100 Fragrances Every Perfumista Should Try

Guerlain Mitsouko, bottle crop

[Update, 2012: When I posted this list in 2007, I had no idea it would turn out to be the most-read article on Now Smell This. I was never completely satisfied with it, and 5 years on, it's really showing its age. I probably ought to rewrite it in its entirely, but instead, I've taken the lazy approach and added a few updates below in brackets. I deleted some things, and added some things (additions are marked with an asterisk) — the list still comes out to 100. I should note at the outset that many of the fragrances listed here have been reformulated, and since I can't possibly try them all again, I can't be sure every one of them is still worth smelling.]

I'll start with a disclaimer: this is not a list of the 100 Best Perfumes Of All Time, but rather, a list of 100 fragrances that anyone seriously interested in perfume should try. Put another way, it is meant to encompass a broad range of perfumes, good, bad, pretty, ugly, mainstream, niche, etc, and to provide a sort of general introduction to the subject of modern perfumery.

Some fragrances are included because they are Great Fragrances, others are here because they are so popular that it seems to me that you ought to know about them, still others, because they've spawned so many imitators that you ought to try the fragrance that inspired the trend. A few are here just because they are so weird or interesting or wonderful that they shouldn't be missed, and a few more, just because I adore them, and think everyone else should too, although many of my favorites are not on the list.

Like any such list, it is wildly idiosyncratic, so just add "in my very humble opinion" to the whole thing. There are a few perfumes that almost have to be on such a list (Chanel no. 5, Guerlain Shalimar), but the vast majority are open to dispute; in fact, I argued with myself over any number of them. And, of course, the list exposes the massive gaps in my own perfume education. Some fragrances aren't here just because I haven't smelled them, or don't properly appreciate them.

A few men's fragrances are included, but only a few; it is by and large a list of women's and unisex scents. I have also restricted the list to fragrances that can be obtained in the United States without jumping through too many hoops, and to fragrances that are worth smelling in their modern incarnations (e.g., nothing that you'd have to find a vintage bottle of to appreciate).

Here they are, in alphabetical order by perfume house:

1. Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose

Natural perfumery is a growing field. Whether you mind using synthetics or not (and obviously, I don't) it is interesting to find out what can be done using only natural components. Aftelier is one of the older and better known natural brands. Shiso, Fig and Pink Lotus are the line's best sellers, but my favorite is the dark, earthy and sexy Cepes & Tuberose. They have a number of sample sets available, but if you've never tried anything all-natural, be prepared for sticker shock: natural components aren't cheap. For a completely different approach to natural perfumery, check out Strange Invisible Perfumes.

[2012: Cepes & Tuberose still makes a fine introduction to the brand; if you want to try more, Candide is a happy, easy-to-wear fragrance and probably my current favorite. Angie might vote for the weightier Parfum Privé.]

Annick Goutal fragrance bottles

2. Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien Ninféo Mio*
3. Annick Goutal Eau de Camille
4. Annick Goutal Songes

Eau d'Hadrien is included because I wanted to have at least one decent citrus on the list. Citrus fragrances rarely make the cut in "Best Of" lists, but it seems to me that the perfect citrus is as important, and probably just as hard to create, as the perfect oriental. Hadrien is as good a place as any to start your search: it is widely loved, although personally I prefer the somewhat weirder Eau du Sud. And while you're at it, the rest of the Annick Goutal line is absolutely worth exploring too; I had a hard time narrowing down to the two others above.

[2012: I hear differing accounts of how well Hadrien has fared the last few years; some say it has been substantially reformulated, some say it hasn't. Either way, I will substitute Ninféo Mio as a better example of what the Annick Goutal line is up to these days. Also worth a sniff: Mandragore and the Les Orientalistes trio.]

5. Antonia's Flowers Tiempe Passate

A forgotten gem. I was thrilled to see it get two mentions in Angela's article on Underappreciated Perfumes last year.

6. Aquolina Pink Sugar

It smells an awful lot like its name. It has been on Sephora's best seller list nearly forever (well, ok, a few years, but that is nearly forever in perfume terms these days). It is the second most reviewed fragrance at MakeupAlley, following Thierry Mugler Angel (see below). You might as well find out what it smells like, although chances are you've already smelled it on the street, so to speak.

[2012: Pink Sugar is now the most reviewed fragrance at MakeupAlley.]

7. Bond no 9 Chinatown

The best from this line that has very quickly established itself as a player in the niche fragrance market, although the brand new Andy Warhol Silver Factory might end up knocking it off its pedestal.

[2012: To my mind, Bond no 9 still hasn't bested Chinatown, and Andy Warhol Silver Factory is still the main contender.]

8. Borsari Violetta di Parma

There isn't much to it, but when it comes to violet that might just be the trick.

Britney Spears FantasyTaylor Swift Wonderstruck advert

9. Britney Spears Fantasy

The celebrity perfume game, as I think of it, is huge, and try as you might, you just can't ignore it. Britney's Fantasy strikes me as being fairly representative of the genre. If you like young and sweet, you just might like Fantasy, if not, for the antidote, try Cumming: The Fragrance (quite possibly the only celebrity fragrance with a sense of humor) or Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely or Covet (quite possibly the only fragrance line from a celebrity who was known to care about perfume before she came up with her own).

[2012: The celebrity category has grown by leaps and bounds since I wrote this, but Fantasy still stands as a reasonably good example of the generally young and sweet fragrances that abound in the genre. A more modern (but not drastically different) example might be Taylor Swift Wonderstruck. If you want to smell the fragrance that started the modern celebrity perfume craze, check out J Lo Glow.]

10. Bvlgari Black
11. Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert

Of the jewelry houses that dabble in fragrance, Bvlgari has perhaps done the most admirable job. Bvlgari Black is included because it is so unusual for a mainstream fragrance (and hey, it smells good too), and Eau Parfumée (aka Green Tea) because for what it is, it is perfect, and none of its many imitators have come close.

[2012: My esteem for Bvlgari as a fragrance house has lessened a bit over the years, but happily these two oldies-but-goodies are still in production.]

12. Calvin Klein ck one
13. Calvin Klein Obsession

I am not a huge fan of the Calvin Klein fragrance line, but they've managed to produce any number of iconic fragrances, and this just barely scrapes the surface. If you're of a certain age, chances are you wore either ck one or Obsession once upon a time. If you want to know what Calvin Klein is up to these days, try Euphoria or ck in2u.

[2012: To find out what Calvin Klein is up to now, I suppose you could try the pretty but dull Beauty.]

Caron Farnesiana
Caron Tabac Blonde
Caron Narcisse Noir

If you can, try all of the Caron urn fragrances, but these three give a good idea of what the house produced during its heyday. My own favorite is the admittedly less profound Alpona. The best of modern times, in my opinion, might just be L'Anarchiste.

[2012: There are widely varying opinions on how well the older Caron fragrances have fared in recent years; I tend to side with those that would rather have them in their vintage form. If I were writing this list today, I wouldn't include any of the three.]

14. CB I Hate Perfume Black March

CB I Hate Perfume makes unusual fragrances that are entirely outside of the mainstream tradition, in fact, you could argue that they are outside of the niche tradition as well, and maybe stretch the boundaries of what we think of as perfume. Black March is wonderfully evocative and the name says it all. I'm surprised to see we've never reviewed it.

Keira Knightley for Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

15. Chanel no. 5
16. Chanel no. 19
17. Chanel no. 22
18. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle
19. Chanel Bois des Iles
20. Chanel Eau de Cologne*

The first three are not my favorites by Chanel, but they are the perfumes that established Chanel's reputation as a perfume house, and as such, you ought to get to know them. If you've got the time and the inclination, try the whole Rue Cambon trio (Gardenia and Cuir de Russie in addition to Bois des Iles); all are masterpieces in their own right, and as it happens I prefer them to the numbered trio listed above.

