Scent is strongly tied to memory and the French have mastered the art of perfume creation like no other country. Thanks in part to the small town of Grasse in southern France, several iconic French perfumes have stood out among a sea of scents. Today we are going to share with you the best French perfumes to know about as you search for your own signature fragrance.
Grasse, a town located in the Provence region of France, has a mild climate well suited to growing lavender, rose, and jasmine. These scented flower fields provide opportunities to create lovely smelling products from fragrance to beauty products and more. The region has produced perfume artisans and professional scent makers for decades.
Chanel n°5 may be the most iconic perfume in history, but it was not the first. Although a few other perfumes came before this one, it’s arguably the one that has made the biggest impact on the luxury fragrance demand.
It all started in 1921, when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel asked the French-Russian perfumer Ernest Beaux to create a fragrance “that smells like a woman, not a flower.” He crafted a selection for her to choose from and she went with the fifth one – hence the “No. 5” name. Chanel said she showed her collection on the fifth day of the fifth month of the year and that number five was quite fitting for her first scent. A bottle of Chanel No. 5 is sold once every 30 seconds around the world.
La Vie Est Belle is the best selling perfume by French brand Lancôme. Meaning “Life is Beautiful,” this perfume is a reflection of Lancôme’s storied heritage. The perfume has fresh notes of iris flowers patchouli, warm vanilla and Arabian jasmine. Like a blooming orange bouquet it will remind you of spring time floral scents.
The bottle of this perfume was nicknamed “The Crystal Smile” and it was designed back in 1949 by Georges Delhomme. The founder of Lancôme wanted to present an image of femininity, happiness, grace, and optimism.
The oldest French beauty house, Guerlain, launched in 1828. Almost a century later, in 1925, the first oriental fragrance, Shalimar, was developed by Jacques Guerlain. He was inspired by the Indian love story of Emperor Shah Jahan who fell in love with Princess Mumtaz Mahal. The gardens of Shalimar were created for her and the Taj Mahal was dedicated to her. Shalimar means ‘temple of love’ in Sanskrit. The Shalimar fragrance represents eternal love and desire. This perfume has sweet bergamot, vanilla, and iris notes. It is one of the most sought after luxury perfumes in France.
Chloé’s Eau de Parfum was the first fragrance released by 70s feminine brand, Chloé. The perfume was launched in 1975 and epitomized the romantic classic vibes of the Chloé brand.
Chanel No. 19 was the last fragrance launched and worn by Coco Chanel before her death. It was named after the day she was born: August 19. The perfume is a floral and woody scent. The bottle was designed in 1921 and retains the simplicity and functionality that Chanel perfume bottles are known for.
Miss Dior was the first Dior fragrance released in 1947, shortly after the fashion house Dior’s famous “New Look” was unveiled. It's feminine and floral scents with green chypre and Grasse rose made it an instant hit. The original glass bottle featured a houndstooth print. It was named for the designer’s sister, Catherine Dior who was actually a French resistance fighter, and known as “Miss Dior.” With a charming combination of bergamot, rose, jasmine, and rosewood, it’s a scent that most people never forget.
Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium is one of the more controversial French perfumes ever created. The spicy oriental perfume was first created in 1977 by Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac. While Chinese Americans complained about the glorification of drug abuse due to the fragrance’s name, the controversy gave the perfume publicity that couldn’t be paid for. Opium is an oriental fragrance, which blends florals, spices, and deep woody notes.