My Three Classics : Introduction to Classical Perfumery

Who is afraid of perfume classics? Classical perfumery often elicits two different reactions. There are those who worship at the altar of Guerlain Mitsouko and define the tastes of others by their reactions to Jean Patou Joy or Chanel No 5. Frankly, if Joy were the last perfume available in this world, I wouldn’t wear it, and I enjoy No 5 more on others than on myself. But this is not the point. Classics weren’t created the way perfumes are today–they weren’t meant to be crowd pleasers, they weren’t tested on groups of women from New Jersey* to determine their appeal. They reflect their time and place, and it’s perfectly fine to decide that one doesn’t care for Mitsouko or Hermès Calèche.

And then there are those who think that classics are old-fashioned, outdated or simply too difficult to wear. I agree that classics mirror their time and fashion bubble, but that can be their very appeal to some. Dismissing classics altogether is also a mistake, because this style of fragrance is still current and exploring it can be enjoyable. For instance, expensive niche lines like Tom Ford are known to be inspired–and strongly at that–by classics.  So, one could pay  niche prices or find a similar perfume among the more affordably priced lines.

I’m drawn to classical perfumery, whether the iconic fragrances themselves or the style. Guerlain Après L’Ondée and Chanel No 19 are  perfumes I enjoy for the same reasons I like novels by Jane Austen and Natsume Soseki–they reveal something new on every encounter. In the same vein, modern lines like Serge Lutens and L’Artisan Parfumeur have defined a niche classic and continue doing so.

In my recent video, I share my three favorite classics that I find accessible even for someone who is new to this genre.

Guerlain Shalimar

Après L’Ondée is my Guerlain favorite, but it can be difficult to find and the Eau de Toilette formulation doesn’t last well. My second favorite is Shalimar. I enjoy its contrasts–effervescent citrus and creamy vanilla, freshness and warmth, radiance and darkness. I also recommend Shalimar, because to me it’s good in all of its concentrations, and even its flankers like Shalimar Souffle are excellent.

Why this classic has persisted: harmony, balance, sillage. Shalimar is part of a perfumer’s training kit for a reason.

Chanel Cristalle

A fragrance with the lightness of cologne (citrus) and the presence of a chypre (mossy woods). The Eau de Toilette is a dry martini, the Eau de Parfum adds a splash of sweet vermouth in the form of flower petals and hyacinth leaves. A splash of Cristalle and I might as well be in the south of France, riding in an open roof car and hatching schemes on how to steal a million. Nevermind that my occasions for wearing Cristalle these days usually include washing the dishes, taking exciting trips to the balcony or experiencing the safari that’s our local supermarket. It has its uplifting effect.

Why you should seek out this classic: effervescence.

Lolita Lempicka

A modern classic. Iris meets patchouli, candied cherries and licorice. A gourmand that is easy to wear and that has enough twists to keep you guessing what might come next.

Why did it earn the title of modern classic: a sense of surprise.

I’ve settled on three perfumes, but of course, this list can be made much longer. If you have any suggestions on good “intro to classics” fragrances, please share them.

*Many consumer tests on fragrances created in the US are in fact done in New Jersey, but that’s a topic for another time.

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108 Comments

  • Jay: I love the classics!!!! I worked in a perfumery that had over 1000 fragrances. I was in heaven. I learned so very much. I find today’s fragrances to honestly be stinky. Yuck.
    Why did Chanel original CoCo go by the wayside??? I loved it!!! May 11, 2020 at 9:23am Reply

  • Rhinda: My Mother’s Day gift from my daughter was a bottle of Shalimar. I remember my mother wearing this during my childhood. It was heavenly. My mother had so many wonderful perfumes to create my foundation of scent.
    Thank you for keeping me entertained during the isolation. The education on one of life’s sweetest pleasures means a lot to me.
    Thank you. Truly. May 11, 2020 at 9:33am Reply

  • Angela: The different variations of the vintage perfumes are fun to explore. I like vintage shalimar in the clock dial bottle, EDC; vintage parure in extrait; and vintage chamade. . . Vintage Caron, IMO especially tabac blond extrait and or et noir, are unlike any modern formulations today. And the unique bottles add to the enjoyment. May 11, 2020 at 9:42am Reply

    • Michele Adsit: I also enjoy classic fragrances. I own two of the fragrances mentioned in the article, Chanel #19 and Christalle. I wonder about adding Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs and Nina Ricci’s L’air du Temps to the classics list? May 11, 2020 at 10:01am Reply

  • Nancy A: Hi Victoria,
    I, for one remain a steadfast devotee of the classics. I love your characterization of Christalle and Apres (enough said). Whatever Hermes creates new or vintage whether or not it wears favorably (on me) they continue to create masterfully. It’s Bach & it’s the Beatles! That’s how I see it. May 11, 2020 at 9:55am Reply

  • Armando: I don’t necessarily like all classics, but I appreciate almost all because there is something to learn in each of them.