Coco Mademoiselle brought a new generation of fans into the fold, as did the newer Chance. The recent Les Exclusifs collection is also worth smelling if you've the time (and money), and at some point, 31 rue Cambon was included on this list. It ended up being cut so I could add something else.

[2012: I chose Chanel's Eau de Cologne, from the Exclusif series, to replace Annick Goutal Eau d'Hadrien (see above). It's a lovely if arguably overpriced basic citrus. There are plenty of other options, from the classic Eau de Guerlain to the modern Parfums de Nicolaï L’Eau à la Folie; a scroll through the citrus tag will turn up more choices.]

Christian Dior Diorissimo
21. Christian Dior Eau Sauvage
Christian Dior Miss Dior
Christian Dior Miss Dior Cherie
22. Christian Dior Poison
23. Christian Dior J'Adore*

Christian Dior's heritage as a designer perfume house is nearly as extraordinary as Chanel's. The first two fragrances above are by Edmond Roudnitska, perfumer extraordinaire, and therefore, need no further justification. Miss Dior is included as a prototype of a classic 1940s chypre, and Miss Dior Chérie because trying it next to Miss Dior provides an interesting exercise in examining how fashions have changed between the 40s and today. Poison, well, chances are you already know Poison.

And as long as you are at the Dior counter, you might as well try Dune (for women) and Fahrenheit (for men) too, both by Jean Louis Sieuzac and both masterpieces. And if you can get yourself to the Roja Dove boutique in London or the Dior flagship in Paris, do try Diorama and Diorling.

[2012: IFRA restrictions1 have really done a number on the classic Dior line. Eau Sauvage smells a bit fresher than it used to, but is otherwise fine. Miss Dior Chérie has been reformulated and renamed "just" Miss Dior; the "old" Miss Dior is now called Miss Dior Original, and is probably best smelled in vintage. I've axed them both. I've heard varying reports on the current "health status" of Diorissimo and have decided I'm happier not testing the latest version, so have nothing to say on that subject except that I'm all stocked up on vintage. If I were writing this today, I'd just include Eau Sauvage and Poison, add the longtime best seller J'Adore, and leave out the bit about Diorama and Diorling, which are perhaps likewise best smelled in vintage now.]

24. Clinique Happy

Terribly popular, and has its own cheerful little family of flankers. Happy is the 4th most reviewed fragrance at MakeupAlley.

[2012: Happy has slipped to 6th place at MakeupAlley; it is preceded by Aquolina Pink Sugar, Thierry Mugler Angel, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and J Lo Glow.]

25. Comme des Garçons Eau de Parfum
26. Comme des Garçons Avignon (Incense series)
27. Comme des Garçons Jaisalmer (Incense series)
28. Comme des Garçons Kyoto (Incense series)
29. Comme des Garçons Ouarzazate (Incense series)
30. Comme des Garçons Zagorsk (Incense series)

Many (ok, most) avant garde fashion houses release decidedly mainstream fragrances — something's got to finance all those unwearable clothes. But Comme des Garçons has been as experimental with fragrance as they have been with fashion, although whether they still are is up for discussion. The fragrances are also fun, and fun is something that is sorely lacking in the world of perfume. Strictly speaking, the line doesn't merit 6 entries out of 100, but I had to include the Incense Series and just couldn't make myself break it up: they work so well thematically as a group.

[2012: the Comme des Garçons line doesn't seem as fun these days, although that might be just because they have so much more competition in the "avant garde niche" genre. Either way, I don't think they've ever bested the Incense series, although I really liked two of their collaborate releases from 2008, Monocle + Comme des Garçons Scent One: Hinoki and Comme des Garçons + Stephen Jones.]

31. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Cimabue

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of the better known indie (in the true sense of the word: she is mixing her own) perfume houses in the United States. Her catalog of fragrances is huge, and I have barely even scraped the surface; I've chosen Cimabue merely because it is my favorite of what I've tried. There was a long comment thread on one of the fragrance blogs some time ago (sorry, I can't remember where, or even what fragrance was being reviewed) that discussed the issue of why you should bother with indie houses when there are better, more "professional" scents to be had on the market, often at the same price. That, obviously, is a matter of personal philosophy. My philosophy is basically: if it is perfume, I'm interested.

[2012: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is still one of the better known indie brands and the catalog is even huger still today; Sonoma Scent Studio is another indie brand worth looking into. As the number of niche brands has grown, and the lines between niche and mainstream sometimes seem blurred, these brands are notable for maintaining a more personal and artisanal approach.]

32. Demeter Thunderstorm

If you'd like to investigate what can be done with evoking single (and sometimes weird) scent memories, pick up a Demeter tester or two. Some of them are positively brilliant. They are also very reasonably priced, although in general, lasting power is not Demeter's strong point.

33. Diptyque Philosykos
34. Diptyque Tam Dao

Diptyque is best known for their scented candles, and many of the personal fragrances were adapted from the home fragrances. In some ways that shows, but to my mind, the personal fragrances are both hugely underrated and a bargain in comparison to most other niche lines. I removed Tam Dao and substituted L'Ombre dans L'Eau and then changed my mind again at least 20 times, so perhaps just take your pick.

[2012: I've complained about Diptyque's post-2005 output elsewhere ("muted fragrances on familiar themes"), but this year's Volutes is a great scent and well worth trying, and if you're a big fan of muted fragrances, you might want to spend some time exploring the whole line. And I'm disappointed that I still didn't manage to get L'Ombre dans L'Eau on the list.]

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue advert

35. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue

Another fragrance that you should know even if only because it is so hugely popular and so widely imitated. What women apparently want to smell like, and it is hard to blame them: this is one of the most resolutely pleasant scents around (as Eliza Bennet said to Mr. Darcy, I really cannot laugh at it).

36. Donna Karan Black Cashmere

Black Cashmere is just great stuff. If only everyone would buy some, we could all stop worrying about it being discontinued.

[2012: I can't remember whether I dithered back in 2007 over Be Delicious, but if I didn't, I should have — this little apple has maintained its popularity since 2004, and spawned a whole orchard of flankers. But I can't make myself knock something else off the list to include it.]

37. Estee Lauder Pleasures
38. Estee Lauder White Linen
39. Estee Lauder Youth Dew

When I first discovered the world of niche fragrances, I was so blown away by what I'd been missing by sticking to standard department store fare that I turned my nose up at the more widely available lines like Estee Lauder. Once I settled down, so to speak, and went back into Macy's, I was surprised to find how consistently well done the Estee Lauder line really is. It was very hard to pare down to just three. I was tempted to add the newer Youth Dew Amber Nude because it is interesting to compare the modern version to the classic, and I hate not to include the new Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, which is one of the prettiest fragrances released this year. In the end, I ran out of space.

40. Etro Messe de Minuit

Personally I prefer their sprightly Shaal Nur, but Messe de Minuit is a little gothic masterpiece. What to spray on when you're re-reading Wuthering Heights.

Floris Malmaison

As I've said before, there is something about carnation that makes it hard note to wear; as with rose, a fragrance built around carnation can seem trite and old-fashioned. Malmaison is very nearly perfect, and more wearable than many, and is, I think, a nice example of the British style. A few more great carnations: Caron Bellodgia, Lorenzo Villoresi Garofano, Scent Systems Oeillet.

[2012: Malmaison is now gone, a victim of IFRA regulations that may make any realistic carnation soliflore out of the question. Scent Systems has since gone out of business.]

