4 of the Best French Perfumes

Updated 04/05/19

Walking down the streets of Paris or in a field in the French countryside, the scents and aromas are part of the whole experience. Being a very sensual country, the French include all of their senses in each thing they do. Perhaps that is why parfumeries and French perfume houses are so popular. They've been crafting scents for hundreds of years or more, not just to smell good, but to capture what it's like to live, love, and be in France. 

If you want to try a few of the most iconic, and a few of the newest French fragrances, keep reading. The short list below is a great place to start with suggestions of a few of the best French perfumes and scents.  

01 of 04

Chanel No5

Chanel No5
Chanel

Can you get any more classic than Chanel No5? Probably not. Introduce in 1921, he story behind its name, according to Perfume Society is that perfumer Ernest Beaux produced a portfolio of samples for Coco Chanel to consider and "she chose the fifth proposal. So No5 was born – and has since gone on to become the most recognized name in perfumery, worldwide." And with thanks to iconic American movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, and modern day Hollywood starlets it's been branded as glamorous and timeless. 

Reinterpreted in 1986 by Jacques Polge, the new era of No5 the scent contains notes of a floral bouquet composed around May Rose and Jasmine with bright citrus top notes. "Aldehydes create a unique presence while the smooth touch of Bourbon Vanilla leaves an incredibly sensual trail", promises the Chanel site. Oui, please!

02 of 04

Shalimar by Guerlain

Shalimar
Shalimar by Guerlain

According to an ofrench article, the Shalimar classic perfume was created in 1921, but "it was only in 1925, during the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris, that Jacques Guerlain finally decided to present his perfume." Perhaps he wanted to keep this sweet scent for himself for a bit, because it was inspired by a true love story that happened many centuries ago in India.

Emperor Shah Jahan fell in love with Princess Mumtaz Mahal and commissioned the enchanting Gardens of Shalimar to be built for her. He even dedicated the Taj Mahal to her as well, one of the seven new wonders of the world. That devotion sparked the inspiration for Guerlain to create this scent. 

According to the brand's site, this is "a fragrance of desire. With its smoldering and slightly impertinent character, the star oriental fragrance in perfumery embodies skin-caressing sensuality with a hint of the forbidden." Those emotions are embodied by mix of iris, jasmine, rose, and even vanilla. 

03 of 04

Ormaie Toi Toi Toi

Toi Toi Toi
Ormaie 

Classic French perfumes have real staying power, but that doesn't stop new brands from emerging to try something different. ORMAIE is a luxury fragrance collection made entirely in France by a mother-son team. Its seven scents are unisex, a modern day and welcome trend. In addition, each scent is comprised of non-synthetic ingredients, bottled in beautifully faceted recycled glass magmas. To top it off, the bottles have colorful, hand-carved renewable lids made from Beech wood in France. While other French perfume brands celebrate love or luxury, this is an overall celebration of art and nature.

Currently available at Barney's New York, try the Toi Toi Toi scent, named for the common wish of success for a performer, much like the phrase "break a leg". With earthy top and middle notes of incense, black pepper, cedar, sandalwood, and patchouli it also has bottom 
notes of vetiver, vanilla, and nagarmotha, the last being the Hindi name for the Cypriol plant common to India.

04 of 04

Remarkable People by Etat Libre d’Orange

Remarkable
Etat Libre d'Orange  

When Em Burfitt, a music journalist, suggests Etat Libre d’Orange she says it's because, "it’s uniquely Paris. Honestly, it was the copy and branding that got me, and then the scents didn’t disappoint." In this way, Burfitt depicts what many French perfumers are trying to do: capture an essence. It's not about the scent or the smell, it's about the feeling.

When describing Paris, Burfitt says "it’s easy to joke about the 'scent of the city' being smoke, urine, and pastries, but the best part about the scent of Paris is that it’s entirely different. Etat Libre d’Orange somehow manage to peg it in every way."

Try out their Remarkable People scent, which comes with a manifesto of sorts and the motto: Remarkable People. You know who you are. Scents include Grapefruit, champagne accord, cardamom, jasmine, curry, black pepper, labdanum, and sandalwood. 

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