When we think ‘La Parisienne’, we think of good hair, great skin, and insouciant charm. We already know how the French do beauty, with their tousled hair, pharmacy skin secrets, but what about perfume?Now, fragrances are something that’s personal and are some what of an art in France, with names like Annick Goutal, Guerlain inventing new techniques in perfume making, developing exquisite scents. In this review, we’ll take a look at some of the most classic French perfumes and what makes them so timeless.
Best French Perfumes
Cacharel Anais Anais
This is the very first perfume from the Cacharel brand and was originally formulated in 1978. The composition is a bouquet of flowers; rich, fresh and ultra-feminine yet youthful and happy.There is this transparent orange blossom note coupled with this super-strong hyacinth accord and this forms the top notes.
You only get to experience the intensity of the floral notes at the heart, and this is a blend of delicate white lilies, sweet roses, and jasmine. The base is more comforting and smooth and is mostly incense, sandalwood and amber.
typical powdery French dry down, elegant floral blend
only for summer use, moderate sillage and projection, more for younger girls and women
Usually one gifted the L’Air du Temps from Nina Ricci as a first fragrance to a young girl. These days this sentiment might’ve evolved to this fragrance instead. The aura this scent has is on the bright, bigger side and is all about sheer and bold floral notes.The imagery chosen to go along with this shows a merry group of younger girls.
For us though,it’s the leisurely arrangement of tranquil, casual notes that gives this blend certain softness, freshness to it. It is a very squeaky- waxy lily that’s soapy, fresh, creamy and leathery all at once. And this uniqueness is placed against an herb-grassy backdrop. Anais Anais stands out because it’s a balance between fresh, intimate that resonates the lush meadows and summery softness. On the other hand, it is languid and this represents the heavy lavishness and opulence a la Versailles Palace that France is known for.
There are several renditions of the Shalimar perfume, but its the original that really stands out. Guerlain intended this is to be a classic oriental composition with the top notes being very floral in nature. These comprise of bergamot, jasmine, iris and rose. These floral accords are rested on top of a base of tonka bean, vanilla.
Vintage smell, suited for all occasions, incredible projection and longevity, niche fragrance
older more mature scent profile, heavier notes
At some point, you will want to get and use the kind of perfumes your mother would wear, and Shalimar is your choice of fragrance. In this way, it’s iconic and very French, because only a few other brands have come close to replicating this sentimental factor. It even does look like a bottle of perfume too.
This is vintage, high quality, niche perfume with exceptional nuance, depth and the kind of fragrance you’d gift to someone you love or who loves perfumes. And it lasts a really long time too since its strong and all you really need is a few dabs. As for the composition, it is sophisticated, powdery, and lightly floral with an aggressive opening. The dry down is softer, more creamy and powdery. The original is darker, with a leathery, smoky, animalic and resinous. Today, you have to do with the ‘Shalimar Extrait’ that’s more vanilla, but if you can get the original, then there’s nothing like it.
Opium by Yves Saint Laurent
Opium had been given a makeover in 2009 when it was released in a new flacon that has a sprinkler and a stopper. Notes in this edition are bergamot, myrrh, jasmine, and mandarin. The original was released in 1977, and with YSL you have fashion and then this Opium fragrance. The scent is reminiscent of the earlier days of perfume making when there were no floral notes. And it stands out today in that respect. The name even has this scandalous ring to it, maybe not as impactful as it was back then. Notes are jasmine, myrrh, bergamot, and mandarin.
decent longevity, great sillage
very old school scent, is an acquired taste
You might not be able to get the original, but the re-mastered version is just as good. This is a heavy scent that makes and entrance with top notes of cinnamon that are powerful but pleasant that reminded us of incense. The cinnamon is spectacular top note but disappears all too quickly, but takes on this floral avatar later on. This is when you get to smell the vanilla, jasmine, patchouli, and carnation. YSL’s Opium does it for people who love the smell of powdery candles, incense and cinnamon.
The longevity and projection leave a trail of this scent that really lingers. No matter how much you spray on, it never gets overpowering or dusty. It is unique, yes but definitely not for everyone.
Chanel No. 5
The original came in an EDP, EDT and Eau Du Cologne concentration.Chanel No. 5 was one of the first floral-aldehyde scents. Legend has it that its creator, Ernest Beaux assistant had added to many aldehydes to the mix and that’s how we got No. 5. Inspite of that, the top notes are a beautiful, simple yet sophisticated blend oflemon, neroli, bergamot, Ylang-Ylang, and aldehydes of course. Under this, you have the iris, jasmine, and rose, lily built onto a base of patchouli, vanilla, amber, and sandalwood.
It is an iconic fragrance that translates to the ultimate idea of being feminine. It is associated with Marilyn Monroe and the fashion history connected with the Chanel house. Put together, that’s one interesting aspect of the Chanel No. 5. You might like or you might not, but it’s still something you need to try.
light and floral daily wear perfume, high versatility
softer scent profile, moderate longevity, and projection, more of a soapy, creamy dry down
What you would like about the original Chanel No. 5 is how dirty it is, where it just a few levels above the Etat Libra d’Orange scent. It is flowery and fresh, but still has that dark, strong odour that reminds us of walk in the city. That’s probably the aldehydes that give it this ‘busy city girl’ avatar. It is the perfect soapy-floral blend till date that’s rich and classy. Soft, sweet and very wearable, no wonder it’s a beauty staple for women everywhere. Some people think that it’s too dated, given that it was designed in 1921, but we feel that ‘classic’ is the better word to describe it.
Conclusion: Best French Perfumes
And with that, we end this review list of the top fragrances from France, with accords that don’t smell like anything you’re familiar with, 100-year-old blends that are unique in their own right. Mysterious, abstract and highly coveted, these are the kinds of perfumes that can withstand the test of time, standing out from the excessively floral or fruity and over hyped perfumes of today.