41. Frederic Malle En Passant
42. Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse
43. Frederic Malle Une Rose
44. Frederic Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire
45. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower*

I just about tossed a coin to pick four. Really, you ought to try the whole line: the standard of excellence at Frederic Malle is very, very high. You might not like all of them, but there isn't an insipid fragrance in the whole line.

I'll also trot out Le Parfum de Thérèse as the poster child for the much maligned (around here, anyway, and by me as much as anyone) fruity floral category. It combines many elements I hate elsewhere, including sweet fruit and a melon-y aquatic accord, yet it works perfectly, and is sophisticated as all get out.

[2012: Carnal Flower didn't make this list in 2007, but now that I've knocked off a few other things, I can give it a spot. It's a brilliant tuberose, arguably the best of modern times.]

46. Gucci by Gucci

I like Gucci's latest release, but it is included here largely as a good example of a "modern chypre". Why this term is so widely used now is still a mystery to me; most consumers don't know (or care) what a chypre is, much less what a modern incarnation might entail. Still, to my mind, Gucci's new fragrance does a better job than most modern chypres of actually smelling like it could be a chypre.

In addition, it nicely illustrates the recent trend of using synthetic woody and earthy notes, including lots of "patchouli", to create a base that is dark whilst remaining squeaky clean and perfectly smooth (no skank, no rough edges). I'd guess that within a year or so, I'm going to be complaining about the ubiquity of such scents in the same way that I do about fruity florals now. A few more examples: Christian Dior Midnight Poison, DKNY Delicious Night, Sarah Jessica Parker Covet.

Guerlain Idylle

47. Guerlain Après L’Ondée
48. Guerlain Chamade
49. Guerlain Jicky
50. Guerlain L'Heure Bleue
51. Guerlain L'Instant
52. Guerlain Mitsouko
53. Guerlain Shalimar
54. Guerlain Vetiver

I can't think of any real justification for including Après L’Ondée except that it is so heartbreakingly beautiful. After that, try Jicky, L'Heure Bleue, Mitsouko and Shalimar: these are the fragrances that made Guerlain the widely revered house that it remains today. All of them are better (way better) in Parfum, but unless you're standing at the counter in Guerlain's boutique in Bergdorf Goodman, you might have to make do with a lesser concentration. Moving on, try Chamade and Vetiver, my votes for the best work of Jean Paul Guerlain.

To see what Guerlain is up to in modern times, I've included L'Instant, and if you've the inclination, you might also want to try one or more of the L'Art et la Matière line (Cuir Beluga, Rose Barbare, Angelique Noire, Bois d'Armenie, Iris Ganache) as an example of niche fragrance from a mainstream house.

[2012: You could, at this point, substitute Idylle for L'Instant, otherwise, all of the above still seems reasonably accurate to me. If you want to be even more up to date, you could also try La Petite Robe Noire.]

55. Hermès 24, Faubourg
56. Hermès Calèche
57. Hermès Vetiver Tonka
Hermès Hiris
58. Hermès Terre d'Hermès
59. Hermès Eau des Merveilles*
60. Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil*

When I see polls of the world's best perfume houses on the various fragrance boards, the name Hermès is rarely included, but to my mind, they have quietly built up a very impressive stable (pardon the pun) of fragrances over the years, and since Jean Claude Ellena became the house nose, the output has been consistently excellent. I had a hard time picking only a few (Eau d'Orange Verte should surely make the list? And Jardin Sur Le Nil?), and will readily concede that Hiris, strictly speaking, might not belong here, but I adore it so couldn't make myself delete it.

The Hermessence collection is interesting as yet another example (in execution, I would say the best) of a mainstream house dabbling with niche fragrance. I've selected Vetiver Tonka only because it is my personal favorite, but you could try any or all: Ambre Narguile, Poivre Samarcande, Rose Ikebana, Osmanthe Yunnan, Paprika Brasil, Brin de Réglisse.

[2012: I still adore Hiris, but I've knocked it off the list to add the brilliant Eau des Merveilles — and it wouldn't kill you to smell the flankers (Elixir des Merveilles, Eau Claire des Merveilles and L’Ambre des Merveilles) while you're at it. And I'll give a spot from elsewhere to Un Jardin Sur Le Nil.]

61. JAR Bolt of Lightning

You might as well find out what you could smell like if you had an extra $800 or so lying around (it is true that there are other ludicrously overpriced perfume houses, but by and large their output is not nearly so interesting as JAR's). About the only way to accomplish that, short of actually spending the cash, is by making a pilgrimage to the JAR boutique in Bergdorf Goodman — unless you happen to live in Paris, in which case why read this when you could be out perfume shopping?

[2012: JAR was once something of an "insider secret", but with the explosion of niche brands at all price levels, including a number of brands just as expensive and exclusive as JAR, they may have lost some of their cachet. Still, I'm letting this one stand.]

62. Jean Patou Joy

Surely Joy needs no justification? Try the Parfum if you can get it.

63. Jean Paul Gaultier Classique

Wearable irony, and like Ralph Lauren's Romance (see below), a stunningly perfect fit with its brand.

64. Juicy Couture by Juicy Couture

I wanted to include at least one good example of a modern designer fruity floral, and I vacillated between this and Burberry Brit, or possibly one of the multitude of Escada limited editions. Juicy Couture made the cut because it was supposed to smell like something Barbie would wear, and I appreciated the advance warning. About 15 years from now, when I fully expect that the fruity florals of the 2000s will seem old fashioned, I plan to revisit them and see if I like them better when there isn't a new one being released every other day.

Flower by Kenzo advert

65. Kenzo Flower

Kenzo, more so than many designer lines, has done a decent job of creating fragrances that are appealing enough to sell, but don't entirely bow down to the lowest common denominator. Flower was both wildly popular and just off-kilter enough to be interesting. I thought 2005's Flower Oriental did a brilliant job of rendering the original Flower wearable, but I am probably very nearly alone in that — the original has long been a best seller at the French Sephora site.

Lanvin Arpege

Another classic that needs no justification.

[2012: At this point, I would agree with Angie that Arpege is probably best smelled in vintage; so this is another delete.]

66. L'Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine
67. L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons
68. L'Artisan Parfumeur Mure et Musc
69. L'Artisan Parfumeur Passage d'Enfer
70. L'Artisan Traversée du Bosphore*

L'Artisan in many ways set the standard for what a niche fragrance house could do when it was established back in the late 1970s, although whether they still qualify as niche these days is open for discussion. I had a hard time narrowing down to four, but thought these gave a good idea of the line's range.

[2012: L'Artisan has continued to expand into wider distribution, but they've also done an incredible job of staying relevant as new niche brands sprout up (and in some cases, wither away) all around. I won't include the wonderful Séville à l’Aube since it's a limited edition, but I dithered between Traversée and Havana Vanille / Vanille Absolument.]

71. Le Labo Rose 31

The Frederic Malle line popularized the notion of eschewing fancy packaging and emphasizing instead the work of individual perfumers. Any number of variations on that theme have followed; Le Labo is one of the more exceptional. I like quite a few from the line, but selected Rose 31 as the most impressive.

72. Lolita Lempicka for women

Thierry Mugler's Angel (see below) spawned a thousand imitators; this very popular fragrance is as good an example as any as a variation on the Angel theme. If the women's version is too sweet for you, give the men's a try.

73. Lorenzo Villoresi Donna

I had a hard time picking a Lorenzo Villoresi fragrance. Donna is simply gorgeous, but maybe not as interesting as some of the scents in his Fantasy collection (Yerbamate, for instance).

Molinard Habanita

74. Molinard Habanita

The life of a 1920s flapper translated into perfume.