    I would suggest Chanel’s Pour Monsieur as an introductory masculine classic and also as an easy-to-pick chypre structure, Guerlain’s Habit Rouge as an extension to a study of Shalimar, and maybe Piguet’s Bandit as a way to explore more aggressive, less harmonious compositions (also Balmain by Balmain would be great for the same reason) May 11, 2020 at 10:00am Reply

    • Dorothy Van Daele: Loved my partner’s Chanel pour Monsieur, but not fond of the most recent version. He’s moved to incense: Heeley’s Cardinal, Timbuktu… but I miss the understated gray box and that lovely scent. May 12, 2020 at 10:43am Reply

  • MaureenC: I enjoy classics and those perfumes which have become “modern classics” and you featured my favourite Chanel!
    It is great to have a combination of your writing and video pieces in the same place. May 11, 2020 at 10:34am Reply

  • Sebastian: My appreciation of classics is influenced by how far back they go. Things from the sixties or earlier I find I can re-imagine quite freely. Anything from the 80’s onwards is connected to personal memory, and that prejudices my taste, however quaint or interesting others may find those particular time bubbles. Not that I per se dislike aromatic powerhouses or heavy florientals, but I am more constrained in my possible ways to react to them than I am with “real” classics. More like watching “Star Wars” than like reading Jane Austen. May 11, 2020 at 11:09am Reply

  • Tami: Unfortunately I find myself limited in my ability to appreciate the perfumes often considered classics, because they cause allergic reactions in me. Scents that are mossy, animalic, overly woody, or heavy on the patchouli inevitably give me sinus troubles or a migraine—no pleasure in that! (And sadly I connect Cristalle with one of the longest and most painful migraines I’ve had in my life.)

    I have to wonder if that’s part of why I spend so much time trying to find scents that I like, but also won’t cause me problems. I will never be very “cool,” perfume wise, as it’s the simpler scents that tend to be less allergenic on me.

    And interestingly, it’s not necessarily an issue of strength. I love Poison!

    All that said, I would say that my “personal classics” are Chanel no. 5, Shalimar, and Diorissimo, with “modern classics” being Opium, Poison, and LouLou.

    I’m very interested in the longevity of some of the more recently released scents I enjoy. Guess I won’t know for another 20 or so years! May 11, 2020 at 11:29am Reply

    • Carla: LouLou is one of my favorites! May 11, 2020 at 1:47pm Reply

      • Tami: Yay! It’s a snapshot of an era for me. I wish I had actually purchased it when it was originally around… I was too young to afford it and basically just sprayed myself with it every time I visited the department store. 😀 The original bottle was so intriguing, too. The whole thing, together… it was like how I imagined my adulthood to be. Alas. 😂 May 12, 2020 at 12:53am Reply

  • Gilad: There are vintage scents I love, but they’re not usually included on lists of “classics”. On my personal best list: Quartz, Eau de Givenchy, Aliage. If you like green/floral chypres, you’ll be amply rewarded with these. May 11, 2020 at 11:44am Reply

    • Cassieflower: Aliage was stunning. May 11, 2020 at 1:26pm Reply

      • Gilad: Happy to meet another Aliage fan! In case you don’t know, it was still being made last I checked, and the vial I got a few years ago was wonderful. One of the few that’s come through reformulations (which I always assume have happened) unscathed – so you can have it again! May 11, 2020 at 1:40pm Reply

        • Cassieflower: I’m very happy to hear that it hasn’t been reformulated beyond recognition. I have seen it in online shops but was hesitant to blind buy the newer release. May 11, 2020 at 3:09pm Reply

  • AndreaR: My classic is Robert Piguet’s Bandit. It makes me smile whenever I spritz it on.
    I’m also enjoying the combination of your writing and videos in the same place. May 11, 2020 at 11:49am Reply

  • Ariadne: I really enjoy your videos, especially the ones about perfume. Somehow it is easier for me to think about and try to understand scents with an accompanying visual dialogue. I feel like I am finally ‘getting it’!
    I am an all things Chanel gal but have not tried Cristalle yet. I will now, probably the EDT.
    My idea of a classic scent is one that has an appealling and indelible presence in any context. I wear #5 in my most casual clothing and get many compliments and queries to it’s name. (My theory is by removing the bias of formal clothing no one associates my perfume with “old lady”). May 11, 2020 at 11:54am Reply

    • Carla: If you have to choose one perfume house Chanel may be the best! May 11, 2020 at 1:46pm Reply

  • Cyndi: I love many of the classics. I receive the most compliments on Fracas, which I absolutely love! Also Chanel no. 5 edt, Shalimar, Mitsouko ( especially the vintage edc), L’air du Temps, EL Private Collection, Coco, and Opium. These are all perfumes I love, not just like. They are staples that I wear all the time. May 11, 2020 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Trudy: When I was much younger, in my 20’s, I loved Mitsouko and thought it to be sophisticated and mysterious. I sampled it recently and didn’t care for it much. Was that due to reformulation or just a change in me and my scent preferences? I’m not sure. I love Diorissimo and still have a bit left in a bottle of the parfum from about 2000 (pink and gray box). When I dab it on I just float away on it’s spring like ethereal beauty…for about 5 minutes and then it just disappears. Maybe this is because of it’s age it because I don’t recall that being the case all those years ago when it was a fresh bottle. I ordered a sample vile of the vintage perfume and had the same experience. I guess it just doesn’t last as it ages but what a beauty it is. So…I guess my favorite classic scent is Diorissimo. I’d be hard pressed to identify what is considered a modern classic or what my favorite modern classic would be…perhaps YSL Paris (but I haven’t worn that in years), definitely Mark Jacobs Woman (the first one) and Narciso Rodriguez in the black bottle. I have way too many but I just love perfume. I also love this blog and always look forward to the posts and the comments. May 11, 2020 at 12:51pm Reply

    • Tami: I was thinking of adding Paris to my list as well. Lovely perfume. May 11, 2020 at 1:50pm Reply

    • Nina Zolotow: Unfortunately, vintage Diorissimo seems to be one of those perfumes that doesn’t age well. However, if you persist, you might be able to find some that retains the freshness and sparkle of the original. May 11, 2020 at 3:06pm Reply

