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15 best classic perfumes for women
From Jo Malone to Tiffany, we’ve chosen the fragrances she’s guaranteed to love
- Rachel Fiddes
- Tuesday 30 October 2018 10:36
It’s a classic Christmas gift, but where to start when looking for a fragrance to give the girl in your life? Whoever it is – your sister, wife, girlfriend or mum – you can play it safe and replace the bottle she’s running low on, or go off-piste and find her something new to love.
Here’s our rundown of our favourite fragrances – each and every one a guaranteed, fail-safe, perfect gift.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Chloe Fleur de Parfum EDP: £70 for 50ml, Debenhams
Chloe fragrances are a guaranteed safe buy as a gift for anyone. Staggeringly feminine, beautiful, yet effortless. A classic wedding choice, Chloe produces timeless fragrances.
Some 10 years ago the first Chloe scent was launched, and over the past decade has had various incarnations, always feminine, always beautiful and always using the rose as a starting point.
According to Chloe, Fleur de Parfum is a “generous bouquet exclusively composed of the most tender and quintessential part of flowers, their hearts”. The heart of the rose reveals rich fruity tones, the heart of the verbena flower adds a freshness, while the heart of the cherry blossom produces milky almond notes.
An exceptionally pretty perfume, delicate and irresistibly natural – definitely one for the girls who like a gentle feminine scent. The delicate blush pink ribbon tied around the neck of the flacon adds to the prettiness of Fleur de Parfum.
A suits-all, romantic scent, the perfect Christmas gift for someone you love.
Narciso Rodriguez For Her EDT: £43.99 for 50ml, feelunique.com
A designer who adores women and creates ultra-feminine clothes to flatter a woman’s body, Rodriguez bottled some of that passion and unveiled this fragrance masterpiece in 2003.
Some 15 years later we think it’s still one of the sexiest scents ever launched. Subtly sensual with a restrained opulence, this is a bewitching seductive scent, but without being rich and heady.
The perfect gift for the woman who likes her scent to be striking and formidable, but still elegant and feminine. The sparkling blend of white flowers and citrus includes bergamot, orange flower and osmanthus, which move into a musky, warm, sweet dry-down of amber, vanilla and vetiver.
Stella McCartney Eau de Parfum: £78 for 100ml, Debenhams
The original Stella McCartney scent, Stella, is quintessentially English, and a homage to the English rose.
Fresh mandarin and white peony blend with the feminine sensual rose, and dry down into a more masculine, sultry amber base.
A modern floral, but with bold, sexy accents, this is a suits-all scent and perfect for winter.
Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey EDT: £54 for 50ml, Boots
We have a soft spot for Issey Miyake, as L’Eau D’Issey is the scent of our twenties – one spritz and we’re straight back to the heady, responsibility-free days of gritty underground clubbing in Shoreditch before it got glossy.
More than 25 years since its launch, L’Eau D’Issey is considered one of the greatest classics of the perfume world. Described as “an icon of contemporary perfumery”, this scent has barely aged at all and remains as modern today as it did at its launch. A unique and timeless scent, that suits everyone and is the ultimate romantic wedding fragrance.
The delicate and discreet blend of sensual rose, fresh watery lotus flower, sparkling lily and peony is all wrapped up in warming cedar and sandalwood. A great go-to fragrance whatever the occasion.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Arcana Rosa: £155 for 75ml, Harrods
Arcana Rosa is astonishingly full-bodied and powerful for a rose based scent. Where rose fragrances are usually supremely feminine, soft and pretty, this is a strong womanly scent – not for the faint hearted.
A blend of flowers, wild herbs and woods including Bulgarian rose, atlas cedar, vetiver, juniper and sandalwood, make for an almost masculine, slightly spicy floral perfume that could as easily be worn by men as women.
NEOM Energy Burst 100% Natural Eau de Parfum: £49 for 49ml, Neom Organics
NEOM has carved out a corner of the beauty market for therapeutic products.
Its fragrances are 100 per cent natural, from ethically sourced sustainable origins, using natural and organic ingredients. They’re made in the UK and don’t use artificial perfume or any harsh preservatives, only pure essential oils.
As soon as we took a spritz of the award-winning Energy Burst, we could tell this scent was different. It’s a zingy zesty blend of grapefruit, lemon, rosemary and 14 other essential oils, chosen to give a quick burst of energy to focus and liven up the mind. It’s not as long lasting as synthetic fragrances, so we resprayed it during the day, which proved the perfect boost for the dreaded mid-afternoon slump.
If she likes citrus-based scents, this is the one for her.
