The 16 Best Luxury Perfumes, Tested & Reviewed

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Like having caviar and diamonds for breakfast

<p>InStyle / Joy Kim</p>

InStyle / Joy Kim

Considering the power fragrance wields — it can give you the strength to walk a little taller or bewitch a romantic interest (hi, pheromone perfumes) — it’s understandable why we’re always on the qui vive for the next inspiring scent. The best luxury fragrances equip us with an invisible cloak of couture, giving us all the confidence of designer threads without the dry cleaning bill. But, it’s not simply the price tag that makes a perfume luxury. “In its most luxurious form, perfumers express their vision without compromise, often exploring new materials and concepts,” says Kate Oldham, SVP, GMM, Beauty, Jewelry and Home at Saks Fifth Avenue.

But here’s the thing: They are pricey. Since no one likes to waste money, we scoured the market for the most highly-rated luxury perfumes and selected 23 for InStyle editors to test at our New York City-based lab. There, we asked them to describe the scent in detail, including the most prominent notes, fragrance family it belonged to, and type of person, occasion, or time of year it may be best for. We also noted whether the scent was long-lasting or if it disappeared sooner than we wanted. And since presentation is everything, especially for high-end beauty, we judged the design of the perfume bottle or vessel that housed it, and if we thought it was special enough to warrant a luxury price tag.

Best Overall: Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady

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What We Love: An unreplicable blend of fruity and woody notes transforms the perfume into a distinct, yet, universal fragrance that complements all seasons and events.

What We Don’t Love: If you prefer perfume without any sweetness, this may not be for you.

Fine, as chronic oversharers, we’ll admit we want to appear a little more mysterious now and then, and Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady lets us live freely in our enigmatic daydream. Encapsulated in a seemingly inconspicuous minimalist bottle, the fragrance initially fooled us with its rosy top notes (there are no less than 400 Turkish roses per bottle!), and assumed it would remain that way until fruity waves of rich raspberry and blackcurrant unfolded into a mature scent, grounded with the depth of patchouli and sandalwood, well-suited for days when an extra boost of confidence is needed.

Although very prominent and intriguing, it’s not an overpowering scent, and the fragrance has endless potential to wear to the office or time spent off the clock (just mist yourself twice for extra evening allure). Additionally, since it doesn’t lean too warm or have one, attention-hogging and genre-defining note, we think you can have fun playing with the perfume any time of year.

Fragrance Family: Woody | Key Notes: Rose, blackcurrant, patchouli, sandalwood | Size: 1.7 oz

Best for Evening: Byredo Mojave Ghost Eau de Parfum

$205 at

$290 at

What We Love: We’ve never come across anything quite like this unique combination of soft florals and woody notes.

What We Don’t Love: The packaging didn’t feel as luxurious as the scent itself.

Layering on Byredo Mojave Ghost is the final step in our routine shortly before we hear the clinking sound of ice sliding around in a cocktail shaker. Its enticing combination of musky ambrette and slightly sweet nesberry calls to mind dark-liquor drinks in crystal highball glasses or steeply brewed tea poured from a vintage kettle. Magnolia and violet swept in to uplift the scent as well, although this gorgeous floral arrangement didn’t last long before we noticed a strong presence of grounding base notes, sandalwood and cedar.

Two spritzes were enough to leave us smelling simply irresistible, from the first drinks to the final curtain call. The bottle is a minimalist’s dream, and We appreciated the audible snap of the magnetic cap closure — a thoughtful feature that will keep the perfume safe while traveling.

Fragrance Family: Woody | Key Notes: Ambrette, magnolia, sandalwood, cedarwood | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Long-Lasting: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum

$325 at

$325 at

What We Love: Woody, sweet, and versatile, it can be worn wherever and whenever.

What We Don’t Love: It left a very light residue on our skin.

How much introduction does the TikTok-viral, celebrity-adored, and editor-lauded Baccarat Rouge 54 really need? Apparently, quite a lot because we still have plenty to say about this long-lasting perfume. Namely, how it’s worth the price alone based on its sheer staying power and heavenly gem-stone-shaped bottle.

Like any great work of art, Baccarat Rouge 540 has inspired others, but none have come close to the sweet, resinous, and woody notes that seamlessly melt together. Saffron, in particular, stuck out immediately and remained on our skin hours later, while fir resin added a spicy complexity and depth, and a hint of light florals and woody pine tree, and cedarwood notes, all three of which stood out strongest on linen threads.

We could see the appeal of layering its breezy, unfussy scent, with a gourmand fragrance if we wanted to fully lean into its syrupy notes, or taking a different route and capitalizing on its woodier aroma to build a more unisex scent. Either way, out of the many options we tried, we’re pleased to say this is one of the few that didn’t leave any residue on any of the fabrics, but we did notice a very light film on our skin.