    • Nina Zolotow: Mitsouko is definitely not the same as it once was, so it may not be you. If you get the chance to sniff some vintage extrait or PdT, try it and see. On the other hand, my taste has changed and some perfumes I used to love and wore for years, such as Cabochard, just don’t do it for me anymore, even in pristine vintage form. I find I just don’t want to smell like that any more! May 11, 2020 at 3:09pm Reply

  • billie: I mourn the classics! Not only the scent but the formulas. My old favs would be Hermes Amazon, Caleche, Miss dior, calandre, Cabouchard, First. I miss those days. If any of these exist i am sorry to say, for instance the New miss dior that came out this year as a return of the old classic, is a joke. I love the classic formulas. Why can’t we have them back . But i know the answer to it and since i am saving an animal to be taken from it’s mother and be killed so i love a smell, i can live without it no questions asked. Love your videos Victoria and everything about you and your mind. It’s an honor always to spend time with you and your material. May 11, 2020 at 1:13pm Reply

    • madaris: The classics I return to are Fracas, L’Air du Temps, L’Heure Bleu, and Carnal Flower. I have tried repeatedly to appreciate Shalimar, but it never likes me. Chanel No. 5 was one I gave to my daughter because my husband found it unpleasant. I recently discovered that Tom Ford’s Lost Cherry is a fragrance that I crave though the price is unreal. May 11, 2020 at 10:21pm Reply

      • Tami: I associate L’Air du Temps with my mom. I’ve always loved the bottle and it was probably my first “perfume experience.”

        I LOVE Lost Cherry—can’t bring myself to buy a bottle, but I have small vials—and it’s one of those that, I feel, will either be iconic for its time, or just be a product of its time. I hope the former; but personally I haven’t decided yet. It’s absolutely my favorite TF fragrance. May 12, 2020 at 12:45am Reply

        • madaris: My first L’Air du Temps experience was in junior high in the 70s. At the student store where we bought school supplies, an older student who worked in the store smelled so heavenly! My best friend and I went to the store every morning & eventually were brave enough to ask her about her fragrance.

          Ebay sometimes has less expensive bottles of Lost Cherry but you have to wait for arrival from Russia or China. May 12, 2020 at 1:28am Reply

          • Tami: What a wonderful scent memory! I’m trying to think back to my junior high days and I primarily remember those Designer Imposters perfume. (DEFINITELY not classic!) One girl had “real” perfumes—Giorgio, Poison, Anaïs Anaïs, Chloe—and it was fascinating that she had such “adult” perfume. And so many of them!

            And thank you for the suggestion re: Lost Cherry. It’s truly amazing how pricy it is! May 12, 2020 at 3:39am Reply

        • Figuier: I love lost cherry too! I bought a couple of 5ml decants of it from an ebay seller. Judging by the bottles I’ve smelled in department stores, the decants are authentic & full concentration. Not quite the same as having that gorgeous red bottle, but a very affordable alternative. May 14, 2020 at 6:02am Reply

  • Carla: I always bring Cristalle out come spring but I haven’t worn it yet as I’ve had no “occasion”. I think I’ll put it on tomorrow even if I don’t leave the house.
    I love Lolita Lempicka, how it marries two of my favorite 90’s perfumes, Angel and Black.
    Thank you! May 11, 2020 at 1:44pm Reply

    • Notturno7: What a great post, thank you Victoria.
      It’s so fun reading everyone’s comments here.
      Oh, I adore classics. I fell through the rabbit hole when reading The Guide and realizing that some of my favorite perfumes that me and my mom had were on their top list. Chamade, Shalimar, No 5, LouLou, L’Air de Temps, Anais Anais, Opium, Femme, Diorissimo, Diorella…. That made me look for other perfumes recommended in the Guide and your beautiful reviews Victoria, and now depending on season and my mood I decide spontaneously every day what to wear. I change the scent during the day when it wears off. I ended up buying vintage extraits on ebay, Narcisse Noir, Nuit de Noel, Caleche, Miss Dior -such beauty, Diorissimo ( one buy was a miss but I got a spray bottle and the extrait that smells great), plus lot of Guerlain extraits like Mitsouko, Nahema, Habit Rouge, Vol de Nuit as I couldn’t resist after reading about them, and I fell in love at the first sniff. Chanel extraits classics I treasure and wear often, especially because my husband is allergic to perfume and doesn’t notice if I apply them few hours before I see him. Lolita Lempicka and Fracas, too!
      But if I put a scented hand cream it gives him a headache. I just don’t understand!
      Dear Aurora, you reminded me of Caleche and I sprayed from my modern bottle plus added a few dabs of a vintage perfume on top of it and although I could smell it on my wrists, my husband didn’t notice or complain about it. It’s a win win. As my girlfriend says ‘Honey, he thinks that’s how you smell.’ 😀What a joke!
      Somebody here recommended Calandre perfume, my mom has a small sample and I liked it, so I managed to find a perfume on ebay for a great price.
      Tabac Blond i haven’t been able to find, or Poivre, or Hermes Doblis. I can only imagine how amazing they smell.
      Thank all the readers here for your comments. I very much enjoy this community and your articles, Victoria.
      Especially in the times like these.
      Thank you 💜 May 12, 2020 at 7:01am Reply

      • Aurora: So sorry I didn’t press reply, so my answer ended up far below, you’ll have to scroll down. May 12, 2020 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Carla: Right now if I have to pick three classics, they are Rive Gauche, Bois des Iles and maybe Loulou which someone mentioned above. I’ve always loved Loulou. That’s right now. May 11, 2020 at 1:50pm Reply

