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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, so 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, even if it has a hefty price tag - because yes, there is a difference between cheap and expensive perfume. Sometimes all you need is a spritz of something special to satisfy your self-care needs - and even better if it's one of the best long-lasting perfumes that lingers all day.
"We find that the classic fragrances continue to be bestsellers," says Megan Mosley, John Lewis fragrance and make-up buyer. "They are key staples to build a fragrance wardrobe that can be added to over time. Chanel, Dior and Creed are our most popular amongst new and more niche fragrance brands such as Floral Street and Le Labo," she says.
Whether you’re looking for some scent-spiration to uncover a new favourite fragrance or just interested to see if your personal go-to 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.
How we picked the best perfumes of all time
- Sales figures: We've taken a look at which perfumes remain best sellers after years on the market.
- Consumer reviews: The best perfumes of all time are also those that are top-rated, so we've only included fragrances that consumers love.
- Celebrity favourites: Nothing solidifies a product as a cult favourite quite like a celebrity endorsement, and several of the perfumes on our list are loved by famous faces.
- Beauty editor picks: Our beauty editor has more than 15 years of experience in the beauty industry and that includes trying and testing all kinds of fragrances, so we've included her favourites.
22 best perfumes of all time, ranked
Why you can trust GoodTo. Our experienced Consumer Editor & parent reviewers spend hours testing products to help you make the best choice. Find out how we test and review products.
Best perfume for special occasions
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.
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.
Best perfume for spring
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, and has since inspired many knock-off versions.
Model Kaia Garber (Cindy Crawford's daughter) admitted to having worn this scent since she 12 or 13, saying in 2021, "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's been the face of the fragrance for the past six years, having appeared in TV adverts and campaigns.
Best perfume for a summer vacation
Notes: Cassis, blackcurrant and Sicilian bergamot
Launched in 2013, this scent has secured itself as a firm favourite among perfume lovers. This sweet floral fragrance 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 its "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.
Best earthy perfume
Notes: King William pear and white freesia
Jo Malone's fragrance portfolio is well known, and this particular scent is one of their bestsellers. Reportedly loved by it girl Sofia Richie Grainge, this is a serene and sunny blend of juicy fruit and elegant 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.
Best perfume for date night
Notes: Pear, melon, magnolia, peach, Mandarin orange and bergamot
J’adore offers an deliciously scented 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.
A consumer favourite at the Fragrance Foundation Awards 2023, this scent is a popular choice the world over.
Best perfume for a night out
Notes: Pear accord and mandarin essence
With an ingredients list that includes black coffee, long-wearing patchouli and warming vanilla, this is one addictive floral gourmand fragrance. It was the most googled fragrance of 2020, and its popularity is yet to dwindle.
"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."
Best perfume for a posh occasion
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.”
Best for summer nights
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.
Best perfume for everyday
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.
And as a finalist in the 2023's Fragrance Foundation Award for the 'Fragrance Hall of Fame', you really can't go wring with this scent.
Best perfume for winter
Notes: Mandarin orange and pear
Launched in 2011, Jimmy Choo’s perfume 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 at the UK's leading distributor of fragrance and beauty brands, Kenneth Green Associates.
“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,” she added.
Best perfume for soft everyday wear
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 the unisex scent incredibly long-lasting, and has helped it to secure a cult status. It launched in 2011 and has become so popular that the New York Times called it “the perfume you smell everywhere.”
This unique fragrance has a whole host of celebrity fans, from Alexa Chung and Jodie Comer to Ryan Reynolds and Justin Bieber too.
Best feminine perfume
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.
It was launched in 2012 and is centred on the idea of natural and simple beauty, and inspired by joy and taking pleasure in the simple things. It's so popular that there are several different versions of the signature scent, from the woody iris La Vie est Belle L'Extrait to Soleil Cristal, with top notes of mandarin.
Best statement perfume
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. “It's floral notes and diamond bottle are instantly recognisable and make it a popular choice.”
Plus, this scent was another contender for the Fragrance Foundation Awards 2023's 'Fragrance Hall of Fame'.
Best perfume for late summer and autumn
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.”
Best classic perfume
You know a fragrance has reached superstar status when the bottle is immediately recognisable, and this corset-inspired bottle has spawned many iterations. Inspired by Jean Paul's childhood and his memories and his grandmother - Mémé Marie - he brought to life the Folies Bergère cabaret show he watched in Mémé Marie's home.
As for the fragrance itself, the combination of sweet orange blossom, with ginger and vanilla gives the enduring appeal and great longevity on the skin.
Best oriental perfume
Notes: Citrus, jasmine and Mandarin orange
Thierry Muglar's Alien Eau de Parfum launched in 2005 and is still successful 18 years on. For its fans, this a scent like no other, but it's not for the fainthearted - some swear by the intense amber and jasmine notes, while others find it overwhelming.
Back in 2017, Harry Styles told Rolling Stone that the scent of Alien always reminds him of his first girlfriend: "I smell that perfume all the time. I’ll be in a lift or a reception and say to someone, ‘Alien, right?’ And sometimes they’re impressed and sometimes they’re a little creeped out."
Best sensual perfume
Notes: Truffle, gardenia, blackcurrant, ylang-ylang, jasmine, bergamot, Mandarin orange and Amalfi lemon
Launched in 2006, this is the debut fragrance by designer Tom Ford, 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.
"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."
Best unisex perfume
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 phototherapy, 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 provide skincare benefits, while aromatherapy treats conditions through the use of aromatic extracts of plants.”
Best perfume for intimate occasions
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 firmly solidified its reputation as 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.