If there is a beauty topic that I could talk about all day long, it's autumn perfumes. I feel like fragrance really shifts with the change in seasons. As we wave goodbye to our summer scents, autumn is the time to welcome in warming, cosy and musky base notes. There's something quite emotive about it. Whether we're heading out for autumnal walks or hunkering down inside as the temperature drops, there's fun to be had in matching our scent to the seasonal mood.
"A smell, whether in the air, on our skin, or on our clothes, creates a world within our world that is both physical and imagined," says Aesop fragrance partner Barnabé Fillion. "A window into nature, so to speak, one that invites a dialogue with surroundings that we inhabit but often overlook," he adds.
I've amassed a big collection of fragrances, but autumn perfumes are my absolute favourite. I naturally lean to woody, amber or musky perfumes anyway, but in autumn, these really come into their own—the cosiness of a vanilla scent clinging to chunky knits or the earthy, woody scents that remind us of brisk woodland walks as the leaves turn flaming orange and the evenings draw in sooner.
Ahead, I've rounded up the 15 best autumn perfumes—both new launches and beloved classics—that I return to each year and get me the most compliments time and again (because who doesn't love that?).
The 15 Best Autumn Perfumes
1. Aesop Eidesis
Key notes: petitgrain, black pepper, Hedione, cumin, cedar wood, frankincense
Up first is Aesop's latest fragrance launch, Ediesis. To me, this earthy fragrance smells like walking through a forest after heavy rainfall, which exaggerates the smell of tree bark and dewy green undergrowth. The black pepper, cedar wood and cumin notes give the perfume a warming and spicy cosiness that is so alluring—it's one of my new fragrance favourites for 2022.
2. Byredo Bibliothèque
Key notes: peach, plum, peony, violet, leather, patchouli, vanilla
This was one of the first Byredo fragrances that I was introduced to, and to this day, I still return to it season after season, but especially so in autumn. Its inspiration comes from libraries and the sweet but earthy scent from old, leather-bound books. The leather comes across but isn't overpowering and is complemented with stone fruits peach and plum. I'd recommend this if you love a perfume that combines both sweet and earthy notes. If I could describe the feeling of wearing this scent, I would describe being hunkered down inside with a roaring fire and a good book as rain soothingly pitter-patters the windows.
3. Jo Malone London English Pear & Freesia
Key notes: pear, freesia, amber, patchouli, woods
I can fully understand why this is Jo Malone London's best-selling perfume, and this fragrance really works as an autumn scent. This fresh, fruity floral is simple yet elegant, and that's what I adore about Jo Malone scents. It highlights just a handful of notes, but they are executed beautifully. Juicy pear opens this scent, which is given a floral twist with freesia before drying down to warm amber, patchouli and woods. This is one for the fruity-fragrance wearers who want a sophisticated and autumnal twist.
4. Guerlain Angélique Noire
Key notes: angelica flower, vanilla, pink pepper, cedar wood
Looking for something bewitching and mysterious for evening? Look no further. Never has a fragrance made me feel more like a femme fatale than this fragrance from Guerlain. Perfumer Thierry Wasser puts it best, describing this scent as half angelic, half demonic, and says that if this perfume were a play, it would be Black Swan. The bitter yet fresh angelica note opens first, before opulent vanilla unfurls into the most hypnotising warmth on the skin that last for hours on end.
5. Tom Ford Vanille Fatale
Key notes: saffron, coriander, myrrh, roasted coffee, narcissus, Madagascan vanilla
This is another of the autumnal evening fragrances that I turn to every year. This vanilla scent is anything but sickly sweet, rather more rich, leathery and expensive-smelling. It has a slight smokiness to it, which takes the edge off the sweetness, preventing it from feeling cloying. This fragrance makes me think of espresso martinis and leather seating in a smokey bar.
6. Phlur Somebody Wood
Key notes: bergamot, lemon, jasmine, saffron, cyclamen, sandalwood, vanilla, musk, amber, moss, cedar wood
I adore woody and musky scents, so when Phlur launched this scent recently, I could not wait to try it. It's both bright (with bergamot and lemon) but also warming and cosy with musky and woody notes, which read like my all-time-favourite fragrance notes. Phlur's fragrances tap into emotions and feelings, and the brand describes this as a hug from "a strong and sensitive type." It has cosy autumn vibes written all over it.
7. Jo Malone London Myrrh & Tonka
Key notes: Namibian myrrh, almond, vanilla, tonka bean, lavender
Not only is this one of the best autumn perfumes (in my opinion), but it's also one of my all-time favourites to wear for evening at this time of the year. This perfume always brings compliments when I wear it, but even if it didn't, I would still adore it. Creamy tonka bean envelops the skin with a warm and sophisticated cloud, which is tempered with aromatic lavender and myrrh. A little goes a long way, and it lasts on the skin for hours on end, so a bottle will last you a long time too.