    • madaris: The classics I return to are Fracas, L’Air du Temps, L’Heure Bleu, and Carnal Flower. I have tried repeatedly to appreciate Shalimar, but it never likes me. Chanel No. 5 was one I gave to my daughter because my husband found it unpleasant. I recently discovered that Tom Ford’s Lost Cherry is a fragrance that I crave though the price is unreal. May 11, 2020 at 10:15pm Reply

  • Anita T. Monroe: I don’t consider fragrances that I love to be classics, just beloved scents..I’ve worn Calèche almost all my life, and don’t consider most newer fragrances to be nearly as excellent..Patou’s 1000 has also lasted on my list for years, much nicer for my skin than Joy. Lolita Lempicka seemed to me to be something for children, not my choice..Coco is THE French fragrance that I adore..Nothing else recently can even touch it. May 11, 2020 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Nina Zolotow: I’m a vintage perfume lover in general, but I’d say my very favorite one is Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue. It’s endlessly fascinating to me how it can smell sort of odd and medicinal and at the same time utterly and completely gorgeous. There is no experience of notes for me in this, just a unique and utterly intriguing scent. Fortunately my husband also loves it and says he finds it “intoxicating.” I treasure my vintage extrait, but even the vintage EdC is gorgeous and stronger than you would expect. May 11, 2020 at 3:00pm Reply

  • Nina Zolotow: Bois des Iles is wonderful. I don’t own any vintage (though I have sniffed it), but I find the EdT from the Exclusives line, which I do own, to be beautiful also. Fingers crossed one day I find some vintage! May 11, 2020 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Kat: I was wondering about modern classics too and Paris came to mind immediately. I still own a bottle back from the 80s (it hasn’t turned yet) and while I prefer leaner and simpler formulations now I enjoy it from time to time. Especially as an olfactory counterpoint to foggy and drab winter days since I can’t think of a more non-wintery scent! May 11, 2020 at 3:27pm Reply

  • Cassieflower: I love the classics, with two notable exceptions: No 5, and Patou Joy. I have never been able to wear them. I have some vintage that I have been seeking out for a few years and I’m quite happy with them and enjoy wearing them.
    There are a couple of modern perfumers who recreate the classic style with great success, and I love their perfumes, Laurie Erickson of SSS and Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery. May 11, 2020 at 3:32pm Reply

    • Peter: I agree with Cassieflower regarding Liz Moores of Papillon. Her perfumes are amazing! May 11, 2020 at 3:49pm Reply

      • Heidi C: Papillon is fantastic — also a fan of the Bogue line (especially Maai), and a few of the Zoologists. May 12, 2020 at 2:50pm Reply

        • Peter: Hey Heidi,
          We’re on the same page. I went crazy about the Papillon line. I also like Maai. I tested some of the Zoologists. I think Civet could be a classic. One other recommendation is the Rogue line. Reasonably priced with lots of rich ingredients. Their Chypre-Siam is my favorite (tying with Papillon Dryad). May 12, 2020 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Peter: Thank you Victoria for giving us a glimpse into your home. The numerous books were expected! I bet you sit at your desk and ‘travel’ while gazing at the Chinese brush landscape.
    Shalimar has one of the most interesting progressions. You have to wait for the cozy vanilla to emerge. As always, you explain the fragrances so well. May 11, 2020 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Lari Frank: I very much enjoy both Cristalle which I’ve been wearing on and off for 40 years. Also, I buy bottles of Lolita Lempicka on an off- I love hte anise/licorice hit. Also a big fan of Sonoma Scent Studios- several of their fragrances and so glad they are back in business.
    I am afraid I don’t understand the reference to the ladies in New Jersey??? I live in NY but I don’t get it.
    Everyone stay safe and well. May 11, 2020 at 4:02pm Reply

    • OperaFan: I, too, am curious about the NJ reference. I know several major fragrance development labs are located in the central Jersey area. Perhaps that was the reason for your residency here prior to relocating to Belgium? May 11, 2020 at 8:23pm Reply

    • Anne: Victoria wrote at the bottom of the post:
      *Many consumer tests on fragrances created in the US are in fact done in New Jersey, but that’s a topic for another time. May 11, 2020 at 11:38pm Reply

    • Gretchen: Wait…what?! SSS is selling again? Did Laurie find someone to take over her formulae? Must run away now and see if my favorites are there. What a wonderful piece of news!

      As to the NJ reference, I believe what Victoria refers to is the Paramus mall as a huge testing ground for fragrances, as before the pandemic it was a very populous place with loads of foot traffic May 12, 2020 at 10:49pm Reply

      • OperaFan: Yes, SSS has reopened under new ownership since (I believe) early last year with the full fragrance line.
        Thank you for the info about Paramus. May 15, 2020 at 8:38am Reply

  • John: The subject of ‘classics’ is banal if we all agree. I frequently don’t even agree with myself! A year or two ago I thought that Paco Rabanne Pour Homme was simplistic and redundant, having been reduced in stature by reformulations and superseded by more complex and high-quality compositions I recently acquired a newer bottle of PRPH in a trade, and now have the good fortune to marvel at my own ignorance; I can fully appreciate why this idiosyncratic and truly irreplaceable fragrance recently ended up on a list of masculine classics that appeared on Fragrantica.

    I love hearing what other people consider classics and certain chime in with Armando’s endorsement of Habit Rouge, a fragrance I hope to always keep with me. Just as fun is considering criteria… Thinking of art, architecture or literature, things widely regarded as ‘classics’ often have certain traits. A ‘classic’ is generally both distinct for its original context and also highly influential on what came after it. Classics are transcend being merely old and revered objects of the past because they continue to offer a sense of accessible reference to both an established type and an affectingly powerful experience as a stand-alone encounter. Just as Victoria has said of perfumery, a lot of modern classics in literature, art or music were not necessarily crowd pleasers in their own time, but now have achieved a critical mass of consensus, so a little distance via history is sometimes required. I also agree with T.S. Eliot’s idea (from his essay, “tradition and the Individual Talent”) that a new classic announces itself by realigning our understanding of the classics that preceded it. Though he was referring to literature, I think this can be true of perfumes too.

