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The 10 Greatest Fragrances of All Time

The 10 greatest fragrances of all time, as voted on by beauty industry insiders and executives.

Everything’s coming up roses for the fragrance category.

After years of decline, sales of scent are on the rise again, providing pandemic-weary consumers a much-needed shot of luxury and indulgence. In the U.S, the category registered double-digit growth against both 2020 and 2019, according to The NPD Group, with sales of perfumes, colognes and other juices up 61 percent.

What better time than to ask the people who know fragrance best — beauty industry insiders — to vote on the top 100 fragrances of all time.

In early January, we sent out more than 300 ballots to industry insiders, comprised of founders, marketers, retailers, influencers, editors, perfumers, analysts and C-suite types, then tabulated their responses. (The full list of those willing to be identified as electors is below, although, of course, what they voted on is for their eyes only.)

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The parameters were broad. Voters could single out their top 10 to 20 fragrances, and were asked to use the following parameters when making their choice: originality of concept; olfactive originality; retail performance; marketing innovation; quality of ingredients, and packaging and bottle design.

Here, the 10 greatest fragrances of all time, as voted on by the beauty industry.


1. Chanel No. 5

Launched: 1921

Perfumer: Ernest Beaux

Olfactive Family: Floral aldehydic

“The gold standard,” one voter said. “The beginning of everything we think of in modern fragrance,” said another, of the bestselling scent of all time, which contains 1,000 jasmine flowers in every 30-ml. flacon. “It not only endures, it triumphs.”

Chanel No.5
Chanel No.5


2. Le Labo Santal 33

Launched: 2011

Perfumer: Frank Voelkl

Olfactive Family: Woody aromatic

What started as a candle has become one of the most “cultish fragrances of all time,” said a voter. “The first big iconic niche fragrance,” said another. “It helped make niche relevant and was the fragrance for all Millennial opinion leaders for over 10 years.”

Le Labo Santal 33
Le Labo Santal 33 Courtesy Photo


3. Thierry Mugler Angel

Launched: 1992

Perfumer: Olivier Cresp

Olfactive Family: Gourmand

“A key milestone in perfumery’s modern history,” wrote one voter, echoing the sentiments of many, of the scent that created the gourmand category. Its popularity is undiminished: in 2021, 27 units were sold every hour.

Thierry Mugler Angel
Thierry Mugler Angel Courtesy Photo


4. Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady

Launched: 2010

Perfumer: Dominique Ropion

Olfactive Family: “Mysterious elegance”

Malle made two finalist attempts of the scents that would become Portrait of a Lady. He perfumed his wife with one of the two and asked her to go for a walk. When she returned 10 minutes later, she reported that she had been asked four times in the streets of Manhattan about the name and origin of her perfume.

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady Courtesy Photo


5. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

Launched: 2001

Perfumer: Jacques Polge

Olfactive Family: Amber fresh

Chanel tasked Polge with creating a scent Coco Chanel herself would wear. Today, it’s the fourth-bestselling prestige fragrance in America, and helped “relaunch Chanel as a top fragrance player and set a new olfactive trend,” one voter said.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Courtesy Photo


6. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue

Launched: 2001

Perfumer: Olivier Cresp

Olfactive Family: Citrus woody

Voters credit this Sicilian-inspired scent that took Cresp two years to develop with starting a new olfactive trend, noting its “uniqueness” in the market. “Uses few but powerful molecules and very few naturals to create a natural sensation,” wrote one.

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Courtesy Photo


7. Dior Eau Sauvage

Launched: 1966

Perfumer: Edmond Roudnitska

Olfactive Family: Aromatic citrus

“The first time hedione was used, which was eventually to be used in almost every fragrance,” wrote a voter, of the newly synthesized molecule called methyl dihydrojasmonate that was a scientific breakthrough in perfumery.

Dior Eau Sauvage
Dior Eau Sauvage Courtesy Photo


8. Tom Ford Black Orchid

Launched: 2006

Perfumer: Pierre Negrin and David Apel, Givaudan

Olfactive Family: Amber floral

“The best perfume to be shared by both genders,” wrote a voter. “It wasn’t the first — CK One was — but it is the best.”

Tom Ford Black Orchid
Tom Ford Black Orchid Courtesy Photo


9. Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò

Launched:  1996

Perfumer: Alberto Morillas

Olfactive Family: Citrus

The bestselling men’s fragrance since its launch has sold more than 25 million units since launch and “personifies the long-lasting, clean, fresh, watery feeling,” a voter said. “Amazing first two TV campaigns,” noted another.

Acqua di Gio
Acqua di Gio Courtesy Photo


10. Calvin Klein CK One

Launched: 1994

Perfumer: Alberto Morillas

Olfactive Family: Citrus aromatic

“Genderless before its time,” said a respondent, “and responsible for a transition from heavier ’80s scents into the sheerer, easier scents of the 90s.” CK One was also the first fragrance to be sold in Tower Records, a disruptive distribution strategy consistent with the changing attitudes around consumer accessibility.

Calvin Klein CK One
Calvin Klein CK One Courtesy Photo

For more from, see:

Angus Cloud Stars in Ralph Lauren Fragrances Digital Campaign

Coty’s Sue Nabi Talks Future of Fragrance

Joseph Abboud Brand to Offer Fragrances, Grooming Products