Picking a new fragrance can be overwhelming so we’ve done the blotting, spritzing and wafting for you to compile a definitive list of the best perfumes of all time.
Fragrance can have the biggest, yet often subliminal, impact on our memories and emotions. It’s no surprise then that these classic scents (and even some perfume dupes), have enduring appeal. Unlike many beauty products, most of us remain faithful to our favourite fragrance and buy our signature scent on repeat. This is why you’ll often find the same perfumes in the top seller lists year after year.
Whether you’re looking for some scent-spiration to uncover a new olfactory favourite or just interested to see if your personal favourite has made it into the best perfumes of all time, choose one of these and you’re guaranteed to smell gorgeous. And, remember – there’s no need to save it just for special occasions, as perfumes need to be replaced every three to five years.
Best perfumes of all time – ranked:
1. Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for special occasions
Top notes: May rose, jasmine florals, citrus.
It’s been 100 years since its launch, but Chanel No.5 remains the world’s most famous perfume. This powdery floral is a masterful blend of over 80 ingredients, including ylang-ylang, Rose Centrifolia and jasmine. It treads that delicate line between femininity and strength perfectly, with a layered and intoxicating blend that lingers on the skin for hours.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel had launched her eponymous fashion house only 11 years earlier in 1910, with the opening of a millinery boutique in Paris. Fast-forward to 1921 and the fashion designer was ready to launch the house’s first scent. The story goes that perfumer Ernest Beaux presented Coco with a selection of samples to test. She chose sample number 5, and so the iconic fragrance and its alluringly simple name was born.
A celebrity endorsement will usually spark a surge in sales for any beauty brand. Chanel No.5 became forever immortalised in 1952 when Marilyn Monroe famously declared that she wore “five drops of Chanel No.5” – and nothing else – to bed. And with this famous quote, Chanel No.5 has secured its place as one of the most famous scents in the world.
2. Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau de Toilette
Best perfume for spring
Top notes: Wild berries, white violet and jasmine
Daisy launched in 2007 with a summery, carefree advertising campaign that perfectly encapsulated the fresh and floral juice. Even the bottle has become iconic, with its playful daisy topper. As a result, it’s no surprise it’s since inspired many knock-off versions. Model Kaia Garber – Cindy Crawford’s daughter admitted to having worn this scent since she 12 or 13. “I have so many incredible memories associated with Daisy, and whenever I put it on, it takes me back to them, so it’s an instant mood booster for me,” she said in 2021.
3. Giorgio Armani Si Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for a summer vacation
Top notes: Cassis, blackcurrant and Sicilian bergamot.
It may have launched in 2013, but it’s still winning awards, clocking up a Best of Beauty Award for Allure magazine in 2020. This sweet floral opens with notes of vanilla and mandarin, and dries down to a lingering musky finish, making it one of the best perfumes of all time in our eyes. Cate Blanchett who models the scent said that it’s “deep developing notes” are what draws her to it. “I love a scent that promises to contain experience yet to be had.” Armani’s Si is also a favourite with GoodTo readers too, with research revealing it as one of the biggest-selling perfumes in our round-up.
4. Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia Cologne
Best earthy perfume
Top notes: King William pear and white freesia.
Jo Malone London recently revealed its top five best-selling fragrances and nabbing the top spot away from fan-favourite Pomegranate Noir and Orange Blossom was English Pear & Freesia. Reportedly beloved by the Duchess of Cambridge, this is a serene and sunny blend of juicy fruit and elegant flowers. “When you smell English Pear & Freesia, you’re instantly transported to an orchard where juicy fruit mingles with blooming flowers. There’s something unexpected about the combination of key ingredients and it’s got that freshness and elegance we’re known for,” says Celine Roux, Global Head of Fragrance at Jo Malone London. It’s also gone down well with our GoodTo users who have made this one of the best-selling perfumes within our article.
5. Dior J’adore Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for date night
Top notes: Pear, melon, magnolia, peach, Mandarin orange and bergamot.
J’adore offers an olfactory slice of Dior luxury, from the gold-topped bottle and decadent floral-fruit juice to the glamorous advertising campaign featuring actress Charlize Theron. It’s no surprise then that Dior J’adore is the fashion house’s number one-selling fragrance.
6. YSL Black Opium Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for a night out
Top notes: Pear accord and Mandarin essence.
