Byredo's Sundazed. Youthful and vibrant if the layers of jasmine and neroli don't transport you to the Amalfi then citrus heavyweights like lemon and mandarin are bound to do the trick.
4. D.S & DURGA El Cosmico
Inspired by the desert air of Marfa, Texas and calling on the resilient plant-life in the Chihuahuan Desert, D.S & Durga landed at El Cosmico. It smells like a shot of Sotol, which is no coincidence as thanks to the heady addition of oak, pinyon pine and mesquite this resiny fragrance is sure to have you feeling drunk and in love.
5. MAISON MARGIELA By the Fireplace
A comfort in cooler climates. Spritz a bit of this cult classic onto the collar of your winter coat and the effect will be even more comforting than a hot water bottle. Alternatively, spray it on a lover and lap it up in the comfort of their arms.
6. ST. ROSE Desert Nomad
A soulful fragrance where Australian sandalwood takes centrestage. Add palo santo and vetiver into the mix and find yourself clutching a musky, spicy salve for winter.
7. DIPTYQUE Philosykos
This one's for all the folks who love fig. Named after 'the friend of the fig tree' in Greek, coconut and cedar make this a creamy essential for admirers of the summer fruit. And while blackcurrant can lead to a "cat piss" like odor (the French's words not mine), here is sings, adding a nip of brightness to the gourmand fragrance.
8. ROEMY No.6
Penned as a love letter to candle-lit dinners under a late January southern sky, this gender neutral fragrance evokes all the best memories of balmy summer evenings. Rhubarb, orange blossom and Italian bergamot lighting the way.
9. EDITIONS DE PARFUMS Carnal Flower
Gardenia and tuberose are spotlighted in this sultry floral scent. A hit for those seeking out the traditional, à la a ylang ylang and jasmine but with a romantic twist. See: musk and coconut.
10. 19-69 L´air Barbès
If gender neutral is the brief, then we'll be damned if we don't include the fragrance crafted with Helmut Newton's iconic picture of YSL's Le Smoking suit in mind. Cool and light, we've never met a 19-69 perfume we didn't like. This one looks to concrete, lemon and ink for a unique scent experience.