Every perfumer remembers their first—the scent that sent them headlong into the curious world of fragrance production. For Provence-born Benoît Verdier, one of three founders behind the unisex French perfume house Ex Nihilo, it was the early scent memory of the Mediterranean coast (figs, pine trees) that inspired what’s now become a covetable, hard-to-find collection of eight sultry perfumes.
This week, Verdier and his co-founders Sylvie Loday and Olivier Royère embark on another first: the launch of their brand-new boutique at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, which is their only location outside Europe, and first in the United States.
The luxe brand embodies the sentiment behind their name, which comes from the Latin expression meaning “a new creation with no previously known reference”—or in other words, from scratch. While still operating within the grand French tradition of refined fragrances, Ex Nihilo takes a more modern, avant-garde approach in their combination of raw materials, pairing essential oils in interesting and unexpected ways. Take, for example, the Fleur Narcotique, a femme fatale scent with a base of wood and musk and top notes of lychee and bergamot, or the Bois D’Hiver, which calls to mind winter woods in Sweden, a cashmere scarf, and ginger pepper all at once; each of the Ex Nihilo perfumes is exquisitely dynamic.
The experience of shopping their scents is just as unique, with the chance to personalize each perfume in the collection. At the consultation table, their resident experts make a show of weighing the natural ingredients they keep stashed in refrigerator drawers using high-tech equipment like an Osmologue high-precision dosing machine. Once the right balance is struck, clients can then choose from a collection of caps made of blue, black, or white mother of pearl for a customized experience.
Armed with a new scent, it’s time for a few firsts of your own.
Demi-bespoke scents from $365; the Ex Nihilo boutique is located on the bottom floor of Bergdorf Goodman; 754 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-7300; bergdorfgoodman.com.