Is there anything more flattering than being told you smell good? Is a celebrity really a celebrity without their own fragrance line? Though we can’t answer either of these questions for certain, we can help you find your next favorite perfume.
Studies show that scent can affect people’s perceptions of each other — whether that’s for better or for worse. Just like platform Ugg slippers and glazed donut manicures, scents follow the circuitous trend cycle. Viral TikToks tout the hottest scent of the hour, but fragrance is a highly personal experience, and what works for one person might not work for the next. To help you pick out the perfect perfume that won’t go out of style like a 2012 Victoria’s Secret body spray (looking at you, Love Spell), we spoke to fragrance expert and the host of Smell Ya Later podcast Tynan Sinks.
“It seems that we’re making our way out of the “skin scent” era of light, barely perceptible scents, and seeing the pendulum swing the other direction to louder, sweeter, more fun fragrances,” Sinks tells PEOPLE.
There’s a reason that fragrance is a go-to gift for special occasions like holidays and birthdays — it’s a personal and intimate present that hints at how well you know someone’s preferences. And, though some perfumes and colognes use the words “feminine” and “masculine” to describe themselves, we’d like to remind you that scent is genderless — so spritz on whatever smell you most enjoy!
With so many options lining the shelves of department stores, it can be hard to know which one will hit the right notes (pun intended). That’s why we set out to create a comprehensive list of the best perfumes for every preference, including different scent-types, formulations, and price points in our research.
Discover your next fragrance based on PEOPLE’s picks of the best perfumes on the market.
Maison Margiela Replica Jazz Club
Warm, smooth, and just a tad sweet — this sexy scent smells so good you might develop a habit of sniffing your own wrists throughout the day (at least, that’s what happened for this writer!). ‘REPLICA’ Jazz Club by Maison Margiela has quickly become a holy grail perfume and a staple on PEOPLE editors’ makeup vanities. True to its name, this scent is reminiscent of smokey jazz clubs and the feeling of coming home on a cold blustery day and curling up by the fireplace with a warm mug of spiced tea. It feels at once comfortable and sensual, with a complexity that leaves you wanting more.
Spiced pink pepper carries this warm fragrance, followed by a swirl of neroli oil, rum, vanilla, and smoky tobacco leaf that meld to create a round, complex scent. Jazz Club is cradled in a minimalist glass bottle that screams understated luxury, and that quality is reflected in the high-quality ingredients that make for an impressive staying power. This perfume gives off great projection, which means that the people around you will notice your new sexy aroma.
‘REPLICA’ Jazz Club earns our designation as the best overall perfume for a few reasons — the scent is at once unique and familiarly cozy and truly lasts all day with proper application. The sweetness and warmth are perfectly balanced with spice and smoke (and personally, as someone who is prone to headaches from chemical-y perfumes, this one gives me no bad reaction at all!). Go ahead and pick up this Eau de toilette spray as a gift for your loved ones, but we warn you — one sniff on someone else and you’ll be tempted to buy it for yourself, too!
Price at time of publish: $144
Size: 1 oz. | Formulation: Eau de toilette spray | Key Notes: Pink pepper, neroli oil, rum, vanilla, and tobacco leaf
Best Overall, Runner Up:
Dossier Ambery Saffron
We think “What are you wearing?” is a more fitting name for this addictingly warm scent — because that’s what everyone will ask when you spritz on Dossier’s Ambery Saffron. Deep, spicy, and mysterious, this scent would feel at home in a dimly lit jazz club or moody speakeasy. Top notes of golden-y saffron and orange blossom drape over sweet and lightly floral middle notes like jasmine and plum and deep, woody base notes like fir balsam and amber. Slightly sweet with a spicy trail, this scent leaves you wanting more in the best way.
Perfumery Dossier labels itself as “the fair alternative to luxury perfumes” and has made a name for itself by formulating pocket-friendly dupes for popular scents. Ambery Saffron was inspired by another beloved fragrance on our list, MFK’s Baccarat Rouge 540. This deep and complex perfume is our go-to fall scent and makes the perfect gift for even the pickiest of fragrance fanatics.
