Sat. May 18th, 2024

Chanel No°5 Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

Sephora


What We Love: This is arguably the most legendary perfume ever created.

What We Don’t Love: You need to wear this scent with confidence — don’t let the scent wear you.

It can be hard to believe that something over 100 years old can still be relevant to today’s landscape — but it’s called timeless style, honey, look it up. From the legendary glass bottle (to which Andy Warhol famously paid tribute) to the scent inside, Chanel No°5 is one of those perfumes that has been and will always be a classic. Notes like powdery iris, warm vanilla, cozy sandalwood, and crisp, sparkling aldehydes for a scent that’s all at once sophisticated, sultry, charming, and fresh. Kind of perfectly describes one of the scent’s most iconic wearers — Marilyn Monroe — perfectly, don’t you think?

What’s nice about a scent that’s as iconic as this one is that you’ll be able to get it in many different iterations, including body wash and bar soap, to really make the fragrance your signature. But don’t mistake this scent’s omnipresence for ease of wear! It definitely takes a certain kind of woman to effortlessly pull off Chanel No°5, so go ahead and test it to ensure you can make it your own. Everyone has smelled this scent in some way or form before, so you want it to smell like it was made for you, not like you’re trying on a perfume costume.

Key Notes: Jasmine, aldehydes, sandalwood|Size: 1.7 oz

The Body Shop White Musk Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

The Body Shop


What We Love: This scent is remarkably versatile, especially for the price.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t have much staying power.

This launch from 1981 is a “wonderful, classic fragrance,” says Alexandra Monet, perfumer at Dsm-Firmenich. “You can wear it in combination with another fragrance or just by itself — it’s comforting and very sensual.” That sensuality comes courtesy of jasmine, which is freshened up with lily of the valley. The soft, intimate aroma of musk transforms this blend into a true “girl next door” type of perfume that you’ll want to mist on over and over again throughout the day.

That desire to reapply may also end up being a necessity. That’s because White Musk isn’t the most long-wearing formula, but at such an affordable price point, we don’t mind burning through the bottle to get the staying power we want.

Key Notes: Lily of the valley, jasmine, musk|Size: 1 oz

Robert Piguet Fracas Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

Saks Fifth Avenue


What We Love: This scent is a magnum opus in the landscape of white florals.

What We Don’t Love: It may be a little too heady to wear in all situations.

If you’re a white floral lover and have never tried Fracas, (a) what are you doing? And (b) you’re in for a real treat. This truly indulgent, luxurious scent boasts all the qualities of a fantastic white floral: It’s incredibly long-wearing, it’s both innocent and incredibly sultry, it’s sweet (thanks to the addition of peach and mandarin) and almost raw, and looks fabulous on any vanity.

Fracas has a timeless elegance to it — like a diamond tennis bracelet — that makes it the perfect accent to any outfit. Note that it’s incredibly powerful, with a little bit going a long way and the staying power to last for an entire day. That strength means that it might be too intense in certain settings, like on a very hot, humid day or in tight quarters. However, it should absolutely be on rotation if you love a white floral — trust us.

Key Notes: Tuberose, jasmine, gardenia|Size: 1.7 oz

Creed Fleurissimo Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

Creed


What We Love: This perfume is the epitome of quiet luxury.

What We Don’t Love: The scent is not very long-wearing.

Few things are quite as luxurious as royalty — and this perfume from the legendary House of Creed was said to be commissioned by Prince Rainier III of Monaco as a wedding day gift for Grace Kelly. Designed to compliment her wedding bouquet, this fragrance features a delicate blend of florals like ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, and neroli, with a squeeze of citrus and a touch of velvety orris root (one of the priciest ingredients used in perfume).

It’s feminine and sophisticated and, despite the inclusion of tuberose, is soft and demure rather than being an attention grabber — true quiet luxury. We will say that this delicate scent is not as long-wearing as some; the floral notes wear down into a skin scent rather than blooming into a lush garden. For us, that’s part of the appeal of this perfume. It makes you smell effortlessly gorgeous, not like you’re trying to make a statement.