75. Monyette Paris

Representative of its own little fragrance family that I think of as the "California perfume oils". These are mostly easy-to-wear, sunny little blends of sweet white florals with laundry-clean musk. Monyette Paris is one of the more popular, but other examples would include Apothia If, Kai (my personal favorite of the genre), the Ebba and Sage lines, Devour and Becker.eshaya Be.

[2012: Although they're not oils, the modern (and popular) Philosophy and Clean brands fall under this category.]

76. Ormonde Jayne Champaca
77. Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman

One of my favorite lines. I don't happen to adore Ormonde Woman, but I'd say it is one of the best. I do adore Champaca, but my absolute favorite is still the lovely Frangipani, so while you're at it you might as well try that one too.

[2012: You really ought to smell Ta'if, or just get a discovery set and try them all.]

78. Parfums DelRae Amoureuse

The DelRae line is everything a niche line ought to be. The fragrances, all created by perfumer Michel Roudnitska, are interesting and well done, and in the best niche tradition, they have a kind of quiet dignity — they don't try to be outlandish or trendy, nor are they priced for snob appeal. They're just good perfumes. Debut is probably my favorite, but I do think Amoureuse is the most notable of the lot.

[2012: Lovers of quiet elegance should really try Mythique and Panache.]

79. Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu
80. Parfums de Nicolaï Vie de Château

Another of my favorite lines. Sacrebleu is not really a personal favorite — it is too elegant for me, frankly — but it is so beautifully done that I think everyone should smell it. Vie de Château is summer perfection, and not to be missed. And I must put in a good word for Balle de Match, the first niche fragrance I ever purchased.

81. Prescriptives Calyx

An underappreciated classic.

Ralph Lauren Romance advert

82. Ralph Lauren Romance

Whenever I think of perfumes that are quintessentially "American", Ralph Lauren Romance springs to mind. I'm not sure I could explain why (if you can, do comment) but it does smell American, and like its predecessor, Lauren, it strikes me as an almost uncannily perfect fit with the Ralph Lauren brand.

[2012: Romance came out in 1998, but the Ralph Lauren brand has not managed to develop a viable pillar fragrance to replace it — they're still investing in Romance advertising and putting out flankers.]

83. Robert Piguet Bandit
84. Robert Piguet Fracas

Gloriously bold examples of 1940s perfumery, both by perfumer Germaine Cellier. And if you can, do try the more recently reissued Baghari. It doesn't suit me, but it is beautifully done example of a classic aldehydic floral, updated (but not dumbed down) for modern tastes.

85. Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Colonia / Queen's Cologne

I had a hard time picking one Santa Maria Novella fragrance. I do think everyone ought to try the line, which is as nice an example as any of the classic Italian style, but I'm not sure there is a real "star" perfume among them. This one happens to be one of my own favorites.

86. Serge Lutens A La Nuit
87. Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan
88. Serge Lutens Daim Blonde
89. Serge Lutens Santal Blanc
90. Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist*
91. Serge Lutens Rahät Loukoum*
92. Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle*

The Serge Lutens line is widely revered among serious perfume freaks, and for good reason. I tried to pick four good examples from the easy-to-obtain export line, but really, you should just try every single one of them, and then you should go try the entire exclusive line (if I was including fragrances you couldn't buy in the United States, the list would certainly include Iris Silver Mist, Rahät Loukoum and Tubéreuse Criminelle).

[2012: Now that the whole of the Serge Lutens line is available in the United States and I've knocked a number of other fragrances off the list, I'll go ahead and include Iris Silver Mist, Rahät Loukoum and Tubéreuse Criminelle.]

93. Shiseido Féminité du Bois

If you're at all interested in the Serge Lutens line, you really need to try Féminité du Bois. Created by Serge Lutens for Shiseido just before he launched the Shiseido-backed line under his own name, and an obvious forerunner of many of his later woody fragrances.

94. Stella McCartney Stella

When I reviewed Stella, I said there was "nothing particularly edgy or groundbreaking about it", but Stella stands out for not only updating that most old-fashioned of flowers, the rose, but also for being that rare thing: an un-trendy designer fragrance. It's also extremely popular.

95. The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo

The ne plus ultra of cult classics. It is weirdly addictive, and one of the great comfort scents of all time.

[2012: With the massive increase in niche brands and the growth in perfume-related social media, I'm not sure it makes sense to talk about "cult classics" anymore, and it's hard to tell if this scent, once known affectionately on the fragrance forums as "POTL", has much of a fan club these days. But I'll stand by the "weirdly addictive, and one of the great comfort scents of all time", and leave it on the list.]

Thierry Mugler Angel

96. Thierry Mugler Angel
97. Thierry Mugler Cologne

Love it or hate it, Angel established a (mammoth!) trend so you might as well know what it smells like, although it's hard to imagine that you are alive and breathing and don't already know what it smells like: even today, almost 15 years after its release, it is everywhere, and so are its numerous offspring.

Cologne is a grossly underappreciated scent, and in my humble opinion, a masterpiece in its own right. In my own fantasy parallel universe, Cologne would replace Angel as the "in thing" and everybody would be copying it.

[2012: If you cannot make yourself appreciate, much less love, Angel, see if you can get your hands on one of the limited edition flankers, like Angel Liqueur de Parfum or Angel Le Goût du Parfum. Did the trick for me, anyway.]

98. Versace The Dreamer

A great exercise in weirdness. If you're standing at the fragrance counter and they also happen to have the new Versace by Versace or Versace Signature or whatever they're calling it, try that too just so you can wonder how they both come out of the same house.

99. Yves Saint Laurent Opium
100. Yves Saint Laurent Paris

Both so iconic they need no justification, and I'm astonished to see we've never reviewed either of them. Rive Gauche really ought to have been included too, and possibly M7 as well. Unfortunately, we've run out of room.

Postcript, 2007: I started working on this list, believe it or not, in September of 2006, shortly after listening to an NPR All Songs Considered feature on Paste Magazine's 100 Best Living Songwriters. Since then, I've taken it up in rare fits and starts (mostly when I had something else I wanted to procrastinate even more than this). I first announced that it was "coming soon" way back in December 2006, and the only reason I'm posting it now is because a) working on it this weekend allowed me to ignore more pressing matters that I ought to have taken care of, b) seeing it in my "drafts" folder was really starting to annoy the living daylights out of me, and c) it is becoming obvious that I'll never come up with a list I'm truly happy with. Please do comment and tell me what I've left off that really ought to be here, but trust me, I'm under no illusions that it is in any way a definitive list. Perhaps next year I'll try again...


1. You can read more about IFRA in On reformulations, or why your favorite perfume doesn’t smell like it used to.

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This. Here's a handy emoticon chart.

  1. Anonymous says:

    What a gift for your readers! So various and imaginative and thorough, and yet so distinctly expressive of a particular sensibility. What I think I like the best about it is the “Shadow List” you have included, of things you like as well as or more than the numbered items. I can't think of anyone whose knowledge of fragrance wouldn't be greatly deepened and enriched by traveling, or retracing, the itinerary you have so painstakingly and lucidly laid out. 100 thanks!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What an amazing piece of work!! 55 of these (I counted!) would make my such list too. I am bookmarking this and sending it to everyone :-)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Mandy's Cepes and Tuberose #1. What a stunning commentary on natural perfumery. Thanks for the recognition, Mandy's work surely deserves it. I'll make my way through the rest of your list, Robin, but don't know if I can concentrate after that!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this amazing undertaking. I salute you! Just trying to keep it simple must have been a daunting task. I have a sign on my desk that says “Enough is Enough”, but, of course, that does NOT apply to perfume or perfume reviews.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As close to a perfect, comprehensive list as I can imagine…I might have included a few more “great classics”, but you're right, you have to include not just what's great but what's popular and important in other ways, too…and 100 spaces fill up quickly, don't they? Thanks for the great read – what a pleasure!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much, especially as I consider the “shadow list” to be evidence of my failure to narrow down to 100 :-)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Marina, you should do a list, I'd love to know which 55 we agree on!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anya, then I'm sorry to say you missed the part about alphabetical order — I had a terrible time narrowing down to 100, but certainly would never have been able to prioritize them :-)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great list, Robin. I think about half of these made our lists, as well, and it's definitely a list worth going through the time to smell.

