Finding the perfect fragrance is often easier said than done — scent preferences are so personal and subjective, after all — but if you’re looking for a spicy perfume, you’re in for a real challenge. While the market is dominated by floral, fruity, and woody fragrances, spicy perfumes are less popular, making the scent search a real quest.
That’s not to say the undertaking isn’t worth it: Spicy perfumes are often bold, exuding an effortless confidence that scents in other categories can’t always quite convey. And despite what you might think, these types of fragrances won’t make you smell like food or a spice drawer (unless you want to, that is).
Here, we’ve rounded up 11 must-try spicy perfumes, including our top pick, the TikTok-beloved Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540, to give you an advantage on your fragrance-finding mission.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540
What We Love: This scent wears differently — and beautifully — depending on your body chemistry.
What We Don’t Love: This perfume is very popular: If you’re someone that likes their signature scent to be unique, you may be frustrated by how many people have added this to their fragrance wardrobe as of late.
If you’ve ever scrolled through TikTok, you’ve probably come across this beloved perfume from fragrance house Maison Francis Kurkdijan. Just because it’s become popularized by social media, though, doesn’t mean Baccarat Rouge 540 is for everyone. Sultry and sweet, yet spicy and woodsy, this ever-changing scent is for those who aren’t afraid to stand out.
Skin amplifies the notes of cedar, (artificial) ambergris, and saffron for a sweet-smoky-salty genderless fragrance — but when we’ve smelled it on others, it comes off creamy, musky, and even a little bit citrusy, despite not having any fruit listed in the notes. It’s truly an ever-evolving scent, and one worthy of consideration when building out your fragrance wardrobe if you’re ready to overlook the high price point.
Not ready to invest in full-sized bottles? Maison Francis Kurkdjian offers a mini fragrance wardrobe that features eight fragrance testers, including one of Baccarat Rouge 540 eau de parfum and extrait de parfum, respectively, so you can experiment before committing.
Price at time of publish: $325
Size: 2.4 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Saffron, Jasmine, Cedar
Demeter Fragrance Library Gingerale Pick-Me-Up Cologne Spray
What We Love: This isn’t a “conceptual” take on ginger ale — it smells just like the real thing.
What We Don’t Love: We’ve had bottles break in the past.
This effervescent fragrance has been a favorite of ours since it first launched in the early 2000s alongside other fun and quirky scents from the brand, including Dirt, Gin and Tonic, and Tomato. It somehow completely harnesses the true aroma of a freshly-cracked can of ginger ale, right down to the prickly bubbles. It’s an airy, well-balanced blend of sweet, spicy, and fresh, which makes it quite wearable — so feel free to spritz it on generously in any season.
However, while we love the rectangular packaging (it lends itself well to packing multiple Demeter fragrances into tight vanity spaces), keep in mind that it may not be the sturdiest. We’ve broken a bottle or two in our day, which is both heartbreaking and dangerous.
Price at time of publish: $21
Size: 1 oz.｜Type: Cologne｜Notes: Ginger, Sugar, Lime
Amouage Crimson Rocks Eau De Parfum
What We Love: This perfume is a highly sophisticated take on a spicy-gourmand — the perfect pick for someone who wants to smell delectably edible, but not like a supermarket cupcake.
What We Don’t Love: The fragrance smells very intense on a blotter. And though it is very mellow on skin, the initial spritzing experience can unnerve prospective wearers.
Don’t expect a “hot” cinnamon from this perfume. If anything, it’s a dry, earthy cinnamon, amplified by woody notes of oak and cedar. That spiciness is tempered by a sweet and luxurious blend of roses and rare jujube honey, giving off the impression of an exquisite, indulgent dessert. The result of the overall blend is syrupy and heady, but not a cloying confection that is best enjoyed in cool weather.
Like all scents from this house, the packaging is incredibly luxe, with a hefty and eye-catching bottle that is worthy of a place of honor on your vanity. That said, it’s worth noting that you may be a bit put off by Crimson Rocks initially — all Amouage scents are very, very concentrated. This gives them incredible longevity, but makes them smell intense at first whiff. Keep in mind that the perfume needs a second to dry down and fully blossom into the luxurious scent that it is.
Price at time of publish: $360
Size: 3.4 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Cinnamon, Jujube Honey, Rose
Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum
What We Love: This popular scent comes in multiple sizes, ranging from a travel-friendly 0.3 ounce to a huge 5 ounce bottle to ensure its fans have a wide range of options.
What We Don’t Love: This is another cult-favorite fragrance, so you won’t be the only person in town wearing it.
We’re confident that the sparkly black bottle will catch your eye, but it’s the pink juice inside that will hold your attention. Juicy pear and delicate white florals announce themselves first, then the fragrance blooms into a spicy licorice that mellows into the warm and sweet aroma of a vanilla latte.