8. Diptyque Philosykos
Key notes: fig leaves, fig tree sap, fig tree wood, black pepper
So many beauty editors love this iconic perfume from Diptyque. The notes might lead you to believe that this is a fruity, summery scent, but if you want something fresh and light, Philosykos works so well as an autumn scent. Figs, which are in season during this time of the year, are the hero scent in this fragrance, which embodies not just the ripe fruit but all the parts of the fig tree from the bark to the leaves. As such, it smells leafy, fresh and woody with just the faintest hint of sweetness. It's a great everyday autumn perfume.
9. Narciso Rodriguez For Her
Key notes: African orange flower, osmanthus, bergamot, musk, amber, vetiver, vanilla, patchouli
I don't think words can describe just how much I love this perfume, which I've worn for years. It's a floral, woody and musky fragrance that I just cannot stop smelling. It has serious lasting power, and it's the type of fragrance that I catch wafts of throughout the day, and the scent lingers on my scarf during cold weather. If you're a fan of musk scents, then I would highly recommend you add this perfume to your collection. It was created by Christine Nagel and Francis Kurkdjian (now of Maison Francis Kurkdjian) and despite being launched in 2007, it still smells modern and unlike anything else I've ever worn.
10. Jo Malone London Jasmine Sambac & Marigold
Key notes: jasmine sambac, marigold, ylang-ylang, benzoin resin, vanilla, amber
Jasmine notes often feature alongside brighter floral notes, but this take on jasmine is sensual and moody. The creaminess of jasmine sambac (one of the most precious and expensive forms) is given a darker twist with sweet benzoin resin, amber and vanilla. If you love creamy white florals but want something with more depth for the colder weather, then you need to try this.
11. Bon Parfumeur 301
Key notes: cumin, ylang-ylang, cardamom, thyme, jasmine, coconut, cedar wood, sandalwood, benzoin, patchouli
I recently reviewed Bon Parfumeur, and I was so impressed by how sophisticated these fragrances are for its affordable price point. The 301 scent is spicy, which I'm not usually a fan of, but it's so well balanced with creamy sandalwood and patchouli that it is now a mainstay in my fragrance collection. If you love the expensive sandalwood perfumes out there but want an affordable fragrance, I would highly recommend you try it and await the "What are you wearing?" compliments.
12. Byredo Vanille Antique
Key notes: freesia, plum, amber, cashmere woods, Madagascan vanilla bean, cistus oil
I recently reviewed Byredo's Night Veils collection, and this was my favourite. It just so happens to be perfect for this time of year too. It has a rich and smokey vanilla sweetness that is syrupy but not overdone thanks to cashmere wood and musk, which prevent it from becoming a sugar rush. This really radiates from the skin with a golden warmth that feels comforting and familiar.
13. Maison Francis Kurkdjian 724
Key notes: aldehydes, Italian bergamot, Egyptian jasmine absolute, abstract white floral accord, sandalwood, white musk
Most autumn fragrances have an earthiness or heavy feeling to them, but the latest launch from Maison Francis Kurkdjian is lightweight and fresh. It makes me think of bright-blue autumn skies and the slight chill in the air during the turn of the season. This is vibrant, soapy and clean smelling, both light as air yet familiar with creamy sandalwood. It's an ideal everyday scent that suits any occasion.
14. Juliette Has a Gun Ego Stratis
Key notes: bergamot, mandarin, lemon, neroli, calone, blueberry, cedar wood, ambroxan, musk
This is the latest launch from Juliette Has a Gun, and the inspiration behind it captures the complexity of our personalities. Every time I smell this scent, I pick up something different. Taking a look at the ingredients list, it's perhaps no wonder, as there are scents from each of the fragrance families. It's predominantly citrus but also has an aquatic note, which makes it feel light and carefree. However, is also has a subtle spiciness and warmth to it.
15. Jo Loves Mango Thai Lime
Key notes: mango, lime, black pepper, mint leaves
Hear me out. Mango might come across as a summer scent, but when paired with lime, black pepper and mint, it becomes a little moodier and grown up. If you want a fruity fragrance with an autumnal twist, this is bound to get you compliments.
Eleanor Vousden is the beauty editor of Who What Wear UK. She was previously deputy editor at Hairdressers Journal, health writer at Woman & Home and junior beauty editor at beauty website Powder. She has also contributed to Wallpaper and Elle Collections with written and styling work.
Working as a beauty journalist since 2015 after graduating in fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion, she has been highly commended at the BSME Talent Awards and also contributed to Powder, winning Website of the Year at the PPA Awards for her work in beauty journalism.
Eleanor’s journalistic focus is to provide readers with honest and helpful beauty content. Through words, video and live broadcast, she has interviewed several celebrity makeup artists, hairstylists and top dermatologists throughout her career. She has a particular interest in finding solutions for acne and eczema, which she has experienced firsthand. She has also amassed a large collection of fragrances and can never say no to a new candle.
When she’s not writing or testing the latest beauty product or treatments, she’s on the seafront in her hometown of Brighton and Hove, where she lives with her partner.