  10. Anonymous says:

    LOL at “Enough is Enough” — I need that sign! I can post it right inside my perfume cabinet :-)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Oh, totally agree — tons of classics (and other worthy scents) are missing. Some classics (Vent Vert, Ma Griffe) are missing because I do think you need them in vintage, but beyond that, gosh, whole “worthy” brands are missing entirely.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, I love lists too! Next up (probably in 2009, LOL) — 100 Little Known But Wonderful Fragrances…

  13. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I realized that when I saw Annick Goutal, etc., down the line ;-) Still — being in the #1 spot is a real attention-getter, so it's all good.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thanks P!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wow! I'll be re-reading this for a while.

    May I share one comment about RL Romance? When I was doing some teaching at a large, Middle-Atlantic state university, I learned that one entire sorority had decided to make Romance its signature scent. They purchased it en masse at the local mall. If that's not quintessentially “American,” I don't know what is! ;)

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wow back! What an astonishing (who'd want to wear the same scent as the person down the hall?) and great story, thanks J!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Commenting before I even read the post – except for that darn Cepes and Tuberose, darn it, ship reasonably to Canada Mandy! – just to say I'm glad you got the monkey off your back. So looking forward to this, was just wondering last night whether you were saving it for Christmas! I'll be back to comment again after I've read….

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thanks E, I am soooo glad I'll never see the stupid title sitting in my drafts again!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thanks! What a great first scent, Dune — mind was Coriandre, followed shortly after by Diorissimo.

    Carnal Flower could easily have taken the place of any of the FMs, and actually, at some point I'm pretty sure FM had 5 slots. They probably lost one to Britney Spears Fantasy or Juicy Couture or something ;-)

  20. Anonymous says:

    Great list. I'm glad Luctor et Emergo is on here. I'm so surprised I liked it, but I do. It's so familiar but so innovative at the same time and I'm not exactly sure why.
    And I'm thrilled to see Cepes et Tuberose on here too. I thought I was the only one who liked it! But you're missing Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Snake Oil, which I've noticed seems to be the reigning queen of the niche etailer perfume world.
    I'm also panicking — IS Black Cashmere being discontinued?

  21. Anonymous says:

    great list! I am glad to be able to type that I have not smelled everything on it

  22. Anonymous says:

    No, sorry, don't panic! I see rumors that BC is going to be discontinued all the time, but no evidence of it whatsoever, and those kinds of rumors appear constantly, about all sorts of scents that are still safely around.

    Have never tried Snake Oil. BPAL is too prolific for my blood — I can't take the pressure ;-)

  23. Anonymous says:

    I love Hermes, but have you ever tried Amazone for women? I have not and I'm wondering if it is worthy of searching out?

  24. Anonymous says:

    LOL — it would be kind of a scary admission to have smelled EVERYTHING on someone's else's list of 100!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Aah thank god BC's not being discontinued. That perfume is BRILLIANT. I'm so happy DK had the balls to release such a totally “bizarre” and non-commercial blend to the commercial market. BC is a beacon of perfumista hope… at least for me. :)

    And hey, you should try BPAL! For the incense/oriental/weirdness lover it's crazy not to!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Thanks! But hey, that would be a LONG day of sniffing, the kind that might actually kill you :-)

  27. Anonymous says:

    Oh I have tried the BPAL line — at least 10 or so of them. But didn't love any, and I can't see smelling 100+ to find one I might like!

    Totally agree on BC as “beacon of perfumista hope”. It would just break my heart if they discontinued it.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Anya, you need to write a post on must-smell naturals!

  29. Anonymous says:

    If I may be so bold… I humbly suggest Snake Oil. And based on your preferences (which are similar to mine, actually, and therefore part of the reason I read this blog so religiously) I also suggest All Night Long and Death Cap (which contains a lot of cepes). Yay enabling!

  30. Anonymous says:

    I can't think of anything to say that has not already been said above, so how about “Wow! Thanks! It must feel great to get that monkey off your back”. Rest assured that my sincerity is in no way diminished by my lack of originality. :-)

  31. Anonymous says:

    Great idea, Robin. There are as many styles of perfumery within the naturals as there are in mainstream perfumery, and I've been lucky enough to experience most of them.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Ok then! Too lazy & cheap to buy them, but have added them to my wishlist at MUA and will see if I can swap for them :-)

  33. Anonymous says:

    Originality not required, so thanks very much!

  34. Anonymous says:

    LOL. Well while I'm at it, I might as well go for enabling gold and suggest stuff from Possets (possets.com) and Arcana (arcanasoaps.com), both of which are very good at natural perfumery. Possets in particular specializes in embodying color in perfume — I suggest Lamp Black, which smells like a mellowed version of Black Cashmere.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Robin, dang you — I am supposed to be *working* and you've now just sucked, like, 45 mins out of my day … ;-P
    A monumental achievement, and I applaud your decision that you might as well post it, b/c if you did it all next week (or even tomorrow) the list might be different. I have no idea where I'd even begin such a project, but I'd have taken just as long. Sometimes my drafts sit there so long I literally forget about them.
    I am surprised/thrilled to see Black March and The Dreamer on your list (you're right, it's not your favorites, heh heh) and I applaud the huge range of fragrances you covered, price-wise.
    BTW my favorite line: if it is perfume, I'm interested.

  36. Anonymous says:

    what's scary is that I am abouthisclose!

  37. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, have heard of Possets but not Arcana. Will keep an eye out for both — like I need MORE brands to follow ;-)

  38. Anonymous says:

    For the sake of your pride, just set a few aside and REFUSE to smell them ;-)

  39. Anonymous says:

    Gawd, don't you hate that? But glad to know I've helped someone else put off whatever they ought to have been doing.

    When I posted it this morning and made some final edits (missing accent marks, mostly, as always) was surprised to see that a few scents that I thought were there were gone (I'd swear that as late as Saturday, Givenchy had an entry). So yes, it would just change every day that I worked on it. Might as well give up :-)

  40. Anonymous says:

    I can't believe I haven't smelled Eau de Camille.
    Working on a post right now about the line between the thrill of exploration and the weary feeling of needing to be “up on things.” I must say I'm very glad it was you working on this list and not me, and that I really appreciate being able to lean on your erudition, precision and thoroughness. Now I get to come back and back again at my lazy leisure… Bravo.

  41. Anonymous says:

    You've helped more than one someone put off what THEY REALLY SHOULD BE DOING.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Wow! I know I'll be chewing on (and the olfactory equivalent of “salivating over”) this list for quite awhile. I may need to reformat this and keep a laminated copy somewhere for posterity!

    After such an extensive post, I think you should consider your blogging work for December *done* and relax and enjoy your holidays.

  43. Anonymous says:

    To the extent I have a job, that seems to be my job :-)

  44. Anonymous says:

    Ah, that is a VERY thin line, isn't it? Will look forward to reading your post!