Key Notes: Violet leaves, ylang-ylang, orris|Size: 2.5 oz

Krigler Mediterranean Peach 15 Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

Krigler


What We Love: This is one of, if not the most, realistic fruit perfumes we’ve ever smelled.

What We Don’t Love: Krigler scents can be hard to find.

Imagine a peach orchard in the Mediterranean — someone’s just handed you freshly-plucked, slightly overripe fruit that’s positively dripping with honeyed nectar, while jasmine wafts through the air in the background. That’s this indulgent scent from Krigler, which was first crafted as a bespoke scent in 1915 for a British client who loved peaches. It’s sweet, juicy, and as elusive as a truly perfect peach.

Don’t get us wrong, we love when a scent is exclusive, but when considering such a big purchase, we like to try before we buy, ideally in person. To do that with Krigler, you’ll have to go to one of the brand’s few retail destinations, which include The Plaza Hotel in New York, the Ritz-Carlton in Miami, and (naturally) the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat along the French Riviera.

Key Notes: Peach, honey, jasmine|Size: 1.7 oz

Guerlain L'Heure Bleue Eau de Toilette

PHOTO:

Guerlain


What We Love: This perfume perfectly encapsulates the meaning of “Guerlinade.”

What We Don’t Love: It’s not the easiest scent to find these days.

Fun fact: The most iconic Guerlain fragrances have an olfactory signature, which is also known as Guerlinade. This term refers to a specific blend of the house’s high-quality ingredients, and when they’re masterfully mixed into a fragrance.

Guerlain aficionados generally regard this scent as the pinnacle of Guerlinade. One of those critical ingredients is vanilla, which isn’t sugary in this scent, but closer to the scent of an actual vanilla bean pod. It’s tempered by powdery iris, creamy tonka, and spicy clove for a truly legendary scent. “It is my favorite classic fragrance of all time,” says Monet. “My grandmother used to wear it — I love wearing it sometimes to feel elegant and confident.”

If you love a sophisticated classic fragrance, track down a bottle of this scent ASAP — it was first made in the early 1900s and has been increasingly challenging to find, especially if you prefer to test something in person first.

Key Notes: Vanilla, iris, anise|Size: 2.5 oz

Amazon Pink Sugar Eau de Toilette

PHOTO:

Amazon


What We Love: This ultra-sweet fragrance is well-balanced so as not to be cloying.

What We Don’t Love: Some people may find it to be a bit juvenile.

Ask any millennial what the ultimate sweet perfume is and you’re bound to hear Pink Sugar as a response. This iconic scent launched about 20 years ago and has been a staple of confectionery fragrance lovers ever since.

The most overt notes here are cotton candy, vanilla, and caramel, which give the scent an almost dense, chewy feel, which is brightened up by strawberry and raspberry and made slightly moody with a touch of licorice. The scent lasts a long while on skin; anyone who catches a whiff will enjoy its playful, feminine, and sugary vibes.

The only caveat is that it may smell a little youthful for some people’s tastes — but if you’re looking to harness the aesthetic of the early 2000s (it’s like Mean Girls and Juicy sweatsuits in perfume form), there’s no better scent than Pink Sugar.

Key Notes: Cotton candy, raspberry, caramel|Size: 3.4 oz

Snif Crumb Couture

PHOTO:

Snif


What We Love: This gourmand is delectable without being childish.

What We Don’t Love: This cult-favorite scent sells out often.

We find that gourmand fragrances inspired by baked goods can be remarkably hard to come by, and a smaller subset of those fragrances are actually good — and then even fewer of those are clean. That’s why we’re calling this croissant-inspired fragrance from Snif a new classic. It checks all the boxes, with an elevated aroma of the freshly-baked French pastry enhanced by fresh berries and vanilla. The addition of both sandalwood and tonka keep this scent sophisticated rather than childish.

