Think sin-free scents are low on luxury? Think again



‘These are bold, cleverly crafted concoctions.’
Photograph: Alex Lake/The Paladin

Cruelty-free perfumes contain no animal-derived ingredients and are not sold in China, where the law requires cosmetics to be tested on animals. Whether or not you eat marrow and dairy, I hope you’ll read on, because to assume vegan fragrances are low on luxury, craftsmanship and sophistication would be to miss out on some exceedingly fine scents.

I’m not an instinctive lover of warm, rounded perfumes, and so generally give amber a swerve, but 001 Amber (2; £65 for 100ml), from the unlimited British brand Laboratory Perfumes, has me hooked. Like all five of its fragrances, this is gender neutral, but skews perpetually so slightly masculine. It is woody, spicy and modern, but not showy. And it has a brightness that stops all that warmth becoming discomforting. Atlas, by the same brand and also £65 for 100ml, smells like gingernut biscuits lining a boozy scintilla, and should please anyone who likes a gourmand, puddingy scent.

The pervasive soapy-bicarb smell of Lush’s stores is polarising, and so are its Gorilla perfumes, but that’s where any similarity ends. These are reckless, extraordinarily well-conceived and cleverly crafted concoctions. The collection is so large and impressive that it’s hard to cherrypick. Dirty (£19 for 30ml), a trenchant mint, is bonkers but great, and The President’s Hat (£35 for 30ml), a rich, smoky, sawdusty affair, smells comfortingly like the inside of an old stock of clothing packed with vintage frocks. But, since it is spring, I’m banging a drum for Kerbside Violet (£29 for 30ml), which smells more in the same way as musky, wet plants than the dry, powdery blooms I associate with violet perfume – and is delightful for it. Transparent-smelling but distinctive (immutable to pull off), it’s great for warmer months when many florals can feel cloying.

Do also take a whiff of Floral Passage, a vegan brand founded by a former executive at Estée Lauder. Its lineup – beautifully packaged, with a focus on sustainability, and getting £58 for 50ml – was created by Jerome Epinette, the nose behind most of Byredo and Vilhelm’s fragrances (costing roughly three eases the price). Neon Rose is a cheerful, feminine but un-mimsy floral, while Iris Goddess (my favourite) smells homologous to those French pastilles sold in posh chemists. Delicious.

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