Because we all get stuck in our scent ways sometimes, or only focus on shiny, new launches, we created a guide to Fifty Fragrances You Should Try (or at least sniff) in a lifetime.
Seeking out and smelling these scents helps build a library of scent knowledge. Some are over a century old, others created by ‘rising star’ new houses in the fragrant firmament. Among them, you’ll encounter scents that changed the course of perfume history – and you may even recognise their olfactory echoes in many newer launches you go on to try.
You can read Part One here, but if you’ve already limbered up your noses, let’s take a look at the last twenty five names on our list – and remember that list could well have been five times as long! We simply chose some to give you a great overview of the olfactory timeline and fragrant landscape you should explore…
[P.S: We’re thrilled the longer version of this article, which appeared in our 50th issue of The Scented Letter magazine, is up for a Jasmine Award!]
- Jimmy Choo £62 for 60ml eau de parfum jimmychoo.com
Feminine, empowering and instantly game-changing, in 2011 those who clamoured for the stunningly glam shoes suddenly wanted to wear Jimmy Choo on their wrists (and necks, décolletage, behind knees…) Olivier Polge leant his mastery of ingredients to creating this fruity Chypre that tempts with tiger orchid, toffee and Indonesian patchouli. One to wear while dancing on tables.
- Jo Malone London Lime, Basil & Mandarin £110 for 100ml Cologne
When the now-iconic scent first whooshed its way into the perfume world in 1999, we were still in recovery from an era of powerful ‘room-rockers’. Inspiring countless Cologne-esque copies from others who’d not predicted this fragrant about-face, none can beat the original zesty, feel-good zing of just-squeezed citrus with handfuls of torn basil and thyme leaves still warm from the sun.
- Jovoy Psychédélique £145 for 100ml eau de parfum
The ultimate tribute to the Sixties: an intoxicatingly intense patchouli fragrance that’s dark and smoky, twisted through with the golden gleam of amber, and a no-brainer for any patch-lovers to swoon over (as we often do). A glorious example of a ‘phoenix’ perfume house – restored way beyond its former 1920s glory, now also an indie treasure trove of shops for fellow scent obsessives.
- Kenzo Flower by Kenzo from £42.99 for 30ml eau de parfum
Kenzo’s new bloom for the millennium, it’s the imagined the scent of a poppy – one of those so-elusive flowers we adore but which remain frustratingly ‘silent’ and scentless in nature. Step forward the artistry of perfumery, in the hands (and nose) of Alberto Morrillas, and this 2000-launched scent now celebrates over 20 years of powdery, violet-tinged, hawthorn-dusted beguilement.
- Lalique Encre Noire £25.23 for 100ml eau de toilette
Perfumer Nathalie Lorson excelled herself in 2006 with this love song to the scent of vetiver. Smouldering, inky, bone dry, and slightly dangerous, it wraps the wearer in a cloak of woody cypress, fluffed a little at the edges by cashmere, and ruthlessly seduces with a lover’s neck caress of still-cool muskiness. We dare any sex to wear this and not cast a spell over all in its trail.
- Lancôme La Vie Est Belle £65 for 30ml eau de parfum
In 2012, this free-spirited fragrance first sashayed its way on the world’s scent stage, embodied by Julia Roberts in the advertising campaign, created by a trio of top-notch noses (Anne Flipo, Dominique Ropion and Olivier Polge), and reportedly with 5000 trials in the making. Full-bodied iris is the star, swagged by radiant orange blossom and jasmine, the fruitiness shot through with praline.
- Le Labo Santal 33 £157 for 50ml eau de parfum
Since 2011, whole cities have become scented by Santal 33, such has been the popularity of this creamy, dreamy, woodsy perfume story. It’s some story. Former L’Oréal executives Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi already had 10 scents to Le Labo’s when Santal changed everything. Starting life as a candle, perfumer Frank Voelkl made it ‘deeper, more comfortable’ and created a must-sniff cult classic.
- Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 From £150 for 30ml eau de parfum
A modern classic, created for the 250th anniversary of the iconic crystal house in 2015. Luminous and sophisticated, Baccarat Rouge 540 lies on the skin like an amber floral and woody breeze. A poetic alchemy, the aerial notes of jasmine and tingling, warm radiance of saffron carry intriguing mineral facets of misty ambergris and woody tones of freshly cut, brown sugar-sprinkled cedar.
- Maison Margiela Replica By the Fireplace £55 for 30ml eau de toilette
Captured in an apothecary-style bottle, with a label echoing the designer’s clothing tags, each Replica fragrance evokes familiar scent memories and moments linked to specific locations. In 2015 we were beckoned to a French alpine fireside, delicious chestnut cocooning pink pepper and clove, contrasting with warm notes of cashmere and orange flower for cuddle-me-closer woodiness.
- Marc Jacobs Daisy £68 for 50ml eau de toilette
Jacobs’s playful yet sophisticated attitude is reflected in his love of fragrance and most especially this wildly successful scent of 2007. The essence of a youthful spirit, sunny, happy and free, the airy simplicity and charming bottle topped with oversized daisy cap has become iconic. With numerous international awards to its name, each new ‘spin’ on Daisy delights us afresh.
- MEMO Paris Irish Leather £230 for 75ml eau de parfum
Collating an olfactory album of scent memories, husband and wife founders Clara and John Molloy (via perfumer Alienor Massenet) have distilled huge charisma into this aromatic, honeyed leather, inspired by Clara’s ancestral roots. Swathing green freshness in a somewhat animalistic spirit, the chill of frosted juniper and clary sage is soon smouldered by the warmth of an open fire.
