Best Classic Perfumes for 2020

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The history of perfume shows how perfumes transformed from being used to cover up body odor to being a luxury good. Today, perfume has become something that can help anyone feel sophisticated and put-together with just one spritz.

Having such a rich and detailed history means that there are some classic fragrances that come to mind when “perfumes” are mentioned. To be classic means to be “judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind,” and legendary scents like Chanel No. 5,  Joy by Jean Patou and many others have earned this title.

Below, we’ve found the 35 best fragrances that define what it means to be a classic. With all of the fragrances on the market these days, favorites and trends come and go quickly—but these have remained at the top of the charts for decades.

Most Well-Known Classic Perfumes

Best Modern Classic Perfumes

Most Luxurious Classic Perfumes

Best Wearable Classic Perfumes

Best Classic Perfumes for Special Occasions

Most Well-Known Classic Perfumes

Some things are classics for a reason. These seven perfume selections received instant classic status from the moment they were launched, and remain top of the chart to this day. Find your new (or old) favorite and see what it’s like to never go out of style.

1. Chanel No. 5

Price: $152.99 for 3.4oz

A classic perfumes ranking would not be complete without this revolutionary fragrance. The first scent released by the legendary Chanel fashion house in 1921, this “women’s perfume with a woman’s scent” took the perfume world by storm and is still considered one of the most iconic perfumes to this day. Marilyn Monroe was even quoted as saying, “what do I wear to bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course!”

Top notes: Aldehydes, neroli, ylang-ylang, bergamot, lemon

Heart notes: Rose, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine

Base notes: Amber, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, vetiver, civet

Best for: Anyone looking to channel their inner Marilyn or Coco for increased confidence.

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2. Joy by Jean Patou

Price: $117 for 2.5oz

Released in 1930, this fragrance is famous for its ingredients, specifically the 10,600 jasmine blossoms and 28 dozen roses that are used to create every ounce of this scent. These blooms are used to manufacture an uplifting, sensual fragrance that make this scent as an instant classic to be enjoyed for decades to come.

Top notes: Ylang-ylang, tuberose, aldehydes, rose green, pear

Heart notes: Jasmine, iris root

Base notes: Musk, civet, sandalwood

Best for: A woman looking for a daytime fragrance with an added, exciting edge.

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3. Y by Yves St. Laurent

Price: $73.31 for 2.7oz

This was the first women’s fragrance launched by the legendary house of Yves St. Laurent, released in 1964. Since then, this summery, floral perfume has staked its claim as an elegant perfume choice for any (and every) occasion.

Top notes: Aldehydes, green notes, honeysuckle, galbanum, gardenia, Mirabelle plum, peach

Heart notes: Hyacinth, tuberose, ylang-ylang, Bulgarian rose, orris root

Base notes: Oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, styrax, amber, benzoin, patchouli

Best for: Any classic, elegant woman looking for a perfume that matches her chic essence.

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4. Shalimar by Guerlain

Price: $50.69 for 3oz

Launched in 1925, this iconic scent was created by Jacques Guerlain as an homage to a truly epic love story: the romance between Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumatz Mahal. Considering that their love led to the construction of the Taj Mahal, a relationship like theirs deserves a truly romantic fragrance to commemorate it—the name even means “temple of love.”

Top notes: Bergamot, cedar, mandarin orange, lemon, citrus

Heart notes: Jasmine, iris, rose, vetiver, patchouli

Base notes: Leather, opoponax, sandalwood, tonka bean, ambergris, musk, incense

Best for: The true romantic who isn’t afraid to take risks in any aspect of life.

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5. Miss Dior Originale by Christian Dior

Price: $96.38 for 3.4oz

The first women’s fragrance released by the Dior fashion label, this perfume was originally released in 1947 with a 2012 rebrand. This sensual scent is a classically robust fragrance reminiscent of scents popular in the 20th century, with a heavy and well-rounded scent profile that lingers long after it’s sprayed.

