2 Perfume-Obsessed Beauty Editors Sound Off on the Best Perfumes of All Time
We love all things beauty here at Who What Wear, but if there’s anything we love above all, it’s fragrance. We could talk about fragrance for hours on end and would not get sick of it. We’re constantly Slacking about new fragrance launches, our favorite perfumes of all time, and how a certain scent smells on our body chemistry. It’s truly a lifestyle.
I personally use fragrance as a way to enhance however I feel that day. When I first started wearing perfume, I wanted to find a signature scent or something I could wear every day that would remind people of me. (Funnily enough, I chose Tom Ford Black Orchid, which you’ll find on this list.) As I got older, I realized that fragrance could be more than something someone remembers about you. Fragrance can be a form of self-expression—the perfect finishing touch to an outfit, a way to evoke an old memory or a way to match how you feel.
Senior beauty editor Erin Jahns feels the same way about fragrance that I do. We set some time aside to decide definitively what we think the best fragrances of all time are. Don’t worry—we’ll still Slack back and forth about perfume, but now we have a guide to reference as a starting point.
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Key fragrance notes: Black truffle, bergamot, black orchid, black plum, noir gourmand accord, and patchouli.
Erin Jahns: I feel like Tom Ford Black Orchid is such a cult-classic that never gets old and never feels cliché.
Katie Berohn: I would bathe myself in Tom Ford Black Orchid.
Key fragrance notes: Palo santo wood accord, ebony wood accord, and rose.
KB: Ébène Fumé is a new obsession. It reminds me of Black Orchid, but less fruity.
Key fragrance notes: Pêche de vigne accord, blood orange, cardamom, heliotrope, davana oil, rum absolute, cognac, jasmine absolute sambac, sandalwood, benzoin resinoid, cashmeran, vanilla, tonka bean absolute, labdanum absolute, styrax resinoid, and patchouli.
EJ: Both Bitter Peach and Ébène Fumé are next level.
Key fragrance notes: Leather, tonka bean, and sage
KB: Personal big fan of Fucking Fabulous, but I can’t wear it all the time.
EJ: It’s a strong scent. A mood.
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Key fragrance notes: Cyprus, lemon, and oak.
EJ: My friend taught me this trick with Costa Azzurra (which is amazing on its own). But layer it with Tubereuse Nue, and it’s to die for. Like actual drool.
Key fragrance notes: Bergamot, lemon, pepper, juniper berries, incense, pine needles, orris, amber, vanilla, and sandalwood.
KB: Byredo is its own universe. I’m personally a big fan of Gypsy Water.
Key fragrance notes: White rose, pink pepper, aldehyde, violet, neroli, peony, blonde woods, sandalwood, and musk.
EJ: Blanche is so underrated. Truly such a good clean, crisp linens scent.
Key fragrance notes: Sichuan pepper, ambrette seeds, damascena rose, orris, musk, and ambroxan.
EJ: I think Young Rose—which is newer—is my favorite of all time though. Actual heaven. It’s perfect. I’ve been wearing it even though it’s a little juicy, which makes it perfect for summer.
Key fragrance notes: Black pepper, juniper berries, leather, orris, and violet.
EJ: It’s so good. I don’t know why it’s not more well-known. I have the hair perfume version of it and am obsessed.
Maison Margiela Replica
Key fragrance notes: Pear, lily of the valley, and musk.
KB: On the first day in April when it gets above 60ºF, I genuinely have to wear Springtime in the Park. It’s nonnegotiable.
Key fragrance notes: Aquatic accord, iris absolute, and red seaweed accord.
EJ: I swear it smells like a really expensive perfume.
Key fragrance notes: Pink pepper, orange flower petals, clove oil, chestnut accord, guaiac wood oil, cade oil, vanilla accord, Peru balsam, and cashmeran.
EJ: I also always pull out By the Fireplace this time of year—a classic.
KB: By the Fireplace is simply one of the most perfect winter perfumes out there.