Price at time of publish: $49
Size: 1.7 oz. | Formulation: Eau de parfum spray | Top Notes: Saffron, orange blossom, jasmine, cedarwood
Best Unique Scent:
Peppy pink, no-makeup-makeup brand Glossier may have a cult following of Gen Z and Millennial enthusiasts (Olivia Rodrigo is the newest face of the brand), but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’d deliver a simple scent — this fragrance is mature, complex, and unique to every user. Glossier You was purposefully formulated to smell a little different on everyone. The milky-pink glass bottle with its thumb-shaped impression would look elegant on any vanity counter and is the perfect gift for minimalists who’ve tried everything.
As soon as the spray formula melts into the skin, notes of bright pink pepper, amber, and creamy white florals combine to release a sweet and spicy concoction that feels at once mature and timeless. This perfume is also available in a solid puck, though shoppers note that the spray formula leaves behind a longer-lasting scent.
Price at time of publish: $64
Size: 1.7 oz. | Formulation: Eau de parfum spray | Key Notes: Pink peppercorn, ambrette seeds, iris
Chanel CHANCE EAU TENDRE Eau de Toilette
Someone who’s looking for a clean, fresh, citrtus-y scent or those who may be sensitive to strong smells.
Luxury fashion house Chanel has become one of the most iconic names in perfume for a reason — their scents instantly conjure up the image of a well-dressed shopper strolling through the Upper East Side in New York City. The delicate, fresh scent of Chance is as light and airy as a silk scarf blowing in the wind, with notes of grapefruit and quince over jasmine and white musks.
This isn’t your grandmother’s Chanel perfume (not that there’s anything wrong with a classic Number 5), and would smell great on anyone who likes a young, fresh scent — it’s even Emma Stone’s signature scent! Because this perfume is formulated as an Eau de toilette rather than, say, an Eau de parfum, it’s lighter and less intense, which might be preferable for someone who is sensitive to strong smells.
Price at time of publish: $95
Size: 1.7 oz. | Formulation: Eau de toilette spray | Key Notes: Citron, jasmine, teakwood
Best for Someone Who’s Tried Everything:
Juliette Has a Gun Not A Perfume
Warm, sheer, and just a little bit spicy, this perfume (or, er, not a perfume) is like nothing we’ve ever smelled before. This fragrance from Juliette Has a Gun is made from just one ingredient: cetalox, a synthetic form of ambergris that’s often used as a base note in perfume but rarely presented on its own. The brand founder and perfumer behind Juliette Has a Gun, Romano Ricci, says of this unique formulation: “This time, I have created a perfume out of this one ingredient. A perfume that won’t be one, in the conventional sense of the word.” We recommend letting this scent sit on your skin for 5 to 10 minutes before making your judgment on this simple yet unique fragrance.
Price at time of publish: $140
Size: 1.7 oz. | Formulation: Eau de parfum spray | Key Notes: Cetalox
Best Light Citrus:
Jo Malone London Blackberry & Bay Cologne
Blackberry & Bay is a cult classic fragrance for a reason — it’s crisp, light, and refreshing in a way that brings to mind the feeling of picking berries in the woods on a warm summer day. Blackberry is the overwhelming aroma in this fragrance, complimented by hints of bay leaves and swirls of cedarwood. Like most every fragrance from perfumery Jo Malone London, which touts impressive celebrity fans like Meghan Markle, this scent smells great layered with other light perfumes, and we love the way it comes alive when paired with an earthier scent like fig and lotus flower.
Price at time of publish: $68
Size: 1 oz. | Formulation: Cologne spray | Key Notes: Blackberry, bay leaves, cedarwood
Best Discovery Set:
Diptyque Eau de Toilette Discovery Set
Because this is a discovery set, there isn’t much of each fragrance included. If you know that you like one particular scent, purchase a full size product instead.
