The 20 Best Perfumes of All Time

Discover a new (or old) favorite.

Words by Lindy Segal

Courtesy

Finding a signature scent can be a years-long process. Fragrance is notoriously personal, and each one smells unique on the wearer. But a great place to start is with some of the best-selling, most iconic fragrances ever. From those that have stood the test of time to more recent favorites, these 20 perfumes have forever earned a space on our vanities—whether you prefer floral perfumes, a tried-and-true classic like Chanel No. 5, or something else entirely. Scroll on to discover your new (or old) favorite.

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BEST FRUITY PERFUME

1. Miss Dior Eau de Parfum

Dior

Dior perfumes are so iconic, they even inspired a documentary. This modern classic truly has a bit of everything: juicy blood orange and mandarin, fresh lily of the valley, and earthy patchouli.

BEST NOT-TOO-SWEET PERFUME

2. Chance Eau de Parfum Spray

Chanel

Chance was introduced in 2002, and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. Thank the floral base of iris and jasmine, which is rounded out by sweet vanilla and white musk—plus, pink pepper adds an unexpected touch of spice.

 

BEST LUXURY PERFUME

3. Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum

Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Created as a collaboration between the perfumer and Baccarat to celebrate the crystal manufacturer’s 250th birthday, this popular scent is, frankly, a masterpiece. A combination of woody notes, amber, jasmine and other florals, it’s sophisticated and never overpowering.

 

 

 

BEST FALL PERFUME

4. Black Opium Eau de Parfum Spray

Yves Saint Laurent

Rich coffee and vanilla create a sweet and warm base, while a floral heart lightens things up. It’s excellent during cooler months, but can be worn year-round if you please.

 

 

 

 

BEST GENDERLESS PERFUME

5. Santal 33 Eau de Parfum

Le Labo

This mysterious fragrance became one of the biggest perfume crazes of the last decade, and for good reason: It’s musky, spicy, and a bit smoky (but not overwhelmingly so), and the genderless quality makes it ideal for sharing.

 

 

 

 

 

MOST ENDURING PERFUME

6. Chanel N°5 Eau de Parfum Spray

CHANEL

Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2021, Chanel No. 5 is perhaps the most famous fragrance of all time. Heavy with may rose and jasmine, it was the first perfume to be layered with aldehydes, a now-commonplace practice that lends the fragrance an airy quality. Game changing then, iconic now.

 

 

 

 

BEST AFFORDABLE PERFUME

7. Glossier You

Glossier

Named You as a nod to the fragrance’s ability to smell different on each wearer, this blend of floral iris, spicy pink pepper, and warm ambrette seeds became an instant hit for Glossier, and remains the brand’s one and only fragrance.

 

 

 

 

BEST FIRST FRAGRANCE

8. Daisy Eau de Toilette

Marc Jacobs Fragrances

The daisy-adorned bottle became an instant sensation, but what’s inside is pretty fabulous as well. With notes of strawberry, sandalwood, and jasmine, Daisy is a light floral that’s become a rite of passage for teens (and teens at heart).

 

 

 

BEST FLORAL PERFUME

9. Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum

Viktor & Rolf

As the name suggests, this Viktor & Rolf cult favorite is deeply floral thanks to fresh jasmine and rose, while notes of grounding vanilla and patchouli add warmth and sophistication.

 

 

 

 

BEST PACKAGING

10. Angel Natural Refillable Spray

Mugler

We don’t know what’s more recognizable: the star-shaped bottle or the perfume that’s inside. Angel features a patchouli base and fruity bergamot top notes, and is layered with sweet praline and vanilla—yet somehow never smells too sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

BEST LIGHT PERFUME

11. kai Eau de Parfum

kai

Kai has earned a devoted following over the years for its clean, tropical, gardenia-based fragrance. For rose lovers, there’s also a spin-off scent, called (you guessed it), kai rose.

 

 

 

 

 

BEST MULTIFACETED PERFUME

12. Sì Eau de Parfum Fragrance

Giorgio Armani

If you’re looking for a sweet, strong floral scent, you may have found it in the Mediterranean-inspired Sì. It starts out fruity with top notes of black currant nectar, followed by a freesia and Rose of Mai heart, finishing with a musky, vanilla-tinged base.

 

 

 

 

BEST BEACHY PERFUME

13. Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne

Jo Malone London

You don’t have to live by the beach to appreciate this surf-inspired scent (and one of Jo Malone’s best sellers). With notes of sea salt, sage, and ambrette seeds, it’s simple, sophisticated, and genderless.

BEST SOPHISTICATED PERFUME

14. Chloé Eau de Parfum Spray

Chloé

A bouquet of florals—rose, lily of the valley, freesia, magnolia—give way to amber and cedarwood, which lend a sensual, warm air to the overall light scent. Plus, this one is loved equally for the bottle (topped with a hand-tied ribbon) and for what’s inside.

 

BEST CULT-FAVORITE PERFUME

15. Mojave Ghost

Byredo

Not even the fragrance-averse can resist Byredo’s chic, cylindrical bottles, particularly this scent inspired by the Mojave Desert. The woody scent features notes of ambrette, Jamaican nesberry, violet, sandalwood, magnolia, Chantilly musk, crisp amber, and cedarwood.

 

 

 

BEST CELEBRITY PERFUME

16. Fenty Eau de Parfum

Fenty Beauty

Rihanna has been name-checked as the best-smelling celeb by just about everyone on the planet, so it was only natural that she create her own signature scent. It instantly sold out, but if you’re lucky enough to snag a bottle of this elevated blend of magnolia, musk, tangerine, blueberry, Bulgarian rose absolute, geranium, and patchouli, know that it’s worth all the hype.

 

 

SEXIEST PERFUME

17. Black Orchid Eau de Parfum

Tom Ford

Like all things Tom Ford, this scent is undeniably sexy and glamorous. The namesake black orchid is surrounded by ylang-ylang and citrus, black plum, patchouli, and vanilla. It’s deep, dark, and elegant, especially for evening.

 

 

 

BEST CLEAN PERFUME

18. Jake’s House

Henry Rose

A gorgeous combination of honeyed neroli, peony, jasmine, and musk, this top seller from Michelle Pfeiffer’s fragrance line smells both crisp and clean, and is made with clean ingredients; in fact, it’s the only fine fragrance line to be verified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

 

 

 

 

BEST FRESH PERFUME

19. Scent of Peace Eau de Parfum

Bond No. 9 New York

Bond No. 9’s luxe fragrances are inspired by New York City, though according to the brand, this lavender bottle is named for “the greatest neighborhood of them all—peace.” Light and fresh, the mix of fresh grapefruit, lily of the valley, and black currant, is just lovely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEST SWEET PERFUME

20. Candy Eau de Parfum Spray

Prada

With a name like Candy, you might mistake this scent for being cloying—but that’s not the case at all. With notes of warm caramel and musk, Candy is sensual and fun: the perfect everyday scent.

 

 

 

 

 

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This story originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com