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Discover Your Signature Scent in One of the Best Perfumes for Women

With millions of fragrances on the market, discovering the best perfumes for women is a process of elimination, and the line between good and great is worth considering. Extraordinary perfumes tell a story through their notes, the craftsmanship that goes into them, and the emotions they evoke. The right smell can give you a boost of confidence, cause you to reminisce, or make you smile.  

Perfumes for Women:

  • The Bold Rose: Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady, $290
  • The Sun-kissed Citrus: Tom Ford Soleil Brûlant, $240
  • The Light & Fresh: Acqua di Parma Bergamotto di Calabria, $220
  • The Warm & Spicy: Maison Margiela Replica Jazz Club, $144
  • The Timeless Appeal: Yves Saint Laurent Libre, $119
  • The World-Famous: Chanel N°5 Eau de Parfum, $94
  • The Classic-in-the-Making: Costa Brazil Aroma, $198
  • The Woody Amber: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540, $325
  • The Enchanting Floral: Gucci A Chant for the Nymph, $380

As someone who has made all the rookie mistakes when buying perfume—shopping after hours, buying without trying, getting drawn in by a pretty bottle without considering the juice—I’ve lost considerable amounts of time searching in vain. Fragrance is subjective; there are plenty of perfectly lovely, completely inoffensive releases that fail to excite me and much-lauded classics that should stay in the past. 

What interests me are the scents that diverge from the norm and feel singular in their intent. They don’t need to be esoteric niche creations or designer exclusives that break the bank; they just have to be original. 

In choosing a women’s perfume, it’s helpful to have an idea of what fragrance profiles you enjoy. Do you gravitate towards floral notes or prefer rich musky aromas? Are you interested in something long-lasting signature scent, or would you consider layering a few fragrances to smell like “you?” In any case, the moment’s five-star, top-tier standouts are perfumes that go beyond basic. 

There are timeless aromas that speak for themselves, like Chanel No. 5 or reinterpretations of classic florals like Frédéric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady—two best-selling perfumes that never go out of style. On the other hand, there are even recent additions to the marketplace that are changing the way we think about fragrance, like Yasmin Sewell’s Vyrao or Michelle Pfeiffer’s Henry Rose, which maintains a clean, transparent approach—free of less-than-desirable ingredients. 

Through ingenuity and artisanal expertise, the best perfumes for women offer something elevated. Whether it’s a callback to classic literature, the preservation of artisanal techniques, or a poetic ode to natural phenomena, they feel special, and at the end of the day that’s what everyone is searching for. 

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady 

There are infinite interpretations of the rose, and in Frédéric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady, that versatility comes to the fore. The note can register as sweet or spicy, sultry or sophisticated, depending on its utilization. The perfumers behind Malle’s range have showcased that quality via hits like Ralf Schwieger’s coquettish Lipstick Rose and Jean-Claude Ellena’s vetiver-laced cocktail Rose & Cuir. Still, Dominique Ropion’s Portrait of a Lady takes the flower in a bold direction.

Notes: Turkish rose compliments earthy elements like patchouli, sandalwood, frankincense, and a splash of blackcurrant and raspberry for zest. Isabel Archer, the heroine of the Henry James novel the scent draws its name from, was a passionate free spirit, and it’s easy to imagine her spraying on a bit of Malle before an evening out in the eternal city. 

This Smells Like: A bold rose.

Chanel N°5 Eau de Parfum

It’s hard to think of fragrance’s most significant moments without recalling the shockwaves Chanel No. 5 sent through the world of perfumery when it was introduced in 1921. A year prior, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was introduced to Russian-born French perfumer Ernest Beaux in Cannes. He shared a series of his favorite creations, the fifth of which Chanel selected. Initially an ultra-exclusive Christmas gift reserved for 100 of Chanel’s best clients, the scent would go on to become the most famous fragrance in the world. 