Dolce & Gabbana The One Eau de Toilette: £46.73 for 50m, escentual.com
A floral oriental, The One sparkles with zesty Italian bergamot and mandarin essences, and blends into the delicate sweetness of lychee and juicy white peach.
Jasmine, orange blossom and lily of the valley give it a timeless femininity, which dries down into the richness of vetiver, musk and sweet warm vanilla.
A strong, luxuriously feminine scent, this is grown-up glamour at its best.
Clarins Eau Dynamisante Treatment Fragrance, Refillable Spray: £36 for 100ml, clarins.com
Just over 30 years ago, Clarins launched its pioneering feel-good fragrance Eau Dynamisante.
Way ahead of its time, it was designed to invigorate the senses with a blend of 14 aromatic citrus and herbal essential oils including lemon, orange, patchouli, coriander, caraway, rosemary and thyme. It’s a skin treatment too – splash it all over from head to toe to moisturise, soften, tone and restore suppleness to the skin.
Resoundingly popular, every three minutes someone somewhere in the UK is buying a bottle. And this eco-friendly version is refillable – we wish all perfume manufacturers were as forward thinking and let us refill our bottles.
Mon Guerlain Eau de Parfum Florale: £69.50 for 50ml, John Lewis & Partners
With Angelina Jolie as the face of Mon Guerlain, it doesn’t take an olfactory genius to guess what this scent is going to smell like. Ultra-feminine and beautiful, but also kick-ass and ball-busting at the same time.
Not for the faint hearted, this is for the woman who wants to be noticed. It’s a bold scent some might reserve for evening wear, but the Guerlain girl will wear this in the day too.
The rich heady jasmine and sensual vanilla are tempered with delicate peony and lavender for a beautiful, quintessentially feminine floral bouquet.
Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir Cologne: £94 for 100ml, Jo Malone
As beauty gifts go, you can’t beat the thrill of opening the iconic cream and black Jo Malone box and as winter fragrances go you can’t beat Pomegranate Noir.
If you could bottle the Christmas season into a fragrance, this would be it; ruby-red juices of pomegranate, plum and raspberry, punctuated by pink pepper and laced with Casablancan lilies and spicy woods.
One of the most sultry and enigmatic fragrances we’ve ever worn.
Marc Jacobs Daisy Dream Eau de Toilette: £42.44 for 50ml, feelunique.com
Channelling the easy charm of Marc Jacobs’ original Daisy scent, Dream is youthful, spirited and romantic.
Light and airy – think blue skies and daisies – the scent blends blackberry, grapefruit and pear, with a heart of jasmine, lychee and wisteria, drying down to a warm base of white woods and musks.
An easy to give and easy to wear scent.
Lancome La Vie Est Belle EDP: £61.20 for 50ml, escentual.com
Worldwide, La Vie Est Belle Eau de Parfum is in the top four women’s global fragrances.
An award-winning modern classic, this stunning scent blends iris, bergamot, jasmine and orange blossom for the ultimate floral bouquet.
Warming notes of tonka bean, vanilla and patchouli add depth and richness to this joyful, archetypal wedding day scent.
Givenchy Dahlia Divin Eau de Parfum: £68.50 for 50ml, John Lewis & Partners
Captivating, luxurious and feminine, this elegant, timeless scent hints at fresh autumnal plums, combined with a white bouquet of florals dominated by jasmine. The warm woody base of sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver, gives it a lasting richness and sensuality.
Choose Dahlia Divin for the girl who likes her scent to linger long after she’s gone.
Tiffany & Co. Eau de Parfum: £72 for 50ml, Debenhams
This delicate scent isn’t going to knock anyone out as you walk past them, so if that’s how she likes her perfume, this one is for her.
Like Tiffany & Co. this scent has a refined timeless quality, but still retains the feel of a modern fragrance blend. The initial hit is sparkling and zesty green mandarin, which moves into a pretty, floral heart of iris and a dry-down of sensual, enchanting patchouli.
A really beautiful scent and a safe bet for a gift. The bottle is inspired by a cut diamond and, of course, it’s all wrapped up in a Tiffany Blue box – something every girl would love to see under the Christmas tree.
Gucci Guilty Pour Femme Eau de Toilette Platinum Edition: £55 for 50ml, Boots
Unapologetically hedonistic, Gucci’s campaign slogan GuiltyNotGuilty celebrates individuality and freedom, “there’s a kind of marvellous anarchy that characterises youth,” says Creative Director Alessandro Michele.
For non-conformists and anarchic libertines, this powerful blend of masculine geranium, spicy pink pepper, magical lilac, sparkling peach and warming amber and patchouli is the scent for them.
