8 of the Rarest Fragrances and Ingredients You Need to Know
Acclaimed perfumers travel far and wide to source rare ingredients from all four corners of the world. For while aesthetically-pleasing bottles and the storytelling behind them can render a prized perfume all the more special, it's the rare and often elusive ingredients within a crafted blend that can instantly transform an ordinary scent into an extraordinary one be it the ingredients that are scarcely found or those that require intricate and often timely extraction. So between frankincense and oud, saffron and amber, discover the most precious fragrances and ingredients to elevate your perfume wardrobe.
Fresh, woody yet delicately floral
Combining powdery, woody and violet notes, orris is an instantly recognisable ingredient. Yet it’s among the rarest in the world of perfumery. The material obtained from the rhizomes of the iris plant – known as orris butter – requires between three and five years to mature before it can be used, it is extremely precious, with some varieties costing more than three times as much as gold.
Carolina Herrera, Confidential Iris Empire Eau de Parfum, 100ml, £230
Enriched with this elusive ingredient, Carolina Herrera’s jewel-inspired collection is as opulent as its star ingredient. Created by perfumer Nelly Hachem-Ruiz (IFF) in collaboration with Beauty Creative Director Carolina A. Herrera, the olfactive notes fuse cinnamon, violet and orris, and patchouli. “I wanted to associate orris to a cocoa veil to create a new addictive signature,” says Hachem-Ruiz, who has fused these two rare ingredients to create a powerful yet delicate scent.
Sweet, spicy, and woody
Frankincense is an aroma you might recognise from incense – in other words, that distinctive earthy and aromatic scent with spicy undertones. It’s been used for 5,000 years, yet these days the trees that produce Frankincense (Boswellia trees) are scarce making it a highly rare ingredient. To this day, Oman’s Dhofar region produces what is considered to be the highest grade of frankincense in the world.
Edition de Parfums Frederic Malle, Portraits of a Lady Perfume, 100ml, £290
The newest fragrance from the luxury perfumer, Frederic Malle described Portraits of a Lady as "one of the best things we've ever made." It draws inspiration from the grandeur of a theatre, with notes of fragrant frankincense, floral rose, musk and amber.
Woody, ranging from sweet to earthy
Oud is one of the most expensive fragrance ingredients in the world. Very powerful, oud oil is in fact created when a fungus attacks the bark of the aquilaria tree, and then the ingredient is produced by the tree as a defence mechanism. It’s estimated that only 2% of aquilaria trees will create oud oil, which makes it all the more expensive – with some varieties of oud priced at around £75,000 per kilogram.
Maison Crivelli x Jordi Fernandez, Oud Stallion Extrait de Parfum, 50ml, £220
As the name suggests, oud is the star of the show for Maison Crivelli’s latest olfactive creation. An ode to the intense and fragrant oil, it combines fragrant spices like saffron and cardamom culminating in a rich leather and woody fragrance. It's intense, powerful and strong – just like oud itself.
Spicy, citrus-woody notes
A rare example of a spice that manages to smell both hot and cold, warm and spicy, cardamom has long been prized as a vital addition to perfume. But appealing as it is, it’s also the third costliest spice in the world. It’s usually grown in the Ghat mountains in India and has to be harvested by hand – making it all the more rare and expensive.
Graff, Lesedi La Rona IX Eau de Parfum, 100ml, £330
Harnessing the ever-alluring spice, the new Lesedi La Rona IX by Graff fuses black tea, jasmine, zesty bergamot, and punchy ginger along with the warmth of cardamom. The result is a warm yet spicy concoction that plays on the duality of this precious ingredient.
Gourmand, deep and leather-like
Due to the way it’s harvested, some of the varieties of saffron can cost almost £8,000 per kilogram. It’s often referred to as ‘red gold’ and is among some of the most ancient ingredients used in perfumes. With soft and earthy notes, it adds warmth and spice to fragrance blends without ever being too overwhelming or strong.
LilaNar Parfums, Zafran Boisé Eau de Parfum, 100ml, £225
Smokey and bold, the new Zafran Boisé fragrance was inspired by a tea ritual in India's Kasmir which ends with strands of saffron often referred to as "red gold”. Meanwhile, the blend also takes inspiration from the region itself. “[It is] my dream of a cool evening in Kashmir, floating down the Dal Lake surrounded by the scent of cedar, honey, cinnamon and saffron," says LilaNar’s perfumer Honorine Blanc.
Warm, spicy gourmand
Naturally warm, cacao bean is equally sweet and spicy and renowned for its gourmand scent. With the versatile play between a bitter allure and a creamy sweetness, it’s a sheer pleasure on the nose.
Tom Ford Beauty, Soleil de Feu Eau de Parfum, 50ml, £220
Inspired by burnt, fiery and intense sunsets, the latest scent by Tom Ford pairs tuberose accord, warm ambers and sandalwood with base notes of cacao and sandalwood to create something mesmerising and unique. Typically a summer scent, it’s warmed up by the rich notes of cacao making it both sweet and spicy.
Oriental, floral, and sweet
Warm and sweet, amber usually consists of a combination of different ingredients given how rare and how long it takes to form in its natural state. Usually in synthetic form, amber is blended with different ingredients, such as vanilla, tonka bean, and patchouli, and varies in its aroma depending on the creation.
Armani, Stronger With You Amber Eau de Parfum, 100ml, £93
Powered by this opulent ingredient, Armani’s Stronger With You fragrance combines sultry tones of amber with contrasting ingredients like lavender. The result is a floral meets woody concoction brought to life by warm amber and vanilla.
Floral, powdery, fruity
Jasmine is thought to be one of the world's rarest floral extracts. And while many perfumes do indeed harness this precious floral aroma for its fruity, powdery scent, it’s also one of the most expensive ingredients you can find on the back of your bottles. This is simply because of the amount of Jasmine flowers – approximately 2,000 pounds of the flower produce one single pound of oil – that is needed to produce it.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum, 70ml, £235
An icon in the world of fragrance, Baccarat Rouge earns its stripes thanks to the combination of jasmine and amberwood. The perfume is the result of an encounter between Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Baccarat to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the famous crystal house. And the scent is certainly something worth celebrating – slightly sweet, slightly spicy with a floral, woody finish.