Top notes: Galbanum

Heart notes: Jasmine, sambac

Base notes: Patchouli, oakmoss, amber, sandalwood, cistus, vetiver, ambergris, labdanum, castoreum

Best for: The unique woman who wants to be noticed and have all ears (and noses) on her.

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6. L’air Du Temps by Nina Ricci

Price: $39.26 for 3.3oz

Launched in 1948, this fragrance commemorated the end of the second world war with a dove-shaped cap to symbolize peace and harmony. This warm, spicy perfume has been a comforting scent for decades and thousands of women.

Top notes: Neroli, carnation, peach

Heart notes: Rosemary, cloves

Base notes: Sandalwood, amber, cedar

Best for: Any woman who needs a reliable, everyday perfume she can depend on for years to come.

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7. Fracas by Robert Piguet

Price: $118.99 for 3.4oz

Originally launched in 1948, this perfume remains one of the most notable and wearable tuberose scents in the world. Worn by legends like Madonna, Kim Basinger and Lady Gaga, this intensely floral fragrance is a unique and wholly original scent that can be enjoyed year-round.

Top notes: Mandarin orange, peach, hyacinth, orange blossoms

Heart notes: Tuberose, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, narcissus

Base notes: Coriander, carnation, oakmoss, amber, musk, cedar

Best for: The unique woman who wants her scent to be just as elusive and undefinable as she is.

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Best Modern Classic Perfumes

Classic perfumes have stood the test of time as fan-favorites to spray on for any and all occasions. That said, perfumes don’t have to have been released in the 30s or 40s for them to be classics; some perfumes that have topped the charts were introduced in the past decade or so. Below, you’ll find seven options for classic perfumes that are modern classics—slightly more updated than their older counterparts, but just as respected and delicious to smell.

8. Burberry Body

Price: $44.97 for 2.8oz

Launched in 2011 by the famous British fashion label, this perfume immediately garnered attention in over 150 countries around the world. This sensual, intoxicating fragrance is proof that scents don’t need to be older to be a classic, they just need to smell great.

Top notes: Freesia, peach, wormwood

Heart notes: Red rose, iris, sandalwood

Base notes: Cashmere wood, amber, white musk, vanilla

Best for: Anyone looking for a special, seductive fragrance that will be a surefire hit.

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9. Coach Perfume

Price: $41.40 for 3oz

Originally released as one of the brand’s first perfumes in 2007, this perfume was so good it was reformulated as a new scent in 2016. This alluring, free-spirited fragrance shows what the signature, namesake scent of a brand can do: elevate your scents to instant classic status.

Top notes: Pink pepper, pear, raspberry leaf

Heart notes: Turkish rose

Base notes: Suede musk, sandalwood

Best for: The effervescent woman looking for a perfume that will complement, but not distract, from her personality.

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10. Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel

Price: $131.74 for 3.4oz

Originally released by the iconic French retailer in 2002, this scent is the revamped, slightly sweeter sister fragrance of the same name. A lightweight, feminine fragrance, this perfume was a classic from the moment it hit shelves.

Top notes: Orange, bergamot, grapefruit

Heart notes: Jasmine, rose, lychee

Base notes: Patchouli, Bourbon vanilla, vetiver, white musk

Best for: Any perfume wearer looking to show off just how young at heart they are.

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11. L’imperatrice 3 by Dolce & Gabbana

Price: $32.12 for 3.3oz

This floral, feminine fragrance was launched by the Italian fashion house in 2009 and was marketed by fashion icon Naomi Campbell. One of five fragrances in the brand’s “Anthology” collection, this is a sweet perfume with a musky finish that is perfect for the warmer months of spring and summer.

Top notes: Cyclamen

Heart notes: Kiwi, watermelon

Base notes: Musk

Best for: Any woman looking for her go-to, sultry summertime scent.

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12. Black Orchid by Tom Ford

Price: $121.37 for 2.4oz

Arguably the most sought-after perfume of the American designer’s collection, this cult-favorite scent was released in 2006. Dark, mysterious and alluring, this is an opulent perfume that is not for the faint of heart.