    For example, Caron Pour un Homme was very distinctive for its time, went on to influence other notable compositions; tellingly, another hallmark of a classic is that it is not merely influential but that its reference is encoded into other works as a conspicuous echo for those who know and care (think of the postmodern French ‘barbershoppiness’ of Gaultier’s Le Male or see the recent Fragrantica piece on the genesis Dior’s Eau Noire, noting that both of these are not minor imitators of Caron Pour un Homme but another touchstone influencer and a minor masterpiece respectively) — a true classic inspires not just imitation but reverence, reference and reinvention. Serious creativity inspires creativity in kind rather than opportunistic duplication. Pour un Homme is still, arguably, the ‘reference’ lavender fragrance and remains a deeply satisfying (or hey, at least polarizing) encounter. Smelling it will also change the way you think about earlier soliflore concepts of ‘lavender water’ and also more complex (and classic) progenitors like Jicky. Maybe that’s one other trait of a true classic — one can’t conceive of the story of perfume without them.

    A third classic for me is tough, but for the sake of range, I’ll nominate Aramis. I’d probably consider Aramis a more broadly accessible and ‘pure’ exemplar of the modern leather chypre genre than, say, Antaeus, but I admire Antaeus more for being dense, complex and formidable in its mix of floral and animalic materials – Aramis is an everyman reader while Antaeus is one of those heavies you set aside time and space to come to grips with. Both are classics, though really. I must admit I wear by (newer) bottle of Aramis much more often than I reach for by vintage splash flaçon of Antaeus; I guess I prefer the Odyssey to Dostoyevsky, but that’s personal. May 11, 2020 at 4:31pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Back in one of your “vintage” posts, challenging readers to choose 5 top fragrances from our collection, I used the house on fire scenario to choose the 5 I would grab without a second thought. That was a near gut wrenching decision. Had I stopped to consider my options I’d have probably perished in the fire.
    I admire this very objective list. Will definitely seek out Cristalle edp as this richer formulation Sounds beautiful. I “inherited” a bottle of the edt which I like very much, and I very much like OJ’s Tiare, which you once likeNed to the Chanel. May 11, 2020 at 8:16pm Reply

    • Amanda M: I love Cristalle in Eau de Parfum as well as the toilette. The EDP is very rich and sumptuous with its fruits and flowers! I have a bottle from the early 90’s (and a backup!)
      It’s just beautiful. May 11, 2020 at 10:16pm Reply

  • Aisha Talley: Cristalle is actually my favorite Chanel fragrance. It’s the one I make sure I wear each New Year’s Eve and Day. I’m also quite fond of Lolita Lempicka and have two bottles of it. May 11, 2020 at 8:20pm Reply

  • Sandra: I like Cristalle, but only the EdT
    For me, Shalimar is the queen, in all its flankers and formulations (as you say).
    How did you find the Shalimar soufflé version? That is one I haven’t spent much time with
    I wish they would bring back the vanille flanker. May 11, 2020 at 8:25pm Reply

    • John: On a related note (+ sorry to stray into ‘recommend me a perfume’ territory), I’d like to get my daughter (who is seventeen and just beginning to expand beyond Lush fragrances, Pink Sugar and fruitchoulis) an sample of Shalimar as I secretly suspect her to be a Shalimar person… If all the iterations are indeed good, is there one more suited to a younger nose? May 11, 2020 at 9:17pm Reply

      • Sandra: Hi John-
        What a great father to buy your daughter a fragrance. My father did the same when I was younger but he didn’t worry if it was suited for someone at my age, he just picked what he thought was beautiful.
        The EdT may be a place to start. The Souffle flanker may be also, but we will wait on V’s thoughts since I don’t have a bottle of that one (yet) May 12, 2020 at 6:25am Reply

      • Aurora: Hello John: Also, what about a sample of the Eau de Cologne (not Cologne which is different) with all its bergamot for summertime? May 12, 2020 at 1:07pm Reply

      • John: Thank you both for these recommendations! I am now getting excited about the detective work involved… May 12, 2020 at 11:48pm Reply

  • Amanda M: Lovely article Victoria!

    I adore so many of the Classics. For me, my favourites will always be Mitsouko (in all forms) Shalimar, Cristalle in both edt and edp.. – both are truly beautiful!..
    and Coco. Oh yes, and EL Knowing is fabulous! (the vintage version)

    For me right now, as the season moves into mid-Autumn here in Australia, I am especially drawn to Vintage Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew. For some it’s such a polarising fragrance, you either love it or have an intense dislike for it! I think it’s a lovely classic!

    Fortunately it’s one that I adore and reach for frequently in the colder weather. It is one that is glorious if applied lightly…too much and it can overpower and overwhelm one’s senses. (and everyone around you!)

    Gorgeous warm spicy oriental that is so very comforting and enveloping right now in isolation.

    Sadly though, the current reformulation of Youth Dew (I have that too..) is not as bold, luscious, complex and long-lasting as its vintage counterpart, but I also have the current bath oil and that is quite lovely.
    Can be judiciously dabbed to one’s pulse points and so it’s application can be better controlled. May 11, 2020 at 10:09pm Reply

  • Fazal: I usually try to judge perfume both subjectively and objectively though I realize objective evaluation is really difficult if not impossible. When it comes to the title of the best classic perfume or best perfume ever created, the usual names thrown out there are Chanel No. 5, Guerlain Shalimar, and Patou Joy etc. In my opinion, the best perfume ever created is vintage Opium and specifically in its EDT concentration. Subjectively, Opium may not make it in my Top 3 though Top 5 is a possibility but if I am trying to judge both objectively and subjectively at the same time, then I think no perfume beats Opium in my view.