  45. Anonymous says:

    Wow. The idea of this post being laminated makes me vaguely queasy. Can I come over and make changes in permanent marker, LOL? Because I already want to make changes.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Entertaining reading! Congrats on the list! I was glad to see some of my faves made it on your list. I know it's hard to be exhaustive when it comes to such a list, but since you've asked for feedback, I would've probably gone for Coco Chanel instead of Mlle and for Samsara when it comes to Guerlains. What else? Weirdly enough, I would've included on my list Gucci Rush, only because it was so groundbreaking back in 1999 and even to this day it is still hard to match that particular sense of “intoxicating smell of a modern chypre-fruity”. That and the fact that it's a Gucci made by Tom Ford whom I love and admire for creating unusual mainstream scents. But that's just me:) And Narciso Rodriguez For Her would have made my list, it's really popular and very well done. You should do one with male frags as well.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Goodness, this is impressive! The time and thought and arguing with oneself that must have gone into this compilation is incredible, R! I had a chuckle at some of the “because it's EVERYWHERE” entries (Happy, Angel, Light Blue, etc). The only two that I was a little surprised not to see on here are Escada Collection (the popularity of which is burned into my memory forever, although it may have been a bright but brief fad on MUA) and Coco Chanel (as if Chanel is not adequately represented on this list). I was pleasantly surprised to see CdG Eau de Parfum included… it is fearless and highly unusual, but it doesn't get much talk!

  48. Anonymous says:

    Heh, this list could go on forever. I would include Clinique's Aromatic Elixir on mine, this is a strong profile that appears to be polarizing to the extreme, people love or hate it. And I'd swap out Chinatown with Hanae Mori Butterfly, it seems to me they are only a few steps behind Angel to bring about the gourmand revolution. :)

  49. Anonymous says:

    I am not a Samsara fan, but can see the point. Gucci Rush ought to be on there, really, and at some point it was. It seems silly to have Gucci by Gucci and not Gucci Rush, but wanted a “modern chypre”. And there is not a single rose soliflore on the list, which is bugging me too. I really should have done 150 fragrances!

  50. Anonymous says:

    I think I missed the Escada Collection thing, or else I just paid no attention? I don't think of it as a big deal (and now I'll run and hide, LOL).

    Coco, yes, maybe that should be there instead of Coco Mlle.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Aromatics Elixir is a good choice. Can't make up my mind about HM Butterfly, although I am pretty sure it was on the list for a brief while over the summer. Really, 100 is just not enough.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Actually, even after all the fuss, I never even bothered to try Escada Collection! I heard cherry and coca-cola, and I ran. Coco Mlle belongs on the list, definitely. It is the signature Chanel scent of, you know, the target age demographic to which we do not belong. 100 is not enough, for sure… One could do 100 must-try niche scents alone! Bravo on the list, R. It's simply fantastic.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Amazing list! Big thanks for that!

    I loved seeing some of them on the list that I both know and like, such as Estee Lauder Pleasures and …. yes Britney's Fantasy.

    I also agree that Flower Oriental is better than FlowerbyKenzo! Word!

  54. Anonymous says:

    What an amazing piece of work this post is–both intellectual and olfactory mastery. Thank you from all of us niche perfume freaks.
    Just tried Mugler's Cologne and am amazed at how wonderful it is. I'm not an Angel fan (shhh, don't wan't a rock through the window) but this is wonderful. You have some other great surprises worth trying in that list, too.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Robin, thank you for this inspiring list! Do you realize how many scents you have in your memory by now…one day you can begin your create own line ;)

    By reading this weblog on a daily basis I truly begin to appreciate fragrances in a new way. It's just like learning how to appreciate new food from other places in the world. That takes practice and experience too. This blog is a guide through the labyrinth of the perfume world.

  56. Anonymous says:

    I love lists! This was such a fun and informative read, thank you. I agree with you about OJ Frangipani – it is far and away my favourite from the line and prior to smelling it I was convinced I disliked white florals so it was ground breaking for me too.

  57. Anonymous says:

    Thanks K, and yes, you could easily do 100 niche. I'll get right on that, HA!

  58. Anonymous says:

    You know, Pleasures is really a great scent — really well done. Not me, but well done.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Thanks M!

  60. Anonymous says:

    I love lists too, but love reading them more than writing them! Frangipani is seriously beautiful stuff :-)

  61. Anonymous says:

    You should get one of your male writers to do an equivalent list of men's fragrances. Since I'm just venturing out into the world of fragrance and finding out how HUGE it is, something like that would really help to organize my exploration.

  62. Anonymous says:

    Kevin really should do one!

    Do check out this interview w/ Michael Edwards on Basenotes. If you scroll down, he has a list of the “movers and shakers” of men's fragrance industry:


  63. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this great list ! In the midst of a stressful day in a stressful week (I'm a college prof facing finals week), this list, and the happy journeys to read older reviews, was a welcome break! It's been such a delight to find other perfumistas – I thought I was alone in my obsession with all things fragrant!

  64. Anonymous says:

    So glad you enjoyed it, and there are way more of us than you'd think :-)

  65. Anonymous says:

    *smokes virtual cigarette*

  66. Anonymous says:

    You crack me up, L — you always leave the best comments :-)

  67. Anonymous says:

    I just discovered your blog – and the world of perfumistas – about 10 days ago. This list is a wonderful education – I'm having tremendous fun tracking these down and trying them. My wallet is suffering, though…

  68. Anonymous says:

    My best advice — don't buy everything at once, and practice those “getting free samples” skills. Perfume is NOT a cheap hobby!

  69. Anonymous says:

    good advice – I do lust after samples!

  70. Anonymous says:

    I like your list, but I miss some classic male fragrances i.e. “Antaeus” , “Egoiste” or “Givenchy Gentleman”. They're worth a try, cause i think they're outstanding and quite different from all the “modern” male fragrances out there nowadays. Would also like to read your opinion on some classic male fragrances.

  71. Anonymous says:

    As I said above, it's mostly a list of women's scents, sorry! Several people have suggested that Kevin (our only male fragrance reviewer at the moment) ought to do a list of men's, but so far he has declined.

  72. Anonymous says:

    This is an incredible list. I torture my good friends at my Saks counter on a regular basis…and I don't think I've smelled 1/3 of this list! Wow! I'm addicted to citrus and orange blossom fragrances but think that as I age (heck I'm already aged) I will probably start moving away from the younger-smelling scents. Your list is a great place to start sampling!

    Thanks for such a great and wonderful effort!

  73. Anonymous says:

    Oh dear, please don't say orange blossom & citrus are “younger-smelling” — can't live without them myself, LOL! And so glad you enjoyed the list.

  74. Anonymous says:

    I should've clarified that remark; I don't think ALL orange blossom/citrus is 'younger-smelling' but some of the more modern, less complex ones (Fresh Lemon Sugar, which I love, comes to mind) I am probably going to have to retire in the next few years. I am getting to that 'certain age' and it's kind of like wearing a tube top – some things just shouldn't be. The more complex citrusy fragrances (L'Hadrien, etc) I hope to wear unto my last days!

  75. Anonymous says:

    LOL at the tube top, which I can't exactly get away with either! But I shouldn't think the Fresh was so out of bounds. I can think of way worse things to wear in your old age ;-)

  76. Anonymous says:

    Oooh! wouldn't that be an interesting thread? Perfumes Women of a Certain Age Certainly Shouldn't Wear!

    I nominate “Heaven Sent”. Friend of mine rediscovered it recently. Bad idea. She's 60+. That's an oldfactory 'tube top' if ever I smelled one!

  77. Anonymous says:

    Have to admit that isn't a topic I'd touch with a 10 foot pole — perfumistas wanna wear what they wanna wear, you know? And since like many others, I take offense at seeing something called an “old lady” fragrances, I can't throw stones at the other side.

  78. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, it's just the Mean MamaBear coming out today, LOL! But there ARE a couple of fragrances….

    …..but you're right. I will definitely NOT go there – I'm sure I'd be ready to do battle over a couple of my choices! And there are definitely days when I embrace my inner Old Lady….and proudly!

