Perfume doesn’t have to make you smell like a bouquet of flowers or a basket of fruit—and believe it or not, there are a bevy of scents that are designed to make you smell amazing without giving off a specific recognizable aroma. These scents are usually formulated with synthetic fragrance molecules that react differently with each wearer’s skin chemistry, so if you want a truly unique scent that will have people stopping you on the street, these are the non-perfumey perfumes to check out.
Escentric Molecules Molecule 01
This intriguing unisex scent serves up a whiff of woodiness, powder, musk or a light floral—depending on who you ask. The single synthetic note in this juice is called Iso E Super, and perhaps the wildest thing about it is that sometimes you can smell it, and sometimes you can’t (thanks to the way it binds to olfactory system receptors). This “intermittent recognition” is almost like the scent playing hard to get—and makes you want it even more. FYI: It’s believed Iso E Super made its perfume debut in Halston Woman in 1975, and it’s been featured in many memorable fragrances since, including Dior’s Fahrenheit and Lancome’s Tresor.
Juliette Has A Gun Not A Perfume
Another scent comprised of a single synthetic note, Not A Perfume relies on Cetalox (also known as Ambrox) for its more feminine aura of musk and amber. Similar to Molecule 01, reviews span from “Is this slightly-scented water?” to “I’ll smell it for an hour, then it’s gone, then it comes back,” so you really need to try it to see how it works on you. Fun fact: This fragrance is allergen-free.
D.S. & Durga I Don’t Know What
Though not a single-synthetic scent, this intriguing juice isn’t actually a perfume at all—instead it’s designed to be a fragrance enhancer that adds dimension to any other perfume you may wear. It does, however, include the aforementioned Iso E Super and Ambrox along with similar synthetic molecules and bergamot for a dash of zestiness. It’s certainly fun to see what happens when you wear it with one of your fragrance favorites (and it’s quite lovely on its own, too).
Byredo Elevator Music
This Swedish fragrance (and accessory) house’s collaboration with Off-White designer Virgil Abloh may include familiar notes such as bamboo, violet and jasmine, but the addition of ambrette (a plant-based musk substitute) gives it an etherealness that almost prevents any one of them from standing out. And for those who like to wear fragrance in less traditional ways, you can get it in a Hair Perfume and Hand Cream as well.
Created to help you smell like you (but better), this blend of ambrette, ambrox and musk (plus a hint of iris root and pink pepper) achieves its goal. This is also one of those rare scents that doesn’t “evolve” after you spray it on—so what you smell at first is what you get for the rest of the day thanks to its impressive staying power.