    I realize Opium may feel too dense or outdated to some in the vintage concentration and it is not exactly a year-round wear. But Yves Saint Laurent was not lying when he proclaimed during the development stage that it will be the best perfume in the world and we will call it Opium. Usually such grand boasts fall flat on their face but in this case, Yves really proved himself right! May 11, 2020 at 11:42pm Reply

    • Tami: I agree and it’s on my list as well. In many ways a landmark for its time. There is nothing quite like vintage Opium. May 12, 2020 at 11:31am Reply

  • Gauss: I loved learning about these three classics, thank you for sharing! I’ve just subscribed to your YouTube channel as well – thank you for all the educational posts and videos. May 12, 2020 at 11:19am Reply

  • Aurora: If they were still in existence I would nominate Crepe de Chine and Sortilege but they haven’t survived so I would include in my list of classics Miss Dior for its lotv and smooth leather, as well as Caleche, the one I could wear happily forever and l’Heure Bleue; I still remember trying it for the first time, it evoked other worldly flowers (the modern one is much less flowery) and it soared to a night mauve sky and I associate it to my hometown Paris, I wear it when I’m homesick. May 12, 2020 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Klaas: …….inhales excitedly………I also assicoate L’Heure Bleue with a Parisian evening sky! Did you grow up there? I lived in Paris for 2 years in my early twenties. It still feels a bit like home to me. Most people hate the smell of the Metro, but when I go down that escalator at Gare du Nord and that warm, fusty smell hits my nose, it puts a smile on my face!

      Also a classic fragrance, though of a different kind 😉 May 12, 2020 at 4:22pm Reply

      • Aurora: Hello Klaas: Yes born and bred, and I am with you on the metro, very unique smell and pleasant compared to the RER which smells of sewage. May 12, 2020 at 5:07pm Reply

    • Peter: Hello Aurora and the other L’Heure Bleu fans,
      My first memory was smelling this wonderful scent on my sister back in 1970s. Numerous years later I started on my perfume quest working my way up to the Guerlain counter at Neiman Marcus. I have to say that Vol de Nuit is my favorite. But every time I wear L’Heure Bleu I think of my sister. The funny thing is I recently mentioned the scent memory to her and she couldn’t even remember the perfume (she’s more tomboy now). May 12, 2020 at 4:54pm Reply

      • Aurora: Peter: how wonderful that you can associate l’Heure Bleue with your sister after all these years. I discovered Vol de Nuit last of all the Guerlains but like it very much now, the Guerlains from that era are so unique. May 12, 2020 at 5:14pm Reply

      • Klaas: Hahaha, and there I was thinking you were a New Yorker! Enchanté! May 12, 2020 at 5:50pm Reply

        • Klaas: Previous comment is for Aurora… May 12, 2020 at 5:55pm Reply

        • Aurora: I spent twelve years in NYC before moving to the UK, so you were not so far off ☺ May 13, 2020 at 1:36pm Reply

      • Klaas: Oh, Vol de Nuit is my ALL time favorite perfume! A true love if ever there was one.

        Unfortunately, I can not put myself to wear it any more. The reformulations are terrible, and I haven’t been lucky with buying vintages….so I let this grande dame rest in peace. There are plenty other ones to choose….but there is something about Vol de Nuit, isn’t there? May 12, 2020 at 5:54pm Reply

        • Peter: I’m not lucky enough to have ever smelled any vintages. I do remember finding my Mother’s sample of Miss Dior in the late 70s. Not sure how long it was stashed in her cabinet. It sure made an impression, so maybe it had the oakmoss and nitro musks. I don’t have the financial means or smarts to source vintages. I do remember Victoria’s review of Vol de Nuit where she mentions the fragrance softening in reformulations. I still took a risk and splurged (using Neiman Marcus gift card rewards from earlier Frederic Malle purchases) and ordered the extrait. It’s lush and much richer than the edt. I guess that’s as close as I’ll get! May 12, 2020 at 8:42pm Reply

          • Klaas: I’ve heard from other people here that the current Vol de Nuit extrait is quite good. Like you, I recently splurged on a extrait, but vintage. Unfortunately, time hadn’t been so kind to it, so it wasn’t a good buy. It did help me remember the 1980’s versions I’d worn, but for me it felt like closing a chapter….

            Though now you got me wondering about the current extrait…….oh well, for when I win the lotery 😉 May 13, 2020 at 6:45am Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Klaas. Vol de Nuit has been my ”signature” for years, I remember the old version very well.
              I also remember that it turned sometimes badly. I even had to return a fresh bought bottle to the perfumeshop (about 1974).
              I can imagine why you don’t wear the running version anymore. I admit that it is not the Vol de Nuit we loved so dearly..the complex, dark, animalic smell…the dry violets…
              Even so, I still love it how it is. Both edt and the extrait. Extrait may be richer, but edt has more of the spirit of Vol de Nuit. It is a phantom, but still not without beauty.
              I don’t layer (I never do) but wear it sometimes together with Goutal La Violette (the old bottle). May 13, 2020 at 7:33am Reply

          • Asta: 70’s Miss Dior was my first perfume love. As has been mentioned, the reformulation is just…. So many of the classic chypres of the 70’s have been trashed by the replacement of oakmoss with tree moss. Ugh! May 16, 2020 at 3:30pm Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hello Aurora!
      L’Heure Bleue is probably one of my favourite perfumes (maybe even top favourite). Among the classics, I love the original versions of Nahema, Diorissimo, Ivoire, Loulou, and Caleche. Of the three Victoria mentions, I really love Cristalle and find Lolita Lempicka fun to wear. I don’t have Shalimar nor do I know it well. This is one perfume that I have tested in the past, but I need to explore it more.

