Niche Fragrances in India: A Shopping Guide

Niche Fragrances in India: A Shopping Guide

I discovered the world of niche fragrances only recently. It started with a small sample of the classic Baccarat Rouge 540 EDP, from the house of Maison Francis Kurkdjian. And it went on to become two samples, and then a handful and then I fell down that rabbit hole. It’s been a good rabbit hole, but it’s easy to get lost along the way: the reason for this being the fact that there are a ton of fake fragrances floating around, and unless you are careful, you’re going to end up losing a lot of money. This is where I come in, with a select few LEGIT recommendations of places you can get hold of your niche fragrances from.

Now, before we get into the whole shebang, let’s talk a little bit about how a niche fragrance differs from a designer one.

Fragrance experts have divided fragrances into designer and niche since for ever. When designer fashion houses, like Chanel for example, make a fragrance, it is designed to appeal to as many people as possible – this also means that the ingredients that go into the fragrance are usually synthetic. Now, that might not always be the case. On the other hand, niche fragrances are designed to appeal to a “niche” group of people who are always looking for something unique and different. Niche fragrance brands almost always exclusively sell fragrances, and usually use better ingredients, or offer a smoother blend. They also often have a much better sillage (derived from the French word meaning ‘wake’, or the trail of scent that one leaves behind when wearing a fragrance) and wear longer.

This is also why niche fragrances cost you more money, even the entry-level ones like Montale/Mancera. They are also notoriously hard to come by – you won’t find these at your local Parcos – and you are left with very few options to choose from.

2021 for me has been a year of fragrances: I have bought almost little to none of everything else. This whole journey has also made me gravitate towards a few boutiques that I know I can trust, and I am so happy to be sharing them right here:

1. Maison Des Parfums:

They have a boutique located in Palladium Mall, Mumbai and they have a BUNCH of niche fragrance brands. You can find Amouroud, Bond No. 9, Nasomatto (whose fragrances are super unique, from the shape of the bottles to the blends) and even Xerjoff, to name a select few. They don’t have a dedicated website yet, but I’m told it’s in the works. Meanwhile, if you want to buy from them online, you can always look on Tata CLiQ Luxury or send them a direct message on their Instagram handle @mdpindofficial. Shipping is fast, and I always receive my package in less two days.

2. Scentido Niche Perfumery:

Scentido now has three boutiques in the country – one at Fort, Mumbai, one at Khan Market, Delhi and the last one at Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. They carry brands like Clive Christian, Jul et Mad, Roja Parfums, Fragrance du Bois – that list is endless. They also have Fragrance Consultants who actually call and stay in touch over WhatsApp should you find it confusing to pick THE scent of your dreams. And they send in two samples with every order.

Scentido also has an online store.

3. Splash Fragrance:

I got my backup bottle of La Nuit Trésor from Splash Fragrance. Owned by the VERY patient and kind Gaurav Verma, also has a Lucknow based store called Opulence perfumery, this is a one stop shop for BOTH niche and designer fragrances. They also sell decants, and again, send samples with every order.

Find them online here.

4. Belvish:

My latest discovery, I had to add this store to my list for the sheer fact that they tick all the boxes. Really good prices, check (I find their pricing slightly better than Splash’s). Amazing customer service, check. The two gentlemen at Belvish, Akshay and Jaspreet, are real gems of people. You get pot-pourri and eco-friendly packaging with every order. Their shipping is fantastic and I got my order in less than two days. SHOOK.

They’re based in Delhi but they ship pan-India. Find them online here.

Now, having recommended these stores, there’s a tiny footnote I would like to add: niche fragrances are an investment BUT you need to be careful with how much you end up spending. It is so easy to lose track of things, so I recommend sticking to a budget if you’re just starting out. With that thought out of the way, happy shopping!

On Broken Souls and Olive Branches

On Broken Souls and Olive Branches

I’ve been told I don’t try hard enough

I’ve been told it’s my fault things go wrong

They said I was weird and unfixable, with a sad little laugh

They said I don’t know what it takes at all

I’ve been told the problem lies in me

I’ve been told I’m no good

And I whole heartedly agree, because honestly

A year went by and I achieved nothing

It’s hard to find someone who gets it

Someone who feels what you feel

They might try on your shoes but they won’t fit

As comfortably as they seem to fit you

No matter how many olive branches you extend

Someone needs to be receptive there too

Broken people and broken relationships don’t mend

Not one their own, they need a lot of help too

I’m an introvert when it comes to feelings

That won’t ever change

I wish I could stay in my bubble and find some meaning

Meanwhile I’d let my ramblings comfort me in my head

It’s a new year but nothing feels different to me

I feel detached like I’ve always been

Broken people don’t heal themselves, you see

What’s worse, I feel like I’d never find my clarity

The Twin

The Twin

I was getting married in three hours. I’d suddenly developed this awful headache, and told my hairstylist to give me a second.

