By Alexandra Donaldson The colour red is never far from…
Niche fragrances? Hard-to-find brands? Head off the beaten track when perfume shopping in Toronto. Here, a lineup of the city’s best indie boutiques for the fragrant-minded.
If you live in Toronto then you know that there are no shortages of places to shop. Every neighbourhood offers something interesting, off-the-beaten path, and right on trend. That is the case whether you’re shopping for fashion or fragrance.
Given that our attention is typically fixated on the latter, we pulled together some of our favourite not-so-obvious perfume shopping haunts. Whether you’re looking for a specific brand, want to delve into the world of natural perfume, or wish to explore the more niche perfume offerings the city has to offer, there’s a store for that. And it’s probably much closer than you think.
“We created 6 By Gee Beauty in 2010 to be a speciality shop offering an edited mix of lifestyle and travel essentials, and it has since evolved into a modern destination for style, beauty, grooming and travel,” says Celene Gee, partner at Gee beauty and 6 By Gee Beauty. Although the store currently only stocks Le Labo Fragrances, it’s worth checking out for that niche brand alone.
Le Labo’s is on handcrafted fragrance with a focus on quality ingredients. Gee’s favourite is Labdanum 18—a musky Oriental scent that features balsam, musk, civet, vanilla and cinnamon.
And no doubt you’ve heard by now the Santal 33 craze. You might even know that Rose 31 is the in-house scent at Fairmont Royal York hotels.
If this writer had to choose her favourite, it would be the new The Noir 29. The woody fragrance features notes of bergamot, fig, bay leaf, vetiver and tobacco. It’s a warm and outdoorsy fragrance, that’s perfect for the holidays.
Le Labo The Noir, $175 (50 ml), available at 6 By Gee Beauty. 6 Roxborough St. W.
Just west of Pape on Broadview, you’ll find Men Essentials, a store devoted to men’s grooming and aesthetics. You’ll find products for beards, shaving, hair care and, of course, fragrance. The store carries more brands across these categories than you can count—but don’t be fooled. Men Essentials is committed to providing you with exceptional quality products at reasonable price points. This means focusing on natural and green ingredients, niche brands and independent retailers.
After speaking with Seth Harman, managing director of the store, you get a sense that they’re as passionate about the stories and memories behind the fragrance experience as they are about particular perfume notes and brands.
Brands to try? Penhaligon’s to start. This is the only store in the GTA that stocks the British brand. Look for Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling, a gin and tonic-inspired spritz.
Also, the Toronto-based Zoologist brand has scents inspired by animals, while CB I Hate Perfume is one of Harman’s favourites and it offers a wealth of familiar fragrant memories. And the brand that both Winston Churchill and 007 author Ian Flemming favoured—Floris— is on the shelves too. (No. 89, btw, was the cologne of choice for both men.)
Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling EDT, $166 (50 ml); Zoologist Beaver EDP, $155 (60 ml), Floris No. 89, $105 (50 ml), all available at www.menessentials.ca. 412 Danforth Ave.
Zai Rajkotwala opened Easy Tiger as her passion project—a space where she could include simple, minimalist and ethically made products. “Products in my shop are brought in with intention,” says Rajkotwala. “We have a huge variety of products but everything has a similar voice.”
Easy Tiger carries candles and home fragrance as well as perfume oils and eau de toilettes. Some brands include Maison Louis Marie, DS & Durga, Nanin Fragrance, Province Apothecary and Jao’s Inscental.
Rajkotwala currently wears Novo Chakra and layers it with Maison Louis Marie #4 perfume oil—“I love the mix of the soft rose and the grounding elements of cedar”.
Novo Chakra perfume oil, $80 (10 ml); Maison Louis Marie #4, $70 (15 ml), available at Easy Tiger. 1447 Dundas St. W.
Likely General, located in Roncesvalles Village, is a hub of community activity. The space is used for artist-run workshops, community gatherings, small musical events, book launches and a rotating gallery. But what you’ll notice when you first walk in are beauty products, candles, and a selection of apparel and jewellery from designers you may not have heard of. “The main objective is to promote artists and designers who create both exciting and responsibly made products,” says Brooke Manning, owner of the shop.
On the perfume end, you’ll find brands like OLO, MCMC, Goest, Juniper Ridge and Province Apothecary. Manning chooses the perfume brands carefully by considering the ingredients chosen (essentials oils, natural ingredients); brands that make handcrafted perfume often make the cut. Manning also favours perfume that ditches traditional gender classifications. What you’ll find Manning wearing herself? OLO Cedar+Rose, Goest L’Artigue and Lvnea Ghost Pine.
OLO Cedar+Rose, $65 (10 ml); Goest L’Artigue, $65 (10 ml); Lvnea Ghost Pine, $45 (10 ml), available at Likely General. 389 Roncesvalles Ave.
This offshoot of The Drake Hotel sells clothing, jewellery, housewares and oddities that make it the perfect stop for inspired gift shopping. DGS is also one of the few places in the city you can get Malin + Goetz products, including the brand’s deodorant, candles and perfume oils. (If you’re planning a stay at the hotel you’ll be happy to hear that Malin + Goetz products are also available in-room.) You’ll also find the Drake General Store’s own candles, which pay special attention to notes that bring to mind the Canadian outdoors—think mint, pine, and maple syrup.
Our pick from the store? The Malin + Goetz Petitgrain perfume oil. Citrus, woods and lavender mingle in this unisex roll-on for a warm and aromatic scent.
Malin + Goetz Petitgrain perfume oil, $78 (9 ml), www.drakegeneralstore.ca. 1144 Queen St. W., 2607 Yonge St.
Although the west end of Toronto seems to be a haven for great small stores and independent retailers, Natasha Goel wanted to provide west-enders with clean products that they couldn’t find elsewhere. She stocks Canada, USA and New Zealand-made brands and focuses on skincare that is natural.
When it comes to perfume, The Cure Apothecary stocks L’aromatica. The San Francisco-based brand is a unisex perfume collection of essential oils that comes in travel-friendly rollerball packages. Goel’s customers love picks like Big Sur, Dapper, Kufi and Brocade from the brand.
As for the shopkeep’s own fragrance? “I pick my scent depending on my mood,” she says. “Right now at night I wear Bourbon,” a rich whisky-inspired fragrance with notes of woods, pipe tobacco, vanilla and cognac.
L’aromatica Bourbon, $40 (5 ml), www.thecureapothecary.com. 719 Queen Street West.
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