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We like to think of perfume as the cherry on top of the sundae, that final finishing touch that pulls everything from your outfit to your makeup look together. But there’s no denying that shopping for a new scent can be a challenging (not to mention headache-inducing) experience. To help guide your search, it’s a good idea to think of fragrances according to different categories—floral, fruity, woodsy, clean, you get the picture—as most people innately gravitate towards one of those. That will help you narrow down the options…at least somewhat. But to really make it easy, we’ve done the hard work for you, sorting and sniffing our way through the options out there to select the best of the best in each of these categories.
Whether you’re in the market for a new signature scent or are looking to build out your fragrance wardrobe, check out our picks of the best perfumes for women, below.
Best Classic Floral: Gucci Bloom
This full-on floral is classic without ever veering into grandma territory, blending jasmine and tuberose with Rangoon creeper, a south Indian plant with a slightly powdery finish that rounds everything out. The fragrance is strong and long-lasting—as many Sephora shoppers point out—though in a good way, and also wears nicely, fading slowly and gradually.
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Best Modern Floral: Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower Parfum Spray
Combining floral tuberose (fun fact, this perfume contains the highest concentration of natural tuberose in the perfume industry) with fruity melon, green eucalyptus, sweet coconut, and deep musk may sound like a lot, but it somehow all works together. The end result is a sophisticated blend that’s definitely floral, yet intricate, nuanced, and totally modern.
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Best Oriental: Tom Ford Black Orchid
Dark and sexy, this pairs spicy notes with floral black orchid and juicy black plum, making for a perfume that’s perfect for the evening. (Many Sephora shoppers mention how seductive and feminine it makes them feel, let’s leave it at that.) Plus, how stunning is the textured black bottle?
Best Oriental, Runner-Up: Bond No. 9 New York Oud
This initially smells slightly rosy, though quickly dries down to an earthy, spicy blend, with just a touch of sweet honey and earthy musk. True to its name, like New York City itself, it’s equal parts complex and intoxicating.
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Best Intense Woody: Maison Margiela Replica By the Fireplace
If you want in-your-face woody, this can’t be beat. Woody notes such as balsam and wood oil are blended with spicy clove and pepper. Chestnut accords and a touch of warm vanilla add a touch of warmth, creating a cozy scent that’s beyond perfect for fall or winter.
Check out our roundup of the best fall fragrances ever.
Best Soft Woody: Atelier Cologne Santal Carmin
Bergamot and saffron are the top notes in this perfume, adding an unexpected freshness to the middle and dry down notes of creamy sandalwood and powerful cedarwood. It’s woody but bright, a versatile pick for every day.
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Best Fruity: Heretic Dirty Mango Eau de Parfum
Think of this as the perfume equivalent of an evening spent on a tropical island. Juicy mango, mandarin, and lemon keep it sweet and fruity, while sandalwood imparts a woodiness to keep it from being cloying. Also nice: The clean formula is made with 100% natural essential oils.
Best Fruity, Runner-Up: Burberry Her Eau de Parfum
Black currant, raspberry, and blueberry make up the top notes of this fruity gourmand scent, hitting you with a punch of sweetness. Floral jasmine and violet keep it feminine and flirty, though, like all the Burberry scents, it still has a touch of the brand’s signature amber and musk.
Best Unisex: Byredo Bibliothéque Eau de Parfum
A library-inspired scent may sound strange, but trust us, it works. Originally one of the brand’s best-selling candles, it was shoppers’ demand that inspired the fragrance version. Peach, plum, peony, and violet are at the forefront, though the base notes of leather and patchouli are strong enough to make it totally unisex, as is the clean and minimalistic packaging.
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Best Unisex, Runner-Up: Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum
Men find this intoxicating on women, women find it intoxicating on men—basically, everyone wins with this unisex pick. Credit the spicy, leathery, and musky notes traditionally found in men’s fragrances, blended with violet and iris for a final product that’s smoky and sexy on everyone.
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Best Crisp & Clean: Jo Malone London Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne
The perfect perfume for non-perfume lovers, this fragrance is simple and straightforward, with an emphasis on clean and crisp cucumber and bergamot, offset with the teeniest touch of musk. Bonus: All of the fragrances from this brand can be easily mixed and matched and layered if you want to play perfumer.
Best Earthy: Viktor & Rolf Magic Sage Spell
Sage and green tea leaf make this earthy, herbaceous, and green, made extra bright and crisp when balanced with bright pink grapefruit and peppermint. It’s fresh enough to be subtle, yet has enough heft to it that you can still tell you’re wearing perfume.
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