What differentiates a good perfume from a great one? The best perfumes for women are those that smell beautiful to you, have the power to evoke treasured memories of people, places and things, and can conjure up a range of emotions as a result. And that comes down to science.
“A smell is interpreted when an odor passes into the brain’s olfactory bulb, via the upper part of the nose,” explains perfumer Frederic Malle. “That information then goes to an area where emotions are processed, after which it is carried to the part of the brain where memory forms.”
When choosing a fragrance there are a few things to consider. Are you someone who likes to announce your presence in a room with a lingering signature scent? Or, are you spritzing with a more intimate interaction in mind? Another thing to think about is the notes you prefer. If you know you like your fragrances light and fresh, seek out citrus notes like bergamot or mandarin. If you like them sweet, try notes of vanilla or almond. If you prefer notes that are a little deeper, try sandalwood or oud, both perfect for the winter months.
Jo Malone London Fragrance & Lifestyle Expert, Emma South, answers three of your pressing questions.
How do I store perfume?
“It is best to store fragrance away from direct light and heat sources as these accelerate oxidation, so away from windows is preferable. A fragrance found on the Mary Celestia shipwreck had survived intact and, due to the cool, constant temperature of the sunless ocean floor, the fragrance was unchanged after 150 years. Whilst under sea storage maybe a drastic solution, with limited edition fragrances that cannot be replaced, I do prefer to keep these in a cool, dark cupboard.”
What is the difference between eau de cologne, toilette and perfume?
“Traditionally Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum escalate in their oil concentration, ranging from 2 per cent to 20 per cent and higher for Parfum. However, there are no regulating bodies that officiate on how Fragrance Houses classify their scents and so the implied oil concentration can sometimes be over or understated. For example, at Jo Malone London Colognes have a much higher concentration of fragrance oil sitting in EDT and EDP territory, compared to a traditional Cologne. The name Cologne was chosen to convey their elegantly simple and transparent compositions, formulas that entice you to play with scent pairing.
“Regardless of the concentration, resinous and animalic compounds, such as woods, amber and musk, have a heavier molecular weight which means they evaporate slower and can be appreciated for longer. For example, fragrances with notes of myrrh, sandalwood, oud, and leather will have a natural longevity versus citrus and verdant, herbaceous notes.”
What makes a perfume popular?
“Fragrances that have reached cult status across the decades not only respond to the cultural zeitgeist but anticipate and reflect change. Scents of the late 1940s sparkle with aldehydes and optimism, filled with the freedom that post-war life brought. Patchouli, one of the most grounding and earthy notes in the perfumer’s palette, was hugely popular during the 1970s, going hand in hand with a nascent environmental movement. Some of the biggest fragrances of the 1980s are the olfactive equivalent of power-dressing, whilst the dawn of a digital age brought a reprieve from more is more and some of the best-known ’90s fragrances radiate clarity and minimalism.
“The late ’90s and Noughties saw celebrity-endorsed scents flood the market followed by the rise of artisanal, niche perfumery as an antidote. This was the ascendency of Jo Malone London and their unmistakable scent aesthetic: ingredient-centred with elegant short formulas.”
To make choosing a little easier, Vogue has rounded up the best perfumes for women below.
Best Gourmand Perfume: Creed Wind Flowers Eau de Parfum
Five years in the making, the floral fragrance Wind Flowers by the House of Creed is a confident scent celebrating the power and grace of modern femininity. With notes of fruity peach, sensual jasmine and vibrant orange blossom, master perfumer Olivier Creed set out to create a gourmand fragrance representative of a rush of movement through the air.
Best Amber Woody Perfume: Penhaligon’s Legacy of Petra Eau de Parfum
Ready to embark on an olfactive journey? Penhaligon’s latest release, Legacy of Petra, will surely take you on one. Carrying notes of vanilla, myrrh and fennel seeds, this warm yet refreshing fragrance will enliven the senses and make you fall in love with layered sweet yet musky scents all over again.
Best Citrus Perfume: Aerin Mediterranean Honeysuckle Eau de Parfum
Whisk your nose (if not your mind) away to the Mediterranean with this glorious scent from Aerin. Full of citrusy floral notes, such as bergamot, honeysuckle, grapefruit and lily of the valley, it effortlessly encapsulates the smells of a Greek island.
Best Fresh And Sensual Perfume: Ex Nihilo Honoré Delights Eau De Parfum
Named after the location of Ex Nihilo’s elegant flagship boutique, Honoré Delights is a beautifully evocative fragrance that combines oriental, floral and woody notes.
Best Fruity Jasmine Perfume: Louis Vuitton Étoile Filante Eau De Parfum
Centred around the osmanthus flower and balanced with fruity peach notes, grasse jasmine and magnolia, Louis Vuitton’s elevated new fragrance Étoile Filante is the perfect lively spring perfume.
Best Sparklingly Fresh Perfume: Chanel Eaux Chanel Paris-Paris Eau de Toilette
A vibrant fragrance inspired by one of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s favourite places, Les Eaux Paris-Paris embodies the charm, allure and elegance of Parisian women. The fragrance bursts with fresh citrus accents and sharp peppercorn, as well as comforting patchouli.