This discovery set from department story-mainstay Diptyque comes with five of their most popular fragrances in travel-sized tubes, which are: Do Son, a fresh and sweet floral fragrance, Eau des Sens, a scent that combines earthy-ness and orange blossom, Philosykos, a warm fig fragrance, L’Ombre dans L’Eau, a fresh rose and green scent, and (last but not least) Eau Rose, one of our favorite rose fragrances. We think that this set is the perfect gift for even the pickiest of loved ones — or as a little pick-me-up gift for yourself!
Price at time of publish: $128
Size: 5 bottles, .25 oz. each | Formulation: Eau de toilette | Key Notes: Tuberoses; orange blossom; fig; roses and black currant; roses
MIX:BAR Vanilla Bourbon Perfume
This sweet and complex perfume smells way more luxurious than its price tag would lead you to believe. With notes of Madagascar vanilla bean, bergamot, jasmine, and sandalwood, this fragrance toes the line between warm and floral. “They’re stunning,” says Sinks, who is a personal fan of the brand. “I absolutely love the whole collection. They literally rival Tom Ford scents.” The Vanilla Bourbon Perfume from MIX:BAR is exclusively available at Target.
Price at time of publish: $20
Size: 1.7 oz. | Formulation: Eau de parfum spray | Key Notes: Madagascar vanilla bean, bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood
Best Warm & Musky:
Le Labo Santal 33 Eau De Parfum
Luxury meets the outdoors in this woody scent that makes us feel like we’re in the Rocky Mountains camping (or glamping) under the stars around an open fire. Le Labo is the perfumery behind one of the most talked about scents in the fragrance industry, and they’re masters at delivering luxurious and unique fragrances. Kate Bock famously wore Santal 33 for her wedding to NBA star Kevin Love.
Santal 33 emits notes of cardamom, iris, ambrox, and Australian sandalwood, among other musky and smokey compounds. For the fragrance fanatics who are willing to shell out for a gorgeously complex perfume, SANTAL 33 is the perfect option.
Price at time of publish: $90
Size: 0.5 oz. | Formulation: Eau de parfum spray | Key Notes: Cardamom, iris, ambrox, sandalwood
Best Fruity Gourmand:
Burberry Her Eau de Parfum
The best way to describe this perfume’s scent is the word yummy. This fragrance smells the way a crisp, fruity summer cocktail tastes on a hot summer’s day spent by the pool. With top notes of red and dark berries layered over fresh-smelling jasmine and underscored by a warm, sensual amber musk, Burberry Her smells clean, light, and pretty. The glass-embossed bottle with shiny gold detailing feels easy and luxurious. We think that this scent would make the perfect gift for someone who prefers a youthful, fresh scent with notes of depth. Some shoppers noted that this spray leaves behind a weaker scent than normally expected from an Eau de parfum, but we think that makes it the perfect starter perfume for those newer to the world of fragrance.
Price at time of publish: $112
Size: 1.6 oz. | Formulation: Eau de parfum | Key notes: Red and dark berries, jasmine, musk-amber
Dossier Fruity Almond
If you prefer a sweet, nutty scent (reminiscent of Carolina Herrera’s Good Girl perfume), then you’ll love this fragrance.
From the dupe masters at Dossier, this fragrance inspired by the best-selling Carolina Herrera’s Good Girl perfume is nutty, sweet, and slightly floral. Shoppers say that this dupe smells just like Good Girl, with notes of peach, almond, tuberose, orange blossom, and tonka bean, which lends a scent of vanilla and cocoa to this sweet, pretty fragrance.
Price at time of publish: $29
Size: 1.7 oz. | Formulation: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Peach, almond, tuberose, orange blossom, tonka bean
Best Perfume Solid:
diptyque Eau Rose Solid Parfume
Roses are one of the most classic scents in perfume, but powdery rose scents can sometimes feel too mature for more youthful shoppers — that is, until Diptyque’s Eau Rose hit the scene. This waxy balm formula is easily applied with the fingertips, and the pretty tin case is the perfect size to slip into your bag and touch up your scent throughout the day. We love that this fresh, green, and fruity rose fragrance has lively notes rather than powdery ones, and its alcohol-free ingredients list is a win for anyone sensitive to traditional perfume.