I must have fallen asleep.

Someone was shrieking rather loudly in my ears, and also shaking me persistently.

“LOU? LOU! Wake up, Louise! Oh, God!”

I opened my eyes and everything was so bright, it took me a while before I realized that I was bound and gagged, in my underwear. My mother was in tears, in shock, and a long moment passed before I noticed that we were Inside Missy’s closet.

Missy was my dead twin sister.

We had gone swimming one night, while on a family trip to Bali, and the tide had swept us in. And I had lost track of time and woken up to find Missy gone. She’d stayed gone. The’d never found a body. We had a closed casket funeral for her, with fourteen-year-old me clinging to my mother’s arm, both of us inconsolable.

It had been ten years since.

The only thing that I happened to register now, at this point, was my very terrified mother asking, “But who did Sean get married to? We all thought it was obviously you! She even called me Momsicle!” The only person – apart from me – who ever called our mother that, was Missy. Who we held a freaking funeral for. Ten bloody years ago.

Sean is – was – my fiancé. Sean was also Missy’s teenage crush. Missy and Sean never happened because of the incident. I’d never meant to fall in love with Sean – I didn’t – but fate has awful ways of meddling with people’s lives and he’d proposed to me on my twenty fourth birthday, after three years of dating.

I looked at the date – February 14 – and realized that he was probably on his way to Florence. With his new wife. Who looked exactly like me.

50 Word Story: Vanity

50 Word Story: Vanity

Her whole life had been dedicated to the pursuit of ridiculously pricey trinkets.

The day she slipped and fell off the cliff while sightseeing, she had on some Manolo heels. A good pair of Nikes would have saved her life, but she’d always loved a rather vulgar display of wealth.

Growth.

Growth.

We’d fight all the time

Mostly it would just be me

And we’d end up

Going to bed seething, so angry

There have been times

When we hated each other

I’d cry, you’d look away

You’d say I was such a bother

But look at us now

We’re doing great, aren’t we

So in love

A love that grows effortlessly

My shrink once told me

That it’s okay to fight a lot initially

Because that’s when people adjust

And you were growing to love me for me

People tried to take us apart

People said things, mean stuff

One day we decided it would be just us

And that we’d had enough

I guess growth

Only comes from within

And that’s pretty much it

It comes with a lot of accepting

Growth tells you

That when you’re in love

You don’t need to involve the world

Not even when push comes to shove

The Donor

The Donor

Donna had the personality of raw, unsalted pasta. To say that she was bland, unappealing, and completely far from being impactful, would be the understatement of the century. She’d been that accidental baby that neither parent wanted, and she’d grown up with the feeling of being unloved her whole life.

Her mommy issues ran deeper than the hatred a certain pair of adjacent nations felt towards each other.

Her daddy issues ran deeper than the Mariana Trench.

She wasn’t great to look at either. And she didn’t have brains, they said. Nor did she have a spine, apparently, because everyone she tried to talk to would ask her to grow one. Donna, for the life of her, with her rather limited IQ and her simple heart, never understood how one was supposed to grow a spine at the ripe age of twenty nine.

She was also color-blind and didn’t qualify for a ton of jobs, so she worked as a book-binder instead.

Donna would sit at home, by the window, look out at the trees that everyone said were green, and tell herself that things would be okay someday. And as each day passed, and as each time a prospective groom came home, ate her parents’ food and rejected her in front of her worried parents, Donna started losing hope. At this point, her parents were growing old, and wrinkly and everyone that came home would always talk about Donna’s unmarried status. And as Donna approached thirty on the last day of the warmest summer in history, she thought that it would be a great idea to soak in the bathtub for the last time before the clock struck midnight.

Donna filled the bath with ice cubes and heard voices.

Grow a pair.

Grow a spine.

You’re such a waste of skin.

You should be dead.