Best Floral Woody Perfume: Narciso Rodriguez For Her Musc Noir Eau De Parfum
Inspired by the original For Her fragrance, Musc Noir by Narciso Rodriguez reinterprets its core, building on the iconic fragrance’s darkest and most intense facets. Paying homage to the duality of all women, the scent features notes of juicy plum followed by heliotrope flower and sensual leather suede accord.
Best Contemporary Floral Fragrance: Giorgio Armani My Way Eau De Parfum
My Way is a floral, woody fragrance that’s full of life. At the top, fresh bergamot from Egypt; the heart, tuberose and jasmine from India; the base, vanilla from Madagascar.
Best Herbaceous Perfume: Acqua Di Parma Bergamotto di Calabria
Presented in a bold, blue bottle, the latest addition to the Acqua Di Parma Blu Mediterraneo range, Cipresso Di Toscana, is inspired by the Tuscan landscape and classic fougère family of perfumes. With notes of cypress, star anise, sage and lavender, the perfume leaves a warm and refreshing scent.
Best Floral Musk Perfume: Versace Dylan Turquoise Eau De Toilette
If the campaign featuring Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber lying on a beach isn’t enough to tempt you to try Versace’s Dylan Turquoise, then the scent itself surely is. With mandarin essence, lemon, jasmine and musks, it’s a sensual-meets-fresh smell you’re guaranteed to love.
Best Powdery Amber Perfume: Gucci The Eyes Of The Tiger Eau De Parfum
Inspired by – you guessed it – the eyes of a tiger, this scent is full of woody citrus notes as well as tonka and vanilla to symbolise danger and sensitivity, the two contrasting elements of a tiger’s essence. It smells delicious.
Best Earthy Perfume: Aesop Rozu Eau De Parfum
Think blooming rose petals paired with floral, green tones for this earthy Aesop scent, which is softly spicy but light enough to wear all year round.
Best Oud Perfume: Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Oud Blanc Eau De Parfum
For the oud lovers, may we suggest Oud Blanc by Van Cleef & Arpels, a lighter, more transparent oud that is housed in an ultra minimal white bottle. As addictive as they come.
Best Sophisticated Vanilla Perfume: Valentino Voce Viva Intensa Eau de Parfum
Voce Viva Intensa by Valentino mixes crystal moss with bourbon vanilla and jasmine to create a bold and feminine fragrance.
Best Creamy Rose Perfume: Miss Dior Eau de Parfum
With fresh notes of lily-of-the-valley, peony and iris blended with creamy musks, vanilla, and a hint of tonka bean, the new Miss Dior Eau de Parfum is soft and sensual.
Best Vegetal Perfume: Frederic Malle Synthetic Jungle Eau De Parfum
Harking back to the heady scents of the ’70s, Frederic Malle’s Synthetic Jungle Eau De Parfum is an unusual blend of basil, hyacinth, blackcurrant and patchouli.
Best Gender-Neutral Perfume: Tom Ford Signature Ombre Leather Eau de Parfum
A hypnotic mix of cool spices and rich leathers makes Tom Ford’s Signature Ombre Leather Eau de Parfum a perfect unisex option.
Best Aromatic & Gourmand Perfume: Carolina Herrera Amethyst Haze Eau De Parfum
With notes of vanilla bourbon, liquorice and pink pepper, Carolina Herrera’s newest fragrance is both heady and hypnotic.
Best Floral Vanilla Perfume: Lancôme Idôle Aura Eau De Parfum
Lancôme’s Idôle Aura Eau De Parfum is an alluring blend of salt crystals, white flowers and vanilla. A perfect choice for anyone looking to lift their mood.
Best Aromatic Rose Perfume: Christian Louboutin Loubicharme Eau de Parfum Intense
Louboutin’s latest addition to the Loubiworld fragrance collection is a rich unisex fragrance full of geranium and rose, with notes of warm patchouli.
Best Perfume For An Evening In: Byredo Eyes Closed
Inspired by the human need to connect, Eyes Closed evokes the experience of intimacy. Patchouli and papyrus blends with orris butter, ginger and carrot in an intoxicating mix, while candied spices (think: cinnamon and cardamom) create a sense of warmth, and tenderness, as if falling into a loving embrace.
Best Aromatic Fruity Perfume: Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia
An aromatic blend of just-ripe bear and cool white freesias, blended together with woody notes of patchouli, Jo Malone’s newest addition strikes the perfect balance between fresh and heady.
Best Jasmine Perfume: Le Labo Jasmin 17
A contemporary twist on the iconic jasmine fragrance, Le Labo’s eau de parfum mixes the heady floral with accents of vanilla, sandalwood and musk to create a compelling unisex perfume.
Best Perfume To Calm The Senses: Cosmoss Sacred Mist
Charged with Orange flower, bergamot, jasmine, oak moss, and cedar wood, Kate Moss’s hypnotic Sacred Mist is designed to ground the mind and body, bringing about emotional balance and inner peace.
Best Musk And Fresh Linen Perfume: Maison Margiela Replica Lazy Sunday Morning
There’s something about the smell of fresh linen which makes you want to stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath in. Enter Maison Margiela Replica Lazy Sunday Morning; a delicate blend of pear accord and ambrette seeds, rose petals, white wood and creamy musk evoke the smell of crisp white sheets and soft skin. The perfect lazy Sunday.
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk