When Ex Nihilo (Latin for “out of nothing”) was founded in Paris in 2013 by Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royère, and Benoît Verdier, their aim was to provide an alternative to the clichés of luxury.
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Almost a decade later and with a growing international presence that doesn’t compromise on exclusivity and quality, there’s no doubt the trio has succeeded in bringing something different to niche-dom.
While distinctly French, their ethos has a refreshingly rebellious edge too.
Working with the industry’s best perfumers – including Quentin Bisch, Natalie Gracia-Cetto and Jordi Fernández – has paid handsome dividends for the brand.
And we appreciate the fact that they acknowledge the expertise of all the creators behind their releases.
Apart from opening standalone stores in Dubai and Los Angeles, the company has recently gone the extrait de parfum route with the Quintessence Collection.
This selection of the best Ex Nihilo fragrances should give you a good idea of why we reckon this house deserves some of your hard-earned cash.
Our Top Picks For Best Ex Nihilo Fragrances
Ex Nihilo Fleur Narcotique EDP (Quentin Bisch)
The brand’s debut fragrance (2014) from the Initiale Collection remains one of its best-sellers and has developed an enthusiastic cult following over the years.
It opens with the fresh fruitiness of tropical lychee and powdery peach notes. Bergamot keeps it on the right side of sweetness.
The florals that follow – peony, jasmine, orange blossom – maintain the airy freshness, but with gorgeous intensity and brightness.
The base is all musky and woody, with a hint of earthy moss.
Bravo, Quentin Bisch, for a truly addictive fruity-floral fragrance both men and women can wear!
Also look out for the recently released extrait de parfum version (2022), created by the same perfumer.
Ex Nihilo Vetiver Moloko EDP (Guillaume Flavigny)
If it has vetiver on the bottle, we must try it. If its name references the novel and film A Clockwork Orange, we must try it. This 2014 release from the Initiale Collection doesn’t disappoint.
It opens with the crisp citrus of bergamot and the aromatics of cypress.
Then plenty of vetiver, woody, earthy, and slightly smoky. Just the way we love it.
A milk accord and Madagascan vanilla give it a creamy and cozy feeling, while amyris in the drydown amplifies the freshness to complete the composition of intriguing contrasts.
Highly recommended if you’re looking for a vetiver with a twist.
Ex Nihilo Cologne 352 EDP (Jacques Huclier)
While the brand’s style tends to be big and bold, we love this 2014 release from the Initiale Collection for its subtle sophistication. Its name references the address of the first Ex Nihilo store at 352 Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris.
The opening is morning fresh, thanks to the aromatics of juniper berries and the citric brightness of Italian lemon. A crushed leaves note brings greenery to the arrangement.
It’s then the turn of notes of orange blossom and lily-of-the-valley to add soft sweetness. The supporting rose note is lemony-fresh and dewy.
White musk and white cedar are given a crisp treatment in the drydown.
It’s a contemporary take on the classic cologne style and a most enjoyable one at that.
Ex Nihilo Oud Vendôme EDP (Olivier Pescheux)
The Paris-based niche brand specializes in luxurious fragrances made from the best ingredients, and Oud Vendôme is typical of its modern approach to perfumery.
The intro is delicately spicy with notes of ginger and saffron, transitioning to a heart that balances the greenery of galbanum with the soft woodiness of cedar.
The combo of an oud accord and soothing incense in the drydown is super smooth and sophisticated. A big dose of musk brings sensual coziness to the mix.
This 2014 release from the Initiale Collection has a decidedly Western feel. Nothing wrong with that when it’s this chic.
Ex Nihilo Musc Infini EDP (Louise Turner)
A 2014 release from the Initiale Collection, Musc Infini was created by British perfumer Louise Turner, who’s known for creations such as Carolina Herrera Good Girl EDP, Jennifer Lopez Glow EDT, Chloé Love EDP and Tom Ford Lost Cherry EDP, among others.
From the intro (featuring the naturally derived musk, ambrette) to the powdery drydown, it’s a beautifully layered musk experience.
It begins cool and crisp (notes of bergamot and grapefruit) and evolves with the addition of rose and gentle heat of benzoin, tonka bean and vanilla.
While we love wrapping ourselves in its sensual warmth when the temperature takes a dip, this EDP can be worn in warm weather too.
Ex Nihilo Sweet Morphine EDP (Natalie Gracia-Cetto)
With a name like Sweet Morphine, this 2015 release from the Les Interdites Collection, which plays on the idea of addiction (one of perfumery’s mainstay tropes), delivers in abundance.
It opens with intriguing lilac, and fresh floral powderiness in full-on mode. Bergamot, in support, adds to the freshness.
There’s more powdery florals in the way of sweet mimosa and iris.
The sweetness is heightened with a mega dose of rich bourbon vanilla, while vetiver and patchouli pile on the woody sensuality.
All that powder (get it?) and sweetness might sound like too much of a good thing, but in the hands of Natalie Gracia-Cetto, it all comes together in the most effective way.