Notes: Beaux’s blend of rose, jasmine, and synthetic aldehydes, an ingredient No. 5 would popularize, remains iconic 100 years later. Chanel introduced its factory collection to mark the milestone anniversary, a bevy of No. 5 scented products that includes limited-editions of body lotion, oil, bath tablets, and even a water bottle.

This Smells Like: A classic floral.

Maison Margiela Replica Jazz Club

Maison Margiela’s Replica fragrance line is all about bottling a mood. Each fragrance tackles the vibe of a specific period with the intent of transporting the wearer to that moment in time. Jazz Club is a trip back to the Harlem Renaissance and the ambiance of a speakeasy where patrons sip cocktails and smoke cigars while listening to the genre’s greats perform. 

Notes: The scene is set with notes of tobacco leaf, pink pepper, and rum absolute, which play together beautifully to create a warm, spicy scent with a sense of mystery. 

This Smells Like: A spicy ambiance.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540

Created for Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s 250th anniversary, Baccarat Rouge 540 is certainly a fragrance worth celebrating. As commerce writer Alexis Bennett wrote in her review of the eau de parfum, following a memorable compliment on the scent from Rihanna herself, 540 always seems to capture people’s attention, without being overbearing. 

Notes: The Maison wanted an experience that would awaken the senses, like a delicate touch on the skin. Baccarat Rouge 540 brings notes of jasmine and saffron, opposing ambergris, and cedarwood to create a powerful floral-meets-woody aroma. 

This Smells Like: A woody amber.

Gucci A Chant for the Nymph 

There’s a fairy-tale quality to Alessandro Michele’s designs for Gucci. The designer regularly evokes myths and folk tales within his work, and the brand’s Alchemist’s Garden fragrance collection bottles that magic. Naturally, the frangipani-focused A Chant for the Nymph lives up to its otherworldly name. 

Notes: Tropical forests were the scent’s inspiration point, but its heady notes of ylang-ylang and Tiare make it seem straight out of Narnia, Middle Earth, or King’s Landing, accentuated by Frangipani flower and vanilla. 

This Smells Like: A tropical floral.

Tom Ford Soleil Brûlant

Tom Ford isn’t a fashion label; it’s a lifestyle. The designer has cultivated an aesthetic so recognizable that the moment you hear his name and the word beach, thoughts of perfectly tanned models in sunglasses fill your head. Ford has released multiple Soleil fragrances, but the latest, Soleil Brûlant, is the most lavish. 

Notes: Everything from the metallic bottle that looks like a gold brick to the indulgent use of amber, incense, and black honey says luxury. Extravagant as it is, Soleil Brûlant isn’t brash. The addition of lighter notes like pink pepper and mandarin helps it maintain a subtle sexiness. 

This Smells Like: A sun-kissed citrus.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris Femme 

The transportive qualities of Amyris Femme are evident at first sniff. It’s rare for a fragrance to trend on TikTok, but last summer, a rave review of the scent went viral. Of course, you don’t have to be a member of Generation Z to appreciate Kurkdjian’s creation; its bright, effervescent beauty should be evident to all. 

Notes: Francis Kurkdjian’s dreamy floral mixes Jamaican amyris—a flowering plant with a rich citrus scent—and Florentine iris to create a voyage for the senses. Pear, sweet pea, and lemon blossom also comprise this blend.

This Smells Like: A fruity floral.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris Femme 

The transportive qualities of Amyris Femme are evident at first sniff. It’s rare for a fragrance to trend on TikTok, but last summer, a rave review of the scent went viral. Of course, you don’t have to be a member of Generation Z to appreciate Kurkdjian’s creation; its bright, effervescent beauty should be evident to all. 

Notes: Francis Kurkdjian’s dreamy floral mixes Jamaican amyris—a flowering plant with a rich citrus scent—and Florentine iris to create a voyage for the senses. Pear, sweet pea, and lemon blossom also comprise this blend.

This Smells Like: A fruity floral.