Fragrance Family: Woody amber | Key Notes: Jasmine, saffron, cedarwood, ambergris | Size: 1.2 oz

Best Citrus: Creed Aventus for Her

$300 at

$445 at

What We Love: Bright and effervescent, this perfume leans feminine, but not girlish or immature.

What We Don’t Love: We wish the vanilla notes were slightly more pronounced.

Creed Aventus pretty much guarantees a good morning — or at least a promising start to the day. Its uplifting citrus medley of crisp green apple and fresh bergamot evoked visions of summer’s blue-skied afternoons and lounging in grassy parks. Although zesty and bright, don’t mistake this scent as a strictly spring or summer fragrance, as it dries down into the deeper heart notes of amber, sandalwood, and patchouli, to mellow its initial sharpness. (A tad more vanilla might’ve further cut the terpenic notes, it truly just depends on your preference.)

And, although the box it came in lacked in presentation (the shiny cardboard looked cheap to us), the bottle itself certainly didn’t disappoint. Its curvaceous edges, ornate cap, and golden hue nodded to the heritage brand’s centuries-old royal roots when Queen Victoria appointed the perfumery as the official supplier to the Royal Household.

Fragrance Family: Fresh citrus | Key Notes: Egyptian green apple, Indian sandalwood, musk | Size: 1 oz

Best Designer: Chanel Coco MadeMoiselle Eau de Parfum

$105 at

$165 at

What We Love: As the perfume dried down, each distinct note rang out clear and sharp.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it was longer lasting.

This isn’t your grandmother’s Chanel. No, actually. The brand first released Coco Mademoiselle as a more youthful alternative to the classic Chanel No°5, and last year even named the breakout actress and model Whitney Peak as its brand ambassador. We immediately felt its brighter, more playful energy through the crisp and citrusy orange notes, reinvigorating us like a shot of espresso. This energizing vibe eventually faded as the perfume dried down into a smooth and creamy vanilla aroma.

Though jasmine and rose, along with the stunning rosy-hued, diamond-edged cut bottle, lead the scent to skew more feminine, grassy rich undertones of vetiver and patchouli rounded out the fragrance, giving it surprising unisex potential. We found ourselves savoring each note, enjoying how we could pinpoint them one by one as the scent unfolded. It lingered longest in our hair, and didn’t last more than a few hours on our wrist. Luckily, the formula didn’t leave behind an oily residue in any area except our clothing where, admittedly, we probably sprayed it too heavily.

Fragrance Family: Floral | Key Notes: Turkish rose, orange, patchouli | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Earthy: Diptyque Philosykos

See at

See at

What We Love: Boasting a green, earthy scent with plenty of complexity, we simply couldn’t stop thinking about this unisex scent

What We Don’t Love: If you love florals, this isn’t for you.

Philosykos, a Greek phrase for “friend of the fig,” is an aptly coined name for this unisex fragrance, given the trio of fig notes — fig leaves, fig tree sap, fig tree wood — embroidered the overall scent with their subtle, earthy tanginess rather than dominating it.

This nature-inspired scent…  Delightfully puzzling to capture in a single sentence, its grassy notes leaned more toward the greenhouse than a rose garden, and instead, spicy black pepper lends it a complex kick. We also found Philosykos, which means “friend of the fig,” to be an aptly coined name for this fragrance as the notes of fig embroidered the overall scent with their subtle, earthy tanginess rather than dominating it.

The longer we wore the perfume, the more we enjoyed where its fragrance journey led us, eventually ending in a musky scent that felt very grown up, but not stuffy (think: Cool aunt energy, not grandma’s vanity). Interestingly enough one exception was our hair, which smelled lighter and fresher than our skin.

Holding the heavy, smooth flat glass bottle in our hands was comforting, too, like we discovered the perfect skipping stone, and unboxing its luxurious thick packaging became an experience all in itself. We also appreciated how the sprayer distributed a fine even mist that enveloped our entire being in this intriguing scent instead of congregating in one area.

Fragrance Family: Woody | Key Notes: Fig leaves, black pepper, cedar, coconut | Size: 3.4 oz

Best Woody: Le Labo Santal 33 Cologne

See at

See at

What We Love: We can confidently say Le Labo earned its viral status and it quickly became a staple in our everyday fragrance wardrobe.

What We Don’t Love: It left a slight oily residue on skin and clothing.

