As the leaves begin to change, we must begin to abandon the floral, citrusy scents that dominated during the spring and summer. Luckily, there is no shortage of fragrances that utilize the woodsy and oriental notes that are so much more appealing in the cool weather. Confused? Don’t be. This guide will explain most of the fragrance basics and have you ready to brave the cold still smelling like a rose. Whether you’re male or female, expert or novice, I hope this guide will be of some use to you.
Before we can get into specific fragrances, we first have to dissect the anatomy of a perfume. Any good fragrance consists of three parts, aptly named the top notes, middle notes, and base notes. The top notes are the scents that you can smell immediately after spraying the perfume. In many fragrances, these are carefully designed to appeal to the masses in order to improve sales of the product. Top notes are generally fresh and sharp like citruses. The middle notes emerge as soon as the top notes evaporate. These are more mellow and well-rounded, and they serve to mask the sometimes unpleasant beginnings of the base notes that gradually improve with more time. Finally, the base notes appear after around an hour or two. These notes are very deep and rich and serve to add more depth to the perfume.
With that out of the way, we can start getting into the notes themselves.
As seen in the infographic above, most fragrances fall into four different families, and each family is further subdivided into categories. One very helpful source for identifying different notes in a fragrance is fragrantica.com. Here you can enter a fragrance you enjoy and see it broken down by top, middle, and base notes. For example, one of the most popular colognes Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani can be broken down into top notes of orange, lime, and lemon; middle notes of nutmeg, coriander, and violet; and base notes of amber, patchouli, and oakmoss. This website is invaluable in identifying your favorite notes and discovering new fragrances.
Next, let’s discuss the varying strengths of different perfumes. Eau de Cologne is a very weak spray-on fragrance that is generally very light. These are great for the summer and can be frequently reapplied without seeming too cloying. Next, we have Eau de Toilette, which is the most commonly found form of fragrance on the market. Around 7-12% of the liquid is composed of aromatic compounds, and they can last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. Eau de Parfum is the next step up in concentration consisting of 10-20% of aromatic compounds. These generally last around 8 hours although variation does exist depending on the types of notes in the fragrance. Lastly, we have Parfum, an extremely potent and concentrated form of fragrance. These last around 12 hours and are generally found only in niche fragrance houses. Please note that while higher quality perfumes tend to have higher concentrations of aromatic compounds, it is not an absolute measure of superiority.
One often overlooked aspect of fragrances is their application; however, this is arguably the most important part. Some people eagerly over-apply their favorite cologne before a night out in a manner reminiscent of prepubescent boys spraying on Axe in middle school. Others spray the fragrance directly on their clothes in a way that disrupts the scent’s natural evaporation pattern while also damaging clothing fibers. For the vast majority of fragrances, two to three sprays on the body’s natural pulse points will do. Pulse points are places where blood runs close to the skin, and the fragrance can radiate out naturally. An added benefit of this is that most pulse points are in very intimate places, a good way to boost attractiveness on a night out. The neck, upper chest, and wrists are perfect places to apply a cologne or perfume. Keep in mind that stronger scents may require fewer sprays and especially weak scents may require up to five. Also remember that olfactory fatigue may come into play, and you will stop smelling your fragrance after a while. Do not take this as a sign that you need to apply more, as the fragrance is most likely still present.
With the basics of fragrances out of way, now comes the fun part: the fragrances themselves. Personally, I love to wear gourmands in the fall and winter. These are also known as olfactory desserts because they contain notes like honey, chocolate, and vanilla. Also common are spicy and woodsy notes like saffron, cinnamon, cedar, and oak. So without further ado these are my personal picks for top ten fragrances for the fall and winter. Remember that fragrances interact with everyone’s skin chemistry differently, and I highly recommend that you sample a fragrance before purchasing a full bottle.
#10. Midnight in Paris by Van Cleef & Arpels
This fragrance has the distinction of being my favorite bottle design as well as smelling amazing. The main notes are leather, tonka bean, and incense. While it’s marketed towards men, I believe that it is much more of a unisex fragrance. Additionally, a 4.2 oz EDT spray is only $24 on fragrancenet.com (a grey market dealer that offers fragrances at deep discounts from retail).