Bonus: the sleek packaging features a magnetic cap, so it will never pop off when you bring this travel-friendly fragrance with you on your travels. The only downside to Crumb Couture is that it is so popular, it’s often sold out — but the good news is that you can always pre-order it so you can snag it when the brand restocks.

Key Notes: Croissant, wild berry jam, toasted vanilla|Size: 1 oz

Diptyque Philosykos Eau de Toilette

PHOTO:

Diptyque


What We Love: This scent smells like a fresh breeze wafting through the air somewhere in the Mediterranean.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it lasted longer on the skin.

Fans of this fragrance say it smells identical to sitting under a fig tree on a warm summer’s day on the Mediterranean coast — and while we haven’t had the privilege of that experience, we totally believe it.

Bright and green, this crisp scent taps the herbaceous energy of fig leaf with a kiss of sweetness from fig fruit and tempered by the creaminess of a touch of coconut. This all rests on a soft, woody fig tree note. It’s truly wearable by any gender and can be spritzed on in any season.

However, it is an eau de toilette, so it doesn’t have much of a sillage and isn’t the longest-lasting fragrance in our roster. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have it in your fragrance wardrobe — it’s the perfect “let me put on a little somethin’” scent.

Key Notes: Fig leaf, fig, green notes, coconut|Size: 3.4 oz

Philosophy Amazing Grace Eau de Toilette

PHOTO:

Ulta


What We Love: This smells like freshly washed sheets in the best possible way.

What We Don’t Love: The fragrance is an eau de toilette, so it doesn’t have the greatest longevity.

When you want to smell effortlessly clean, fresh, and pretty, reach for a bottle of this classic scent. Sparkling bergamot, delicate lily of the valley, and soft musk create an eau de toilette that smells just like clothing that’s been freshly laundered with high-end detergent.

We spritz it all over our skin, outfit, and hair so we get a whiff every time we move — and when we’re not on the go, we get our Amazing Grace fix via shampoo, body wash, and salt scrub formulas. It’s a lightweight scent and an eau de toilette to boot, so don’t expect the scent to last all day on your skin. We don’t mind as it allows us to touch up throughout the day.

Key Notes: Bergamot, lily of the valley, musk|Size: 2 oz

Le Labo Santal 33 Eau De Parfum

PHOTO:

Nordstrom


What We Love: A little of this cozy perfume goes a long way.

What We Don’t Love: This scent is everywhere.

This woodsy perfume has surpassed cult-favorite status to scent icon, with an almost indescribable aroma that is all at once comfy, seductive, intoxicating, and effortless. Unexpectedly fresh, green notes of cucumber and cardamom create a bright opening to this scent, which mellows into a woody blend of cedar and sandalwood that’s made richer with buttery leather.

It’s definitely a masterpiece — and a masterpiece never stays a secret for long. Ever since The New York Times sang its praises for being a darling of creative types in 2015, Santal 33 has become omnipresent on people of all walks of life, regardless of gender. Keep that in mind if you’re looking for a super niche scent.

Key Notes: Cedarwood, leather, cardamom|Size: 1.7 oz

Tom Ford Ébène Fumé Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

Sephora


What We Love: This scent has remarkable lasting power.

What We Don’t Love: Though it is a unisex scent, some may find it to be too masculine.

This heady, smoky scent from Tom Ford projects and lasts for hours on end, letting others in your circle know that you have impeccable taste when it comes to fragrance. With notes of incense, palo santo, ebony tree (hence the name, “smoked ebony” en Français), and pepper, the scent is dark, seductive, and spicy, with a subtle touch of sweetness thanks to a surprising rose note.

Some liken the aroma to a church pew while others compare it to a summer bonfire — but wherever it transports you, you’ll likely find the scent meditative and a must have. This may not come as a surprise due to the blend of notes, but this unisex perfume leans masculine. If you’re looking for a hyper-feminine smoky option, this one may not be for you.