Ex Nihilo Love Shot EDP (Natalie Gracia-Cetto)
Billed as a modern take on a chypre and inspired by the sexy opulence of perfumes from the 1970s, this 2015 release from the Les Interdites Collection is unashamedly sensual stuff.
It’s a fairly sweet fragrance that opens with a big and enveloping shot of pink berry and peony notes.
The unmistakable raspberry accord, rich and rosy, leads the way to the drydown in which an animalic leather accord mingles with vanilla and musk.
Captivating from start to finish.
Ex Nihilo Atlas Fever EDP (Shyamala Maisondieu)
From the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Morocco has seen its fair share of rockers making legendary visits.
Perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu was inspired by the North African country’s mystique in the creation of this 2017 release from the Babylone Collection.
It opens with lots of spicy pink pepper infused with the smoke of incense.
A smidgen of narcissus adds to the exotic vibe.
This perfume is at its most rewarding in the drydown. There’s a creamy and sophisticated sweetness, thanks to notes of vanilla, tonka bean, and sandalwood, while a woody accord of guaiac and oak brings an earthiness to the composition.
Ex Nihilo Midnight Special EDP (Olivier Pescheux)
If Ex Nihilo Oud Vendôme presents a Western take on oud, then this 2017 release from the Babylone Collection should please those who go for a heavier Middle Eastern style.
The leathery spice of saffron makes a powerful opening statement, with additional warmth from notes of cinnamon and black pepper.
The full-bodied rose is given a dirty citrus aspect through a grapefruit note.
The oud accord, deep and dark, is partnered with earthy patchouli.
With its spicy emphasis, we can assure you, it’s not another oud-rose combo.
Ex Nihilo Viper Green EDP (Nadège Le Garlantezec)
This 2018 release from the Les Interdites Collection might not be as venomous as its name suggests, but there’s still plenty to seduce the senses in the style the brand does so well.
It opens with a fresh citrus burst of green mandarin. The slight bitterness is amplified by a big dose of galbanum.
Iris is one of the listed floral notes, but we can’t detect it among all the hyper-greenness.
Angelica root adds to the effect, while dashes of patchouli and vetiver bring an earthy and woody dimension to the drydown.
Ex Nihilo Honoré Delights EDP (Natalie Gracia-Cetto)
Gourmands range from the sweet and sticky-icky to the perfectly posh. Ex Nihilo Honoré Delights is definitely the latter, even though perfumer Natalie Gracia-Cetto used no obvious edible notes in its creation.
This 2020 release from the Les Interdites Collection opens with fresh notes of neroli and bergamot.
A large helping of oh-so-silky ambrette is blended with powdery iris and honeyed orange blossom.
The drydown is luxuriously creamy, with notes of sandalwood and white musk.
We feel like we’re sitting in one of the French capital’s top patisseries when we wear this cleverly composed perfume.
Ex Nihilo the Hedonist EDP (Jordi Fernández)
When we first saw the name of this 2021 release, our thoughts went in all sorts of boozy, gourmand-ish directions.
Perhaps that’s why we didn’t click with this EDP from the Iconoclaste Collection at first. We were expecting something decadent, whereas it’s more about connecting with the joys of nature. Now that we’ve spent more time with it, we’re loving its distinctive simplicity.
It opens with fresh ’n spicy notes of bergamot and ginger. And then gets really interesting with a large dose of Akigalawood. Perfumer Jordi Fernández maximizes the spicy-musky patchouli qualities of the synthetic Givaudan captive molecule with impressive results.
A fresh rendition of vetiver and cedar closes the tight and cohesive composition with style.
Ex Nihilo Iris Porcelana EDP (Dalia Izem)
Just when we thought we’d smelled all the possible variations on the iris theme, along comes this 2022 release from the Initiale Collection. Good to see the brand giving a relatively unknown perfumer the chance to show her olfactory skills.
According to the Ex Nihilo website, Dalia Izem was inspired by the delicacy of iris pallida (one of the most expensive ingredients in perfumery) and French porcelain in the creation of this EDP.
That refinement is evident from the airy opening featuring violet leaf.
The iris has all the powderiness we expect but with a softly fresh sweetness.
Settling with the creaminess of musk and sandalwood, it’s a welcome addition to the iris category.
Ex Nihilo Outcast Blue EDP (Jordi Fernández)
Perhaps because of the associations of blue with freshies, we were expecting this 2022 release from the Iconoclaste Collection to have that vibe. Mais, non! The EDP is a far more interesting proposition than that well-worn genre.
The intro is all about the warm spice of pepper and saffron, with the soft and soothing woodiness of cedar in support.
A lily-of-the-valley note makes a soapy contribution too.
It culminates with the earthiness of vetiver, oakmoss and patchouli. Oh, and did we mention the large helping of tobacco, which adds to the richness and complexity of this standout scent?
It’s available in an extrait de parfum concentration, also created by Jordi Fernández.
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.