#9. La Nuit de L’homme by Yves Saint Laurent
This fragrance is widely known in the fragrance community as one of the sexiest fragrances for a man available. Its notes include cardamom, lavender, and bergamot. At around $50 for a 3.4 oz EDT, it’s priced very reasonably for a fragrance of this caliber. Keep in mind that as a fairly common fragrance, you may bump into someone else wearing it on a night out.
#8. Black Orchid by Tom Ford
This fragrance is an amazing fall scent for the ladies. With notes of chocolate, patchouli, and incense, it is an incredibly sensual perfume for a date night. As always with Tom Ford fragrances, be expected to pay a premium. At around $100 dollars for a 3.4 EDP spray, it’s definitely not cheap. For this one, I highly recommend that you drop by a local Sephora and ask for a small sample to try out first.
#7. Burberry London (For Women and For Men)
The women’s version of London has notes of jasmine, honeysuckle, and tangerine while the men’s version is spicier with tobacco, leather, and cinnamon. Both versions are worth picking up for the fall, and both won’t break the bank at around $30 for a 3.3 oz EDT spray.
#6. Pure Malt by Thierry Mugler
For the men, pure malt is an incredible fragrance with hints of whiskey, fruits, and vanilla. It is a great all-day scent with excellent longevity. With a price tag of $120 dollars for a 3.4 oz EDT spray, definitely check out your local department store to see if you like the scent first.
#5. Tolu Ormonde Jayne for Women
This perfume for women is absolutely luxurious and perfect for autumn nights. It has notes of tolu balsam, amber, and tonka bean. Wearing this fragrance, I can guarantee that your scent will be unique and enticing. However, with a hefty price of $144 for a 1.7 oz EDP spray, you’re going to want to save this fragrance for very special nights. Because this perfume is so uncommon, it is not available in any department stores, and you will have to purchase samples online.
#4. Stella by Stella McCartney
While floral scents normally belong to the spring and summer seasons, I couldn’t resist putting this fragrance for women on the list. Stella has notes of rose, peony, and amber. It is a very simple composition, but it commands attention with a very icy rose scent. At around $70 dollars for a 3.3 oz EDP spray, it is very reasonable for an eau de parfum of this quality.
#3. Alien by Thierry Mugler
Alien by Thierry Mugler is an incredibly long-lasting perfume with an amazing projection through the chilly air. With notes of jasmine, amber, and oak, this scent conjures images of a pleasant walk through the woods. Be sure not to overdo it, as two sprays is easily enough to last an entire day. It costs around $50 for a 2 oz EDP spray.
#2. Dior Homme Intense by Christian Dior
Normally, reformulations and flankers of popular fragrances lag far behind their predecessors in terms of quality. In this case, Dior Homme Intense is the exact opposite. It has notes of iris, lavender, and pear and is a scent with amazing longevity as well. Like La Nuit de L’homme, this is an incredibly sexy fragrance for men, and it reminds many of lipstick with its prominent iris note. At $70 for a 3.4 oz EDP spray, this cologne is absolutely worth the price.
#1. Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford
Topping my list is Tobacco Vanille, a unisex fragrance from Tom Ford’s private blend collection. Made from the highest quality of ingredients, each one of the scents in the collection is worth smelling at least once (I highly enjoy Tuscan Leather and Noir de Noir). Visit a Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, or Saks to get the full experience. I cannot rave enough about this perfume. With notes of tobacco leaf, vanilla, and tonka, it is an incredibly full-bodied fragrance that lasts for hours. Tobacco Vanille is a legendary Tom Ford scent, and it deserves every bit of praise it receives. The only downside is the price. At $220 for a 1.7 oz EDP spray, it is one of the most expensive designer fragrances that exist on the market. Luckily, many kind people in the fragrance community are willing to participate in what are called fragrance splits, where a larger bottle or flacon is purchased and then divided among each participant. Personally, I received a 30mL decant of Tobacco Vanille for a much more reasonable $80.
Well there you have it: a brief Fragrance 101 crash course and my picks for the best fall/winter fragrances out there for both women and men. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or any personal favorites of your own.