- Miller Harris Scherzo £110 for 50ml eau de parfum
Tasked with creating a fragrance to conjure up F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Mathieu Nardin’s 2018 artistic interpretation is an ode to darkness and light. Blood orange, davana and golden olibanum collide in a kaleidoscopic splash of brightness, while shadowy dark roses mingle with patchouli and oudh. Tinged with sweetness, this artistic endeavour allows your inner child to dance.
- Molton Brown Black Pepper £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
This iconic sizzle of a scent was ahead of its time by several decades, evolving from bodywash in the 80s to perfumer Jacques Chabert’s personal fragrance in 2001, and finally into the grateful public’s hands (and wrists). The pepper’s enhanced by lemon and ginger up top, dark green herbs in the heart – a true wake-up call to get you going any time you need a fragrant boost of energy!
- Mugler Angel From £65 for 25ml eau de parfum
An olfactory ‘shock’ when it launched in 1992, with its unashamedly unique, good-enough-to-eat candyfloss, bold berries and an unprecedentedly high concentration of 30% ultra-rich, woody patchouli. Mugler’s childhood funfair vision, brilliantly interpreted by Olivier Cresp and Yves de Chiris, will be among the stars, forever. Manfred Thierry Mugler, 1948–2022, R.I.P.
- Narciso Rodriguez For Her £59 for 30ml eau de parfum
This eau de parfum version in the soft pink bottle (as opposed to the black EDT) was created by Christine Nagel and Francis Kurkdjian in 2016. Echoing the feminine strength of Rodriguez’ empowering designs, the rose and peach melt seamlessly into a softly simmering amber and signature musk base. Seriously sexy in the most unfussy, unbuttoned way, it still makes our hearts beat faster.
- Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps £33.50 for 30ml eau de toilette
The first fragrance love affair for so many, it’s hard to believe this first came out in 1948, though the twin doves atop the cap (symbolising peace) make perfect sense. Perfumer Francis Fabron swathed a delicate bouquet in airy aldehydes, the clove-like spiciness of carnation and a dusting of violet and iris. Classically classy, did you know it’s worn by Clarice Starling in ‘Silence of the Lambs’?
- Ormonde Jayne Woman From £90 for 30ml eau de parfum
Socrates drank black hemlock to poison himself, but Geza Schoen used it in 2002 for a quite different effect, oodles of the absolute lending mysterious shadows to a dusky forest, otherworldly whispers amidst the verdant undergrowth, all set against the backdrop of a violet-streaked, vetiver rich, amber-tinged, sunset. It could easily conquer your heart (and anyone near).
- Penhaligon’s Halfeti £190 for 100ml eau de parfum
Inspired by a small Turkish village famed for its roses, perfumer Christian Provenzano coaxes baskets of the blooms to radiate in the hot sun. Steeped with spices, the nutmeg and oudh sweep in clouds across supple leather (and often, onto the streets, actually wafting from Penhaligon’s boutiques). That distinctive amber woodiness in the base has ensured its smash-hit status since 2015.
- Prada Infusion d’Iris £125 for 100ml eau de parfum
From the moment it launched in 2007, Daniela Andrier’s scent gained cult status. smooth and crisp all at once, cleverly reminiscent of clean linen and warm skin, neroli and mandarin make for an airy introduction to which Andrier’s fused an exquisite tapestry of elements – accenting green galbanum, cedarwood and vetiver with the almost bread-like buttery-softness of iris. Sheer genius.
- Robert Piguet Fracas £175 for 100ml eau de parfum
Created in 1948 by the indomitable Germaine Cellier, this remains the tuberose against which all others must be measured. Emphatically voluptuous with a heady coolness, this deliberately divisive, Baroque floral has apparently been beloved, among others, by Rita Hayworth, Brigitte Bardot, Courtney Love and Isabella Blow. In other words: shrinking flowers need not apply.
- Ruth Mastenbroek Signature From £70 for 30ml eau de parfum
British perfumer Ruth’s own memories of her life in England and her exciting travels abroad formed the basis for her first scent, fittingly named Signature for the way it so perfectly becomes part of you. A distinctively timeless Chypre that’s laced with luscious pineapple, the oakmoss and patchouli base become a warm sunshine-infused hug whenever required.
- Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois £110 for 50ml eau de parfum
Originally launched by Shiseido in 1992, during his creative tenure there, this fragrance came with him for the launch of his own ground-breaking niche perfume house, HQ-ed in Paris’s Palais-Royal, just a few years later. The genderless woody fruit accord gives us a forest of dry cedar swathing a superbly spiced plummy, lipstick-y violet.
- Tom Ford Black Orchid £140 for 50ml eau de parfum
An instant cult classic from its 2006 launch, famed for the seductive black truffle-infused orchid, rum soaked plums, gleaming, burnished ylang ylang and the silky, lingerie-like stroke of sandalwood and vanilla in the base. Darkly delish, devilishly moreish, Tom Ford smoothly bridged the gap between out-there edgy niche and luxe designer dreaminess. We’re still here for it.
- Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb £65 for 30ml eau de parfum
In 2005 Viktor & Rolf veritably exploded onto the scent scene, with this immediate blockbuster putting the edgy and rule-breaking Dutch design duo firmly on the fragrance map. Traditional note structures were cast aside by Carlos Benaïm, Olivier Polge and Domitille Bertier; instead, overlapping floralcy entwined with a milky muskiness. Still the bomb.
- YSL Opium £65 for 30ml eau de parfum
In 1977 the world was seduced by this audaciously named fragrance; still controversial today, back then it caused a scandal. The opulent swathe of ambrée vanilla, by perfumers Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac, was still shocking us in 2000, when Sophie Dahl’s infamous naked ad saw portrayed her experiencing an Opium-induced olfactory ecstasy. (As well she might.)
Written by Suzy Nightingale