5 perfumes: appreciating the Big Five

Like much art, some fragrances — especially the complex classics — take time to appreciate fully. At first, you might even find them off-putting. But as you spend time with each fragrance, you begin to appreciate its peculiar nature, its singular beauty. That describes how I’ve felt about the perfumes I’m calling the Big Five.

I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with each fragrance, then I’d love to hear how you’ve come to know each of them.

Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5

For the longest time, I was convinced I knew all about No. 5. No. 5 was fine, full of straw-tinted jasmine, awash with aldehydes, and charming, if fusty. But it wasn’t for me — or so I thought…

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5 perfumes: iris fragrances for fall

orange iris on green

No, it isn’t fall yet, but in case you’re planning ahead (or just sick of summer), here are five iris fragrances to consider as the air takes on a bit of a chill and darkness falls a bit earlier every day. If you missed it, do see my list of iris picks for summer.

Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue: I included “regular” Infusion d’Iris on my summer list, but the Absolue version is the one I reach for more often, year round. As you’d expect from the name, it’s more…

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5 perfumes: (great) new wave summer colognes


Earlier this week I talked about old school summer colognes. Today’s focus: the modern equivalent. These fragrances aren’t classic Eau de Colognes, but they function in much the same way: they’re light, they’re citrus-y, they’re refreshing in the worst dog days of summer. Bonus: some of the newer models last a bit longer on skin than the classics.

I’ve listed my picks in order of release date. Do add your own picks in the comments!

Guerlain Mandarine Basilic ~ From 2007, this lovely sparkling orange with plenty of herbal bite is the oldest fragrance on today’s list…

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5 perfumes: (great) old school summer colognes

orange slices

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, there’s a decent chance you’ve already entered that part of summer known as the dog days. The hot, humid weather was traditionally expected to last around 40 days, but where I live, we’ve surely already had 40 days of sticky, and we could easily have 40 more before it’s over.

I’m not complaining, or at least, I’m not complaining as much as I’d be complaining if it was cold out. I’ll always take hot over cold. But this is just the sort of weather that calls for a classic Eau de Cologne: a little concoction of citrus and flowers, perhaps a few spices, perhaps some oakmoss or amber. It won’t last long, but it will lift up your spirits while it does, and you can always reapply later or move onto something else. Here are five choices, although I’ve (of course) expanded the definition of a classic Eau de Cologne a wee tad…

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