The top 10 perfume stores and outlets in Toronto
The top perfume stores in Toronto go way past the department store fragrance counter. Most folks tend to stick to the safe bets when buying scents: Holt Renfrew for the very, very high-end, Shoppers Drug Mart for whatever your favourite pop star just licensed, and Hudson's Bay or Sears for everything in between.
But following your nose to independent stores can pay off, either through new discoveries or major savings. Small boutiques offer Independent lines and niche fragrances (priced low to high), while mom and pop stores can offer steals and deals on new designer bottles, or that long-discontinued scent that disappeared from department stores years ago.
Here are the top perfume stores in Toronto.
Jacob and Sebastian
This Queen West store and its Distillery sister location sells a dizzying array of skin care products and cosmetics. The big standout on the fragrance shelves is CB I Hate Perfume (perfect for those who'd rather smell like a trip to the cottage or the beach than a bouquet of flowers), but you'll find professorial Portland General Store scents, incense-based fragrances from Compagnie de Provence, and the custom Aromachology fragrance system.
For more than a decade, this Yorkville spa/boutique has hosted a trove of niche cosmetics and fragrances -- no mass-produced lines here. Their perfumes lean toward high-end Euro imports: Etro, Honore des Pres, and Histoires de Parfums (a personal favourite) are among the standout lines. Their web store fields orders from all across the country for some of the rarer brands.
Belle de Provence
It's tucked away on Yorkville's Old York Lane, but this French bath and beauty store is refreshingly unpretentious. Their collection of mid-to-high-range fragrances lures in French expats looking for products from back home, as well as shoppers seeking a cheaper alternative to their Jo Malones. Key brands include Lothantique and Miller et Bertaux -- a designer, the friendly staff tell me, that's absolutely everywhere in France.
6 by Gee Beauty
This Rosedale gift shop, the sister store to the adjoining Gee Beauty spa, is the only place in Canada to find Le Labo, a favourite of niche fragrance fans. Select one of the 14 scents (which range from the smoky Santal 33 to the fresh 27 Fleur D'Oranger), and they'll blend you up a fresh bottle (nothing collects dust here ) and print your name and a message on it for a custom touch. You'll pay handsomely -- a 50 mL bottle goes for $170 -- but you will also smell fantastic.
Most of the real estate at this super-hip Queen West menswear shop is taken up by upscale basics from lines like Comme Des Garcons and A.P.C. The fragrance selections are perfectly complementary: They carry gents' scents by U.K. perfumer Heeley and most of the Comme Des Garcons fragrance line, so you can pick up a bottle to go with your heart-with-eyes-logo sweater.
Ace Gifts Plus
This Chinatown shop's name is a bit of a misnomer -- they really just deal in perfumes, from the discontinued to the newly-released to the obviously off-off-off-brand. Ace doubles as a wholesaler, and they keep markup low on what they sell out of their own storefront (I nabbed a perfect bottle of the long-discontinued Bulgari Black for $40). Things might be a bit dusty, but the owner's knowledgeable, and the selection's wide.
This GTA chain closed their only downtown outlet in the PATH a while back -- their remaining stores are in Vaughan Mills and the Woodbine Centre. But if you still want to get your discount perfume fix from downtown, check out their comprehensive -- everything they carry is listed, including a number of designer fragrances and a few niche brands.
This Distillery District boutique carries everything you need to look smashing -- clothing, accessories, jewelry -- but it actually began as a bath and body store. The scent selection matches perfectly with the store's feminine, whimsical aesthetic -- think Tocca's girly fragrances, basic scents from the appropriately-named Clean, and unusual blends from Tokyomilk.
The Perfume Outlet
The buzz among fragrance fans (or, as they call themselves, 'fumeheads') is that this Dixie Mall fragrance outlet is a great place to go treasure hunting for hard-to-find scents or low, low-priced name brand perfumes.
This quirky gift shop, with locations in the Annex and on Queen West, is by no means limited to bath and body products. But next time you're in there for a goofy card or a cheese shredder that looks like a Flying V guitar, check out the selection of perfumes from indie lines like Lollia, Love & Toast, and local company Sula.
A brief disclaimer: I've heard of nothing but positive experiences at the shops on this list that sell discounted designer perfume, but if something doesn't look right to you, think twice before buying.
Photo from 6 by Gee Beauty