Santal 33 is that girl — confident, stylish, and everyone knows her. It’s the brand’s best selling perfume, a signature sandalwood, interwoven with citrus, iris and violet to create a gorgeous, soothing profile. Interestingly, woodier notes of palo santo and cedar and a secondary spicy, pepper one jumped out most to us the longer we wore it.

As evidenced by the variety of celebrities who also wear it from Justin Bieber to Sophie Turner, this inimitable combination leaves it with a versatility practically anyone could appreciate. That said, this is a scent for someone sure of themselves (or at least pretends to be). Patchouli and incense lend an intensity, similar to a masculine-smelling cologne, which could be a bit overpowering, especially given the thick mist each spritz gives.

On the other hand, we were quite smitten with the bottle itself, notably how it displays where and when the brand formulated the fragrance, making us feel like the scent was crafted specifically for us in a couture-like fashion.

Fragrance Family: Woody | Key Notes: Violet accord, iris, ambrox, cedarwood, sandalwood | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Fruity-Floral: Yves Saint Laurent Libre Eau De Parfum

$135 at

$35 at

What We Love: Sophisticated, elegant, and extremely classy, this clean-smelling fragrance mimics the designer brand’s aesthetic.

What We Don’t Love: The application is a little awkward because the nozzle sprays the perfume at an angle. 

YSL Libre replicates the same feeling of having someone clasp a cold, gold necklace around your neck or hearing the secure click of securing a watch on your wrist: It’s a  satisfying, bright scent that made us feel put together, renewed, and armed with a carpe diem attitude. We were very impressed with how jasmine and peony remained present throughout our wear, and although the fragrance dried down a little sweeter on our skin, it never spurred a headache (and we’re very sensitive to these types of scents).

We’ll especially take advantage of its fruitier qualities in the summer, but out of all the options we tried, we’d feel most comfortable recommending this as someone’s signature scent because its clean and unassuming fragrance could blend into any season. Additionally, though light, we never felt like it fully faded from our pulse points and instead melted into our skin to complement our natural scent.

And, although we were struck by the bottle’s elegance and artful feel, we wished that its nozzle was more functional because it sprayed the perfume at an angle rather than one, even stream.

Fragrance Family: Warm Floral | Key Notes: Freesia, rose, jasmine, peony | Size: 1.6 oz

Best Musk: Killian Paris Rolling In Love

$290 at

See at

What We Love: Warm and toasty like a roasted marshmallow, Rolling in Love undercuts any sugary themes with a sophisticated musk

What We Don’t Love: You can hardly smell it on satin fabrics.

Rolling in Love is the kind of guest everyone hopes will be at their dinner party: An interesting, welcome addition to the mix who contributes without bogarting every conversation. Not to mention it arrives in a fabulous, gold, and red-accented outfit.

Like a true musk, it wears close to the skin without overly projecting, instead relying on a prominent almond note to fill our senses with soft warmth. The fragrance never veered into cloying, overly sugary territory, but it did make us think of a dessert all the same (like, perhaps, an expertly toasted crème brûlée versus a rich brownie).

To our surprise, we could hardly detect its scent on silkier fabrics (a bit disappointing since we envisioned wearing it when we’re gussied up in our finest satin threads). However, the perfume projected strongly on everything else and carried the same scent on our skin and hair as it did on all other types of fabric.

Fragrance Family: Floral |  Key Notes: Ambrette seeds, almond milk, iris, musk | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Fresh: Nette Opening Night

$30 at

See at

What We Love: Kicks of citrus re-energized us and lifted our spirits with each spritz.

What We Don’t Love: It may be too subtle for evening wear.

If we didn’t believe in love at first sight before, this Nette fragrance convinced us that falling head over heels is real — at least when it comes to life-changing fragrances. Sharp zings of neroli’s bitter orange essence swirled with spicy fruity-floral bergamot come together for an energetic twist before settling into a warm, cozy amber.

Oftentimes we associate fresh scents with new linens and grassy green fields, and, although we have nothing against smelling like a clean load of laundry, we appreciated how the accord between amber and a vanilla note brought out a more seductive theme we’d layer on before a second date.

Fragrance Family: Fresh | Key Notes: Bergamot, neroli, vetiver | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Unisex: Maison Margiela Replica Lazy Sunday Morning Eau de Toilette

$85 at

$35 at

What We Love: Sophisticated and sexy, practically anyone would find this fragrance hard to put down.

What We Don’t Love: It’s a little hard to press down on the nozzle’s small surface area.

Floral-forward, but not heavily so, Maison Margiela‘s buzzy perfume kept us guessing what notes would reveal themselves next. What started as a stroll down a garden path laden with roses and iris quickly shifted into a headier territory, and one we relished. Vanilla, musk, and patchouli oil added warmth and sensuality, instantly piquing our curiosity, and, dare we say, making us feel up for a cheeky flirt.

