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The Best Summer Fragrances for Every Occasion

July 7, 2014


After a winter of steady hibernation, we’re onto a flurry of activities this summer—from hitting the beach to attending weddings to kicking back at backyard barbecues. And just like your outfit, not every scent is right for every occasion. With that in mind, we sniffed out a range of fragrances—from floral high notes to mustier, woodsy tones—that cover every mood. Here are 11 perfumes that perfectly match every event on this season’s agenda.


Imagine hugging a guy wearing a freshly laundered, cotton T-shirt. That crisp, yet slightly worn-in smell? This is that exact essence, bottled. Fresh yet homey, with that note of sexiness that comes with wearing just a tee and cut-offs, it’s the perfect complement to a smoky summer evening in the backyard. Just accessorize with beers, burgers, and bare feet.

 CLEAN Cotton T-shirt Eau de Parfum Spray, $38; ulta.com

Farmers’ Market

There’s nothing to kick a lazy summer morning into gear like a high dose of fresh citrus, and this bottle by Histoires de Parfums happens to be chock full of it, boasting top notes of orange, lemon, grapefruit, and bergamot. That’ll get you going on your run to the local market, and the hints of lilac, freesia, and tropical fruits on top of the base notes of white musk, vanilla, and white woods will stay with you—beautifully—through the rest of your day’s errands. (And, for every bottle sold, $50 is donated to a children’s charity. Doing good and smelling good: a winning combo.)

Make Perfume Not War Eau de Parfum, $205; makeperfumenotwar.org



Good news: This zesty fragrance is decidedly more free-spirited and bohemian, and less “jorts and a crop top,” should you crave the truly authentic outdoor music experience of decades past. The main note of ylang-ylang is heady, spicy, and exotic, enhanced by peppery and woody undertones, as well as vetiver and tonka bean. The kicker? A hint of patchouli, natch.

Diptyque Eau Mohéli Fragrance, $98; us.spacenk.com

Hamptons Brunch

The perfect accompaniment to white linen and mimosas? How about a heady blend of white musk, rose, and amber? Luxe and chic, this is the Tom Ford fragrance that deputy editor Ruthie Friedlander swears by on summer weekends. 

Tom Ford White Suede Eau de Parfum, $210; nordstrom.com 

Drinks Al Fresco

The great thing about Le Labo fragrances is that as beautiful as they smell, they’re very subtle—so rather than knocking out an entire elevator of people with cloying fragrance, it’s as if you naturally smell that good. This is the case with Jasmin 17, a summery blend of (you guessed it) jasmine, sandalwood, vanilla, and musk. So as you’re enjoying your margarita in the bar’s garden, your date might get a sudden whiff of the floral scent-which happens to be an aphrodisiac—in the summer breeze. And he’ll want to get closer. Trust us.

 Le Labo Jasmin 17, $145; barneys.com


Midnight Stroll on the Beach

There’s nothing quite like walking along the shore late at night: the crashing waves, the feel of cold sand underneath your feet, the glimmer of moonlight. Part of Anna Sheffield’s collaboration with NOVA perfumes, the moonstone gem inspired this fragrance of the same name. The combination of white musk, amber, and a glimmer of pear and violet is positively ethereal—and it highlights the kind of mesmerizing, other-worldly romanticism that only a night at the beach brings.

NOVA for Anna Sheffield Moonstone Fragrance, $75; annasheffield.com


Ah, but summer can’t all be happy hour by the water and strolls in the sand. For those stressful weekdays when life and work beckons, features editor Justine Harman likes to dab a bit of this Tata Harper aromatherapeutic treatment—specifically designed to maintain your zen with linden blossom, rose, frankincense, and neroli—on her pulse points. “In those pressure cooker situations, the calming properties of its light scent keeps me all kinds of cool—even when it’s piping hot,” she says. 

Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment, $80; tataharperskincare.com


The true beauty of spending time in or near the woods is that the smell of nature changes with every turn. This was the MO behind NOVA and Opening Ceremony’s “Wood Palette,” a series of four fragrances meant to be mixed, matched, and layered. Named for their respective categories—Spicy, Herbal, Rich, and Dry—they collectively feature all the notes any nature-obsessed, modern hippie could certainly appreciate.

NOVA x Opening Ceremony 70s Wood Perfume Kit, $130;openingceremony.us


Trying your sea legs on for size? L’Occitane created this fragrance with the ocean breeze in mind. Whether you’re playing passenger on your friend’s yacht for the day or skippering your own scow, spritzing this concoction of lemon, mandarin, rosemary, cyprus, and pine will get you in the mood, whether you prefer to cruise on the lake, bay, river, or sea.

L’Occitane Mer & Mistral’ Eau de Toilette; $75; loccitane.com

Summer Getaway

If the Hamptons aren’t doing it for you this year, the Italian Riviera just might. Leave it to chic-master Tom Ford to take you there, whether you’re actually planning on jet-setting to Portofino or just closing your eyes and imagining that you’re sipping wine on the Mediterranean rather than in Montauk. This scent—an intoxicating cocktail of citrus, rosemary, lavender, jasmine, amber, and neroli—is a new favorite of ELLE.com’s editor, Leah Chernikoff, who says that she would wear it for any event, or just “life.”  

Tom Ford Private Blend Neroli Portofino Eau de Parfum, $210;nordstrom.com

Outdoor Wedding

Wearing a sweet, floral perfume to a wedding is certainly on-theme, but it’s also a bit saccharine—and “meh.” The notes of fresh leaf, moss, and bamboo ground the peony, geranium, and galbanum in this bottle, leaving you with a balanced scent that’s still undeniably floral. It’s also a great day-to-night fragrance, meaning it will carry you from pre-ceremony brunch to sunset nuptials to the late-night dance floor.

Atelier de Geste The Good Earth Eau de Parfum, $130; atelierdegeste.com