The best indie scents of 2019

As if winning a Jasmine Award 2019 from The Fragrance Foundation wasn’t thrilling enough in its own right, as part of our ‘duties’ we were invited to judge two categories in The Fragrance Foundation Awards, which will be presented on 16th May at what’s indubitably the glitziest event in the fragrance calendar.

Happily, we are olfactory ironman – or perhaps ironwomen, since The Perfume Society‘s judges were female: Suzy (Nightingale) and Jo (Fairley, a.k.a. me, the author of this piece). Because we first had to sniff our way through well over 30 entries to the Best Independent Fragrance Award at the headquarters of fragrance distributor Puig, who’d kindly lent a boardroom for the event. (Notwithstanding the freezing cold morning, the windows were duly flung open, since spritzing three dozen or so scents into an enclosed space can become overwhelming even for professional perfumistas like us.)

Then a couple of days later, we completed the challenging task of blind-smelling an equivalent number of entries for the Perfume Extraordinaire Award. It’s harder than you think, honestly. These fragrances must be tried on the skin, allowed to develop, judged for creativity, originality, quality and many other benchmarks. (Although we did eliminate some no-hopers without spraying them on ourselves, the better to focus on a long shortlist of those which impressed enough to warrant full exploration.)

Coloured stationery dots were involved, stuck onto as much skin as we could decently expose – carefully numbered so that we could match them to numbers on a list of submissions and award our considered scores. (It’s how perfumers do it, NB.)

We’ve no idea who’s actually won, yet – although we did award some very, very high scores this year, partly because there seems to be a return taking place to fragrances that simply smell beautiful. Not trying to be too clever-clever, or plunge us into olfactory shock, or different for different’s sake. Just downright gorgeous smells. And isn’t that what we all, really, want…?

Here are the shortlisted winners in both categories.


Roja Parfums Chypré Extraotrdinaire –
Sarah Ireland Perfumes Crushed Velvet
MW Perfumes Le Jardin Nostalgique
Modernist Fragrance nihilism
Ormonde Jayne Privé
Sana Jardin Revolution de la Fleur
Cloon Keen Atelier Róisín Dubh
Angela Flanders Taffeta


Hermès Cardamusc Essence de Parfum
Roja Parfums Chypré Extraordinaire
Hermès Eau de Citron Noir
diptyque Fleur de Peau (submitted by Givaudan)
Jo by Jo Loves (submitted by Givaudan)
Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Music for a While (submitted by IFF)

Haven’t smelled them? You’re in for some treats. (And they’re all the more enjoyable when you’re not covered in sticky dots, we promise.)

By Jo Fairley

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