Top notes: Ylang-ylang, French jasmine, black truffle, blackcurrant, citrus

Heart notes: Gardenia, lotus, fruits, black orchid

Base notes: Oriental incense, white musk, amber, patchouli, Mexican chocolate

Best for: Any woman looking for a sensual, appealing fragrance for a night on the town.

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13. Versace Yellow Diamond

Price: $50.69 for 3oz

Released in 2011, this glamorous perfume will make any wearer feel as treasured and glamorous as the namesake jewel. With a sophisticated, elegant and fresh profile, this fragrance is the perfect way to lift your spirits or provide some excitement.

Top notes: Pear sorbet, lemon, bergamot, neroli

Heart notes: Mimosa, orange blossom, freesia, water lily

Base notes: Amber, musk, guaiac wood

Best for: Any woman who needs a physical reminder of just how special she really is.

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14. Club de Nuit Intense by Armaf

Price: $22.91 for 3.6oz

One of 79 fragrances produced by the Armaf house of the United Arab Emirates, this 2013 launch became a fan-favorite due to its unique, mesmerizing scent. With a mysterious and elegant scent that will garner any number of compliments, this perfume makes a great addition to any outfit.

Top notes: Rose, saffron, geranium

Heart notes: Violet, nutmeg, caraway, pepper

Base notes: Amber, patchouli, vanilla, agarwood

Best for: Any woman looking for a unique scent to highlight her unique personality.

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Best Luxurious Rose Perfumes

Some fragrances, regardless of price, just ooze sophistication and opulence. Classic perfumes are well-known for using upscale, unique ingredients that makes the wearer instantly feel like an old-Hollywood movie star. These seven classic scents, ranging from affordable to expensive, will all help the wearer feel just a bit more luxurious.

15. Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills

Price: $19.98 for 3oz

Released in 1981 by the luxury Hollywood boutique, this perfume was designed to mirror the subtle, exciting game of push and pull that is the art of attraction. A blend of creaminess and sweet, soft florals, this fragrance exudes class and sophistication.

Top notes: Apricot, peach, orange blossom, bergamot

Heart notes: Orchid, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, gardenia, tuberose

Base notes: Sandalwood, cedar, amber, chamomile, patchouli, oakmoss, vanilla, musk

Best for: Anyone wanting to catch the eye (or nose) of a special someone.

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16. Oscar by Oscar de la Renta

Price: $27.48 for 3.4oz

Launched as the premier fragrance for the iconic fashion label in 1977, this is a timeless, sophisticated perfume. A sharp, floral fragrance that is simultaneously luxurious yet effortlessly wearable, this is a scent that wearers will reach for time and time again.

Top notes: Basil, coriander, peach, orange blossom, gardenia, galbanum

Heart notes: Jasmine, tuberose, lavender, cyclamen, rose, orchid, rosemary

Base notes: Carnation, lavender, amber, patchouli, opoponax, sandalwood, vetiver

Best for: Any woman looking for a sophisticated fragrance that will help elevate any outfit to the next level.

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17. Hypnotic Poison by Christian Dior

Price: $127.49 for 3.4oz

Introduced in 1998, the French fashion house managed to bottle seduction in a scent. Created to set the mood for a romantic evening with a special someone, this rich, dark fragrance with Oriental vanilla accords will become a date-night staple.

Top notes: Apricot, plum, coconut

Heart notes: Tuberose, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose, Brazilian rosewood, caraway

Base notes: Sandalwood, almond, vanilla, musk

Best for: Anyone looking for a high-end, sensual fragrance that won’t let them down.

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18. Opium by Yves St. Laurent

Price: $127.49 for 3oz

One of the most famous Oriental perfumes ever released, this fragrance has been flying off the shelves ever since its release in 1977. With a sensual and aromatic scent, this perfume is simultaneously classy and complex.

Top notes: Clove, bergamot, coriander, plum

Heart notes: Sandalwood, patchouli, peach, rose

Base notes: Sandalwood, vanilla, amber, cedar

Best for: The complex woman looking for a fragrance that is just as undefinable as she is.

