Remember the Crayola shade Spring Green? That color — a light, energizing cross between highlighter yellow and fresh-cut grass — is exactly what I think of when I think of the season of new beginnings, and has been since I was a crayon-weilding kid. Perhaps that’s why Stem, the new greenery-inspired, unisex fragrance from Malin + Goetz, made such an impression on me. “Stem is all of the elements from a plant that are not the flower,” Matthew Malin and Andrew Goetz, the brand’s founders, tell The Zoe Report — a concept that fits right into 2019’s trend of non-floral perfumes for spring.
“It's our take on the idea of a garden; it is the residue that is left on your hands,” Malin and Goetz, who are also avid horticulturists, explain. “We specifically chose plants for this that felt and smelled more ‘green’ and focused on the non-floral parts.” The resulting combination of muguet flower stalks and rose stems makes for a scent that’s floral-adjacent and somewhat familiar, yet totally fresh-feeling.
This anti-floral vibe is one that many brands are leaning into for the new season — Jo Malone's spring collection goes so far as to favor weeds over flowers. "Hemlock is known to be poisonous and nettles can sting you," Céline Roux, a scent developer for the brand, said of two of the line's key notes in a press release. "In general, you don’t hear about ingredients like [these] in perfumery." But it's 2019, and consumers are searching for something they haven't smelled before.
“I think there’s something about traditional powdery florals, like an old fashioned ‘grandma’ perfume, that people aren’t responding to anymore,” Eric Korman, the co-founder and CEO of PHLUR, tells TZR. “However, there are really fresh botanical scents that invoke other parts of the flower or plant, like the violet leaves and oak moss in our scent Sandara.” Oak moss is a particularly popular note at the moment. Its earthy, dewy aroma makes you feel like you're surrounded by nature, plant life in full bloom, without the cloying quality of overly-feminine florals. In addition to PHLUR’s Sandara, oak moss is a base note in DedCool’s Spring — another unisex offering.
Actually, if you’re intrigued by the anti-floral trend, unisex fragrances may just be your best bet. “Traditionally speaking, florals have always fallen in the female fragrance category,” Carina Chaz, the founder of DedCool, tells The Zoe Report. “With DedCool, I’m committed to creating unisex and gender-fluid scents, while still appealing to everyone.” Florals do factor into the brand's formulations — Spring, for example, uses geranium as a mid note — but "they're always accompanied by an earthy or a citrus note,” Chaz says.
Mastering that delicate balance between masculine and feminine is an art form so nuanced, soon-to-be-launched perfumer Sigil Scent has built its entire brand ethos around it. “We formulate for a balance of masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) energy,” Patrick Kelly, Sigil Scent’s founder, tells TZR. “For instance, our Anima Mundi Eau de Parfum juxtaposes so-called ‘feminine’ floral notes like rose and jasmine with heady immortelle, tobacco, and hinoki.” The result? A perfume that's more spicy than sweet.
Ahead, 11 of the best non-floral fragrances — a mix of new releases and classics alike — that feel oh-so-fresh for spring.
Shop Non-Floral Perfumes
Malin + Goetz
“Stem is the concept of any plant cut from a garden,” the brand founders tell TZR of the greenery-inspired fragrance. “We have also included fresh notes of floral musks to give it strength, longevity, and familiarity.” The overall vibe? Bright, earthy, and easy to wear.
Aside from Stem, I'm spritzing myself with Demeter's classic Dirt this spring. It reminds me of wet earth after the rain in the *best* way possible.
Unisex perfumer Sigil Scent launches Apr. 15., bringing a slew of scents that hit on spring's anti-floral trend. Anima Mundi features immortelle and hinoki — so expect more of a spicy, woodsy feel.
Nettle & Wild Achillea Cologne
JO MALONE LONDON
"For me, it was all about natural beauty, creating something very free-spirited, bohemian, and wild," Yann Vasnier, a perfumer for Jo Malone, said in a press release for the brand's spring collection. This mix of tangy nettles and slightly-musky achillea nails it.
"As a nose, I’ve always been intrigued by masculine scent profiles and the heavier notes that follow," Chaz tells TZR — like the cedar, incense, and patchouli featured in Spring; balanced out with just a hint of floral. "Geranium works well with woody and citrus notes, while carrying out a muted floral undertone."
"Sandara is a very soulful fragrance," Korman says. "It attempts to transport you to the woods and be one with the earth. It also has a lot of contrast from the crisp, zesty top to the warm, sensual dry down."
Fougère Platine Eau de Parfum
TOM FORD BEAUTY
Tom Ford's latest unisex release is spot-on for spring, thanks to citrusy bergamot and earthy basil balanced by sweet honey — with just a dash of lavender.
Cade & Cedarwood Cologne
JO MALONE LONDON
"Cade comes from burnt juniper wood, and is something you don’t often use in a fragrance, so it’s very original to have that in the scent," the brand's perfumer said of this Cade & Cedarwood Cologne in a press release. "It really ... adds warmth and sensuality."
"Prima Materia blends the warm, green earthiness of vetiver and oak moss with a cleansing, bright, handmade tincture of wild-harvested white sage," Kelly tells TZR. "Pink grapefruit and blood orange complement soft, airy neroli essential oil to keep things effervescent and springlike."
Los Feliz Botanicals
Red Rock's mix of sage and rosemary reads more arid desert than field of flowers — which, if you're not really into florals, is just what you're looking for this season.
Cypress (woody, musky, fresh) is the star of All Saints' unisex fragrance launch. It's combined with peppery, smoky incense and cedar for a scent that feels springy without the sweetness of traditional florals.