Key fragrance notes: Aldehydes, jasmine, neroli, and sandalwood.
KB: My grandma used to wear Chanel N°5, which is maybe the most classic perfume out there, to be honest.
Key fragrance notes: Grapefruit, quince, rose accord, and white musk.
EJ: I wore Eau Tendre in high school because I thought it made me smell sophisticated. I still love it, though.
Key fragrance notes: Fig leaf, fig, white cedar, coconut, and tree sap.
EJ: I love the classics. Philosykos is probably my all-time favorite.
Key fragrance notes: Peppermint, geranium, and patchouli.
EJ: I fell hard for Eau de Minthe when it launched, which was a plot twist.
Key fragrance notes: Tobacco smoke, tonka bean, cedarwood, and juniper berries.
KB: I will wear Orphéon until my dying day. It’s that good.
Key fragrance notes: Tuberose, sweet melon, coconut, and musk.
EJ: Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady and Carnal Flower fight it out? Carnal flower personally speaks to me.
KB: I can’t think of a dreamier floral.
Key fragrance notes: Turkish rose, patchouli, benzoin, cinnamon, sandalwood, musk, and frankincense.
KB: Portrait of a Lady is just classic.
EJ: So timeless.
Key fragrance notes: Gernaium, rose, palmerosa, patchouli, moss, and honey.
EJ: La Fille de Berlin is one of my most treasured beauty products. It’s a must for anyone who loves rose.
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Key fragrance notes: Dark rum, honey, and vanilla bean.
EJ: It’s like the grown-up version of Pink Sugar that we all wore in middle school.
KB: Yes. It’s so sweet, but I don’t find it cloying.
EJ: I think it’s my favorite Ellis Brooklyn ever.
Key fragrance notes: Pink pepper, ambrette seed, ambrox, and iris.
EJ: Controversial opinion, but I will wear Glossier You until my dying day.
KB: I feel like Glossier You is a good pick for that. It’s such a unique fragrance, it smells different on everyone. Which, I guess, is the point.
EJ: Yes, it’s special!
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Key fragrance notes: Jasmine, saffron, cedarwood, and ambergris.
KB: I feel like Baccarat Rouge 540 is a classic.
EJ: Oh my God, yes. Honestly one of the best unisex fragrances ever.
KB: Everyone I’ve ever met that smells amazing… It’s almost always that one.
EJ: But it isn’t overdone!
Key fragrance notes: Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian lemon, white bouquet, light and musky woods.
KB: I love how it smells so much [that] I made my boyfriend start wearing it.
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Key fragrance notes: Bergamot, fresh dew, cassis, vanilla, and amber.
EJ: More niche, but so good—DedCool. Taunt and Blonde have to be my faves, but I’d buy the whole lot.
Key fragrance notes: Ambrette seeds, pear nectar, and musk.
EJ: I swear I’ve gotten so many friends hooked on it, and they say it’s the best thing they’ve ever smelled.
Key fragrance notes: Bergamot, bay leaves, black tea, fig, hay, tobacco, cedar, vetiver, and musk.
KB: Every day, I walk around New York City and all I smell is Santal 33. At a workout class, on the subway, in a bar… enough! I love it, but we need to mix it up.
EJ: If I had to choose, it would be Thé Noir 29 instead.
KB: Oooh. Now that’s a good Le Labo pick.
Key fragrance notes: Ambrette seeds, sea salt, and sage.
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Key fragrance notes: Orange blossom, grapefruit, ylang-ylang, and neroli.
EJ: I also love Krigler with all of the Old Hollywood and royalty history. I mean, who doesn’t want to wear something that Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn did?
KB: English Promenade 19 (Audrey Hepburn’s perfume!) is an all-time favorite. It’s such a unique scent. There’s an almost guttural quality to it… I can’t place it. But I think it develops so well on the skin.
Next, Short-Lived Perfume Is the Worst, so I Found 26 That Will Last All Day
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.