Interesting niche scents for men (and women too)

London-based perfumer Maya Njie makes unisex perfumes with staying power

Maya Njie Nordic Cedar, £65 for 50ml EDP
Maya Njie Nordic Cedar, £65 for 50ml EDP

“Interesting niche scents for men” was what I Googled. I was offered Wonderwood by Comme des Garçons, At the Barbers by Maison Margiela, Vetiver Insolent by Miller Harris… None really felt quite right. I was on the hunt for a gift for my boyfriend, and while a classic bottle of Acqua di Parma Colonia probably would have sufficed, I felt like seeking out something new and interesting. 

London-based perfumer Maya Njie at work
London-based perfumer Maya Njie at work

It was on the website of one of my favourite independent shops, Triangle in Hackney, that I eventually discovered London-based perfumer Maya Njie, whose creations, I read, “derive from personal memories and experiences from her Swedish upbringing and West African heritage”. I was intrigued. The evocative-sounding eau de parfums (£65 for 50ml), all bottled by hand with coolly minimal packaging, are unisex. I earmarked the ones that sounded the most masculine: Nordic Cedar (a blend of cardamom, patchouli and cedarwood notes) and Tobak, another, more leathery musk, combining tobacco leaf with vetiver and cinnamon, though perhaps not the best choice for a reformed smoker. 

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Testing them out in the bricks and mortar store, however, I eventually plumped for Sadel: a warm, heady, ever so slightly musky blend of leather, cedarwood and vetiver. I happily wafted along with a squirt of Sadel on one wrist and Nordic Cedar on the other – enjoying both scents and being particularly impressed by their staying power. “The longevity has a lot to do with the oil content,” explains Njie. “My perfumes have between 27 and 32 per cent oil content, which is high; eau de parfum is usually somewhere around 15 to 20 per cent.” 

Maya Njie Tobak, £65 for 50ml EDP
Maya Njie Tobak, £65 for 50ml EDP

My boyfriend was delighted with the present and I love how it smells on him, but I’ve benefited too: just the odd squirt here and there, maybe a bit more than that if I’m honest… In fact, perhaps taking the unintentional hint, for my birthday this month he bought me my own Njie perfume. He went for Tobak, which is rather more intense and feminine; it’s more of a sultry evening scent than a daytime one. And anyhow, Sadel, he told me, was no longer available. 

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“Sadel was a limited edition run,” says Njie when I email her. “I do smaller batches of scents here and there to test the market and keep things interesting. I’m currently working on something that is leathery and resinous, with amber elements, that fits into the same fragrance family – but the process can take many months before the scent is deemed ready.” She also mentioned another appealing aspect of her perfumery: “The scents are suitable for layering too, so you can take them in different directions depending on how you feel.” She also has lighter, fruity and floral strings to her bow, such as Tropica and Les Fleurs. By the by, I found an e-store called Nocturnal Aesthetics that still has some Sadel. I’m going to stock up, and, yes, of course I’ll let my boyfriend borrow it – but just the odd squirt or two. 

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