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While each person is different regarding their taste in fragrance, there’s no doubt that woodsy scents feel sophisticated and cool. Maybe it’s because they’re a departure from the overly sweet perfumes of our youth, or maybe it’s just something that happens to your olfactive system as you grow up (much like our taste buds). Either way, there’s no denying the sultry appeal of a scent that’s laced with notes like cedar, amber, bergamot, or sandalwood.
So in celebration of the chicest fragrance category ever, we’re rounding up our favorites that appeal to every mood/outfit/personality.
Keep scrolling to shop the best woodsy perfumes.
Best Overall: Le Labo Santal 33 Eau De Parfum
In 2015, The New York Times called this fragrance “the scent you smell everywhere” and we’d have to agree wholeheartedly. Santal 33 is the perfume that popularized the niche fragrance category and has basically filled every hotel lobby bar, creative office, and concept store since. An ode to the “spirit of the American West”, it’s a memorable blend of cardamom, violet accord, leather, and sandalwood, making for a woodsy scent that’s intoxicating and cool.
Best Budget: KKW Body II KKW Body II
This fresh, woody floral redolence smells surprisingly sophisticated given the price point. A juicy mix of incense, pink pepper, juniper, and vetiver, the KKW scent comes across as unique but wearable. We’re big fans of the chic female form vessel, too.
Best Organic: Skylar Willow Eau de Toilette
Clean, natural fragrance brand Skylar is making waves in the industry for its sophisticated olfactive offering an accessible price point. Willow specifically is an interesting but beautiful blend of benzoin tree, cedarwood, and galbanum, giving it a woodsy, Earthy quality we can’t get enough of.
Best for Floral Lovers: Maison Margiela Replica Springtime in a Park Eau de Toilette
Margiela fragrances are unique in that they evoke a specific place or experience, in this case, a blooming park in Shanghai on the first days of spring. Floral fragrance lovers will fall hard for the notes of lily blossoms, pear, and a touch of musk, but the woody, rich base gives it depth.
Best Sweet: Dolce & Gabbana The Only One Eau de Parfum
If you just can’t stray from sweetness, this Dolce & Gabbana classic is the perfect middle ground. It has a syrupy caramel hint to it, but with added lightness from citrus and violet. And after a few hours of wear, you’ll be able to smell the rich, coffee base notes. In a word, it’s delicious.
Best Lasting: BYREDO Bal D'Afrique
This iconic fragrance is a delightful mix of African marigold, bergamot, black amber, cedarwood, and musk, making for a fragrance that’s warm, romantic, and complex. And like all Byredo blends, it’s got incredible staying power, too.
Best New Launch: Diptyque Orphéon
The latest from Diptyque is all of our woodsy, Parisian fragrance dreams realized. Inspired by the stylish intellectual set of Saint-Germain in the early ‘60s, the rich, tobacco-laced scent feels expensive and opulent. A hint of juniper gives it an aromatic, gin-like quality, while cedarwood adds some freshness.
Best Dry Wood: Tom Ford Oud Wood Parfum
Oud purists will be enamored with Tom Ford Oud Wood. The dry, smoky redolence is made up of sandalwood, rosewood, eastern spice, and Chinese pepper, giving it a really bold, genderless feel.
Best Splurge: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540
If you can move past the eye-watering price tag, this really is one of the most unique, memorable scents we’ve ever come across. It gets its woody depth from cedarwood and ambergris, but jasmine and saffron add an addictive, feminine quality. It’s one of those scents that’s hard to discern a single note too, which is probably why so many people are enchanted by it (us included).
Best Oriental: Yves Saint Laurent Opium
Opium has got to be one of the most iconic fragrances of all time, and we get why. Mysterious and evocative, it uses the power of plum, clove, myrrh, and sandalwood to turn heads and solicit the ultimate beauty complement: “what fragrance are you wearing?”
Best Unisex: COMME DES GARCONS Wonderwood
If you like a neutral scent that errs on the masculine side of things, Wonderwood is made for you. Similar to Tom Ford Oud Wood, it’s incredibly dry and clean—in part thanks to notes like oud, sandalwood, cypress wood, and gaïac wood.
Best Niche Perfume: Hive Luxury Fragrances Trust
Want to top up your scent throughout the day? These purse-sized atomizers from Hive are great, and Trust in particular is a great pick-me-up off the back of a stressful workday. A compilation of tobacco, leather, gunmetal, violet, and whiskey, it’s strong and assertive—exactly how we want to feel walking into a big meeting.
Best Classic: Pehnhaligon’s London Lothair
Fun fact: Pehnhalogon’s Lothair was actually the late Prince Phillips’ fragrance of choice. It’s what we could call a fresh, woody scent with hints of citrus, fig, black tea, grapefruit, ambergris, and oakmoss. While it’s spritely and masculine at first, it settles into the skin, revealing a soft, creamy base. And while a men's scent categorically, we love it across the board.
Fragrance is about as intimate as it gets in the world of beauty, so choosing a perfume is a personal endeavor. But if we had to call out a few standouts, we’d name Santal 33, simply because it’s iconic and delicious; Baccarat Rouge 540, for being one of the most unique and sophisticated scents on the market; and finally Oud Wood, for its commitment to the woody fragrance category (the fact that Tom Ford is incredibly chic doesn’t hurt, either).
What to Look For When Buying a Woodsy Perfume
According to Nick Smart, Director of Libertine Parfumerie and CEO of Agence de Parfum woodsy perfumes are typically defined by the presence of Earthy notes such as amber, cedar, patchouli, and sandalwood. These have a dry, warm smell that consists of leathery and mossy notes.
Test the Fragrance
The best way to trial a fragrance is to actually wear it, but of course, this is pandemic permitting. If you can, Smart suggests choosing a few you like on paper cards, spraying one on each wrist, and a third on the inner elbow. Smart explains you should allow at least half an hour for the notes to develop, and judge them accordingly.
If you want to seek out some woody benchmarks, Smart has called out the following as his go-to’s: Penhaligon's Lothhair, Lubin Idole, and Mizensir Perfect Oud.
When it comes to actually wearing your fragrance, the application is important so as to not damage the delicate notes. Smart explains we should always spritz in a sweeping motion across the skin. He also points out you should never rub your wrists together, and allow the fragrance to slowly evolve on the skin instead.
Why Trust Byrdie?
If you grouped Byrdie's collective team fragrance collections, you’d be floored at the sheer volume. But in all seriousness, Emily Algar tests and trials new scents all the time, not to mention she has spent time over the years picking the brains of experts. She has also tapped the expertise of Nick Smart for this piece, one of the industry’s most well-versed experts in the field.