How To Tell Which Perfume Is Right For You – From The Classics To Moderns

Alice Duthie

Lifestyle Writer

Nov 16, 2022

Everyone likes to smell good, but with a staggering 20,000 fragrances currently on the market and more than 1,000 released every year it can be impossible to know where to begin when selecting a new scent.

After all, they all smell kind of great in a department store, right?

World renowned fragrance expert, Michael Edwards, agrees that it’s not easy trying to select a perfume that suits you. “The first place to start is knowing what main category of perfume resonates with you. If you think of three or four perfumes you like, a few of them will usually fall into the same family. So if fresh is the category you identify with the most, then you can research what fresh perfumes are on the market and so on.”

Michael suggests one starting point is to visit the website he created “You can put in the name of a fragrance you like and it will suggest similar perfumes for you to try. From there you can identify what scents appeal to you.”

Another site Michael helped develop is which also can help you figure out your scent profile.

The four main perfume categories

Whilst there are 14 sub-categories of scents, these fall into four main scent areas. Perfumes then usually reflect one particular category.

Floral: Has the sweet scent of flowers. Popular notes include jasmine, rosy peony; smooth gardenia and tuberose.

Amber: A warm, powdery scent. Main ingredients are vanilla, patchouli and labdanum.

Fresh: Dominated by citrus notes such as lemon, grapefruit, green mandarin, Florida orange, apple, lime.

Woody: Deep and smoky, with notes of Sandalwood, Pine, Patchouli, Vetiver and Cedarwood.

What’s hot right now

Michael says whilst florals account for the most perfumes on the market, the amber category is red hot right now. “Amber has very deep notes and is identified with being a very sensual fragrance. Back in the 90s there were just over 100 new amber fragrances on the market but in the last 10 years the number of new amber scents has climbed to more than 2,500.

“It’s one of those scents that evokes strong, primal emotions. That’s why classic amber fragrances such as Tabu, which has been around for almost a century is still selling well.”

How to tell if a perfume will last

The question of how long a perfume will last on your skin is tricky. “This is because everyone is different. Whether something lingers comes down to a lot of things – what you eat, how much you exercise, or what your skin temperature is.”

Read reviews of perfumes to see if users report they last. Or when you try a perfume on in a shop, see how long it lasts before buying.

How to make a perfume last longer

Spray perfume on your pulse points suggests Michael. “That’s wherever the blood is closest to the skin – the arms, wrists, veins and elbows. Don’t put it behind your ears, it won’t last. Spray it in your hair though.

“Also layer the perfume. If it has an accompanying moisturiser or oil, buy that as well and then spray the perfume on top. Perfume will last longer if it can anchor itself to some kind of oily material on your skin.”

Check out the world’s most classic perfumes – which are still available all these years later – and what’s currently trending in modern perfumes

5 classic perfumes that have stood the test of time:

Chanel N°5 by Chanel (1921): Floral

Coco Chanel travelled the world in search of a perfumer who could create the floral fragrance she envisioned. She found Ernest Beaux, a perfumer who lived close to where she was holidaying in Cote d’Azur. When Beaux presented fragrance samples in vials numbered one to 24 Chanel chose number five. Considered the world’s most iconic perfume its floral bouquet features rose, jasmine, and citrus top notes.

Tabu by Dana (1932): Amber

Born in 1932, Tabu, one of the world’s most iconic fragrances, is this year celebrating its 90th birthday. Legendary French perfumer Jean Carles he was instructed to make a fragrance for a ‘lady of the night’. Thus, Tabu – a play on the word ‘taboo’ was created – considered at the time to be both sensual and shocking. An amber perfume, its top notes are bergamot, neroli orange, rose and jasmine with base notes of amber, musk and patchouli.


Miss Dior by Dior (1947): Fresh

Created for an “elegant and spirited young woman in love” the perfume was considered innovative for its use of fresh green notes. Although the fragrance has changed over the years, the highly esteemed scent of Indonesian patchouli still forms the perfume’s base and today it is a combination of fresh and floral also featuring violet, jasmine, musk, rose and mandarin.


L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci (1948): Floral

First launched post WWII, the bottle’s dove stopper was created as a symbol of peace. A delicate floral fragrance it was said to represent liberation, happiness and romance. Violet and iris give it a powdery nuance in harmony with woodsy notes of cedar and sandal.


Opium by Yves Saint Laurent (1977): Amber

This scent first caused a stir, bringing accusations that Yves Saint Laurent was condoning drug use! The name may not have been socially responsible, but it paid off — for over 40 years, Opium has been one of the world’s best-selling amber scents with addictive floral notes of mandarin, orange, clover and base notes of amber.


5 modern day perfumes that are best sellers:

Light Blue Intense by Dolce and Gabbana (2017): Fresh

Designed by top perfumers Olivier Cresp, Light Blue Intense is one of Dolce and Gabbana’s top selling perfumes. A crisp and long-lasting perfume, the top notes are zesty Lemon and Granny Smith apple with middle notes are Jasmine and Marigold; base notes are Musk and Amberwood. 


Good Girl by Carolina Herrera (2016): Amber

Launched with the message “It’s so good to be bad!” this scent – famed for its long-lasting properties – was created by female perfumer Louise Turner and has top model Karlie Kloss as its face. Features top notes of almond, coffee, bergamot and lemon with base notes of amber, vanilla and musk.


La Vie Est Belle by Lancôme (2012): Floral

With Julia Roberts as the face of this mega-popular perfume, La Vie Est Belle was created after 500 trial versions. The concept of this floral fragrance is natural and simple beauty, freedom from conventions and the choice of your own vision of happiness. Iris is the key ingredient of the perfume, surrounded by orange blossoms and jasmine in the heart.


Tam Dao by Diptyque (2003): Woody

Evoking the holy forests of Indochina, and the velvety, milky scent of sandalwood burned in temples, Yves Coueslant, one of Diptyque’s founders, has never forgotten this fragrance from his childhood. With notes of Sandalwood, Cedar and Cypress.


Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel (2001): Amber

A heady amber fragrance for women the perfume was created by Jacques Polge – a top perfumer for Chanel since 1978. Top notes are Bergamot, Orange and Grapefruit with middle notes are Rose, Litchi and Jasmine; base notes are Patchouli, Vanilla, Musk and Vetiver. 



By Alice Duthie

Lifestyle Writer

Alice Duthie is a beauty and lifestyle writer for The Carousel. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce at The University of Sydney, majoring in Marketing and Business Information Systems.



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