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19. Romance by Ralph Lauren

Price: $89.24 for 3.4oz

This chic, rich fragrance was launched in 1998 and has been a staple on perfume counters ever since. A rejuvenating, effortlessly graceful perfume, this scent has powerful charm with a surprising finish.

Top notes: Red rose, freesia, lemon, chamomile, ginger

Heart notes: Lotus flower, white violet, carnation, lily

Base notes: White musk, oakmoss, patchouli, exotic woods

Best for: An undefinable woman that wants her perfume to be as much of an enigma as she is.

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20. Ysatis by Givenchy

Price: $49.97 for 3.4oz

Released in 1984, this fragrance by the French fashion house is a tantalizingly chic perfume. With a pristine, feminine and elegant scent, this perfume was designed to have the wearer feeling like the most beautiful woman in any room they walk into.

Top notes: Orange blossom, mandarin orange, citrus, Brazilian rosewood, bergamot, ylang-ylang, coconut, galbanum, aldehydes

Heart notes: Tuberose, narcissus, rum, iris, carnation, rose, jasmine

Base notes: Green laurels, oakmoss, cloves, patchouli, vetiver, amber, vanilla civet, sandalwood, honey, musk

Best for: Any woman who could use a little liquid courage from her perfume.

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21. Beautiful by Estee Lauder

Price: $49.97 for 2.5oz

Introduced in 1985, this complex and romantic fragrance became a national sensation from the moment it was released. The signature scent of sophisticated women around the world, this is an intoxicating fragrance that will leave a positive impression on anyone.

Top notes: Bergamot, mandarin orange, lily, cassia, lemon, rose, blackcurrant

Heart notes: Ylang-ylang, jasmine, marigold, lilac, freesia, tuberose

Base notes: Vetiver, amber, cedar, musk, vanilla, sandalwood

Best for: Any woman looking for a fragrance that will let anyone know she’s entered the room before she’s even spotted.

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Best Wearable Classic Perfumes

While some perfumes are reserved for the most special of special occasions, others were made for everyday wear and for developing a woman’s go-to, signature scent. These 7 classic perfumes are perfect for light wear during the daytime, and are the perfect accessory for any occasion, from the office to date night.

22. Pleasures by Estee Lauder

Price: $49.97 for 3.4oz

Launched in 1995, this delicate, feminine perfume is reminiscent of the powdery floral perfumes of the past. Perfectly capturing all things pink, plush and girly, this is the perfect light fragrance for any number of daytime engagements.

Top notes: Red berry, pink pepper, freesia, violet

Heart notes: Rose, peony, lily, lilac

Base notes: Cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, musk

Best for: The girly-girl looking for a perfume that matches her light-hearted air.

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23. White Shoulders by Evyan

Price: $16.41 for 4.5oz

Released in 1943, this was the first perfume released by Dr. Walter Langer for the Evyan brand as an ode to his beloved wife. The Evyan brand was established to show that quality fragrances can be developed outside of Paris, and this complex, bright scent from the U.S. proves that this is true.

Top notes: Aldehydes, orange blossom, peach, bergamot

Heart notes: Lilac, gardenia, tuberose, jasmine, lilly, iris, lily-of-the-valley

Base notes: Civetta, oakmoss, musk, benzoin, sandalwood, amber

Best for: The bright woman who lives for sunshine and a sweet, summertime breeze.

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24. Alfred Sung

Price: $23.55 for 3.4oz

Introduced in 1986, this is the scent that keeps on giving. Perfect for classic or modern women, this floral, romantic fragrance is the perfect namesake scent for a brand that has released hundreds of critically-acclaimed modern and romantic wedding dresses.

Top notes: Lemon, orange, bergamot, mandarin orange, hyacinth, galbanum, ylang-ylang

Heart notes: Carnation, iris, lily-of-the-valley, rose, orchid, osmanthus, jasmine

Base notes: Vetiver, orange blossom, vanilla, amber, sandalwood, oakmoss, musk

Best for: Any woman looking to embrace both the classic and the modern in all aspects of her life.