      Hope you are doing well with London opening up again. Here in Yorkshire things are still quiet. May 14, 2020 at 4:19pm Reply

      • Aurora: Hello Silvermoon, so glad to meet you here. Lovely choices and I am surprised but happy by Loulou’s strong showing, I love the combination of plum/tuberose. Yes, things are slowly going back to normal, stay well and safe. May 15, 2020 at 2:39pm Reply

  • Aurora: Hello Notturno, so happy you are ‘allowed’ to wear Caleche in the house, I greatly admire other choices on your list, some I just know about. I’ve just realized that your screen name must mean you love Chopin, silly me for not having made the connection before!
    😊 May 12, 2020 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Notturno7: Dear Aurora, yes you’re right! Chopin is my favorite composer to play. 😀🎶🎶
    I love what you said about L’Heure Bleu and Paris, wearing it when you’re homesick. I love it but haven’t worn it in a long time. I’ll look for my bottle again as I bought one ounce of pure perfume after reading the Guide. I used to imagine colors of the sky in the evening when wearing it, blue and purple, lavender…..Now I’ll think of Paris, too. I’ll send you some samples of others I mentioned as soon as things normalize somewhat.
    Regarding posting comments, I made a similar mistake earlier. I thought I was writing a new comment but I must have pressed something when scrolling down and it showed up as a reply to someone.
    I love Cristalle in hot summer days, along with EL Private Collection and few other EL fragrances. I guess they can be counted as classics by now, Aromatic Elixir, Youth Dew and Knowing. May 12, 2020 at 3:52pm Reply

    • Amanda M: Oh yes, I love Aromatics Elixir!! Just a small amount and it’s heavenly..such a classic. It’s also changed, the Vintage is absolutely beautiful. Five stars from Luca Turin as well. (not that I rely on that for my choices!) 😊 May 13, 2020 at 12:17am Reply

      • Notturno7: Yes, Armanda, I agree. Despite having a vintage Aromatic Elixir bottle at home, I stoped two strangers to inquire what they were wearing. I just had to know, it was so good. Both times it was AE. Only one other time I stopped someone and it was again something that I have in two concentrations, 24 Faubourg. I must really like those!! Ha! Thinking of Ungaro Diva and Paloma Picasso, they might be classics by now.
        Habit Rouge that i adore, I found a big bottle of pure perfume at N Marcus few years ago. All these treasures! Mmmm May 13, 2020 at 4:04am Reply

  • Klaas: I love all the classic Guerlains, Diors, Hermesses and Chanels that you all mentioned. I would love to add Guerlains Vetiver to the classics list. A true game changer. Like Jicky and Shalimar, there is no writing the history of perfumery without it.

    I also think that Feminité du Bois and Portait of a Lady are two wonderful modern classics. May 12, 2020 at 4:30pm Reply

    • Peter: I agree with Klaas. Portrait of a Lady is a perfect modern classic. A commanding presence ready to be crowned. I’ve yet to sample the Lutens. May 12, 2020 at 5:04pm Reply

      • Klaas: If ever you get a chance to sniff the original Shiseido formula……grab that bottle and run!!! It is stun-ning!! May 12, 2020 at 5:57pm Reply

        • Amanda M: Koalas – Oh yes, the Shiseido original FDB is stunning! I have both versions but prefer the original. May 13, 2020 at 12:18am Reply

          • Amanda M: Gosh sorry, autocorrect put ‘Koalas’, lol..!!! Well, I guess I am in Australia so that’s allowed.
            I meant to write Klaas, sorry! ☺️ May 13, 2020 at 12:19am Reply

            • Klaas: Hahahaha, koala’s are the cutest thing in the world, so no harm done 😉 May 13, 2020 at 6:50am Reply

              • Amanda M: Ah yes indeed Klaas, they are certainly very cute! May 13, 2020 at 7:56pm Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hi Klaas,

      I agree that FdB and POAL are great modern classics (I have both and love them). I would also add Maai (Bogue) as another wonderful modern classic. Also, Songes and Grand Amour from Goutal. Many of the Fredric Malle ones also fit the bill (Fleur de Cassis and Carnal Flower to name just two). May 14, 2020 at 4:27pm Reply

      • Klaas: Hey Silvermoon! I have yet to sample some Bogue fragrances. Mem tickles my fancy because of the lavender…..I should get to it!

        Songes is glorious, indeed… May 15, 2020 at 3:50am Reply

        • Notturno7: Hi Silvermoon, I agree w your choices. I love Songes which I wear more in summer, along w Fracas, Carnal Flower, Parfum de Therese and Fleur de Cassis.
          Right now, I dabbed some Fleur de Chine on my wrists for sweet dreams. May 15, 2020 at 6:56am Reply

          • Silvermoon: Hi Notturno7! As soon as I clicked submit, I immediately thought I should have added Parfume de Therese. I also have Fracas and enjoy wearing it (in the relatively cool British summer and also in the autumn).
            Today, I am wearing Songes, after all the talk about it here. May 15, 2020 at 3:50pm Reply

  • Figuer: Great article & video Victoria!

    For me classics fall into 3 categories – those I really can’t wear; those I love, & have worn in the past but don’t anymore; and those that still feel contemporary to me.