Give this fragrance to the girl who likes to break the rules.
The Verdict: Best classic scents
NEOM’s therapeutic benefits will boost her energy levels, L’Artisan Parfumeur has a slightly masculine twist, Issey Miyake is light and fresh, while Stella McCartney and Narciso Rodriguez are full-blown striking, sexy scents.
But our IndyBest top choice is Chloe Fleur de Parfum for its all-round timeless, beautiful, irresistibly feminine blend of rose, verbena and cherry blossom.
We’ve smelt over 500 fragrances to find the best perfumes of all time and here they are…
The classics and the up-and-coming.
Remember in high school when the playground was one big waft of Lacoste’s Touch of Pink, or your first year of uni when nights out smelt like a blur of Lady Million and sticky jagerbombs? Remember the Lynx your first boyfriend wore and the fragrance your mum used to spray while getting ready in the evening?
Our memories are so laced with scent, one whiff can re-evoke meaningful moments from our past. It’s why finding the right one for the moment you’re in now is so important. Get it right and your signature scent becomes an enduring calling card that signals your presence to friends whenever you arrive. Find a fleeting favourite and it can signpost specific period in your mind for years to come.
Yet, choosing the right perfume can be tricky business. Much like finding the perfect pair of jeans or your ideal foundation, landing on a fragrance that sums you up and smells like the right fit is an instinctive (though often extensive) experience.
How to find The One? Well, first comes the issue of navigating the beauty hall through a fog of fragrance. With hundreds of different scents to choose from and each confusing your senses with every spritz, it can be tough find a scent soulmate that epitomises you in a single spray.
Luckily, we’ve tested out over 500 different fragrances from the classics to the blockbusters and the niche to the artisan, to provide you with a definitive guide to the world’s most sophisticated and sensational smells – all in the name of helping you discover a stunning signature scent. Plus, with Christmas gifting season in full swing, consider this your definitive guide to finding the perfect scent for the woman in your life (or simply for yourself!).
Whether it’s floral fragrances, zesty perfumes, oud accords, or sweet smells that take your fancy, or you’re into the latest and greatest scent going or a stickler for the old classics, we’ve rounded up the very best perfumes of all time to inspire your search. You’re welcome.
- Jo Malone London Wisteria & Lavender 30ml Cologne, £50.00, Jo MaloneOur favourite perfume house has given us the perfect springtime limited-edition collection, offering a fresh perspective on an iconic ingredient: English lavender. This smells like a gorgeous springtime walk across a beautiful field of lavender. Delicious.BUY IT NOW
- Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau De Parfum, £57, John LewisThis is an oriental citrus with vibrant notes of orange, jasmine and rose warmed up with patchouli and vetiver.BUY IT NOW
- Acqua Di Parma Colonia Eau De Cologne, £74, John LewisThis is an icon (and a favourite of Audrey Hepburn’s). It’s a unisex number that smells of grapefruit, mint, wood and amber. Fresh to begin with then woody and warm to finish.BUY IT NOW
- Guerlain Mon Guerlain Eau De Parfum, £69.50, BootsGuerlain is known as the matriarch of French parfumerie, having produced luxurious scents for nearly two centuries. This new edition to the brand’s perfume portfolio is sensual yet delicate, strong yet subtle with an intoxicating blend of Sambac jasmine, sandalwood, lavender and vanilla making for a stunning scent for every occasion.BUY IT NOW
- Miller Harris Rose Silence Eau De Parfum, £80, Miller HarrisThis is a burst of rosy freshness paired with light, bright notes like blackcurrant and mandarin, with a soft cashmere warmth from sandalwood and musk.BUY IT NOW
- Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum, £54, Feel UniqueWelcome to the dark and mysterious side of perfume. Black Opium is the rock’n’roll equivalent of its more classic processor, Opium, but nonetheless elegant. The dominant notes are coffee and vanilla, giving it a warm yet intense scent.BUY IT NOW
- Calvin Klein Euphoria Eau De Parfum, £39, The Perfume ShopAn intoxicating and intense scent, this is a blend of rich orchids, pomegranate, mahogany woods and sensual musks. It’s ideal to warm you up for winter or if you’re heading into evening.BUY IT NOW
- Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau De Parfum, £82, Feel UniqueThis is a loud, unapologetic scent that stays around all day and all evening. This has dark notes of black orchid, spice, incense and chocolate. Not for the faint-hearted.BUY IT NOW
- Le Labo Santal 33 Eau De Parfum, £57, Cult BeautyIt’s spicy, leathery and musky, but still manages to feel light and clean. A little bit rugged and a little bit smooth.BUY IT NOW
