If you were to ask me my favorite part of working in the beauty industry, my answer would be hands down for the fragrance. I've always found myself fascinated by fragrances—nothing jolts my memory quite like a smell, and in my head, everyone I know has a particular smell that I associate with them, even if I can't quite put my finger on it.
I went to Sephora when I received my first-ever paycheck and took the scent quiz to find my ideal perfume. It was Tom Ford Black Orchid, which I immediately made my signature, and my love for fragrance has only grown since. The top of my dresser is overflowing with fragrances that I cycle through. I have a scent for any and every occasion.
Whether you're already a seasoned fragrance person or looking to dabble, these are the quintessential perfume brands that any scent lover should consider. Keep scrolling for 20 of the best perfume brands and the specific bottle we'd recommend from each.
Key notes: maté, black currant, ceylon black tea, violet leaves, birchwood, papyrus
If you love fragrance, you should absolutely invest in a Byredo perfume. These scents are unexpected and all represent an emotion or memory in a bottle. Mixed Emotions is unexpected in all the right ways—it's perfect for this specific moment in time, when everything feels like a swirling question mark. Comforting notes are sharply interrupted by more jarring ones, making this fragrance a true exploration of what it feels like to have mixed emotions.
2. Ellis Brooklyn
Key notes: ylang ylang, Tahitian tiare, ambergris
I could write about this scent a million times and never feel like I've said enough about it. It's a subtle skin scent that reads floral but not in a typically floral way—it's creamy, like seafoam and sticky skin during a perfect day at the beach.
3. Tom Ford
Key notes: black cherry, tonka bean, almond
I've never met a Tom Ford perfume that I didn't fall head over heels in love with. Every Tom Ford fragrance could be a special-occasion scent or a daily perfume. Lost Cherry is a fragrance that's in a league of its own—most cherry fragrances (of which there are few) end up smelling like cough syrup. Lost Cherry is the most gourmand interpretation of the fruit, with booze-soaked cherries at the base surrounded by warm notes that keep it approachable.
Key notes: amber, musk, patchouli, red fruits, vanilla
Krigler perfumes don't just deserve a spot on your vanity—they should be center stage. These historical scents will make you smell like the glamorous movie stars and public figures of a bygone era. This particular scent was Jacqueline Kennedy's signature—and once you smell the harmonic balance between spicy, sweet, and musky notes, it's easy to understand why.
5. Le Labo
Key notes: sandalwood, papyrus, cedarwood, cardamom, iris, violet, ambrox
Admittedly, I've complained before that every trendy bar in New York City smells like it was doused in Santal 33—it's long been the fragrance du jour of cool New Yorkers. At the end of the day, there's a reason for the cult following. Santal 33 smells downright alluring. This woodsy scent absolutely flourishes on skin, mixing perfectly with everyone's unique body chemistry. I don't care how ubiquitous it is, I'll walk through a cloud of Santal 33 any day.
6. Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Key notes: juniper berries, nutmeg, coriander, musk, ambery woods, vanilla
Maison Francis Kurkdjian fragrances are worth every penny. One whiff of any scent from the brand will easily convince you that perfume is an art form, and this scent is living proof of that. It's tough to create a perfume with vanilla notes that doesn't come off as cloying, but this one nails it. It's sexy, sweet in a soft way, and different.
7. D.S. & Durga
Key notes: bergamot, petals, lemon oil, linden, salt spray rose accord, dune grass, muscone, salt water, white moss
Like a hazy summer night at a beach house with vinyl playing, this scent will instantly make you feel at ease. All D.S. & Durga fragrances come with a curated Spotify playlist to help give you a sense of what the specific scent evokes—you can listen to Rose Atlantic's here.
Key notes: wisteria, honeysuckle, jasmine, narcissus
Every Diptyque fragrance takes me back to wandering cobbled streets in Paris, perfectly tipsy after a glass of champagne at a café. These French-crafted scents each feel elevated in their own way. Olene feels like a bottled version of A Midsummer Night's Dream—inflorescent and magical.
9. Jo Malone London
Key notes: blackberry, bay leaves, cedar
Jo Malone has perfected the art of keeping fragrances unexpected but still wearable. It's not every day you see bay leaves in a fragrance, but Jo Malone manages to pull it off by blending them with blackberries and cedar for a perfume that's both vegetal and jammy.
10. Kilian Paris
11. Boy Smells
Key notes: rhubarb, cardamom, pink peppercorn, rose petals, Turkish rose absolute, raspberry blossom, papyrus, agarwood, sandalwood
If you're looking for perfumes that bend the concept of gender, Boy Smells scents are a great place to start. To date, I've never worn Rose Load without at least one person adding the scent into their notes app to remember for themselves. Rose scents can be powdery and smell like something a grandmother might wear, but this one is a spicy, woodsy take on rose that's basically a compliment magnet.
12. Escentric Molecules
Key notes: Iso E Super, iris
Escentric Molecules is known for using Iso E Super to create scents that almost make you smell like you're not wearing perfume. It's a unique note that's often in the background of perfumes, but Escentric Molecules lets you get up close and personal with it. This one smells creamy and subtly floral.
13. Clean Reserve
14. Sol de Janeiro
Key notes: Brazilian jasmine, pink dragonfruit, vanilla
I'm consistently impressed by the range that Sol de Janiero fragrances have. Each one feels like a different, unique slice of Brazil. Cheirosa '68 Beija Flor is a truly unique floral—it smells like wandering through someone's private garden in Rio.
15. Frédéric Malle
Key notes: rose, red fruits, cinnamon, benzoin, incense, patchouli, sandalwood, castoreum
Ask any beauty-industry veteran for their favorite fragrances, and chances are a Frédéric Malle perfume will be on their list. The brand's scents are complex and undeniably special. This rose-forward fragrance is feminine but mysterious, making it the perfect scent for the modern woman.
16. Yves Saint Laurent
Key notes: coffee, white flowers, vanilla
YSL perfumes are the ideal scents for true fashion people. They're chic and edgy and feel like the perfect finishing accessory for every outfit. Black Opium is a fragrance lover's staple—it draws people in and goes with everything.
Key notes: Lily of the Valley, centifolia rose, musk
Dior perfumes are legendary for a reason. Miss Dior has been around since 1947 and has seen many iterations since then. The latest take on the iconic fragrance is bursting with fresh blooms and electrifies your senses.
Key notes: citron, jasmine, teakwood
I'd be remiss to not include Chanel on this list. The brand is always ahead of its time, and that includes its interpretation of fragrance—after all, its scents have been around since 1921. This scent has whipped together fruit with florals for a perfectly balanced spritz.
19. Atelier Cologne
20. Parfums De Marly
Key notes: bergamot, nutmeg, rhubarb, lychee, Turkish rose, vetiver, incense, cedar, vanilla, cashmeran, musk.
If the lavish bottles don't convince you that you're in need of a Parfums de Marly fragrance, the scents should speak for themselves. These perfumes are the encapsulation of modern luxury. Delina is a hyper-feminine scent that sparkles on skin.