Yves Saint Laurent Libre

YSL Libre is one of those scents that have timeless appeal, meaning it serves as a thoughtful addition to any fragrance collection. It’s no surprise the scent quickly became a hit. Originally launched in 2019, Libre was perfected by master perfumers Anne Flipo and Carlos Benaïm, who sought to put a modern, feminine twist on the fougère fragrance family. 

Notes: This feat was achieved by contrasting lavender sourced from France with notes of orange blossom and musk accord to reveal a perfume for those who prefer the unexpected. 

This Smells Like: A warm lavender.

Byredo La Tulipe

Byredo’s innovative approach to fragrance means that even its most crowd-pleasing floral is a break from the norm. 

Notes: La Tulipe’s notes of cyclamen, freesia, rhubarb, and (of course) tulips are fresh and inviting, but its dry down of woods and vetiver takes things into darker territory. Sweet with a hint of edge on spritz, it transports you to the Bollenstreek during tulip season, surrounded by flowers just as they start to bloom.

This Smells Like: An edgy floral.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

Acclaimed French perfumer Jacques Polge debuted this elixir in 2001, inspired by a spirited young Coco Chanel. Thus, the scent offers a bright, yet sensual scent sure suitable for the modern woman, frequently on the go. 

Notes: The vibrant eau de parfum is led orange notes, opposing sensual accords of Grasse jasmine and May rose—rounded out by a patchouli and vetiver base.

This Smells Like: The Warm Citrus

Dior Vanilla Diorama

Did you know Christian Dior was a foodie? The iconic designer had strong opinions about dessert, and his personal favorite was a pastry created for him at the famed Paris restaurant Maxim’s. The recipe for the Diorama Gourmand is lost to history, but that didn’t stop Francois Demachy, Dior’s in-house perfumer, from paying homage. 

Notes: In keeping with the sugary spirit of the menu at Maxim’s, Demachy dreamt up a perfume heavy on vanilla, rum, and cocoa. Notes like patchouli and amber give the scent depth, but it’s the addictive, edible aspect of the final blend that will have you craving chocolate for days.

This Smells Like: Dessert-in-a-Bottle.

Acqua di Parma Bergamotto di Calabria

When it comes to zesty, citrus scents, Acqua di Parma is the expert. Since 1916 it has been perfecting its signature style by introducing new variations of their sparkling, lightweight colognes. In that way, Acqua di Parma Bergamotto di Calabria  is a carefully (and luxuriously) executed take on a familiar concept. 

Notes: Bergamot is a popular ingredient in perfumery, but here they’ve utilized its most potent version using “spugnatura,” an artisan technique that uses sea sponges to extract the fruit’s oil without contamination from the peel. Developed in 1700, the handcraft is now exclusively produced by a single family-run orchard. Preserving the tradition of spugnatura allows AdP to deliver a brighter, bolder take on the note and a scent steeped in history. 

This Smells Like: A Zesty Citrus.

Guerlain Cuir Béluga

Several Guerlain scents deserve “best of” status. The house that launched Shalimar, Mitsouko, Jicky, and La Petite Robe Noire knows how to make a hit. Still, the brand also has its share of underrated gems. Amongst niche fragrance enthusiasts, Cuir Béluga from the brand’s L’Art & La Matière collection is a cult-favorite. 

Notes: Focused on leather, mixed with powdery notes and vanilla, it’s smooth, enveloping, and luxurious as the caviar it shares a name with.

This Smells Like: A suede leather.

Xerjoff Apollonia 

The 1969 moon landing has inspired novels, films, and now, a perfume. 

Notes: The legacy of man’s first walk on the moon led Xerjoff founder Sergio Momo to create a celestial white floral accented by orris butter. A fragrance inspired by the final frontier could skew icy and imposing—space is a cold vacuum, after all—but Apollonia’s iris-tinged white musk presents a soft, crowd-pleasing tribute to infinite possibility. 

This Smells Like: A musky floral.

