<p>Byredo has come to represent everything chic and fascinating about the niche perfumery world</p> (iStock/The Independent)

Byredo has come to represent everything chic and fascinating about the niche perfumery world

(iStock/The Independent)

Ever since its launch in 2006, Byredo has become the epitome of a “cool, indie perfume”. And for good reason. While historic fragrance houses now churn out sugary “commercial” blandness to appease the younger market, Byredo has stayed true to its artistic roots, which is why it remains a perfume powerhouse to this day.

From the chubby squat bottles with a dome-like stopper (which snaps on with a satisfying magnetic thud), to the minimalist monochrome labels and the quirky names like “fantastic man” (sadly discontinued), “mohave ghost” and “1996”, Byredo has come to represent everything chic and fascinating about the niche perfumery world that draws its devotees like moths to an exquisitely fragrant flame.

Having an enigmatic founder who is 6ft5 and could easily pass for a male model doesn’t hurt either. Born to a Canadian father and Indian mother, Ben Gorham was raised in Toronto, New York and Stockholm, and memories of this childhood – together with a background in fine arts – has clearly influenced the type of perfume he creates (his visions are translated into scent form by revered French “noses” Olivia Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette).

Byredo also pioneered unisex scents before they were a thing, being one of the first brands to cater to the gender-neutral crowd before these conversations started to become mainstream. (Historically, perfume never used to be gendered – masculine and feminine fragrance are, by and large, terms cooked up by marketing teams in the mid-20th century.)

When testing Byredo’s fragrances, we’ve looked at how each one develops on the skin, its originality and staying power, together with its wearability. Our selection includes the much-loved classics, together with the lesser-known gems and new launches. If you’re looking to invest in a new signature scent, read on.

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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best Byredo fragrances for 2021:

  • Best overall – Gypsy water: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for those with wanderlust – Open sky: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for smelling great for a special event – Flowerhead: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for feeling uplifted (and sexy) – La tulipe: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for italy in a bottle – Palermo: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for a ‘comfort blanket’ kind of perfume –Mixed emotions: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for artsy, creative types – 1996: £188, Byredo.com

  • Best for those who don’t like “pretty” perfumes – Blanche: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for a scent with “je ne sais quoi” – Mojave ghost: £178, Byredo.com

  • Best for lovers of rose scents – Rose of no man’s land: £178, Byredo.com

Byredo gypsy water

Best: Overall

This is one of the brand’s original creations and is a best-seller for good reason. Designed to evoke “the scent of fresh soil, deep crests and campfires”, this sublime woody scent has everything a good perfume should: a complex character that’s still so easy to love. With a rich base of sandalwood and pine needle, brightened by sparkling lemon and sweet vanilla, all these contrasting notes strike a delicate balance and complement each other so well. The result is a concoction that’s cheery yet addictive, arresting yet not overpowering. And perfect to wear all day – and night – long.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Byredo open sky

Best: For those with wanderlust

This new, limited-edition scent is an ode to travel – ironic given that many of us haven’t been travelling anywhere for the past 18 months. But, in a way, scents like this are most needed – unique in their ability to transport us to warmer climates when we can’t. Open sky doesn’t waste time announcing itself, with sharp black pepper and tart pomelo fruit (imagine if a grapefruit had a baby with a rhubarb), warmed by vetiver and woody palo santo. It’s spirited and uplifting, and manages to capture that strange high you sometimes feel on a plane in mid-air, with no idea what awaits you at your destination but you’re excited to find out. It’s a fresh, citrus scent with impressive staying power – perfect to pack in your carry-on when you eventually do make it up the (airplane) aisle.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Byredo flowerhead

Best: For smelling great for a special event

Sometimes when you invest in a luxury scent, you want to smell every penny of it on your skin. This one works hard for its money, flaunting its fragrant wares and then some, so you’re in no doubt of its presence (but not in a suffocating way). The name is appropriate, bursting open like a parachute in a single spritz, engulfing the wearer in an intoxicating cloud of white floral tuberose, with seductive jasmine in hot pursuit. Inspired by the luscious blooms that adorn flower garlands exchanged by the bride and groom at Indian weddings, it would smell utterly gorgeous on a bride – or non-conforming groom.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Byredo la tulipe

Best: For feeling uplifted (and sexy)

For those who aren’t fans of traditionally feminine, candy-sweet florals, this is a more modern takel. Channelling the fresh, greenness of spring, it’s perfect to wear all year round, with its floral heart framed by sharp leafy notes of mossy vetiver, which lend it some soulful sophistication. Spiky notes of rhubarb elevate this scent further, lending it a subtle sex appeal, making it a great contemporary floral if your vibe is slightly more “Torture Garden” than the “Chelsea Flower Show”.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Byredo Palermo

Best: For Italy in a bottle

An olfactory tribute to the Sicilian capital of Palermo – dubbed the most conquered city in the world due to the many different empires that ruled it over the centuries. This complex history is re-told in fragrance form – opening with notes typical of the Mediterranean: bright sunny citrus accord of bergamot and lemon. But then it dries down into something far more interesting, soft “warm skin” accords of musk and sublime rich rose absolute. A sweet and refreshing summer scent that has the timeless quality of Italian sun-baked streets and salty sea air.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Byredo mixed emotions

Best: “Comfort blanket” kind of perfume

If you like a scent with spicy undertones, this recent creation was designed to reflect “the tumultuous nature of our times”, echoing the chaos and upheaval of the last 12 months. A pleasant jumble of cassis, black tea and violet leaf, its intriguing and complex character envelops the skin like a hug – similar to bundling up in a new autumn blazer or curling up with a book while a storm rages outside. A strong scent that’s not afraid to show its sensitive side.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Byredo 1996

Best: For artsy, creative types

Every perfume paints a picture and this was actually inspired by one, which was taken by photographers Inez and Vinoodh in – you guessed it – 1996. Originally released as a “private edition” for a select group of fashion trendies, people loved it so much it was eventually released to the public, and we’re very glad they did. The resulting scent is a haze of contradictions, with a warm, enveloping base of amber, vanilla and subtle earthy patchouli, contrasted spiky top notes of juniper and black pepper. It definitely won’t be like anything you’ve smelled before – ideal for those looking for a scent that makes a statement.

Buy now £188.00, Byredo.com

Byredo blanche

Best: For those who don’t like “pretty” perfumes

If heavy floral or sugary sweet fragrances send you running for the nearest open window (not everyone wants to smell like a flower or a cupcake after all), this fragrance presents a far more intriguing prospect. Yes, there are floral notes in it, but they don’t behave in the way you’d expect them to. Instead, they unfurl with a puff of shimmering aldehydes and sharp notes of pink pepper, underscored by soft, creamy notes of musk and blonde woods that mingle beautifully with the skin as they warm up. The perfume equivalent of a chic, heavily starched white shirt – there’s nothing pretty or “natural” about this one and it’s all the better for it.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Byredo mojave ghost

Best: For a scent with “je ne sais quoi”

Another best-seller, if the name doesn’t intrigue you already, the bottle’s contents definitely will. Inspired by “the soulful beauty of the Mojave desert”, its enigmatic character encapsulates everything Byredo fans love about this perfume house. It announces itself in a soft whisper of sandalwood and amber, drying down to a powdery floral accord of violet and warm musk. This skin-caressing concoction is subtle enough for during the day while bringing enough glamour for the evening too. If you want a perfume that makes people stop and ask, “what are you wearing?” this one will do the trick.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

Rose of No Man’s Land

Best: For lovers of rose scents

Rose perfumes normally dial up the glamour, veering towards the heady, sensual and intoxicating end of the spectrum. This takes a more delicate touch and is all the more interesting for it. It boasts a delicate heart of Turkish rose absolute that exudes a freshness, settling on the skin like a gossamer light chiffon scarf, while pink pepper and raspberry give it added sparkle. And its rich base of white amber and woody papyrus ensures it doesn’t float away completely.

Buy now £178.00, Byredo.com

The verdict: Byredo scents

If you’re just looking for something that smells nice then save your money and buy one of the many perfectly adequate scents on the high street. But for real perfume lovers looking for a scent that will stay put and tells a story, Byredo makes for a great investment. Flowerhead is our favourite for special events and occasions that require something with a little more chutzpah than your average floral. But it has to be the best-selling, gypsy water which remains the front-runner for us – being complex and original enough to satisfy any seasoned scent wearer, but at the same time so dazzling and bewitchingly gorgeous that we defy anyone not to fall under its spell.

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