Top 25 Fragrances of All Time (As of 2008)
Ladies, after months of careful deliberation, spraying and sniffing the contents of hundreds of perfume bottles, and combing through your many e-mails and suggestions, I’ve finally narrowed these stellar scents down to the magic number 25.
See, this comprehensive fragrance list is about much more than what’s current (or close to hitting shelves) — this is about the fragrances that are timeless and therefore all the more precious. Whether they make us feel sexy and adventurous, they work wonders at attracting handsome men, or they conjure up a sweet sense of nostalgia, these are the fragrances that, above all others, manage to make us smile. So without further ado, I present you with STA’s Top 25 Fragrances of All Time!
Note: they are not in any rating order, but I am curious to hear your thoughts on which you think should rank in the top tier, so please leave your comments and votes!
1. Michael Kors by Michael Kors
Like the perfect little black cocktail dress, this chic fragrance can be dressed up or down — and it’s always in style, defying any passing fads or changing sensibilities in taste. Michael Kors’s namesake fragrance boasts top notes of freesia and Moroccan incense, a heart of tuberose, blue orris, white wings peony, and arum lilies, and bottom notes of cashmere woods, musk, and vetiver.
The worldly, jet-setting perfume seems to drive men wild, as more than 80% of STA readers voted this their number one fragrance due to its ability to seduce and tantalize their beaus’ senses. Hmmmm… Some Michael Kors perfume, some Isley Brothers music, and a bit of candlelight, and you’ll be making your own sweet music!
Michael Kors, $90 for 3.4 oz. Visit Sephora.com
2. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse Aux Papillons
This dreamy, ethereal, powdery scent first emerged in 1999. Designed by perfumer Anne Flippo, this classic by L’Artisan Parfumeur has notes of orange blossom, lemon blossom, tuberose, jasmine and linden blossom. It creates a fanciful, chimerical experience that’s endlessly joyful. Like blooming flowers in the spring, La Chasse Aux Papillons has a magical quality that manages to lighten up our moods and infuse our lives with some joy on even the dreariest of days.
It’s as airy and captivating as a butterfly in flight (which, of course, explains the “papillons” reference!).
L’Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse Aux Papillons, $95 for 50 ml. Visit ArtisanParfumeur.com
3. Gucci Rush
Introduced in 1999, Gucci Rush is an intrepid, woodsy fragrance that manages to be sexy without being too feminine (at least in the traditional sense of the word). The blend of gardenia, jasmine, coriander seeds, rose and vanilla makes for a distinctively recognizable scent that’s as youthful and vibrant as its bold red packaging.
STA reader Tracey says: “I wear Gucci Rush a lot. I remember when it first came out, I tore out all the fragrance strips of magazines. Around that time, I got a significant promotion and finally just bought some. It was a great day!”
Gucci Rush, $60 for 1.7 oz. spray. Visit Sephora.com
4. Narciso Rodriguez For Her
A sensual mix of honey flower, orange blossom, osmanthus, amberlyn, vanilla, tactile woods and vetiver, Narciso Rodriguez For Her is soft, feminine, and beguiling. When I first wore this fragrance, a swag-tastic, smooth, handsome man crossed the room of a crowded lounge to talk to me and, as soon as he leaned in to introduce himself, he asked, “What IS that you’re wearing?” Yup, he was sprung — just like that. A short fling followed, during which he kept referencing how great I smelled when we first met. Needless to say, this was crowned my man-eating perfume soon thereafter! And, I must say: it works like a charm!
STA reader Lisa says: “Narciso Rodriguez perfume makes me feel ladylike and fabulous.”
Narciso Rodriguez For Her, $87 for 3.3 oz. spray. Visit Sephora.com
5. Marc Jacobs Daisy
A bright, vibrant, refreshing mix of strawberry, violet leaves, ruby red grapefruit, gardenia, violet petals, jasmine petals, musk, vanilla and white woods, Daisy is whimsical, youthful and mesmerizing. There’s nothing somber or overtly sensual about this scent: this is the type of fragrance that makes you want to play in a vast meadow, a flower wreath crowning your head. It’s as innocent and charming as a daisy itself.
Marc Jacobs Daisy, $57 for 1.7 oz. Visit Sephora.com
6. Roberto Cavalli by Roberto Cavalli
Red carpets. Penthouse suites. Champagne glasses. Jewel-encrusted necklaces. These tokens of luxury are what pop into my head when I spray on this full-bodied, intense floral scent. Roberto Cavalli incorporates magnolia, bergamot, roses, freesias and orchids, as well as amber and apple notes. Perfect for evening use, this luminous scent will make any woman feel desirable — and glamorous.I also love that it has a bit of a wild streak — kind of like the zebra-esque lines drawn along the long (and rather phallic-shaped) bottle.
STA reader Heather says: “When this first came out in ’02, I’d stop by Sephora every day to “try it out,” spraying it on my neck and wrists while the store employees weren’t looking. I finally bought a bottle one day, and every time I put it on I get just as excited as I did back when I was trying to sneak in a few sprays!”
Roberto Cavalli by Roberto Cavalli, $89 for 2.5 oz. Visit RobertoCavalli.com
7. Missoni Fragrance Color Fringe
Girls just wanna have fun, right? Well, guess what those thrill-seeking, carefree gals wear: Missoni.
This delicious fragrance combines floral and fruity notes, then adds a sweet and playful twist with the addition of giandula (hazelnut) chocolate.
Missoni’s Eau de Parfum has been adorned in many different ways, but this fringe detail is our absolute favorite — it’s bohemian but luxe.
Missoni Fragrance Color Fringe Spray, $115 for 3.4 oz. Visit NeimanMarcus.com
8. Donna Karan Cashmere Mist
Since 1994, we’ve been craving cashmere — and no, I’m not referring to that winter wonderland fabric. Donna Karan Cashmere Mist makes us feel like we’re ladies who lunch. It’s posh in that pearl necklace way (it’s got that bourgeois association without being haughty). With notes of lily of the valley, bergamot, ylang, jasmine, orris, vanilla, sandalwood, suede, amber, cedarwood and patchouli, this woodsy fragrance is sleek and indulgent.
STA reader Nikki says: “I wore this during my college graduation, and it always transports me back to that moment and reminds me of how proud and accomplished I felt that day. That’s what I think of when I wear this: success and confidence.”
Donna Karan Cashmere Mist (Silk Elixir pictured above), $70 for 1.7 oz. Visit Sephora.com
9. Nina by Nina Ricci
Tender, gentle, charming, precious — these are all concepts that come to mind when you breathe in this fragrance, which features top notes of calabrese lemon and cipirinha lime, midnotes of red toffee apple, vanilla, moonflower and peony, and base notes of apple tree wood and cotton musk. It’s as soft and ginger a lover’s caress.
Nina by Nina Ricci Eau de Toilette, $52 for 1.7 oz. Visit Sephora.com
10. Jil Sander Style
Created in 2006 by perfumer Bernard Ellena, this woody-but-floral scent incorporates head notes of freesia, mango (a very unusual find in most fragrances), cardamom and pink pepper berries, mid notes of violet, magnolia, iris and jasmine, and base notes of vanilla, amber and musk.
The bottle’s minimalist, streamlined, architectural design speaks to the type of woman Jil Sander Style captivates: opinionated, classy, independent, modern and in control.
STA reader Amy says: “I wear this every day as I’m getting ready for work. It makes me feel empowered as I go about my day.”
Jil Sander Style Eau de Parfum (75 ml), $80. Visit SaksFifthAvenue.com
11. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
Inspired by the laid-back, indulgent Mediterranean lifestyle, this scent incorporates top notes of Sicilian cedar, Granny Smith apples and bluebell, mid notes of bamboo, jasmine and white rose, and a base of citron wood, musk, and sensual amber. It makes you feel like you’re Gwyneth Paltrow in The Talented Mr Ripley — well, before the sociopathic bloodshed begins!
STA reader Isabel says: “D&G Light Blue is versatile. It’s crisp with light flowers and sexy without overdoing it.”
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Parfum, $59.50 for 1.7 oz. Visit Sephora.com
12. Gucci Envy Me
Are you a look-at-me-now type of gal? If you like having all eyes on you when you walk into a room, chances are you enjoy this dramatic, scene-stealing fragrance, which includes notes of peony, jasmine, pink pepper, lychee, pomegranate, pineapple, pink musk, seringa, white tea, sandalwood and teakwood.
STA reader Celeste says: “I feel like a temptress when I wear this, kind of link Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction.”
Gucci Envy Me, $82 for 3.4 oz. Visit Sephora.com
13. Chloé Eau de Parfum
Developed by perfumers Michel Almairac and Amandine Marie, this scent includes powdery notes of peony, lychee and freesia, a heart of rose, magnolia and lily of the valley, and base notes of warm amber and cedarwood. Chloé Eau de Parfum is proof positive that a rose isn’t just a rose — while the Valentine’s Day go-to bloom is at the heart of this fragrance, it’s manifested in an altogether new way here. Perfect for those free-spirited, artsy types.
Chloé Eau de Parfum, $85 for 1.7 oz. bottle. Visit SaksFifthAvenue.com
14. Davidoff Cool Water
Water babies love this refreshing scent, which features tropical pineapple and citrus notes, along with the scent of ocean air. It’s light enough to use on a daily basis, and it lightens your mood with its beach-y vibe. Go get your Little Mermaid on!
STA reader Michelle says: “Every time I spray it on, I can picture myself straight chillin’ on the beach in Miami with friends checking out the well-tanned boys passing by. It just brings back all these good memories.”
Davidoff Cool Water perfume, $55 for 3.4 oz. Visit Macys.com
Perfumer Jacques Guerlain was inspired to create this fragrance by the story of an Indian ruler who created a beautiful garden he dubbed Shalimar.
As the fan-like shape of the bottle top indicates, this is an Asian-inspired delicacy, featuring a vanilla base, an iris and opopanox heart, and bergamot top notes. Ever since its launch in 1925, Shalimar has been synonymous with elegance and, over 80 years later, it’s still revered by its loyalist fans.
STA reader Genevieve says: “It’s classic, but not a lot of people wear it nowadays. It lasts all day and, if my body temperature increases, it smells sweeter.”
Shalimar by Guerlain Paris, $68 for 1.7 oz. Visit Sephora.com
16. 2006 Stella Sheer by Stella McCartney
Possibly the most sumptuous rose-based fragrance, the 2006 edition of Stella Sheer features prominent Bulgarian rose notes over lemon and granny apple, as well as more delicate celestial rose and rose absolute layers, which a re tempered by a warm amber base. The bottle’s metallic butterfly and floral designs speak to the fragrance’s fresh and free-spirited vibe. It’s like skipping joyfully through an orchard and strolling along a secret rose garden.
Because it was a limited edition, it’s very hard to find, but don’t give up all hope: the 2008 version of Stella Sheer is terrific as well!
STA reader Iris says: “I have the original Stella fragrance, but this one is much lighter, which I absolutely adore.”
2006 Stella Sheer by Stella McCartney, $52 for 3.3 oz.
17. Jean-Paul Gaultier Classique Eau de Parfum
This floral oriental scent incorporates orange flower, Bulgarian rose, Italian mandarin orange, Indian ginger, orchid, iris and vanilla notes for a sultry, spicy mix that teases the senses. The floral notes play peek-a-boo with our noses, as do the fruity and earthy bits, for a mischievous effect that’s irresistible.
Here’s what STA reader Monica says: “It comes in the sexiest bottle ever: a sculptural replica of a curvy woman’s torso. This was the first time I fell for a beauty product just because of the way it looked. I love the scent more: a potent blend of vanilla and amber, it’s impossible not to feel gorgeous while wearing it. I get compliments every time I wear it.”
Jean-Paul Gaultier Classique Eau de Parfum, $75 for 1.6 oz. Visit Sephora.com
18. Carolina Herrera by Carolina Herrera
This was one of the first fragrances I wore coming up (it was released in 1988, when I was a precocious nine-year-old!), and twenty years later, it still has the same alluring quality to it.
There’s a lovely Latino zest and sensuousness to this scent (hey, Mrs. Herrera is Venezuelan!), achieved through the intense, dramatic blend of the tuberose and jasmine notes. But there’s also a luxurious vibe to this scent that makes me think of Rodeo Drive, fairy tale-like evening galas, and heartfelt serenades performed under a woman’s balcony.
STA reader Lauren says, “My mom loves this fragrance so, when I was younger, I’d tiptoe into her room, grab for the bottle in her bureau and spray some on. It was my little secret, which made it all the more precious. When I was finally old enough to wear it, I begged my mom for a bottle and she got it for me. I was stoked!”
Carolina Herrera perfume, $63 for 1.7 oz. Visit Sephora.com
19. Absolutely Irresistible by Givenchy
Exuberant and adventurous, Givenchy’s latest is a delicious blend of mandarin orange, Egyptian jasmine, red berries, orange blossom, heliotrope, cedar, patchouli and amber that lends itself to many different occasions. And who can resist the ruby red bottle with its pyramid metal stud embellishments? It’s so Moulin Rouge!