Kilian Forbidden Games

Forbidden Games by Kilian defies categorization. It offers a true fragrance journey, it keeps you guessing till the very end.

Notes: The fragrance is almost a gourmand; its opening a delectable peach aroma drizzled with honey then dusted with cinnamon. Things could have ended there, but as time passes, osmanthus and tuberose reveal themselves, pushing the things into floral territory. A few hours later and the smoky, resinous sensuality of opoponax emerges to finish things off. Perhaps its complexity makes it perfect for date night.

This Smells Like: A fruit-turned-floral.

Juliette Has a Gun, Not a Perfume 

Sometimes a change in perspective is all it takes to elevate the ordinary. 

Notes: Juliette Has a Gun’s Not a Perfume is based on a single ingredient, Cetalox, a synthetic created by fragrance and flavor firm Firmenich. Regularly used as a base in perfumes, it stands in for ambergris, the substance formed in the digestive systems of sperm whales that was used in perfumes from the 1600s onwards. Despite the historical popularity of its inspiration point, Cetalox was a background player until Not a Perfume dropped in 2019. 

This Smells Like: A modern amber.

Creed Aventus for Her 

There is nothing quite like Aventus, the pineapple and bergamot-heavy chypre Creed launched in 2010. An instant hit, the fragrance went viral in online perfume communities, and though it was initially conceived as a men’s scent, Aventus had crossover appeal. Eventually, Creed decided to create a female counterpart, one that retained the freshness of the original but amped up the florals. 

Notes: In For Her, the fruity brightness that made Aventus so appealing is there, but instead of ananas slices, you get green apples and berries alongside Bulgarian roses, cassis, and ylang-ylang. Inspired by women who wield power, it projects confidence from the very first spritz. 

This Smells Like: A fruity floral.

Costa Brazil Aroma

Sarah Brown, executive director at Violet Lab, describes how Violet Grey’s best-selling fragrances are classics in the making. Of the scents offering modern approaches to perfumes is Costa Brazil’s Aroma, which Brown previously dubbed “the new cult blockbuster—sticky, sweet, sexy, spicy, jungle vibes.” 

Notes: Inspired by the Amazonian rainforest at dawn, this boasts a sensually exotic smell similar to the natural resin found in the Brazilian jungle. Aroma utilizes top notes of white jungle flora, Brazil orange oil, pink pepper, and grapefruit zest with opposite notes of bourbuon, vetiver, musk, and patchouli to craft a parfum Vogue editors can’t get enough of. 

This Smells Like: An earthy zest.

Le Labo Santal 33

The American West serves as inspiration for Le Labo’s Santal 33. Seeking to embody the ambiance of desert wind, fire-lit indigo-blue skies, this looks to put the feeling of freedom in a bottle.

Notes: To create this fantasy, Le Labo roots Santal 33 in iris and ambrox, introduced by top notes of violet accord and cardamom. At the base, however, are cedarwood, leather, and sandalwood for hints of Western spice.

This Smells Like: A spicy, woody leather.

Floris London Platinum 22

Londoners celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum jubilee in various ways, but few tributes were as fun as Floris of London’s Platinum 22. As England’s oldest fragrance retailer and the holder of multiple royal warrants, Floris of London’s connection to the crown runs deep. Still, you don’t have to be a Windsor watcher to appreciate this sophisticated and feminine composition. 

Notes: Drawing inspiration from the gardens at official residences like Buckingham Palace, Balmoral Castle, and Holyroodhouse, the scent utilizes a mix of traditional florals—rose, violet leaf—and quintessentially English ingredients like oats, blackcurrant, and black tea, to honor her majesty’s seven decades of service. 

This Smells Like: A woody flower.

Stora Skuggan Mistpouffer

In nature, a mistpouffer or sky quake is a phenomenon where a booming sound appears out of nowhere. Often heard near bodies of water during foggy weather conditions, sky quakes occur frequently and around the globe. 