Sounds bizarre, perhaps, but the scent is shockingly addictive, fetching wearers compliments for over a decade — and as a result, you can find Black Opium in many differently-sized bottles, including a jumbo 5 ounce, which is pretty uncommon, even among best-selling scents. However, because it’s been around for so long and has such a cult following behind it, you won’t be unique in wearing this perfume. That’s not to say that’s a good reason to skip it — if you love it, rock it!
Price at time of publish: $100
Size: 1.6 oz. ｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Licorice, Coffee, Vanilla
DS & Durga Bistro Waters Eau de Parfum
What We Love: Fresh, green, and vibrant, this is one of the rare spicy scents that can be worn all year round, even in very hot weather.
What We Don’t Love: If you want something notably feminine, this isn’t for you — it’s definitely a genderless scent.
This clean and almost savory perfume is inspired by one of the founders’ time spent working in NYC restaurants — hence the herbaceous notes that are ever-so-slightly sweetened with lime blossom water, pear, and mandarin. The unexpected note of bell pepper pushes the scent right up to the perimeter of aquatic (another one of our favorite fragrance categories), which makes it easy to wear during all seasons, even through oppressively hot and humid summers.
However, if you are looking for something overtly feminine, this scent isn’t it. It’s closer to a cologne, albeit a more genderless one. That’s not a bad thing, of course! Scent is deeply personal, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. Bonus: Like all DS&Durga perfumes, Bistro Waters comes with its very own Spotify playlist.
Price at time of publish: $190
Size: 1 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Coriander, Nutmeg, Basil
Chanel COCO Eau de Parfum
What We Love: This is one of the fragrance house’s most iconic perfumes and is housed in the signature flacon that you’ve seen imitated, but never duplicated.
What We Don’t Love: Be aware: There are many Chanel Coco flanker fragrances which don’t feature the spicy notes of the original, but are easier to find.
Sophistication and elegance is what you’ll get from this legendary perfume. Formulated in 1984, it has a vintage yet classic glamour to it. If we had to guess, that energy comes courtesy of heady base notes of resin, amber, tonka, and patchouli. But you’ll get spice, too, thanks to coriander and clove, which are sweetened up a bit with rose, orange blossom, and mandarin.
Finding this fragrance online is a breeze, but if you prefer to check perfume out in person before investing in a bottle (totally reasonable), be aware that there are plenty of scents that are labeled as “Chanel Coco” at your local beauty retailers. The most popular one is Coco Mademoiselle; it is not at all like the original Coco, so make sure you’re sniffing the right one at the counter.
Price at time of publish: $146
Size: 1 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Coriander, Rose, Amber
Best for Everyday
5 Sens Burn For You Eau de Parfum
What We Love: This clean brand’s philosophy is rooted in the concept that scents and moods are intertwined; Burn For You smells like pure comfort (and who doesn’t want to feel cozy every day?).
What We Don’t Love: Currently, 5 Sens is only available online, so you’ll need to order fragrances from the website if you want to test them for yourself.
The 5 Sens collection currently offers five fragrances, and while we’re impressed with the entirety of the new brand’s products, Burn For You is the spicy scent that completely captivated us. It opens with the mingling of super spicy clove leaf and woodsy cedar notes that evoke autumnal vibes. It’s the dry down, though, that makes this scent a daily fave. Sweet vanilla and warm hints of amber and cashmere musk create a true “skin scent” that feels familiar, intimate, and indispensable — like your softest, most well-loved sweater.
Sadly, 5 Sens scents are only available online for now, so you won’t be able to sniff before shopping, but you won’t have to invest in a full-sized bottle until you’re ready — the brand offers travel-friendly bottles, too.
Price at time of publish: $65
Size: 1 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Clove leaf, Madagascar vanilla, Amber
Best for Date Night
La Perla Let the Dance Begin Eau de Parfum
What We Love: The deep red glass bottle and metallic silver cap hint at the sexy scent inside while making for a stunning vanity accessory — and the bottle is also refillable.
What We Don’t Love: This is the type of fragrance you’ll want to tuck in your purse for sneaky mid-date touch-ups for added allure, but unfortunately, it’s not available in a travel-friendly size.
Leave it to lingerie brand La Perla to make one of the sexiest scents out there. The unique deep red glass bottle will initially draw you in, but it’s the seductive scent inside that will make this fragrance truly unforgettable.
The brightness of spices like pink pepper, black pepper, and cardamom is bolstered by a host of citrus fruits in the perfume’s top notes, which then melts into sensual tuberose, sweet rose and geranium, creamy caramel, and spicy cinnamon. That’s all grounded by vanilla-like tonka and a sultry, almost chocolaty patchouli, wearing down to a fragrance that smells like the olfactory equivalent of a filmy charmeuse slip.