You should never have been born.

Nobody wants a girl child, anyway.

You’re pathetic.

She looked at the shower curtain and thought to herself that it was about time she did something worthwhile.

The last thing she felt was the press of the defibrillator on her chest as Donna finally faded away. The last voice she heard said something she wanted to hear since the time she’d developed a conscience, even though she had dung for brains and an IQ of less than ten.

She’s flatlined, they said.

A few hours later, a young man received a new kidney.

A few more hours later, someone else received a liver transplant.

In death, she wasn’t so useless and far from being impactful, after all.

50 Word Story: Mother

50 Word Story: Mother

Ariel was six and lived with her single mum, Ursula, who used to leave for work early. Sometimes they’d miss their meals. Sleep was often inadequate.

Eventually, things started getting done around the house. On their own.

One morning she walked in on Ursula, multitasking, with tentacles.

Lingerie

Lingerie

Dave hated going away on business trips. He missed Lila. Tomorrow would be their fifth wedding anniversary, and he would probably miss it. Cursing silently, he made his way to the elevator that would take him to his brand new client’s office. He looked at his watch: it was already getting kind of late, and there was no way he would be able to take a three hour flight back home now. These meetings typically ran long and were extremely boring.

Dave sighed and walked into the office, feeling miserable that he wouldn’t be able to get home to Lila before midnight. He’d been away for only three days but he missed her because she constantly said she missed him.

She was a sweetheart, Bambi to the world, Devil between sheets.

Just yesterday, she’d told him she’d bought new underwear because she wanted to FaceTime him exactly at midnight, since he couldn’t be there with her physically. It was a silly little tradition they had – every year, he’d buy her fancy lingerie from Agent Provocateur. And they’d role play and go crazy.

Dave had been so apologetic, telling her he was sorry for not being able to come home. He’d argued that FaceTime wasn’t the same thing as being together in person, and that he wanted to be with her on their anniversary, just like every other year. Lila had assured him that she wasn’t too mad. Yes, she would miss him, but he would come home soon anyway and they’d be getting it on like a pair of bunnies. They’d both laughed at that one.

And now he sat in a plush office, talking numbers with a polished gentleman, who seemed nice and seemed to really like Dave. It was a given, since everyone loved Dave. The meeting went well, and they were able to close the deal super early and Dave debated letting Lila know that he would be coming home after all, but he decided against it. Let it be a surprise, he thought. On the way, he picked up some candy, thanking his lucky stars that he actually did find the time to get some candy at least.

His sweet little Lila.

On the flight back home, Dave watched a romantic comedy and secretly ugly cried inside his head. The flight landed and he practically ran to the cab. When he got home, he made sure to not make any noise, because he truly, truly wanted to surprise Lila – and let himself into their sound-proofed apartment. There was a silence in the dark hall, padded, comforting. And a faint trace of perfume in the air that Dave didn’t recognize. Distinctly floral. Lila liked gourmand scents.

The door to the master bedroom was shut, and he could hear faint moaning noises coming from within.

Dave walked over and pushed the door open silently.

Lila lay on the bed, spread wide, with her knees bent, head thrown back, eyes closed in ecstasy. She seemed to be in a trance almost, repeating one name, Tina. Her best friend of six years, Tina. They’d always sworn they were sisters, but Dave had always noticed a little something between the two women. Something he couldn’t put his finger on. He’d forgotten all about it until now, because there they were, both of them butt-naked, doing it like a pair of hormonal bunnies. Shrugging, Dave stepped into the room, shut the door behind him, and joined the party.

In between Lila going at it like there was no tomorrow, Dave grabbed her by the hair and nodding towards Tina, whispered, “Did you like the present?”

Lila’s smile lit up the room.

Joke’s On You

Joke’s On You

Sequel to The Cruel Joke.

Myra froze as she registered what had just been said. Memories that she’d so stubbornly been keeping suppressed these four years, came flooding back.

Those weren’t happy memories at all.

Five years ago, when Myra had just started a brand new job, she had to work weird shifts. She was working late one night. At the end of her shift, she packed up and stuffing her laptop into her backpack, got into a relatively crowded elevator. She didn’t notice the man at the back, the man with the lecherous eyes. When she got out, she didn’t realize she was being followed all the way to the deserted parking lot. She didn’t realize what was happening till someone clamped a hand over her mouth, and whispered:

“Don’t even try to struggle. You’ve been resisting me for far too long.”