They’re called “canons de mer” in France, while the Japanese refer to them as uminari or “cries from the sea.” These noises have been attributed to everything from underground earthquakes, distant thunder, and solar radiation storms, but seismologists are still investigating their origins. 

Notes: The collective behind Stockholm niche perfumery Stora Skuggan attempts to bottle the mystery, and its blend of immortelle, fig leaf, and malt sugar is appropriately enigmatic. 

This Smells Like: A dark citrus.

Henry Rose Queens and Monsters 

Michelle Pfeiffer has portrayed every type of character imaginable during her onscreen career, and the acting icon brings that same level of drama to her fragrance line Henry Rose. The range’s scents gamut from demure to devilish, and the standout Queens and Monsters lives up to its name. 

Notes: Neroli and petitgrain are often subtle background notes, but they’re the stars here, brought to the forefront by opposing freesia, jasmine, vanilla, coco musk, and sandalwood. It’s a clean beauty lover’s dream that is zesty, aromatic, and surprisingly potent. 

This Smells Like: A powdery spice.

Vyrao Free 00

Yasmin Sewell’s Vryao puts wellness and energetic medicine at the heart of its fragrances, inspired by the remedial and transformative powers of aromatherapy. That said, each full-size perfume contains a Herkimer diamond crystal energized by healer Louisa Mita to bolster positivity and overall improved health for the wearer. 

Notes: Of the label’s natural perfumes, Free 00 is arguably the most lively, smelling fresh, soothing, and citrus-forward through notes of Sicilian lemon, mandarin, and orange flower opposite Egyptian jasmine, vanilla, sandalwood, and waterlily.

This Smells Like: A fresh citrus.

Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb

As the name suggests, Viktor&Rolf’s eau de parfum looks to pair two opposites: a flower and a bomb. It is alluringly delicate, yet powerful, with Emily Ratajkowski now serving as the face of the beloved fragrance.

Notes: Often described as explosive, Flowerbomb isn’t your typical floral fragrance. Here, freesia and rose accord are accentuated by jasmine, orange blossom, and patchouli oil for a fresh, yet flirty take on modern femininity. 

This Smells Like: A sensual rose.

Chloe Vanilla Planifolia 

Vanilla’s origins are extraordinary. Though it’s now associated with mild desserts, the spice is harvested in tropical climates around the globe. The planifolia orchid from which it is derived is a beautiful yellow and white flower, with a soft scent distinct from that of the plant’s pods. 

When perfumer Quentin Bisch learned all this during his years as an apprentice, he vowed to one day create a fragrance based on the blossom. Years later, he would make the exquisite and enveloping Vanilla Planifolia for the Parisian fashion house, Chloe, and the rest is history.

Notes: Rooted in vanilla derived from the orchid, this is enhanced by spicy, petal notes.

This Smells Like: A reinvented vanilla.

Valentino Voce Viva Intensa

Lady Gaga serves as muse and campaign star for Voce Viva, Valentino’s spirited floral, and it’s easy to see the connection between the pop goddess and perfume. Though she’s a boundary-pushing performer, Gaga appreciates tradition much like Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli. In Voce Viva, that contrast between modern artistry and old-school glamour is front and center.

Notes: It doesn’t get more classic than notes like orange blossom and jasmine absolute, but they’re given a boost by the addition of boozy bourbon vanilla and herbaceous moss. This unexpected combination makes for a compelling experience, amplified in the new Intensa version of the scent, which increases the potency and turns up the volume. 

This Smells Like: A warm floral.

Memo Paris Tamarindo

The Tamarindo district of Costa Rica is known for its serene natural beauty and Playa de Tamarindo, a haven for surfers. Thoughts of Tamarindo’s beaches and dense forests informed perfumer Sophie Labbé when she was connecting Memo’s pineapple and cardamom blend. 