Key Notes: Incense, palo santo, guaiac wood|Size: 1.7 oz

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

Nordstrom


What We Love: It’s got great staying power.

What We Don’t Love: This scent is a chameleon — it wears very differently on people depending on their body chemistry.

There’s a reason that this fragrance has surged in popularity on TikTok and beauty retailers’ shelves: “This perfume is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and I have yet to find something else that comes close to how special it is,” gushes Meg Gray, Director of Merchandising at Bluemercury. “It’s warm, spicy and sweet and is one of those fragrances that is great for everyday use, but also feels perfect for a special occasion.”

The unique blend of notes include sweet and spicy saffron, rich jasmine, and funky synthetic ambergris to create an incomparable scent. It’s worth noting that body chemistry plays a big part in how this perfume wears — some people say this smells like strawberries and cotton candy, a spicy butterscotch-y forest, or even a Band-Aid, so be sure to test this one out before committing to a full-sized bottle.

Key Notes: Jasmine, saffron, cedar, ambergris|Size: 2.4 oz

Juliette Has a Gun Not A Perfume

PHOTO:

Amazon


What We Love: This scent has a very subtle aroma that makes it wearable in a variety of settings.

What We Don’t Love: Some people are nose blind to this scent, meaning you may not be able to smell it on yourself.

When we want to be the best-smelling iteration of ourselves without actually smelling like perfume, we spray on this classic from Juliette Has a Gun. The unique fragrance features just one element, Cetalox, which is typically used as a base note to mimic the now-illegal note of ambergris. It’s what you’d call a skin scent — it lies close to the skin to create a subdued, musky aroma that smells like you, just fresh, clean, and classy.

You can even buy this scent in body wash, body lotion, candle, and laundry detergent formats to add it to every aspect of your lifestyle. However, because it’s so subtle, some people actually can’t smell it on themselves, but that’s not to say that others can’t smell it on you! If you can’t identify it once you’ve misted on your skin, ask your friends and family — we’re confident they’ll give you nothing but compliments.

Key Notes: Cetalox|Size: 3.3 oz

Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne

PHOTO:

Macy’s


What We Love: It’s a unique spin on a classic beach fragrance.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t have the best staying power.

This classic, best-smelling perfume is one of Gray’s favorites. “I love that this fragrance is a little different,” she says. “With the top note of ambrette seeds combined with sea salt and sage, this reminds me of a fall day at the beach.” It wears close to the skin to emit a fresh shoreline scent that’s not like a tropical vacation, but closer to time spent on the Atlantic coast.

“What makes this fragrance unique is that it is truly genderless and sophisticated,” adds Gray. This ultra-wearable scent is light and airy not just because of the aroma itself, but the formulation — it’s a cologne, which has one of the lowest concentrations of perfume than any type of wearable scent. That means it doesn’t last very long on the skin. However, we can almost guarantee you’ll look forward to midday touch-ups.

Key Notes: Sea salt, sage, ambrette seeds|Size: 3.4 oz

Frederic Malle Rose Tonnerre Eau de Parfum

PHOTO:

Frederic Malle


What We Love: This is the truest and least “grandma-like” rose we’ve ever smelled.

What We Don’t Love: If you’re looking for a sweet rose scent, this is not it.

In our humble opinions, there are far too many rose scents out there that come across as dusty and overly mature — like an old sachet of dried rosebuds forgotten in the back of an underwear drawer — and not enough that smell like a fresh blossom.

This perfume from Frederic Malle smells just like the real thing, a lush and velvety red rose freshly picked from a garden tilled with organic soil. That’s because there are three rosy notes in here: rose, Turkish rose, and geranium, which does have a rose-like quality to its scent. The slightly “dirty” aspect comes from earthy patchouli and truffle, which amplify the authenticity of this fragrance.

If you’re someone who prefers a sweeter, almost sugared rose perfume, you may not like this one. While you will find honey in the notes, it doesn’t add a caramelized quality, but mellows out the aroma.

Key Notes: Rose, truffle, patchouli|Size: 1.7 oz

Bergdorf Goodman Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Toit Eau de Toilette

PHOTO:

Bergdorf Goodman


What We Love: This green, airy scent is perfect for wearing on hot summer days.

What We Don’t Love: If you prefer truly unisex green fragrances, this one may be a bit too feminine for your liking.

On days that the air is thick and all you want to do is escape to a country club with a glass of iced tea, transport yourself with this scent from Hermès. It’s crisp, with opening notes of grass and tangy rosemary, which is brightened up with juicy apple and pear to create a refreshing linen blouse of a fragrance. It’s ultra classy and has impressive lasting power for an eau de toilette — an entire work day.

Those who like sharper green scents may be disappointed by this scent, however, as subtle rose and magnolia notes make this fragrance more girlie than other green scents out there.

Key Notes: Grass, rose, red apple|Size: 1.6 oz

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette

PHOTO:

Amazon


What We Love: This is a delightfully fresh, summery scent that is rare in that it has zero coconut.

What We Don’t Love: Some skin chemistries may make the citrus notes too acidic.

You’ve seen Dolce & Gabbana’s ad campaigns for Light Blue for decades, so you know what the scent is meant to evoke — sunny, summery days spent boating off the island of Capri. And it does just that, courtesy of notes of zesty Sicilian lemon, green bamboo, and warm amber that melt into the skin to make skin smell fresh, clean, and alluring.

Even better, this is a rare aquatic perfume that features no coconut, which can be very polarizing (and besides which, not all summer scents need to be tropical!). Just be sure to try this perfume out before buying a full bottle. Citrus notes can evolve into a somewhat chemical aroma on some skin, so check that your skin chemistry allows Light Blue to amplify its Italian Riviera-inspired glory.

Key Notes: Sicilian lemon, bamboo, amber|Size: 3.3 oz

What to Keep in Mind

Wearability

A big part of what makes a fragrance a classic is how you wear it. Consider your setting — do you want it to be your signature date night scent? Are you looking for something you can wear every day?

“I think something that makes a fragrance classic is the ability for it to appeal to many people and be appropriate in many different settings,” says Gray.

If you’re looking to make a serious statement, you can opt for a louder blend of bolder notes. Tom Ford Ébène Fumé Eau de Parfum is one such scent, with strong incense and woodsy notes that can make heads turn. Just keep in mind that wearing a bigger fragrance is best for specific occasions, like that aforementioned date night or a major event — not the office.

Longevity

Some perfumes are designed to be stronger and wear longer than others. The hint is often in the descriptor name after the marketing name — for example, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne.

“Perfume is a combination of fragrance oil, alcohol, and water; the intensity varies based on the concentration of the fragrance oil,” explains Monet. “The least concentrated would be a mist followed by eau de cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and parfum,” she adds.

The ingredients and notes also play a role. If you’re using a purely natural perfume, you might find that the scent is not as durable, as the fragrance molecules are often more delicate than synthetics, which are designed to be heartier. However, that’s not always the case — what’s more important is a perfume’s olfactive structure.

“A perfume that contains patchouli and gourmand notes will always be stronger than a citrus cologne,” says Monet. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum, which contains patchouli and vanilla notes, is bold and extremely long-wearing, while Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette, known for its citrusy aroma, is much airier and doesn’t have as strong of a staying power.

If you want to get the most scent out of your perfume, regardless of which category it falls into, prep accordingly. “Moisturized skin will allow fragrance to last longer,” explains Gray. “Fragrances are attracted to the oils in your skin, so applying a moisturizer that’s a little more heavy duty will help increase longevity.”

You can also spritz your perfume over a body lotion from the same fragrance line, or mist it over your clothes and hair, suggests Monet.