Price at time of publish: $68
Size: 3g | Formulation: Solid | Key notes: Damask rose, cabbage rose, lychee, ambroxan
How to Pick the Right Perfume
Everyone looks for slightly different things in a favorite scent — and every scent smells slightly different on each person’s skin. Fragrances are commonly available in sprays, oils, and solids, and which one you choose is all up to preference. Sinks gravitates towards spray-on perfumes. “I think every formulation has its place and its consumer, but I’m a spray person,” says Sinks. “I think they sit on the body the best and give you the most beautiful wear.”
Spray-on fragrances are commonly available in two main formulations: Eau de parfum and Eau de toilette. Generally speaking, the difference lies in the concentration of the perfume — Eau de parfum typically has a higher concentration of scent and gives off a stronger smell, while Eau de toilette has a lower concentration of scent and often smells lighter and less intense.
If the abundance of buzzwords feels confusing and you don’t know where to start when picking out a scent, you’re not alone. Here are some helpful definitions:
Sweet: “Often, when people think sweet, they think vanilla, which makes sense,” says Sinks. “But there are many other notes that can serve up sweetness in different ways. Take tonka, amber, caramel, praline, honey, and even nutmeg. Even florals can be sweet.
Woody: Think about the different ways that wood can smell: fresh and verdant while it’s alive and growing, or smoky and rich when being burned in a campfire.
Gourmand: This word is often used to describe fragrance notes that resemble things that you can eat — think chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, or rum.
Fresh: Often, fresh is used to describe scents that have citrus elements, like grapefruit or lemon verbena.
Musk: If you’ve ever smelled a perfume that felt instantly distinct and sensual, it’s base notes probably include musk, a compound originally extracted from the glandular secretion from deer (AKA deer sweat). But don’t fret — the musk used in fragrance today is synthetically made.
“I think at the end of the day, too cheap or too expensive is all relative to the person and their wallet,” says Sinks. “We are lucky to be in a time where beautiful, quality fragrances have become very affordable and accessible, so there’s no reason to turn your nose up (no pun intended sorry) at a $30 perfume. And I think that’s great. Beauty should be affordable.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best way to apply fragrance?
“In fragrance, it’s important for the juice to make contact directly with the skin,” says Sinks. “So don’t spray it on your clothes, spray it on your body. It needs that contact with your skin, to heat up and meld with your body chemistry to really blossom into what it’s supposed to be on your skin.” Sinks recommends applying scent on the skin rather than clothes and prefers to apply it on his chest and wrists, but warns, “If you spray your wrists or arms, you can tap to distribute the fragrance, but never rub, because you’ll break down the chemical composition of the scent. Honestly the less contact or friction you can put on a freshly sprayed fragrance, the better.”
What kinds of scents are trending now?
“I think that coming out of a pandemic, people have a different relationship with scent after being trapped inside for so long,” says Sinks. “They want to smell and be smelled, they want to wear something fun and sexy that has a lot of personality and all of these fit the bill. Also, more than ever, we’re seeing a lot of vanillas come to market. I think this is also a response to the pandemic and sort of the state of the world right now. Vanilla is comforting and homey.”
How long will my perfume last?
The longevity of your scent is dependent on a few factors. Your body chemistry, the perfume formula, and how you apply perfume all effect how long your scent of choice lingers. Though you can’t really control your body chemistry, you can control what kind of perfume you use and how you apply it.
Typically, Eau de parfum lasts the longest because it has the highest concentration of scent. Some say that applying perfume on top of freshly applied lotion or vaseline helps it to stay on for longer, but the evidence there is mostly anecdotal.
Take Our Word For It
Cai Cramer is a commerce writer at PEOPLE, covering the best and buzziest products across the beauty, fashion, health, and lifestyle spaces. For this story, she smelled over 60 of the best selling perfumes at beauty shops and department stores, and spoke with fragrance experts to determine which perfumes deserved top marks.