Fragrance is a powerful invoker of both mood and memory, which makes it an important purchase to get right (even more so given their pricey nature) and a powerful way to switch things up.
These are our favourite newcomers of the year so far, encompassing both classic and unusual scents; from rich oud and smokey incense to sweet honeysuckle and zingy grapefruit.
As well as making sure we loved the fragrance, we tested them for how well the scent lasted on the skin throughout the day, how far it carried in the air, and, of course, how beautiful and display-worthy the bottles were, too.
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Chanel Gabrielle Chanel essence, 50ml: £85.50, John Lewis & Partners
Inspired by and named after Gabrielle Chanel – better known as Coco – this scent (a reinvention of the Chanel Gabrielle EDP) is an immediate classic. It’s vibrant and feminine, with tuberose, white flowers, jasmine, orange blossom and ylang-ylang – given depth by musk and sandalwood. Perfectly balanced and it lasted all day.
Byredo slow dance, 50ml: £110, Byredo
Of all the fragrances we tested, slow dance is the one we found ourselves reaching for most often – and not just for the Swedish brand’s beautiful minimalist packaging. It’s the perfect blend of classically feminine and masculine notes, both sweet and woody, with patchouli, vanilla and geranium, and stays on the skin all day.
Aerin Mediterranean honeysuckle, 50ml: £99, Selfridges
A summer holiday in a bottle, Aerin’s Mediterranean honeysuckle blends citrus – grapefruit, bergamot and mandarin – with sweet florals: honeysuckle, lily of the valley and gardenia. It’s light and fresh enough for daytime wear.
Le Labo tonka 25, 50ml: £127, John Lewis & Partners
Cult brand Le Labo, with its simple apothecary-style bottles, rarely launches new scents, and Tonka 25 is its first new one in three years. Far from the overpowering sweetness that the eponymous note suggests, Tonka 25 is cozy and dark with cedar atlas taking centre-stage, as well as orange flower and musk. The perfect autumn fragrance.
Jo Malone London poppy & barley cologne, 30ml: £48, John Lewis & Partners
This is a warm, summer English countryside sort of scent. Floral and golden with notes of rose, violet and blackcurrant as well as poppies, bran and barley – this is the fragrance equivalent of running through a field of wheat. We could still smell it on skin and clothes at the end of the day.
DS & Durga notorious oud, 100ml: £220, Harrods
Created by Brooklyn-based perfumier DS & Durga (we’re already huge fans of the brand’s candles), notorious oud is a rich, opulent and unusual scent. A base of civet and papyrus, middle of oud and rose and top notes of samphor and saffron make for a big, Middle Eastern-inspired fragrance. It’s undeniably a luxury purchase, but if you can afford it, more power to you.
Tom Ford metallique, 100ml: £137.50, Tom Ford
Metal – invoked here in both name and packaging – is an unusual note to invoke in a perfume, but think of it metaphorically (strength, armour) rather than literally (that tangy metallic taste) and this fragrance makes more sense. Its blend of bergamot, pink pepper, heliotrope, basalm and sandalwood is at once cool, assertive and feminine.
Bvlgari splendida tubereuse mystique eau de parfum, 50ml: £62.05, Escentual
This is a proper sensuous, night-time scent, with blackcurrant, vanilla and myrrh. Its key ingredient, tuberose – known as “the mistress of the night” among perfume nerds for its seductive qualities – is usually harvested in the morning, but here it is picked in the evening, when it smells richer and creamier.
Nars audacious fragrance, 50ml: £125, Nars Cosmetics
It’s taken iconic beauty brand Nars 25 years to launch its first fragrance, and 2019 was the year. It is just as bold as its name suggests, with frangipani, smokey incense, musk, cedar and ylang ylang. We love the packaging, which, with its dramatic black glass bottle and a half-sphere cap, looks great on our dressing table.
Elie Saab girl of now forever eau de parfum, 90ml: £73.80, Debenhams
Don’t ask us what this perfume’s name means, because we have no idea, but we do know that it’s a delicious, fruity and bright scent, with top notes of lemon and raspberry, middle notes of almond and blackcurrant and a base of patchouli and vanilla. Good enough to eat.
The verdict: Perfumes of 2019