Sugar Free

If you’ve been asking yourself why so many fragrances are sweet these days, then you are not alone. Even non-gourmand blends are getting sweeter, be they floral or woods. In my latest column in the FT magazine, Six Sugar-Free Perfumes, I explore various options that veer away from sweetness.

“Why does every perfume turn so sweet on me?” complained a friend, sparking a mission to find her a fragrance that didn’t have caramel, chocolate or other patisserie notes. With the success of Thierry Mugler’s Angel and other popular gourmands, perfumes have been growing sweeter and more edible over the years. While only recently a cotton candy accord of Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle would have been considered more suitable for pudding than perfume, today it’s a new benchmark. Our appetite for sugar seems to have found a parallel in the olfactory realm, and every season there are more perfumes promising to replicate famous desserts from crème brûlée to apple pie. To continue reading, please click here.

What other non-sweet perfumes can you recommend, for men and women?

Photography via FT HTSI



  • Austenfan: Your post immediately made me think of two other Diptyques: L’Autre and Virgilio. Especially the latter is dry and smells rather salty.
    Rien is another one that comes to mind and I’m sure there are many more. Ninfeo Mio even? June 21, 2019 at 8:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I like those two very much, and yes, Rien would fit the theme perfectly. June 24, 2019 at 5:25am Reply

  • MJ: I’m going to recommend a Zara scent, Cardamom – Gender Neutral.
    It’s a cologne, that reminds me the Bulgari Eau du The range with a very prominent cardamom note and drier.
    However, my fave non-sweet scent is Lauder Private Collection, the original one. June 21, 2019 at 9:53am Reply

  • Sherry: Maybe I am out of fashion as I tend to dislike the sugary sweet fragrances nowadays. My favourite non sweets for the summer months are Chanel Cristalle EDT, No 5 eau premiere, No. 22, CdG incense Kyoto, and Jo Malone orange blossom. There are so many good ones out there! June 21, 2019 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: You aren’t alone, Sherry! June 24, 2019 at 5:26am Reply

  • Fazal: 31 Rue Cambon is the best one in Chanel les Exclusifs line. I think it is the only one in the line that instantly impressed me. June 21, 2019 at 1:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Years later it’s still one of their best, if not the best (not counting the classics). June 24, 2019 at 5:26am Reply

  • Lauren: I guess I am a true sugar head. I read this and thought, “which perfume perfectly captures creme brulee??” Lol. I must know! June 21, 2019 at 2:37pm Reply

    • Raquel: Oh I can relate! Creme brûlée…I love the smell of an Ayurvedic bath mix called “divine bath” made of ghee, banana, milk, yogurt and honey. I wish there was a body lotion scented like this. June 21, 2019 at 3:42pm Reply

      • Lauren: Mmm, that sounds amazing. Is that a mix you make yourself? June 21, 2019 at 3:57pm Reply

        • Raquel: Yes, I make ghee and I love how it smells mixed with banana. Some of the non sugary perfumes I like are Alaia, Must de Cartier and Fendi original formula 1985 June 21, 2019 at 4:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: It does sound good, doesn’t it! June 24, 2019 at 5:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Aquolina Pink Sugar, perhaps? June 24, 2019 at 5:26am Reply

  • Debby: It’s funny how Angel doesn’t seem that sweet anymore against the new releases! Particularly the vintage, that heavy patchouli base is far from sugary.
    I guess I’m going to sound old-fashioned, but it was one thing when women were smelling of cake, but now I smell so many young men drenched in sickly sweet things, and it just seems wrong to me.
    Recent mainstream non-sweet releases that have impressed: Cartier L’Envol and Chloe Nomade. The Hermes Jardin series is consistently good, too.
    For me, I increasingly look to the perfumes of my youth, 80s chypres particularly. June 21, 2019 at 4:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: I know what you mean! It’s kind of mellow in comparison to the new crop gourmands. June 24, 2019 at 5:27am Reply

  • Deanna: I am currently in love with Nicolai’s Fig Tea intense, so sweet and bursting with ripeness that you can almost hear the wasps zooming in!
    Feel slightly guilty now about loving this sweetness!
    Equally though I can do without sweetness, Private Collection, Jo Malone Lemon Basil, Piguet Bandit, Chanel No 19 espicially poudre, Prada Iris Infusion etc
    I just can’t stand many “mens” type perfumes, especially when oud is an ingredient.
    So that means I like sweet, or bitter, but not dessicated. June 22, 2019 at 2:49am Reply

    • Victoria: No need to feel guilty, though! It’s just a matter of taste. I personally like sweet scents and alternate between different style. June 24, 2019 at 5:28am Reply

  • Aurora: This is such a welcome post, Victoria.
    Especially in summer, it feels wrong to apply a sweet scent.
    My most worn perfume in summer is Eau de Rochas, it is probably my favorite citrussy chypre. Another one I enjoy is Hermes Eau des Merveilles. I recently realized I enjoy fig on its own with no addition of coconut (although I love this note): Un Jardin en Mediterranee, Bulgari au The Rouge for eg.
    For a little sweetness in summertime I rely on anis and liquorice: Caron Eau de Reglisse, and Guerlain AA Anisia Bella, herbal citrus liquorice scents, both are utterly refreshing in the heat. June 22, 2019 at 6:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Those would be so good on a hot day! June 24, 2019 at 5:29am Reply

    • Victoria: P.S. I also like fig that’s on the green side and without too much of the coconut-like creaminess. June 24, 2019 at 5:29am Reply

  • Jack: I’d suggest Guerlain Vetiver ( first launched in 1955 ) which is devoid of sweetness. With an earthy green accord reminiscent of a late summer morning in the garden, replete with a note of tobacco, a splash of citrus green bergamot and musk, it is a gentleman’s scent that his ladyfriend might wish to try herself.
    Aside from that, I’d suggest Rive Gauche pour homme YSL or Geo F Trumper Spanish Leather June 22, 2019 at 7:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Great choices, thank you! June 24, 2019 at 5:29am Reply

  • Silvermoon: I don’t like perfumes that smell like desserts. Somehow I have never been a fan of sweet smelling perfumes. Yet this doesn’t hold true for food. I confess that I have a sweet tooth. So I love and appreciate the smells of sweet edibles- candy floss in a fair, a warm creme brûlée, brownies baking, etc. – but wouldn’t want these smells on me. In other words, it’s not sweet smells as such that are unpleasant, but it depends on the context within which they present themselves. June 23, 2019 at 5:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: I do like sweets, and I like making them, including candy and Indian confections. The scents that accompany the process are part of the pleasure. June 24, 2019 at 5:32am Reply

  • John Luna: I recently went back and bought a bottle of the original Aramis… Reformulations have likely lightened it up a bit, but I was still surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and now wear it often. Interestingly, it has shifted my palette a little… It is, as you know, very, very dry (a little suppleness from a castoreum note or accord, a touch of myrrh, but mostly buttery, smoky, dusty leather) and a little bit bitter around its green edges (artemisia, sage, moss) I now find myself less tolerant to sweet things and kind of crave the bitter! June 28, 2019 at 9:22pm Reply

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