There’s a reason we describe fragrances as “signature”: Nothing is as personal as having your own olfactory trademark. With a boom in independent perfumeries, scent shopping is as enjoyable (and almost as intoxicating) as wine tasting.
If you don’t know a top note from a Post-it Note, head to Scent Bar for a crash course. The eclectic stock is like the Amoeba Music of musk, with sought-after European lines (including French favorite Serge Lutens and Swedish hipster brand Byredo) and local notables (Keiko Mecheri). One perfume, Hedonist by Viktoria Minya (45 ml., $195), is filled with Bohemian crystals. Can’t commit? The staff graciously provides free samples for at-home inhales. » 7405 Beverly Blvd., Beverly Grove, 323-782-8300.
With its aproned technicians wielding pipettes and beakers to handcraft the French company’s formulas, Le Labo is more fragrance lab than frilly boutique. Its current collection of 15 scents (30 ml. to 500 ml., $70 to $820) is largely unisex: lots of sandalwood, vetiver, and orange blossom. Two of the most popular blends are the Neroli 36 and Patchouli 24. » 8385 W. 3rd St., Beverly Grove, 323-782-0411. Also at 1138 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310-581-2233.
Strange Invisible Perfume happens to be next door to Le Labo’s Venice location, but the two shops are more complementary than competitive. Owner-perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis has built her high-end line on synthetic-free, plant-based ingredients that are hydro-distilled and blended by hand, using Esprit de Cognac—an artisanal grape alcohol—at the company’s nearby laboratory. The 12 fragrances (1.7 oz., starting at $265) are lush and evocative, particularly the vanilla-tinged, New Orleans-inspired Magazine Street. » 1138 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310-314-1505.
It doesn’t get more personal than a perfume you create (and name) yourself at Original Scent in Pasadena. While sipping a glass of rosé inside what looks like a Hamptons beach house, you work with a “scent stylist,” giving her the thumbs-up or -down on a selection of more than 200 oils before narrowing your options to roughly 10. From there the perfumer crafts your future fragrance from scratch, tweaking the recipe as it’s tested on your skin. The aromatic journey costs $199 and includes a half-ounce bottle of perfume and a body product. » 54 W. Green St. (Inside Rock It Workouts), Pasadena, 626-657-2226.