Testing

Take it from us — the description of a perfume will not automatically translate into what it smells like on your skin. You also can’t just stop by a beauty retailer and leave with a piece of paper saturated in perfume expecting to get a true sense of its character.

“Skin’s pH balance interacts with the fragrance and therefore can change from person to person,” explains Gray. We find that some scents in particular really vary on different skin. For example, while we love the sweet-spicy aroma of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum on a friend, it smells a bit plastic-y on us.

It’s easy to fall in love with a bunch of notes only to find that they fall flat on you (and even more frustratingly, sing on someone else!), so really try on a new scent to experience it. “You need to be able to wear it and live with it for a few hours or a few days,” says Monet.

That testing period will also allow you to determine not only how the scent interacts with your body chemistry, but your persona. “Test how the scent makes you feel,” says Monet. “The beauty of perfume is the exploration and play aspect of creating a signature scent and how it can transform your mood.”

Cost

If you’re on a budget, you might notice that many classic fragrances are expensive. “Given that many of the most classic fragrances come from luxury designers or from brands that have a high attention to craftsmanship, often this will increase the price of a fragrance,” explains Gray.

For example, Creed Fleurissimo Eau de Parfum contains orris, a root of a type of iris. “The yield of the production is very low, which makes it very rare and expensive,” says Monet. Formulating a fragrance with expensive ingredients such as orris will make the overall price of the product go up. The higher the concentration of perfume (for example, eau de parfum vs. cologne), the higher the price, too, as there is a steeper percentage of expensive stuff in the bottle sitting on your shelf.

However, the best-smelling perfumes don’t have to be expensive to be classic. “It is not about cost so much as the signature of the scent,” explains Monet. If the scent and its story resonates strongly with you, the wearer, that’s more than enough. “These factors together create a classic — it is not only about price,” she says. The Body Shop White Musk Eau de Parfum and Philosophy Amazing Grace Eau de Toilette are both budget-friendly and total classics.

Your Questions, Answered

What makes a perfume classic?

One of the most important characteristics of a classic perfume is if it can stand the test of time. “Fragrance trends come and go, but the perfumes that stay are those that transcend trends,” says Gray. Adds Monet, wearing a classic perfume after it’s not trendy anymore can actually be disruptive.

Another aspect of a classic, best-smelling perfume is the quality of its ingredients, “a high-performance fragrance with a memorable, long-lasting perception,” says Monet. “Just like a classic handbag or that perfect shade of lipstick, a high standard for ingredients will ensure that the fragrance will be one that clients purchase time and time again,” agrees Gray.

The last aspect of a classic perfume is storytelling. For example, we’ve all heard that the only thing Marilyn Monroe wore to bed was Chanel No° 5 Eau de Parfum. “A classic perfume has an impactful and emotional storytelling that allows consumers to connect with its scent and story on a deeper level than just being a product,” says Monet.

What is the most attractive perfume scent?

Everyone smells perfume differently due to factors like body chemistry, so there is no one singular note that will appeal to all. The most attractive perfume will be one that enhances your natural aroma. “Fragrances that go on almost as a second skin have gained popularity for this reason,” says Monet. (Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume is a perfect example of this.)

That said, there are a few categories that can be enticing. “Musk, for example, can be very alluring because it is often used in fragrances to accomplish the smell of a second skin, which is attractive because it’s your scent, just enhanced,” she adds. Furthermore, floral notes are often winners. “Many of the most iconic fragrances will have floral notes, grounded by something a bit more complex, such as musk or sandalwood,” says Gray.

Why Shop With Us

Emily Orofino is a beauty writer, editor, and consultant with more than a decade of experience in the industry. She has dozens of bottles of perfume she loves to smell recreationally despite really only wearing the same five scents or so IRL. For this piece, she interviewed Meg Gray, Director of Merchandising at Bluemercury and Alexandra Monet, perfumer at Dsm-Firmenich, for their insights regarding classic perfumes.

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