We suggest saving this one for a very special evening — but if you’re one for mid-date touchups, you probably won’t be able to fit the full size bottle in your purse, and unfortunately, it doesn’t come in a travel size option.
Price at time of publish: $120
Size: 1 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Pink pepper, Cinnamon, Tonka bean
Jo Malone London Nutmeg and Ginger Cologne
What We Love: Jo Malone scents are known for their simplicity in that they focus on just two or three notes at a time — so if you want to smell like nutmeg, that’s exactly what you’ll get with this one.
What We Don’t Love: Part of the brand’s archived collection, this scent is only available online, so you’ll have to commit to purchasing it if you want to smell it.
While nutmeg and ginger are key ingredients in a pumpkin pie, this scent is anything but sweet: The warmth and dryness of these spices make the spritz one that smells fresh and clean, and can be worn by anyone, anytime. That said, the real magic happens when you layer it with other fragrances. Try combining it with a bright citrus or a creamy vanilla to experience the true range of this perfume.
One downside of this perfume is that it’s only sold online, so you won’t be able to test it out before purchasing, but it’s so unique and versatile, we’re sure you’ll love it from the moment it arrives at your doorstep.
Price at time of publish: $155
Size: 3.4 oz.｜Type: Cologne｜Notes: Nutmeg, Ginger, Sandalwood
Kheimistrii Milk Wasted Eau de Parfum
What We Love: This indie hand-blended fragrance is a slightly spicy, ultra-yummy scent we love wearing all year.
What We Don’t Love: Because it’s from an indie brand, it’s made in small batches (so it might not always be available).
We discovered this brand on Etsy during a late-night perfume shopping binge and we’re so glad we did; we’ve liked everything we’ve tried from Kheimistrii, including the very different, very tasty Milk Wasted.
Purely edible without being sickly sweet, this fragrance is what you’d call lactonic — milky — and it does the category well. Cinnamon sugar floats on fresh milk and vanilla cream, with a foundation of ambery labdanum resin and spicy-nutty tonka. It’s nostalgic and comforting; we like wearing it on lazy Sundays spent reading.
While the brilliant nose behind Kheimistrii seems to be excellent at maintaining her stock, keep in mind that she mixes up every bottle herself, so be patient if she’s temporarily sold out — her scents are worth the wait.
Price at time of publish: $78
Size: 1.7 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Fresh milk, Tonka, Cinnamon sugar
Best Travel Spray
Ellis Brooklyn APRÈS Eau de Parfum Travel Spray
What We Love: The blend of notes is highly unusual yet beautifully balanced, resulting in a scent unlike any you’ve tried before.
What We Don’t Love: The piney notes of this fragrance kind of pigeonhole it to winter wear, but again, they’re part of what make the scent unique.
When we’re deep in the throes of winter, this transportive spritz reminds us of all the magical aspects of the season and minimizes the less satisfactory parts (being ankle deep in slushy snow as the temperature continues to drop).
It’s aptly named, as it’s essentially a blend of all the scents you’d sniff at a ski resort: Brisk air laced with the sweet and spicy aroma of evergreen trees, a roaring fire, and a hot and sweet beverage spiked with a bit of booze. However, as much as we’re into this unique scent, it is very specific, so unless you’re traveling to a fir forest in the off season, you likely won’t find yourself reaching for this fragrance in warmer weather.
Price at time of publish: $32
Size: 0.33 oz.｜Type: Eau de Parfum｜Notes: Juniper, Cardamom, Bourbon
What to Keep in Mind
Spicy notes are what distinguish this perfume from all others. “Spicy notes often refer to perfume notes that ‘spice’ up scents to give them a stronger punch and are often based on spices that appear in foods,” says Keta Burke-Williams, founder of fragrance brand Ourside. This can include everything from baking spices like ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove to more savory spices like anise, cardamom, saffron, and coriander. “The amazing thing about spicy notes is that they can be combined with woody, flowery, fruity, and other notes to create wonderful and unexpected combinations,” she adds.
When shopping for a spicy perfume, keep in mind that many aren’t marketed as such. “The best way to know is to look into the ingredients within the fragrance to see if there are any spicy notes listed,” says Frank Voelkl, principal perfumer at global fragrance and flavoring firm Firmenich. Then, look for spices you enjoy. “See if they actually resonate with you in real life — if you don’t like cloves in your food, you’re probably less likely to enjoy it in a fragrance,” says Bee Shapiro, founder of fragrance brand Ellis Brooklyn.