  79. Anonymous says:

    I was just recently trying to find a review of YSL Paris and I came here and visited also other blogs aaand found nothing. It is interesting, Paris is like a forgotten beauty. :-) But what a beautiful perfume…

    So if you will have a time, review this perfume, please, this beauty deserves it. Also I miss Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen reviews – two interesting British designers.

  80. Anonymous says:

    Paris is gorgeous, and I'm sure we'll get to it eventually! VW's fragrances, unfortunately, aren't so easily found in the US (in person, that is — they are easily enough found online).

  81. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your reply, I just had to mention Paris, because this scent is really able to win some new admirers and they (YSL) release a new Paris spring edt every year – for example 2007 Paris Jardins Romantiques is a really beautiful version of Paris – try it! :-)

    I live in central Europe and our shops don't have any Westwood's scents too – only online shops, but her perfumes are very popular here. Alexander McQueen has only two scents – Kingdom and My Queen, they are available here in every shop and especially Kingdom is a must try. It is a type of scent that people love or hate – it really strongly depends on your body chemistry. It is either a beautiful and sexy scent (for example on my skin – luckily:-)) or it smells like a terrible body odor.

    Yesterday I tried Jean Paul Gaultier – Fragile – a very sensual scent (white tuberose), last time I tried this one (many years ago) I didn't like it and now I think I am starting to love it. :-)) Have a nice day………

  82. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry to admit I'm in the “hate it” category on Kingdom, and just didn't care for MyQueen much either way. But agree on the Paris series, they do a nice job.

  83. Anonymous says:

    I might not agree with this list in its entirety, and I won't dispute the details here, because I simply want to say “Bravo” for such an ambitious compilation and post.

    Very well done and enjoyable. Many here I am old friends with, many I have yet to try, and you've given me some fragrances for thought.

    Kudos on a job well done.

  84. Anonymous says:

    I'm not sure that *I* agree w/ the list in it's entirety — it is very hard not to change the list every other day. But glad you enjoyed it!

  85. Anonymous says:

    You've done a fantastic job with this list. I would love to see a list of perfume that you would have in your collection because you just love them so much, no pressure of course. I hope that just the thought of doing this doesn't make you faint :)

  86. Anonymous says:

    I started a list sort of like that shortly after I finished this one — we'll see how long it is before I can bring myself to finish it!

  87. Anonymous says:

    I found your website totally by accident and so glad I did. Seeing your appreciation of Tiempe Passate has prompted me to search out Donna Karen Black Cashmere ( & Chaos) and Bvlgari Black and I haven't been disappointed. Plus I've managed to get some YSL M7 for my DH. Love this site

  88. Anonymous says:

    Hi and welcome, and thanks for the nice words! Sounds like we've got very similar tastes.

  89. Janice says:

    I’m new to the site, and this list is fantastic! I’d been sticking to the standard department store fragrances for years too, and once you finally venture out it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. I’ve been reading reviews and trying things in a sort of hit-and-miss fashion, but without much point reference. This is kind of like the “100 great books” college reading list — you might not like everything on the list, but you should be familiar with them so you’ll recognize the style or the genre or the author — and the things that were inspired by them — when you run into them again.

    I’m happy to say I have actually sampled a number of these so far (and a few from the shadow list), and the one I’ve completely fallen in love with is Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani… which wasn’t something I would’ve guessed I would like.

    • Robin says:

      Janice, so glad you’ve found it helpful, and hey, you’ve fallen for one of my all time favorite perfumes :-)

  90. zaheer says:

    great, thank you!

  91. I love this blog!

  92. Michelle says:

    Your list is lovely. Thank you for putting it together. You did not happen to mention Aromatics Elixir. It truly stands out as an iconic classic in the world of perfume.

    • Robin says:

      I completely agree. I really should have done 200 perfumes :-)

  93. fun to look through. i wish that Bal A Versailles was on the list.

    • Robin says:

      There are lots of great fragrances missing :-)

    • maaries says:

      I love Bal a Versaille also. I heard it was a Jackie Kennedy Onassis favorite also. It’s unusual and not like anything else on the market. Another one I like, although entirely different and more spicy is Ombre Rose. Not mistakable for anything else –I love it in winter.

  94. Anita says:

    I have only 15 of these?! I must be slipping! ;) Seriously though, it was a surprise that Theorema and Dzing! were’nt on the list; they seem to be the idols of many. Great choices though, especially Black Cashmere.

    • Robin says:

      Theorema is not here because I didn’t include discontinued scents, and don’t forget they’re not meant to be the 100 best scents — so doesn’t matter how many you own!

  95. KRL says:

    Robin – I love this list (actually, all lists). When are you going to do a list of weird scents (as you called “Dreamer.”)??

    • Robin says:

      KRL, so glad you love the list! I love lists too, but they’re so time-consuming. I’ve been meaning to do a follow-up to this post for ages, and some day I really will.

  96. Owen says:

    somehow I just knew some of the brands that would be on there before I even read it; Hermes is one of them. why does (what seems to be) everyone have a fascination with Herems??? I don’t know why on this earth people are so gushy and loveydovey over Hermes. it seems they can do no wrong, the bottles are basic, if not ugly and people are like oh the bottle looks fantastic.

    the only bottle that didn’t irritate me was Elixir des Merveilles and Terre d’Hermes, and Elixir des Merveilles kind of did because it doesn’t stand up straigt, though I did like that it looked like a snow-globe.

    and voyage d’Hermes, it sounds like a “travel perfume” one that fits into your bag/suitcase easily because of the shape. well infact it is, “voyage” in French does actually trasnlate to “travel” in English. backed up by the fragrance “not smelling of anything” or bringing back any particular memories, so it’s suitable for everyone. and what more? it’s for summer and it’s refillable, but I heard someone say somewhere that it’s going to be an “icon” fragrance.

    Terre D’Hermes has been given so much praise, for what, an earthy orangy trickle of a perfume that you can only smell if you press your nose to your skin and take a big breath. I do give it credit for lasting over one day and not washing off in the shower, but come on even though it has been created to fine standards or whatever, it isn’t THAT spectacular, it’s boring.

    most Hermes fragrances (like Terre) are undetectable unless you press your face to your arm. but still people go on that the fragrance is wonderful. so I wonder how they can charge what they do for perfume when no one else will even smell it on you, but still people are like oh it’s wonderful fragrance.

    I apologise for all of this but Hermes is one of the brands I just hate, they get worshipped for doing nothing.

    I’ll admit I don’t know much about that brand other than the “mainstream” fragrances they have launched and the Birkin bag. so if they have done something to gain the admoration of nearly everyone who has heard of the brand I would like to know what they did. because I just don’t see their products at all desirable. It would be a bit harsh to say I hope the company goes bust, but that’s highly unlikely as they turnover something like nearly €2billion over last year or something.

    once again I must apoligise for my rudeness.

    • Robin says:

      I am gushy over Hermes because I think they make truly fantastic perfumes — better than most other companies. No need to apologize if you disagree!

    • Owen says:

      I do kind of like Terre D’Hermes but the rest are not to my taste. and I will admit that Hermes do it’s perfumes very well and you can tell they spent a lot of time and money on them(?) and the bases of the fragrances all have complicated, interesting notes that I guess give the rest of the fragrance it’s oomph however little it may be. and every Hermes scent (that I smelled) has the same very very bottom note that’s kind of warm and fizzy. if that makes sense. some of them are just watery, bland with a bit of fizz.

      but I’m not singling you out Robin please don’t be offended. but many many people are (I think) over-enthusiastic about Hermes, even the brand as a whole not just it’s perfumes. I guess Hermes is just not to my taste.