Myra thought she was being robbed, but then she smelled Cuban cigars. The only person she knew that smelled that way was her boss, Varun.

He was also a lot bigger than her and the slap he landed across her left cheek when she tried to get away, almost knocked the wind out of her. After Varun was done having his way with her, he discarded her shivering body like a piece of used Kleenex and swiftly got into his car and drove away. Myra lay on the ground, most of her clothes pooled around her ankles, unable to believe what had just happened to her. She couldn’t feel her legs, or her left cheek or anything else apart from shame, embarrassment and humiliation.

There was no CCTV footage: Varun had picked a blind spot to molest Myra.

She had no idea how she managed to get her clothes back on, or how she got back to her tiny rented apartment that she shared with another girl. All Myra knew at that point, was that she would never be the same. She quit her job the next day, and she’d moved back home within the week. Her ex-roommate would call, but Myra cut her off eventually, telling her and everyone else that she wanted to pursue her Masters and would very much like to be left alone.

A year passed, and the suppressed memories stopped bothering her too much.

She was in Texas the next summer, visiting her aunt, when she met Raghav at a Starbucks and discovered that he’d been a senior at her school. They’d never met before because he’d already graduated when she switched to his school. And so, a friendship formed and eventually, Raghav asked her to be his girlfriend and she said yes. She’d never told him where she worked briefly because she’d decided to forget about the whole elevator/parking lot incident. And Raghav was a good boyfriend and Myra was finally in a good place.

But now, looking at Varun once again, she didn’t know what to do. She had no proof of what he’d done and she didn’t want to let Raghav go.

And so, the two families decided on a wedding date, the engagement went smoothly and Varun didn’t really try to do anything with Raghav around. But Myra, with her heightened senses, could always feel Varun’s eyes on her, wanting to posses her all over again. The wedding date approached, and Myra was ready to go. The bridesmaids left Myra in the room alone for a minute, and then Varun walked in. She could tell he’d been waiting to catch a break.

“You’re hot. I can’t believe you’re marrying my loser of a brother. What do you see in him, anyway? I’m a lot richer and a lot better looking. He’s just starting out. You won’t be able to even live comfortably, have you seen the shabby little apartment he lives in?”

Myra glared at him, “He’s a good person. Unlike you.” She grabbed her phone and tried to call for help. He snatched it out of her hand. Myra looked around, trying to find something to hit him with, found a makeup brush and attempted to stab him in the face. Varun was way too quick for her and had her pinned to the wall in a second. He then started to feel her up. Myra’s screams were drowned out by the loud wedding music. She thought she saw someone outside, out of the corner of her eye, and screamed, some more, for help. She was fighting Varun off when a whole lot of people, led by her parents, rushed into the room.

Myra’s dad peeled Varun away from his daughter with shockingly gargantuan strength. Myra’s mum rushed to comfort her crying daughter.

“Good thing Sana saw what was happening and alerted us, or Lord knows what would have happened,” Myra’s mum said, her voice shaking.

Sana was one of Myra’s cousins and also one of the bridesmaids. She was the one who had come to fetch Myra, but had seen what was happening. It was lucky she didn’t lose her head in a crisis. It was also lucky she had the whole thing on video, even though the video was only a few seconds long, before she had run to get people. Cops were called, and Varun was arrested. Turned out, he’d molested several other women but had also blackmailed them into silence.

Varun’s Dad stepped into the room, and apologized to Myra.

“I’m sorry, beta,” he said, “I’ve never been more ashamed in my whole entire life. Varun is going to jail and I’ll make sure he stays there. He’s been getting away with a lot of things for far too long. This needs to stop right now. No wonder people hate on MLAs and their children. It’s because of people like Varun. I’m so, so sorry.”

So Varun got a life sentence, with his Dad making sure that Varun never got to leave. Myra’s wedding was marred by such gloomy turn of events but she went on to have a very happy married life with Raghav, in their little apartment.

The Texter

The Texter

Best friends Alex and Sharon were polar opposites. Sharon texted too much, Alex hated phones with a passion.

One day she’d had enough of Sharon’s texts and muted her everywhere.

Alex was found in a secluded corner of the park with her throat slit the next morning. Cops found her phone, which was on silent. There were a bunch of missed calls and muted messages, all from the same person.

Sharon was nowhere to be found.