The 10 Best Fragrances of All Time


There’s Chanel No. 5, of course. And Obsession by Calvin Klein. But what are the fragrances that stay with us years after we’ve caught a whiff? In light of National Fragrance Day – Oh? You didn’t know? – it’s time to look back and reflect on the best, most evocative fragrances of all time.


Lauren by Ralph Lauren Affluence in a bottle. That’s exactly what this green, jasmine and carnation scent evoked when my preppy (and affluent) friend Kim wore it in college. And getting my hands on a bottle was certainly more feasible than nabbing that Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater that Kim also wore.

Ralph Lauren in 1977, a year prior to Lauren by Ralph Lauren’s release. Photo by Getty Images.


Diorissimo One of my first bosses wore this bergamot, lily of the valley and civet scent. It epitomizes sophistication to me, and I still wear it to black tie shindigs.

Diorissimo in Vogue, 1964. Photo by Getty Images.


L’eau D’Issey One of the pioneers of the 90s Ozonic fragrance explosion, this mix of lotus, freesia and melon is like wearing eau d’ocean. L’eau D’Issey by Issey Miyake. Photo courtesy of Issey Miyake.


Carolina Herrera by Carolina Herrera A diminutive fragrance, this is not. That said, orange blossom, honeysuckle and tuberose have never sparkled as beautifully together as they do here.

Carolina Herrera by Carolina Herrera. Photo courtesy of Carolina Herrera.


Chanel No. 19 I’m not really a No.5 type, but when I found this green, galbanum and vetiver mix, I knew I’d found my number, as it were.

Chanel No. 19 by Chanel. Photo courtesy of Chanel.


Calèche by Hermès To me, the blend of neroli, ylang-ylang and oakmoss is like a Birkin bag in a bottle.

Calèche by Hermès in Vogue, 1964. Photo by Getty Images.


Lys Mediterranée by Frederic Malle Thou might covet thy friends’ fragrance, but it can be tricky to actually steal it and wear it yourself. When I smelled Lys Mediterranee on a friend, it really did smell as if it were made for her, so I found another Malle scent to wear. But this will always be my favorite of his.

Lys Mediterranée by Frederic Malle. Photo courtesy of Frederic Malle.


Privet Bloom The very cool thing about Privet Bloom is that it was born in a sunscreen, scenting Hampton Sun tanning products. The linden blossom, gardenia and lemon verbena fragrance was loved so much, customers begged for a stand-alone creation. Thank goodness for pushy consumers.

Privet Bloom by Hampton Sun. Photo courtesy of Hampton Sun.


Le Labo Here’s another pushy customer story, this one from yours truly. When Le Labo first launched, I became so obsessed with their Santal 26 candle that I begged and begged for them to turn it into a fragrance. I remember the day they told me my wish had been granted. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I do enjoy believing—and implying—that I am personally responsible for Santal 33’s genesis.

Le Labo Santal 33. Photo courtesy of Le Labo.


Bois D’Encens by Armani Privé These days I’m all about fragrances that smell like fireplaces, old churches or libraries. This leathery mix of incense and woods evokes all three to me.

Bois D’Encens by Armani Privé. Photo courtesy of Armani.