A perfume with over 13,500 5* reviews needs little introduction. With an ingredients list that includes black coffee, long-wearing patchouli and warming vanilla, this is one addictive floral gourmand fragrance. It is the number two selling fragrance in the UK, and was the most googled fragrance of 2020. “Black Opium for me is a shot of adrenaline, energy and addiction that a woman needs in her everyday life,’ says master perfumer Nathalie Lorson. “I’ve heard that Edie Campbell and Zoe Kravitz love Black Opium, of course, as well as Arina Sheldon and Jourdan Dunn.”
7. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for a posh occasion
Top notes: Patchouli and vetiver.
Launched in 2001, this feminine, spicy scent is still one of the best-selling fragrances today. In fact, it’s the top selling fragrance at both John Lewis and The Fragrance Shop. Sweet citrus top notes, lingering patchouli, vanilla and white musk make an alluring combination that lasts really well on the skin. “This was the fragrance I wore on my wedding day in 2013,” says Beauty Editor, Stephanie Maylor. “It was the perfume I wore a decade earlier when I met my now-husband, and I still get compliments when I wear it today.”
8. Guerlain Shalimar Eau de Toilette
Best for summer nights
Top notes: Citruses, bergamot, lemon, cedar and Mandarin orange.
Created in 1925 and loved by icons Brigitte Bardot and Rita Hayworth, Shalimar is a warm and spicy fragrance, opening with refreshing bergamot. As it develops, you’ll detect notes of jasmine, rose, with a powdery vanilla and iris base. It may be nearing its 100th birthday, but Shalimar remains one of the most popular fragrances today. It was voted the ‘best fragrance ever’ by Fragrantica readers – an online encyclopedia of fragrance and perfume-loving community.
9. Clinique Aromatics Elixir Eau du Parfum
Best perfume for everyday
Top notes: Chamomile, clary sage, coriander, geranium, lemon verbena, Brazilian rosewood and bergamot.
It may be Clinique’s oldest perfume within their fragrance catalogue but it is also their best performer, selling 14 bottles every hour! Launched in the seventies, Aromatics Elixir remains one of the best perfumes of all time. It’s rich and intense with oakmoss, jasmine and patchouli.
10. Jimmy Choo Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for winter
Top notes: Mandarin orange, pear, and green notes.
Launched in 2011, Jimmy Choo’s olfactory debut was an instant hit. The fragrance is warm, woody and confident with notes of exotic tiger orchid, patchouli and sweet toffee. “When the first fragrance launches from such a desirable luxury brand it gives people the opportunity to have a piece of that designer world at a more accessible price,” says Sarah Binns, Head of Training, Kenneth Green Associates. “With Jimmy Choo there was huge excitement at launch as many of the house codes such as python print and Murano glass were showcased in the fragrance. It’s gone on to stand the test of time due to the unique fruity and gourmand fragrance that has now become so many people’s signature scent.”
11. Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for soft everyday wear
Top notes: Violet accord and cardamom.
If you’re looking for a new signature scent that draws attention, this could be the one. The Beauty Editors’ favourite and one of the best perfumes of all time is peppered with leathery, smoky and musky notes. This alluring combination makes this unisex scent incredibly long-lasting. It launched in 2011 and has become so popular that the New York Times called it “the perfume you smell everywhere.”
12. Lancome La Vie Est Belle Eau de Parfum
Best feminine perfume
Top notes: Blackcurrant and pear.
With Julia Roberts fronting the advertising campaign, it’s no wonder this has become Lancôme’s best-selling feminine fragrance. It is pure, unadulterated happiness in a bottle, beaming with Jasmine Sambac, Orange Blossom and Patchouli.
13. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum
Best statement perfume
Top notes: Tea, osmanthus and bergamot.
Transport your mind back to 2005 – James Blunt was top of the charts, Brad and Jen got divorced and everyone was wearing Viktor & Rolf’s amber floral fragrance. Cheryl Cole has reportedly been a fan, too. “The iconic Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb has always been a favourite with Debenhams.com customers,” says Kieran Braidford, Senior Beauty Buyer at Debenhams.com. “Its floral notes and diamond bottle are instantly recognisable and make it a popular choice.”
14. Byredo Gypsy Water Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for late summer and autumn
Top notes: Bergamot, lemon, pepper and juniper berries.