It’s also worth keeping an open mind. For example, Shapiro encourages those who don’t like pepper to try it in perfume. “Pepper is more like an effervescent opening top note if used with small concentration,” she says. Burke-Williams suggests looking for fragrances with spicy notes that also feature notes you already know and love. “Maybe you want to try something spicy and you love citrus — look for a fragrance that combines lemon or bergamot with a fresh spicy note, like juniper berries,” she says.
Finally, don’t be afraid to try something on your skin to get a sense of how it works with your unique body chemistry. What a spicy perfume smells like in the bottle is often entirely different from how it’ll smell once you’re wearing it. (Such is the case with our best overall pick, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540.) A low risk way to do this without investing in a full bottle is trying a fragrance in store (most beauty retailers will even make up perfume samples for you if you ask!), borrow one from a friend, or buy a discovery kit from a brand, which will allow you to test multiple scents for a more affordable rate.
Perfumes come in several different formats. The most common two you’ll see are eau de parfum and eau de toilette; you’ll also spot extrait de parfum (or just parfum) and cologne. These terms refer to the concentration of perfume oil in the formula.
Colognes are the weakest, being mostly water, and eau de toilettes are slightly stronger. Eau de parfum is the most common “strong” iteration of a perfume, but extrait de parfum is the most potent of them all, with up to 40 percent of the fragrance being pure fragrance oil.
The strength of a fragrance will affect how much and how often you apply — an extrait de parfum can last for an entire day, and just a small spritz will suffice. A cologne may only last for a few hours, but you can spray it on with abandon if you like, as it’s more diluted and won’t be as cloying when heavily applied.
Fragrances come in a broad range of size offerings, ranging from tiny testers (usually about 0.05 ounces) to jumbo bottles all the way up to a whopping 30 ounces. However, the most common sizes you’ll see in stores and on counters will be bottles between 0.3 ounces and four ounces, with the smaller being travel-sized sprays, and the larger being “value-size” bottles.
There are pros and cons to buying any size, but a few things to consider when selecting the right size for you is where it will live and how often you plan on using your perfume. If this fragrance is your new signature scent and you’ll be spritzing it on every day, you’ll want to get a larger bottle, as it’ll be more economical in the long run. However, if you want to keep your new scent in your purse or don’t expect to reach for it often, go for a smaller bottle — it’ll be TSA friendly and wallet friendly. Many of the scents in our lineup above come in travel-sized packaging, including Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium, 5 Sens Burn For You, and Ellis Brooklyn Après.
And remember, perfume doesn’t last forever (especially if you’re subjecting it to warm or humid environments), so if you want to use it all up before it goes bad, a smaller bottle isn’t a bad idea.
Your Questions, Answered
What does spicy mean in a perfume?
Spicy perfume is exactly what you think it is — a fragrance with spices. “I think of those elements that both remind you of spiced food and also those that tickle your nose: Notes like pink pepper, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon,” says Shapiro. Just like spices add dimension and richness to your favorite cuisines, they do the same for your fragrance wardrobe.
That said, “spicy” covers a broad spectrum of scent profiles. ”When I use spices in my fragrances, I like to differentiate between fresh spices and warm spices,” explains Voelkl. “The fresher ones, such as ginger, pepper, or cardamom add a vibrancy to the top of the scent, whereas warmer spices like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon tend to add richness in the heart and base of the fragrance.”
What does a spicy perfume smell like?
This is kind of like asking, “what does a flower smell like?” Flowers all smell differently (for example, think how dissimilar the scents of lily of the valley and tuberose are, even though they’re both white florals), as do spices. Often, though, perfumes in this category fall into one of two buckets: Warm spicy and fresh spicy.
“Warm spicy perfumes are often sensual, evocative, and heavier,” says Burke-Williams. “Fresh spicy perfumes might smell citrusy or floral, and you might experience the spice notes more up front when spraying or applying the perfume.” (A great example of “warm spicy” above is 5 Sens Burn For You, while Demeter Fragrance Library Gingerale is a solid “fresh spicy.”)
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Emily Orofino is a freelance writer, editor, and consultant with over a decade of experience in the beauty industry. She is an absolute fragrance nerd and often finds herself prowling the internet late at night in search of the perfect new scent that speaks to very specific concepts, whether it’s a perfume that smells like a saltmarsh at low tide or a pot of freshly-cooked jasmine rice (she’s found both). For this piece, she interviewed Frank Voelkl, principal perfumer at global fragrance and flavoring firm Firmenich, Keta Burke-Williams, founder of fragrance brand Ourside, and Bee Shapiro, founder of fragrance brand Ellis Brooklyn, experts that shared their knowledge of perfumes and more specifically, spicy scents.