Growing up, the bottles of body sprays, lotions, butters, and eau de toilettes that lined my bathroom vanity were far sweeter than a dessert-filled episode of The Great British Baking Show. My rotation typically included the latest launch from Bath & Body Works; Britney Spears's Fantasy (or Curious); a pure-sugar scent that, not surprisingly, was called Pink Sugar; and anything else glossy magazines like Seventeen, CosmoGirl, and Teen Vogue advertised. If it smelled like a frosted bakehouse cookie with sprinkles or the Cinnabon stand at the mall, I was, without a doubt, wearing it.
I'll always love unapologetically sweet scents, but now, my tastes have graduated to fragrance blends that are warm and woodsy or grounded with spices, leathers, or classic florals. That said, signature sweet notes like vanilla are often at the heart of my all-time favorite perfumes. They're just far less overpowering. Being a beauty editor, I always have an overflowing stock of perfumes, so I decided to start a little experiment earlier this year. Instead of sticking to my signature fragrances, I went on a perfume-wearing spree, if you will, in which I wore a different scent every day for about of month, taking note of which formulas I liked best and which blends won me the most questions, comments, and compliments. In review, I noticed something intriguing: The top 12 scents all had a common, not-so-secret ingredient, vanilla (a result that very much proved my hypothesis that vanilla is still relevant post–seventh grade and outside the kitchen).
Below, I'm sharing the top 12 best fragrances I'm currently obsessed with and which never failed to earn me compliments from strangers and loved ones alike. Keep scrolling! The best vanilla perfumes lie just ahead.
1. Byredo 1996 Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: black pepper, juniper berries, leather accord, orris, violet, black amber, patchouli, and vanilla
Meet the Byredo fragrance you've never heard of but absolutely need on your radar. I realize describing a scent as "intoxicating" might sound dramatic, but I'm seriously so addicted to this enveloping mix of black pepper, leather, patchouli, and vanilla, which, in retrospect, is pretty amazing since I would never classify myself as a lover of peppery scents. This is a deliciously smooth and velvety perfume that's sweet enough to feel elegant and lovely but complex enough not to feel basic or like anything you wore back in junior high. In fact, I love it so much I keep the Hair Perfume ($78) on my nightstand at all times. I feel like people in L.A. don't like to ask, "What are you wearing?" (the fear of seeming uncool or tryhard-y), but it's a no-fail occurrence whenever I'm wearing this Byredo scent and this Byredo scent alone.
Other perfumes I love from Byredo:
2. Krigler Lovely Patchouli 55 Classic Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: amber, musk, patchouli, red fruits, and vanilla
Fun fact: This best-selling fragrance from iconic perfume house Krigler has been worn by many members of Hollywood (and historical) royalty and was Jackie Onassis's signature scent. I know I just said that I'm not usually a patchouli type of gal, but this is another exception just because of how gorgeous it is. Though it is sweet, the amber, musk, and patchouli ground any overt saccharine notes from the vanilla and red fruits, and it basically transforms into the most sophisticated version of the scents you might have loved when you were younger, like Britney Spears's Fantasy. It's sweet, spicy, woody, and definitely one of the best vanilla perfumes money can buy.
Other perfumes I love from Krigler:
3. Maison Margiela Replica Coffee Break Eau de Toilette
Key fragrance notes: pepper essence, orange flower petals, patchouli, cypriol, tonka bean absolute, vanilla, cedarwood, and vetiver
I've always been a huge fan of Maison Margiela's line of eau de toilettes, Replica, and one of my favorites is this yummy (but far from cliché) mix of coffee, pepper, vanilla, orange, and cedarwood. It's unlike anything I've ever smelled before, and the compliments have been coming in hot ever since I added it into my regular arsenal of fragrances. According to the brand, it's supposed to evoke the warm and comforting feeling of a coffee shop—creamy, escapist (especially in the middle of winter), and savory with hints of sweetness reminiscent of pastries. It's a truly dreamy scent that deserves your attention.
Customer Review: "Good winter scent that lasts a long time. A little sweet, but it is nostalgic."
Other Replica perfumes I love from Maison Margiela:
4. Kilian Love, Don't Be Shy Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: orange blossom, honeysuckle, rose, vanilla, and luscious marshmallow
While the combination of vanilla and marshmallow might sound too sweet to handle, trust me—it's not. This was Rihanna's signature scent (before she created her own perfume), and the earthy, fruity hits of orange and neroli give it a juicy and robust finish. I never wear it without receiving a compliment, and it's by far one of the best "grown-up" vanilla perfumes on my vanity. You'll be obsessed.
Customer Review: "I honestly purchased this having never smelled it and solely from the description and notes mentioned. After using this for a few weeks, I can honestly say it was an amazing purchase. I absolutely LOVE it and how it stays with you throughout the day. While it lingers, it does get lighter, but in the best way! Also, I received numerous compliments about it, which is always nice. I was so in love with this fragrance purchase that I subsequently bought the full-size and travel-size bottles! Try it out! You won't be disappointed!!"