To be completely fair, we judged a book by its cover when picking the perfume to test and gravitated toward its white thread-wrapped packing, because it boasted an elevated, organic luxury energy you might see shelved in Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorite spa. The bottle, on the other hand, had an old-school vintage charm to it, particularly the hand-printed label and round dainty nozzle, which was a little hard to press down on but looked lovely all the same.

Fragrance Family: Warm and spicy | Key Notes: Pear accord, iris accord, white musk accord, Indonesian patchouli oil | Size: 1.5 oz

Best Fresh Floral: Henry Rose Windows Down

$35 at

$35 at

What We Love: Bright white florals and woody notes flood the fragrance for a scent that is simultaneously reinvigorating and calm.

What We Don’t Love: We wish our skin picked up more of the floral notes the same way our clothes and hair did.

Windows Down gave us a relaxing and exhilarating vision of cruising down a quiet road lined with blooming, aromatic flowers at dusk. Blink and we might’ve missed the quick breeze of white florals before a zestier, green scent greeted our senses. If you love the uplifting woody profile that accompanies another brand favorite of ours, Queens and Monsters, you’ll similarly become entranced by this sweeter, perkier cousin.

While our clothing and hair held on most to the florals, we wouldn’t have minded if they lasted longer on our skin before the musky scent took over. On the flip side, the minimal alcohol scent accompanying our spritzes was a major win, and we could tell it boasted a lower ratio from how it didn’t stain most fabrics.

Smooth and edge-less, the bottle kept slipping in our hands, but we still loved its sleek silhouette.

Fragrance Family: Fresh | Key Notes: Neroli, orange flower, jasmine, moss | Size: 1.7 oz

Best for Summer: AERIN Hibiscus Palm Eau de Parfum

$145 at

$35 at

What We Love: Though light and airy, the floral scent remained on our skin for hours.

What We Don’t Love: We had to press down pretty hard on the nozzle to get an even mist.

When we want to escape the winter doldrums, we think back to our favorite summer memories, with the sun on our faces, and the tropical vibes of traditional sunny scents. Like most things Aerin Lauder touches, her Hibiscus Palm perfume has all the elements of a sunny summer day, but without any of the cheesy, sunscreen-like notes you usually find. Inevitably, when temperatures creep above 70 degrees, tropical fragrances hit us like tidal waves at every turn, and though a delightful phenomenon for some, we sought out a summertime fragrance with that same sunny disposition, albeit less basic. Don’t get us wrong, the Hibiscus Palm perfume still contains our favorite tropical-adjacent notes, such as hibiscus, and ylang-ylang, giving it an airy, familiar essence, but it's the creamy coconut, sweet vanilla, and earthy musk balance any excess sweetness to add a degree of elegance. For such a light scent, it’s surprisingly long-lasting and retained its breezy feel.

Its profile is familiar, but grown up, like if you were to compare the same beach trip you booked after a big promotion versus the one you took with your parents when you were 13. Similarly, the bottle ditches juvenile imprints of faux florals in favor of a sleek glass bottle topped off with a tasteful salmon-colored stone cap. And, as long as we pressed down firmly on the nozzle, it rewarded us with a fine, even mist.

Fragrance Family: Floral | Key Notes: Hibiscus palm, ylang, coconut milk, vanilla | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Herbal: Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt Cologne

$24 at

$30 at

What We Love: The herbal scent is just present enough to make the perfume feel interesting without limiting where you could wear it.

What We Don’t Love: It smells drastically different on wool fabrics.

The Jo Malone London Wood Sage and Sea Salt is a friend to all and an almost universal crowd-pleaser. We felt pulled in by the woody, herbaceous notes, which made us want to head out for a dewy, sun-soaked morning walk under a canopy of leafy and soft, mossy ground beneath us. As the scent moved into energizing citrusy grapefruit notes eventually replaced the alcohol smell the perfume left in our hair. Our skin experienced the most favors, where the fragrance blended dreamily with our natural scent. But, we can’t say the same for the pungent aroma that it leaves on wool fabrics, so if you live in heavy sweaters this may not be for you.

Classy as can be, Jo Malone London put the finishing touches on this fragrance by wrapping the bottle with a thick black ribbon, the kind we’d save to tie in our hair, and held the liquid in a sophisticated white rectangular-shaped bottle that will nestle nicely among our treasure chest of beauty products.