The fragrance is transportive, and visuals from the region are postcard-worthy, but Memo has taken the experience a step further. Anyone looking to immerse themselves in the vibe can view the corresponding book by French illustrator Séverin Millet and poet Zingonia Zingone, who capture the scent’s essence via a vibrant art project. 

Notes: Tamarindo is led by pineapple, jasmine absolute, and vanilla absolute, opposing bergamot oil, cardamom, benzoin, and patchouli.

This Smells Like: A sweet fruit.

Mizensir Très Chère 

Before swiping right and late-night texts became the norm, people shared their feelings via pen and paper. Snail mail correspondence may have waned, but perfumer Alberto Morillas’s Tres Chere is an ode to love letters and their poetic qualities. 

Notes: Heavy on orange blossom and Ambroxan—another chemical substitute for ambergris’ animalic aroma—it is ladylike. Still, with jasmine sambac and sandalwood notes serving as its post-script, it has something for everyone. 

This Smells Like: A fruity vanilla.

Initio Parfums Privé Psychedelic Love 

There is love, and then there is euphoric infatuation, the kind of intense, over-the-top connection that makes for bodice-ripping novels and steamy soap operas. Initio Parfums Privé’s Psychedelic Love is about the latter, and it explores the concept in a novel way. According to studies, Hedione HC, a molecule used in perfumery with a scent similar to magnolia, activates human pheromones.

Notes: The note is one of the core elements of Psychedelic Love, and it pairs beautifully with the rose, heliotrope, and myrrh that round the fragrance out. Will it bring wearers one step closer to finding true romance? Possibly, but even if it doesn’t, they’re sure to smell great. 

This Smells Like: A woody floral.

Dries van Noten Voodoo Chile

Who would have guessed that Dries van Noten was a Jimi Hendrix fan? The Belgian designer’s Voodoo Chile is an ode to the late rocker and his 1968 track from his iconic final studio album, Electric Ladyland. As with his ready-to-wear collections, van Noten’s perfumes lead with sophistication, and the notes of sandalwood and lentisque (aka Mastic tree) help make things feel as timeless as a Hendrix hit. 

Notes: Perfumer Nicolas Beaulieu sought to echo the distortion of a guitar riff and achieve the effect by contrasting herbaceous rosemary with the earthy depth of patchouli. Fittingly, there is also a cannabis accord in the mix, but the fragrance won’t leave you smelling like a music festival.

This Smells Like:  An earthy herb.

Bond No. 9 NoMad

Every Bond New York scent connects with a part of New York City, but its name resonates even if you don’t associate NoMad with the district surrounding Madison Square. There’s a wanderlust to the woody, spice-laced blend.

Notes: It starts fruity with jammy notes of blackcurrant, pear, and quince, but the scent’s progression is a journey where all paths lead to the sensuality of amber and oud.

This Smells Like: A fruity oud.

Marc Jacobs Daisy

Composed to embody the joyful charm of adolescence, Marc Jacobs’s Daisy is a vibrant eau de toilette perfect for spring. Crafted by master perfumer Alberto Morillas, Daisy became an irresistable hit when it launched in 2007. So much so that several twists on the classic have followed years later. Think: Daisy Love, Daisy Ever So Fresh, and Daisy Dream. 

Notes: Daisy’s energizing elixir delivers fruity top notes of violets and wild strawberries, accented by a floral notes of white violet and jasmine, then rounded out by a musk and vanilla base. 

This Smells Like: A fruity floral.

Veronique Gabai Lumière d’Iris

Veronique Gabai’s fragrances harken back to her childhood in the South of France. Still, her lush bergamot and mandarin-heavy Lumière d’Iris truly captures the spirit of the Côte d’Azur. 

Notes: Woodsy, floral, and fresh, it’s a sensory trip through clear waters and sunny coasts until the drydown shifts things into floral territory. After an hour or so, rose and the titular Iris come to the fore, but as day fades into night, cedarwood and amber provide a smoky finish akin to a beachside campfire. 

This Smells Like: A fresh woods.

Source: Vogue