One of the more niche scents on our list, we have become enamoured with the enigmatic fresh, woody complexities of Byredo Gypsy Water. Layered with juniper berries, pine needles, incense and sandalwood, this nomadic scent is an ode to Romani culture and smells absolutely magical. It may be unique but it’s achieved A-list status, with celebrity fans including Sienna Miller and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who told Marie Claire, “I love Byredo fragrances and I’ve been wearing Gypsy Water for a long time.”
15. Jean Paul Gaultier Classique for Her Eau de Toilette
Best classic perfume
Top notes: Rose
You know a fragrance has reached superstar status when the flacon is immediately recognisable. This corset-inspired bottle has spawned many iterations. As for the juice, the combination of sweet orange blossom, with ginger and vanilla gives the enduring appeal and great longevity on the skin. No list of the best perfumes of all time would be complete without it.
16. Thierry Mugler Alien Eau de Parfum
Best oriental perfume
Top notes: Citrus, jasmine and Mandarin orange
Thierry Muglar’s Alien Eau de Parfum is a birthday and Christmas present best-seller. The amber woody scent launched in 2005 but what makes it so successful 16 years on? For Alien fans, this a scent like no other, and it’s not for the fainthearted. The intense experience begins with jasmine, before settling upon sensual amber.
17. Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau de Parfum
Best sensual perfume
Top notes: Truffle, gardenia, black currant, Ylang-Ylang, jasmine, bergamot, Mandarin orange and Amalfi lemon.
Launched in 2006, this is the debut fragrance by designer Tom Ford. It’s classified as an oriental chypre, with top notes of black truffle jasmine and a hint of citrus. Although it begins with floral-spicy heart notes, it gradually mellows before finally settling on amber, vanilla and woodsy accords. But who would this appeal to? “If you are buying fragrance for a strong independent woman, we love Tom Ford Black Orchid,” says Rebecca Wilkin, The Perfume Shop PR & Events Manager. It’s a confident, sexy and sensual perfume that smells as glamorous and mysterious as the fluted black bottle suggests.
18. Clarins Eau Dynamisante
Best unisex perfume
Top notes: Lemon, orange, coriander, caraway and petitgrain.
Personal perfume meets aromatherapy in this iconic splash-on citrus spritz, first launched in 1987. With a galvanizing blend of 14 essential oils (lemon, patchouli, ginseng, among others), it’s designed to tone, firm and moisturise the skin. “Eau Dynamisante uses Aromaphytocare, which combines aromatherapy and phytotherapy to infuse fragrance with the botanical benefits of plants,” explains Marie Schmid, Head of Training at Clarins UK. “Phytotherapy allows for the natural plant extracts to be extracted from the active molecules, which are then incorporated into the fragrance to provide skin care benefits. In most cases, these plant extracts are non-fragrant. This is where aromatherapy comes in. Aromatherapy treats conditions through the use of aromatic (fragrant) extracts of plants (e.g. essential oils).”
19. Paco Rabanne Lady Million Eau de Parfum
Best perfume for intimate occasions
Top notes: Bitter orange, fleshy raspberry and neroli.
After the runaway success of the men’s edition ‘1 Million’, Paco Rabanne launched a women’s version in 2010, which has become one of the best perfumes of all time. The gold diamond bottle gives a hint as to the luxurious, dazzling and decadent fragrance within, brimming with floral, woody accords of orange blossom, jasmine, amber and patchouli.
20. CK One Eau de Toilette
Best cheap perfume for everyday use
Top notes: Lemon, green notes, bergamot, pineapple, Mandarin orange, cardamom and papaya.
No scent defined the ‘90s like CK One, a cool, clean and modern juice designed for both men and women. Zesty top notes mellow into aromatic nutmeg, jasmine and rose at the heart, before finishing on a musk and amber drydown. Ahead of its time, this fragrance still holds the crown as one of the best perfumes of all time.
21. Britney Spears Curious Eau de Parfum
Best budget perfume
Top notes: Magnolia, pear, lotus.
Pop icon Britney Spears made her foray into the world of fragrance in 2004 with “Curious”, which was the number one perfume in department stores that year. Almost two decades and 23 fragrances later and Britney’s collection is one of the most successful celebrity forays into the world of fragrance. According to Cosmetics Business, sales of the perfume jumped by 155% after “Framing Britney Spears” was aired, surrounding the controversy around Britney’s conservatorship.