Fragrance Family: Fresh, green| Key Notes: Ambrette seeds, grapefruit, sea salt, sage | Size: 1 oz

What to Keep in Mind

  • Rare Ingredients: “Natural ingredients that are difficult to find or extract, such as oud, saffron, and ambergris, often elevate a fragrance,” says Oldham, adding that there’s “not one specific ingredient” that instantly earns the luxury label, but rather it’s “the combination of ingredients that evoke a luxurious feeling.”

    However, a key difference between the ingredients used in mid-tier perfumes versus luxury comes down to how they’re sourced. “Luxury perfumes are formulated with more naturally derived notes while lower-level perfumes use more synthetics,” says Melinda Solares, beauty director at Sephora. 

    Jasmine, for example, is a common fragrance ingredient, but luxury perfumes will use it in its purest form whereas a mid-tier perfume may create it in a lab. “In some high-end fragrances, these wildly delicate flowers can only be picked at night to preserve their fragile aroma and require thousands of buds to extract what is needed,” says Solares. “That is a lot of work!”

    Luxury perfumes aren’t limited to what one might consider a “classic” scent. Don’t be afraid to approach your fragrance journey with curiosity and creativity or lean into trends. “Fragrance is an art form that continues to evolve and become more popularized,” says Solares.“Don’t let the rarity of ingredients in luxury fragrances lead you to think that you can’t find a trending scent like a gourmand in a luxury brand.”

  • Design: When you’re buying perfume, you’re buying a piece of art, including the carefully blended concoction inside the bottle and the bottle itself. “The bottle is a key differentiator between mass and luxury fragrances,” says Meg Gray, Director of Merchandising at Bluemercury. 

    You’ll find that pretty much all luxury perfumes are housed in a glass bottle, and those bottles tend to have heft to them—the weight of beauty packaging is often a signifier of opulence. 

    The bottle design also plays a role in elegance; even entry-level perfume fans could recognize Chanel No°5 Eau de Parfum if it was completely unmarked due to their distinctive silhouettes and colors.

  • Fragrance Type: “Extrait perfumes are often considered the most luxurious of all fragrance types,” says Solares. “This is because they are highly concentrated with pure perfume oil, typically around 25 percent, which creates a more intense and longer-lasting scent.”

    As pure perfume oil requires raw ingredients, “extrait perfumes also offer more depth, complexity, longevity, and rarity,” says Solares, while most others are eau de parfums, which are less intense than extrait formulas, but still long-lasting.

Your Questions, Answered

What is considered a luxury perfume?

“A truly excellent luxury fragrance must have a unique olfactive scent derived from a blend of high-quality ingredients that create a memorable experience for the wearer,” says Oldham.

According to self-described fragrance fanatic and director of beauty at Moda Operandi, Jessica Matlin, says that the “definition of luxury perfume has expanded to include more unconventional notes for sure, but it's not enough just to have a quirky note or two.” Because the “most thoughtful and directional fragrances are those that build in unconventional notes that add to the brand's authentic story.”

What makes luxury perfumes more expensive?

A luxury perfume’s higher price tag is often the perfect storm of deluxe packaging, brand recognition, and rare ingredients. Beyond the raw materials and how much of them are used in a fragrance, the expense will speak to the talent behind the scent, which is the case for in-demand master perfumers like Francis Kurkdjian, the genius responsible for Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum.

But there are other costs, too: “Everything from the formula and ingredients used to craft the composition, the cost to mold the bottle as well as the resources spent to create the story, brand positioning, copy and endless hours of creative design work,” explains Ray Mauro, Brand Manager of Fragrance Development and Marketing at Avon.

How do you find your signature scent?

Versatility is a key driver behind choosing your new signature scent, says Matlin. “That means it has to be light enough to wear to a 9 a.m. meeting, but still special enough to wear for cocktails or a big night out.”

But before you commit to your new perfume, Oldham offers a word of caution: “Unquestionably, the most important thing for customers to consider when seeking a fragrance that resonates with their personal preferences is to try it on their own skin.” Not only do fragrances smell differently from person to person, but they also make each person feel different, says Oldham.

“As for saving a luxury fragrance for a special occasion? That seems silly to me — fragrance is an accessible luxury: You should wear it whenever you feel like it,” says Matlin.

Why Shop With Us

Irene Richardson is a writer for InStyle covering the latest fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she delved into the insights provided by testers and interviewed Kate Oldham, SVP and GMM of Beauty, Jewelry and Home of Saks Fifth Avenue; Jessica Matlin, Director of Beauty at Moda Operandi; and Melinda Solares, Sephora Beauty Director.

Irene also relied on previous insights and commentary from Emily Orofino, who interviewed Meg Gray, Director of Merchandising at Bluemercury, and Ray Mauro, Brand Manager of Fragrance Development and Marketing at Avon. 

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