Anybody interested in perfume and perfume history would know about most of the popular classic fragrances. Many perfumistas probably own some. But for the rest of us who are fledgling perfumistas and curious bystanders here is a list of popular and accessible classics that I believe everyone should have a sniff of. The older the better! But smelling some of the new stuff will still lend you a pretty good idea–most of the time.
In no particular order:
Chanel No. 5 – Anyone with a nose has probably caught a whiff of this timeless aldehyde. Released in 1921, Chanel No. 5 continues to top the charts as one of the most successful and popular fragrances of the 20th and 21st century. If you want to know what a classic aldehyde smells like, look no further.
Robert Piguet Fracas – A bed of potent tuberose strong enough to clear the sinuses of everyone within a hundred yard radius. Fracas is the quintessential tuberose scent unleashed on the world in 1948.
Guerlain Mitsouko – Mitsouko is as relevant today as she was in 1919 when she was released. Built off of Coty’s Chypre, Mitsouko has stood the test of time and is now the scent to smell if you are interested in a fruity chypre.
Guerlain Shalimar – No list is complete without Shalimar, the elegant sensual oriental whose popularity hasn’t waned since its release in 1925.
Estée Lauder Youth Dew – The fragrance that people most often refer to as, “Smells Like Grandma”. Youth Dew is actually a beautifully done, extremely potent spicy oriental that rocketed to fame in the 1950s and was one of the first perfumes to be endorsed by Hollywood Starlets.
Estée Lauder White Linen – The classic clean rose aldehyde with a touch of civet. Released in 1978.
Ralph Lauren Polo – One of the most iconic and recognizable men’s fragrances. Polo was released in 1978, a true 70s Powerhouse.
Joy by Jean Patou – Released in 1930, Joy smelled like a little ray of floral sunshine during one of the United States’ most trying eras. Funny enough, it was once billed as the most expensive fragrance in the world.
Yves Saint Laurent Opium – Opium is the poster child oriental fragrance released in 1977.
Thierry Mugler Angel – The youngest classic that I’m willing to put on this list, Angel was everywhere following its 1992 release and it is still everywhere as a testament to its achievement as the first gourmand.
To round things out, please remember that the fragrances featured on this list are accessible and popular. There are many, many classics that I wanted to add from Coty, Caron, Hubigant, many more Guerlains, and Chanels but this list had to remain accessible so anything that I couldn’t readily find at a department store had to be cut.
Start your classics sniffing with this list but don’t stop here. This is just a stepping stone as there are hundreds of classics out here that need to be sniffed too. If you feel that I’ve missed something on this list please leave a comment.