- Givenchy Very Irresistible Eau De Toilette, £44Sweet, summery and packed with rose, peony and verbena, this is an outdoorsy daytime number.BUY IT NOW
- Dior J’Adore Eau De Parfum, £55, John LewisAt first spritz, J’Adore is distinctly citrusy thanks to a top note of orange and neroli, but quickly evolves into a floral bouquet of roses and jasmine, making it a supremely feminine but fresh choice.BUY IT NOW
- Escentric Molecultes Molecule 01, £72, Harvey NicholsThis fragrance rocked the beauty world and beyond for containing nothing but pure Iso E Super – a synthetic fragrance molecule that envelops the skin in an almost invisible, yet totally irresistible, aroma. The single note enhances your bodies own natural aroma, or pheromones. In essence, it’s our scent on steroids. If you spray it, you probably won’t smell it on yourself. But others will come flocking. Seductive.BUY IT NOW
- Chloe Eau De Parfum, £46.50, John LewisSo fresh and so clean, Chloe Eau De Parfum is a classic in the making. Its main notes are all flowers; rose, lily of the valley, peony and freesia take centre stage but contrary to being a girly combination, the flowers offset each other to create something extremely versatile, playful and confident.BUY IT NOW
- Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum, £57, John LewisNo perfume guide would be complete without a mention of Chanel’s classic and timeless fragrance. No.5 was revolutionary as it was the first fragrance to rely heavily on synthetic aldehydic notes, which is what gives it its signature champagne fizz upon first spritz. Other notes include jasmine, rose and vanilla, which together with the aldehydes, makes for a fiercely feminine, every-occasion fragrance. It’s little wonder why after almost a century, No.5 is still one of the best-selling perfumes the world round.BUY IT NOW
- Mugler Angel Eau De Parfum, £44.95, John LewisThe perfume equivalent of marmite, Angel is perhaps the most divisive mainstream fragrance ever made. It’s incredibly sweet, with notes of cotton candy, coconut, honey, and fruits, but is also spicy and enveloping thanks to accords of nutmeg, vanilla, chocolate and patchouli. One thing is for sure, though – it’s totally one of a kind.BUY IT NOW
- Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Eau De Parfum, £122.50, Tom FordWe all know how evocative the sense of smell can be, as Tom Ford Neroli Portofino is testament to. One spray will transport you to the verdant Amalfi coast line, even if you’ve never set foot there before. It’s all down to the perfectly balanced combination of citrus notes – bergamot, mandarin orange and lemon – with lavender, rosemary and amber. A summer holiday in a bottle.BUY IT NOW
- Jo Malone London Orange Blossom Cologne, £94This understated elegant scent is pure sunshine in each spritz; the clementine flower and orange blossom sparkle with a Spring freshness, while base notes of orris and vetiver ground it in endless elegance.BUY IT NOW
- Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, Eau de Parfum, £168, John LewisUnapologetically sexy, this fragrance is perhaps the epitome of raw female seduction. In fact, Carnal Flower uses the highest concentration of natural tuberose, which is known for its erotic and lustful aroma, in the entire perfume industry. The tuberose is offset by milky and comforting musk, only serving to enhance its allure.BUY IT NOW
- Ruth Mastenbroek Dagian Eau de Parfum, £120, Ruth MastenbroekAs one of the best perfumers in the business, Ruth Mastenbroek’s latest scent does not disappoint. Dagian, which has fresh notes of lime, mint, orange blossom and rum, was inspired by Ruth’s first holiday without her parents in the 70s. “I felt carefree, like I was at the start of something immensely exciting but didn’t yet know what it was. I’m on the beach at dawn, toes in the sand, the sun slowly emerging and my face becoming warmer as the sun rises over the sea. It is the start of a new day, a new era, a new time in my life; looking ahead with a newly refreshed outlook,” she says.BUY IT NOW
- Histoire d’Orangers Eau De Parfum, £115, Artisan ParfumeurThere’s something utterly luminous about this perfume. One spritz is like opening the window to warm, sun-drenched air that’s rich with the scent of Mediterranean orange blossom and neroli. As it dries down and develops, base notes of tonka bean and almond envelop the skin in a cocoon of silky softness. Simply divine.BUY IT NOW
- Byredo La Tulipe Eau De Parfum, £115, ByredoByredo is known for its disruptive take on perfume, producing innovative and intriguing fragrances that have quickly garnered a cult following. La Tulipe is revolutionary in the sense that it embodies a flower that doesn’t have much scent, so it’s an entirely conceptual and imaginative interpretation. The combination of fresh freesia, a floral heart and green base makes it a clean, bright and very pretty fragrance.