    In the first category I’d put the older Guerlains like Shalimar, Mitsouko et al., and Chanel nos 5 & 22 & Bois des Iles. In the second, older formulations of Dior’s Miss Dior, Poison and Dune, all of which I stole from my mum as a teenager. And among the classic green chypres, I used to love Bandit, Tendre Poison, EL Private Collection, but again don’t own or wear them now.

    There are a few classics I still wear regularly, though, including Cristalle – I have the edt but would love the edp also, as they’re beautiful in different ways. I still also sometimes wear YSL Paris edt (at home – far too big for public spaces!), while Chanel Cuir de Russie in its latest formulation feels both classic & contemporary. May 13, 2020 at 6:49am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: Hello everyone! As Victoria kindly asks her blog followers what our classics are, here are three I chose impulsively. Like Maria Callas, the “classic” opera singer if there ever was one, whose recordings I all own but hardly hear, I don’t wear the following perfumes a lot any more. Still, they’re there to revere and to smell as a point of reference in beauty.
    1) Bois de Violette by Sege Lutens. For me it is quintessentially an elegant French étude in dove grey. A smidgen of violet-coloured violet leaves and polished cedar. It is what Dior should be but isn’t.
    2) Songes by Annick Goutal. Good Lord, the luscious, creamy opulence! I am transported into a tropical garden, right under a temple tree (Frangipani), then jasmin, and other white flowers. Yet everything is controlled like in a Gallic park, nothing is wild or uncontrolled.
    3) Arpèges by Lanvin. When you’ve waded through the—frankly difficult—barber shop hairspray aldehydes at the beginning (which take quite some time to subside) you are rewarded with an unparalleled floral richness followed by the most creamy of sandelwood dry downs. May 13, 2020 at 10:30am Reply

    • Peter: I like your choice of Songes. Sometimes I like the challenge of an interesting fragrance, but then sometimes I just want to smell a beautiful pretty perfume like Songes. May 14, 2020 at 4:18am Reply

    • Sandra: Also a fan of Songes! Gorgeous! May 14, 2020 at 7:59am Reply

  • Old Herbaceous: I love your selection! Mine would be different. My two classic Chanel loves are No.19 and No. 22. If I were to introduce Chanel to a new “classicist”, though, I’d probably suggest No. 5 L’Eau or L’Eau Premiere. Re Shalimar: I really couldn’t get into Shalimar myself until I tried the eau de cologne. Suddenly it made sense! Modern classical fragrances: Atelier des Ors White Collection. So beautiful. May 14, 2020 at 9:27pm Reply

    • Nick: N°19 in the extrait version is what I like. And the floral part might be somewhat ‘feminine’ for my taste; I layer some more Vétiver on top and, voilà! May 19, 2020 at 2:04am Reply

  • OperaFan: Yes, SSS has reopened under new ownership since (I believe) early last year with the full fragrance line.
    Thank you for the info about Paramus. May 15, 2020 at 8:35am Reply

    • OperaFan: Hi – sorry this comment was misplaced. It belongs with Gretchen’s reply under Lari Frank’s comment thread above. I’ve already re-posted in the correct location, so, Victoria, please remove. 😬 May 15, 2020 at 8:44am Reply

  • Patricia Devine: I live in France and every so often, I go out and have a full, French, classic meal and I enjoy it. But at home, I eat lighter food – quick stir-fries and salads. The same with perfume. I own many of the classics and they are beautiful but they are also over-rich for my life, and overall I prefer the rather cleaner lines of modern perfumery, especially Serge Lutens, Annick Goutal and Artisan Parfumeur, where I can discern the individual accords more distinctly. May 15, 2020 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I see what you mean. Some classics are definitely demanding.
      Serge Lutens, Annick Goutal and L’Artisan Parfumeur are among my own favorites. May 16, 2020 at 9:06am Reply

      • Patricia Devine: I kind of have to be in the right mood for them, I think, just as I have to be in the right mood for reading Thomas Hardy. And many of them seem to require a lipstick-and-heels formality that doesn’t suit my very casual country life – I do love the Celliers, though, and wear them a lot, especially Bandit and Vent Vert (though – horror of horrors, I do actually prefer the Becker iteration to my vintage original). May 16, 2020 at 9:52am Reply

        • Victoria: Calice Becker did a brilliant job on updating a classic. I don’t think that there is anything strange in admitting so.

          As for the classics, I find that they make me feel dressed up even if I’m wearing a T-shirt and yoga pants, but I get what you’re saying. May 16, 2020 at 10:17am Reply

          • Nick: Indeed, they make me feel dressed up too! I stick to Vétiver de Guerlain as my go-to, no-frills. When I want a bit of flair, I move to something richer, like Habit Rouge. May 19, 2020 at 2:01am Reply

  • Forget-me-not: Thank you, Victoria, for this post. It reminded me that my last bottle of Lolita Lempicka ran out a while ago and I needed to get a new one. However, it seems they have changed a bottle. Is the juice still the same, or has it been tampered with? I do hope not. May 18, 2020 at 6:16am Reply

  • Nick: The richness and contrast of Shalimar are striking, but to many people the perfume is ‘an old lady’. It really is hard to shake such an association with perfumes of the old days.

    It takes a certain wisdom and sense of aesthetics. I myself used to find Vétiver (Guerlain) a ‘spicy, bitter grandpa’, but now it’s simply suave. And surprisingly, a teenager–16 or 17 maybe–sitting beside me on the tram was sporting his Habit Rouge whilst fidgeting with his mobile phone.. May 19, 2020 at 1:57am Reply

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