Absolutely Irresistible by Givenchy, $80 for 2.5 oz. Visit Sephora.com
20. Sean John Unforgivable Woman
Celebrity fragrances can often be complete disasters. Sure, there are a few exceptions (Gwen Stefani’s LAMB, J.Lo’s Glow and Britney’s Curious among them), but have you ever gotten a whiff of Celine Dion’s Sensational or Paris Hilton’s Heiress? Nauseating. No, seriously, I need a few Dramamines to even get near those! Fortunately, Unforgivable is much more than celebrity-fueled hype. Developed by David Apel, this complex scent features notes of bergamot, orange, grapefruit, jasmine, violet, muguet, amber, tonka beans piña colada, vetiver, oak moss, sandalwood, cedar, iris, and more.
Much has been made about the piña colada note (Puff made some ridiculous comment about it conjuring up great memories and how the note speaks to the fragrance’s heat), but this really is a multi-layered fragrance that mixes fruity, floral and earthy elements with great synergy.
Sean John Unforgivable, $55 for 2.5 oz. Visit ShopSeanJohnFragrances.com
Developed by Olivier Cresp and Jacques Cavallier and launched last November, this flirtatious scent features top notes of citron, lychee and peony, a heart of jasmine, freesia and pink berries, and a base of vetiver, amber and patchouli. The result is a fragrance that’s feminine with just a hint of masculinity (the woodsy base), audacious without being off-putting, and decidedly cosmopolitan.
YSL Elle, $78 for 1.6 oz. Visit Sephora.com
22. Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle
I contemplated taking this perfume off the list due to the Chanel Fragrances publicity department’s complete lack of cooperation but, in the end, I decided it deserved its place here. Unlike Chanel No. 5 (which has a dated smell that we associate with older socialites), Coco Mademoiselle has a younger heart and an adventurous, carpe diem feel to it. The floral oriental perfume includes bergamot, orange, jasmine, rose and vetiver notes, which is as sophisticated as Keira Knightley (its current spokesperson, though there are rumors that Emma Watson is next in line!) on Vogue’s September 2008 cover.
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, $95 for 0.25 oz. Visit Usa.Chanel.com
23. Angel by Thierry Mugler
Actress Paula Garces told me she adores this woody-but-sweet fragrance. It’s one of those polarizing, “hate it or love it” fragrances, but I’m inclined to agree with Paula (as are many of you!). Angel combines sweet goods (honey, chocolate and caramel) with earthy scents like patchouli and coumarin. Since its release in 1992, Angel has been praised as the pioneer of a new fragrance category called the “oriental gourmands.”
And, if the fragrance isn’t enough reason to feel a bit smitten, check out the refillable, star-shaped bottle. Reminds me of Christmas!
Angel by Thierry Mugler, $72 for 0.8 oz. Refillable Shooting Star Spray. Visit Sephora.com
24. Dolly Girl by Anna Sui
Cinnamon, bergamot, melon, apple, magnolia and jasmine make for a perfume that’s young, vibrant and just a tad naughty. Dolly Girl is the type of fragrance that makes you tap into your inner teen and remember the thunderbolt and stomach flip you felt when you first saw your Jordan Catalano-style crush, read one of the notes he left in your locker, or pressed your lips against his. Aaaahhh, it’s like the “Teenage Love Affair” feeling Alicia Keys sang about!
Dolly Girl by Anna Sui, $45 for 1.7 oz. Visit AnnaSui.com
25. Lismore by Waterford Parfum
Lismore’s bottle is designed so that, once the perfume has been depleted, it can be utilized as a glass vase (talk about a romantic twist!). The fragrance is equally lovely, with top notes of water lily, freesia, ylang ylang, rose and mandarin, middle notes of carnation, peony and night blooming jasmine, and base notes of orchid vanilla, precious woods, musk and violet.
Waterford Lismore Eau de Parfum, $65 for 1.7 oz. bottle.
Don’t see your favorite fragrance listed above?
These are some of the runner-ups: CK One, J’Adore Dior, Acqua Di Gio, Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf, Prada by Prada, DKNY Delicious Night, Juicy Couture, Calvin Klein Obsession, Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium, Issey Miyaki’s L’Eau D’Issey, Calvin Klein Eternity, Lolita Lempicka, Ralph Lauren’s Romance, Dior Addict, Vera Wang Princess, Clinique Happy, Burberry Brit, Anais Anais by Cacharel, Chanel No. 5, Creed Love In Black, Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Jasmine, Clean Fresh Laundry Eau de Parfum, Callyx by Prescriptives, Bond No. 9 Silver Factory, Jo Malone Grapefruit, Annick Goutal’s Gardenia Passion, Glow by Jennifer Lopez, Miss Dior Cherie, Narcisse by Chloe and YSL Paris.
What’s your favorite scent and why? How would you rank these (remember that they’re not ranked in the above piece!)? Discuss, ladies!