  97. Owen says:

    and a completely different topic, Britney Spears fantasy did smell fantastic to me (when it first launched) but I am absolutley positive it has gone under reformulation beacause it no longer has the chocolate, the cake, the sweets or the strwaberries in it that I first smelled.

    it’s now some fizzy, sour note that is supposed to smell sweet with a kind of icky stabby accord that hurts my brain when I smell it. :(

    someone who gets on my college bus wears this, I was walking round the people at the bus stop trying to figure out who was wearing it waiting for the bus to go home. she walked passed me one day and I recognised her from the bus stop so I knew it was her, fantasy takes over the whole bus. it is the same icky reformulation that I dislike so much that kills my nostrils nearly everyday on the bus home from college :( I miss the original fantasy.

  98. avoir_vent_de says:

    Robin, with all due respect, Joy by Patou should have retired years ago. Of course, we all have a different ‘nose’ when it comes to what we like and appreciate in the realm of fragrances and i am impressed with your lengthy list(admittedly, there are quite of few i know nothing of). Sometimes, it is best to seek out just one that speaks to your senses like no other. I have my own unabashed collection of perfumes and eau de toilettes, etc.., yet L’air du temp by Ricci has been a very highly regarded one since i was 13 years old and you regrettably left it off your list. Ah well, Vive La Difference!

    • Robin says:

      We shall have to agree to disagree: I think Joy still smells great, esp. in the parfum, whereas Nina Ricci has not done such a great job preserving the formula of L’Air du Temps.

  99. Angelica says:

    Great list, Robin
    Thanks for the great read, comprehensive list..

  100. Anita Monroe says:

    What a terrific resource. Many thanks. The only thing that I can think of to add is Nina Ricci’s Capricci. I haven’t been able to find it for years, and it may be discontinued, but I loved it when It was available in perfume. sigh.

  101. PortiaT says:

    People, ie me, are still reading this fascinating and informative post. Thanks

  102. monkeytoe says:

    I have always loved this post–what a fun refresh.

    Caron Narcisse Noir (and Nuit du Noel and Aimez Moi) is still worth smelling in my opinion. Narcisse has lost too many of its animalic notes, but it still smells damn good and is the only fragrance left that gives an idea of what the house fumes like Tabac Blond, En Avion, and Alpona smelled like before the recent devastating reformulations. The current iterations of the urn fragrances are travesties.

    • Robin says:

      Thank you, good to know! I have not smelled Narcisse Noir in ages. Still have an old bottle of Aimez Moi that smells great :-)

  103. hajusuuri says:

    I’m probably the only one in this whole wide world who missed this popular post – great list and love the updates!

    • Robin says:

      Ha, I’m sure you’re far from the only one :-)

      Glad you liked it though.

  104. jonr951 says:

    My Fantasy and Britney are still hanging in there. Haha! I have no clue how Fantasy, or even the whole line really, is doing nowadays, but I’m hoping we get something new from her and not another flanker or new packaging. Actually, I wouldn’t mind if In Control came back. Haha : )

    • Robin says:

      I was surprised that they spend money to promote Fantasy Twist — maybe it’s all still selling better than I would have thought?

      • jonr951 says:

        I was suprised too. I love me some Fantasy, but Midnight definitely isn’t a fav of mine. I have so much Fantasy already that I really don’t need a bottle of Twist. If I do get it, it will definitely only be for the packaging. Haha! It must be selling better than I thought as well. Let’s hope well enough for a brand new scent! Her last 3 were so blah! Too blah! : )

  105. Skitenoir says:

    I’m going to recommend Etat Libre D’ Orange’s “Secretions Magnifiques” as a ‘must smell’ simply because it is so bizarre that only perfume collector could appreciate it. It’s certainly unwearable in normal situations. On the surface, it seems like a typical perfume. It smells perfumey, but for some reason you feel uneasy, your stomach turns and you feel ill. And then you realize: the base notes smell like blood. Exactly like blood. As you wear it, the blood warms up, spreading and getting heavier and heavier. It’s a scent that evokes an extremely visceral reaction, even if that reaction is of extreme disgust and rejection. Interestingly, it seems to effect women more strongly. It made my sister in law throw up after a while. The scent is definitely an experience.

  106. raluca says:

    How is it possible not to include Rochas Femme in this list? It should be tried if only as a tribute to one of the greatest noses of modern times.

  107. adina says:

    Exquisite list, a true challenge to be able to test all of them.

    I do have a personal question. I’m in the quest for finding that special perfume and it’s hard to decide. My previous ones have been Bvlgari Black, Jasmin Noir, Guerlain Insolence, L’artisan Parfumeur Dzing.

    I’m attracted to the more edgy ones, that mix sensual ingredients, like tobacco, jasmine, vanilla, leather etc. What would you recommend me to sniff and try? (niche or mainstream equal)

    Very grateful for any suggestions!

  108. adina says:

    Thank you very much, Robin. I’ll surely find something there (I didn’t know until now about the Monday Mail – cool idea!).

  109. Andurian says:

    I’m saddened by the exclusion of the modern Miss Dior from the list. While it’s not as good as the old Miss Dior Cherie, it’s still a wonderful scent.

    I’m not saddened by the exclusion of Hypnotic Poison, but I am a little surprised. It’s a fine scent, and fairly ubiquitous. The category “should try” is admittedly pretty broad and things have to be left out, but I have trouble imagining someone being a perfumista without knowing what this smells like.

    Perhaps that’s the issue – I can’t imagine, for example, a perfumista not knowing what Charlie smells like, even though (with apologies to FIFI’s 1974 Women’s Fragrance of the Year) I think it’s execrable. Even with your introductory explanation I have a bit of trouble understanding your intent with the list. I have trouble believing Fantasy is one of the best 100 scents of all time, and I have trouble believing Hurwitz Cimabue is one of the 100 most important. It leaves me wondering for each perfume why its on the list.

    Don’t take me as too critical – I’m glad for this list, and learned a lot from it. :)

    • Robin says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      I think Fantasy was widely copied as a blueprint for a modern celebrity fragrance; that to me is reason to know what it smells like.

      I think perfumistas should have a general idea of what indie brands are up to…Cimabue could easily be replaced with something else; there is no “one” indie fragrance everyone should smell but I do think it’s important to smell something indie.

      We disagree on the merits of the new Miss Dior, which is fine! And guessing we disagree on the merits of Hypnotic Poison too.

  110. Spark says:

    Absolutely loving this site!! I’m an oldie from the 50’s and deeply resent the trend of messing with the old classics………..how can they mess with a classic like Miss Dior??? You failed to mention some outstanding fragrances in your top 100 list: Galore (formerly Scandia and subsequently Germain monteil; Royal Secret (the current Angel is reminescent of that era-all originally copying Shalimar and even as far as drug store brands Chantilly and Emeraude. What about Weil and Zibeline? And what would the world be like without Ballenciaga’s Le Dix!! And hello how about MaGriffe??

  111. Spark says:

    OMG my memory is still going through the cosmetics counter at Marshall Field’s circa 1969, Love Song by Dorothy Grey-although no where near YSL’s Y, it has a similar second level scent. Alexander DeMarkoff had Enigma and Alexandra. Now the new Philosphy scent Live Joyously resembles Alexandra. What category do you classify the peppery scent of Paloma and Lauder’s Knowing?
    Years ago, Love cosmetics had a scent called Eau de Love formerly Yardly cosmetics. The Philosphy scent Amazing Grace smells exactly like it. Ralph Lauren’s Lauren started the green fresh trend and was followed by Liz Claiborne. One of the earliest synthetics was Cerissa and Ciara by Revlon-not many copies of Ciara although it did resembel Zebeline by Weil. Cerissa was the beginning of an entire generation of synthetics-no space to name the many of them.

Leave a reply