Other perfumes I love from Kilian:
5. Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: black coffee, white flowers, and vanilla
Maybe I'm partial to this classic YSL scent because it's truly wonderful if you're after something vanilla and very chic, or maybe it's because it's Zoë Kravitz's favorite scent. More likely, however, it's a combination of the two. I love this fragrance because it manages to feel both light and mysterious at the same time. It's not too conventional, but it's also not too complicated. I keep it on my desk for those mornings when I need a jolt of confidence.
Customer Review: "I just bought this product today, and it smells like heaven… I 10/10 recommend it because the smell lasts forever. It may be pricey, but it's worth it."
Other perfumes I love from Yves Saint Laurent:
6. Henry Rose Queens & Monsters Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: violet, neroli, freesia, jasmine, vanilla, coco musk, and sandalwood
Founded by Michelle Pfeiffer, Henry Rose is one of the chicest and most transparent lines of fine fragrances you need to know about. It now has 11 truly breathtaking scents, and Queens & Monsters is an all-time standout. I've been astounded at the attention it's garnered at the office when I spritz it at my desk. It's a woody perfume thanks to sandalwood, but it gets a fresh, creamy sweetness from smooth additions like violet, vanilla, coco musk, and freesia. It's gorgeous, and like all of Henry Rose's fragrances, it's verified by the Environmental Working Group and certified by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The brand is also known for its 100% ingredient transparency and the fact that its fragrances are free of all endocrine disruptors, parabens, phthalates, and carcinogens.
Customer Review: "The packaging is an absolute delight, truly eye-catching! The aroma is refreshingly clean and lasts throughout the day. I am constantly showered with compliments. A top-notch fragrance experience!"
Other perfumes I love from Henry Rose:
7. Lancôme Idôle Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: citrus, rose, jasmine, white musk, and vanilla
This is literally one of my favorite perfumes of all time, and pretty much everyone who I've hugged while wearing this fragrance has agreed. It's been my signature ever since its launch, and the fact that Zendaya (my hero) is the face of this mix of vanilla, jasmine, citrus, and musk makes it perfect. I've always been a Lancôme stan (in addition to Chanel's perfumes—my mom wore a few of its staple scents), so it's a warm and fuzzy line of fragrances that is only punctuated with this sweet aroma.
Customer Review: "This fragrance is one of my new favorites. Smells so good and lasts longer than some of the other perfumes I use. I would definitely buy a bigger bottle next time."
Other perfumes I love from Lancôme:
8. Nest Madagascar Vanilla Perfume Oil
Key fragrance notes: Madagascar vanilla bean, vanilla orchid, and coconut
Honestly, I love almost every single perfume from Nest (Wild Poppy, Black Tulip Indigo, and Blue Wysteria are my other standouts), but this warm and spicy vanilla perfume oil won me the most questions and compliments.
Customer Review: "I'm in love with this scent. It lasts long. Smells amazing. Def worth the money!"
Other perfumes I love from Nest:
9. Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla Cologne Intense
Key fragrance notes: cardamom, vetiver, vanilla, and grapefruit
Jo Malone makes some of the most iconic and well-known perfumes, and over the years, I've accrued a few favorites that always win me compliments. When I first sniffed this debut from the brand, I had mixed feelings, but after I let it melt into my skin for a few hours, I quickly became kind of infatuated with it. It's strong, but it's been winning more attention than my other standbys (which are below), and I'd be willing to bet my life savings that this luxe vanilla perfume will go down in history as one of the brand's absolute best.
Customer Review: "The perfect vanilla perfume. I have been searching for this scent for years. Hope Jo Malone keeps this scent forever."
Other perfumes I love from Jo Malone:
10. Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: beeswax, caramelized benzoin, bitter almond, gaiac wood, tonka bean, absolute of Mexican black vanilla, black licorice, sandalwood, and coconut milk
This vanilla perfume from Serge Lutens is so supremely decadent and divine. It's my go-to antidote if I happen to wake up on the wrong side of the bed or have an anxiety-provoking day ahead of me. If you're a vanilla lover like I am, this is a scent to worship. It's buttery, warm, woody, and just so mellow and rich. I happen to love what Lutens said of this specific fragrance: "To paraphrase Freud, it's not the evil who are full of regrets, but the good. Both the devil and vanilla like black."
Customer Review: "This product came quickly and packaged very well! Amazing smell! Love it and would order again."
Other perfumes I love from Serge Lutens:
11. The 7 Virtues Vanilla Woods Eau de Parfum
Key fragrance notes: pear, rose, and vanilla
Classy and floral yet sweet and fresh, this scent is perfect to take with you on the go. I just roll a bit on when I need a pick-me-up, and voilà, I'm instantly uplifted.
Customer Review: "I love this perfume so much! It's great, and I use it as my everyday perfume."
Other perfumes I love from The 7 Virtues:
12. Juliette Has a Gun Vanilla Vibes
Key fragrance notes: sea salt, vanilla, and sandalwood
This cult-loved fragrance brand never misses. I love this scent for its ability to contrast warm vanilla with a sharper note, like sea salt. It makes it truly one of a kind. Not to mention, it was inspired by the infamous Burning Man festival, so you know it smells like a good time.
Customer Review: "If you want a nice vanilla that is not boozey, this is for you! I'm in love with it and wear it every day. It lasts well on me also."
More perfumes I love from Juliette Has a Gun:
This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.