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25. White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor

Price: $27.12 for 3.3oz

Launched in 1991, this popular scent was such a universally adored perfume that it was inducted into the Fragrance Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1991. With an impressive longevity for such a light scent, this elegant perfume is the perfect accessory for any outfit.

Top notes: Bergamot, neroli, lily, orange

Heart notes: Violet, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, narcissus, Egyptian tuberose

Base notes: Patchouli, amber, oakmoss, musk, sandalwood

Best for: Anyone looking for their new go-to fragrance that will accompany them alongside any number of activities.

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26. Obsession by Calvin Klein

Price: $23.55 for 3.4oz

Introduced in 1985, this powdery, spicy fragrance is a classic in its own right. Blending spicy, sweet, fruity, aromatic and floral accords without being overpowering is no easy feat, but this intoxicating fragrance manages to do so expertly.

Top notes: Green notes, vanilla, peach, bergamot, lemon, mandarin orange, basil

Heart notes: Spices, coriander, cedar, rose, oakmoss, jasmine, orange blossom, sandalwood

Base notes: Incense, vetiver, covert, vanilla, amber, musk

Best for: Any woman looking for a perfume with an unexpected twist to keep her on her toes.

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27. L’eau D’issey (Issey Miyake)

Price: $39.26 for 3.3oz

French for “Issey’s water,” this was the first perfume to be released by the Issey Miyake brand in 1992. This fresh, feminine scent lives up to its namesake by being a refreshing scent, perfect for everyday wear to any number of daytime occasions.

Top notes: Florals, aquatic, cyclamen, lotus, rose water, freesia

Heart notes: White lily, carnation, peony

Base notes: Sandalwood, musk, tuberose, amber seed, cedarwood osmanthus

Best for: Anyone looking for an old favorite to become their new signature scent.

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28. Lolita Lempicka

Price: $52.83 for 3.4oz

Released in 1997, this sunny, charming perfume was practically made for pairing with summertime outfits and daytime, warm-weather plans. This fragrance is chic, refreshing and unique enough to get you noticed from across a crowded room, time and time again.

Top notes: Lemon, apricot, cherry, green ivy leaves, anise

Heart notes: Jasmine sambac, iris, violet, Arabian incense, musk

Base notes: Vanilla, tonka bean, vetiver

Best for: Anyone looking for an unexpected perfume that packs a delightful surprise with every spritz.

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Best Classic Perfumes for Special Occasions

These classic perfume selections are the opposite of the everyday wear category. These seven fragrances should be reserved for special occasions, from weddings to dates to important engagements. That way, whenever you spray on these bold, unforgettable scents, you’ll be able to get excited for the memories that are to come.

29. Femme Rochas by Rochas

Price: $29.98 for 3.4oz

First launched in 1944 and reformulated in 1988, this perfume was one of the original woody fragrances. Developed by famed perfumier Edmond Roudnitska for the Rochas brand, this cyphre perfume is a classic that is tailor-made for evening wear.

Top notes: Plum, apricot, fruits

Heart notes: carnation, rose, iris

Base notes: Woods, oakmoss

Best for: Any woman looking to embrace her inner femme fatale for a romantic evening.

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30. Tresor by Lancome

Price: $77.10 for 3.4oz

One of the world’s most popular perfumes, this 1990 release expertly blends floral, woody and fruity accords to create an inviting, warm scent that you’ll want to reserve for evening affairs as well as special occasions.

Top notes: Pineapple, lilac, peach, apricot blossom, lily-of-the-valley, rose, bergamot

Heart notes: Rose, iris, heliotrope, jasmine

Base notes: Apricot, sandalwood, amber, peach, vanilla, musk

Best for: The woman with a simultaneously sweet and spicy personality looking for a perfume to match.

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31. Paloma Picasso

Price: $53.54 for 3.5oz

Released in 1984 as the namesake fragrance of Paloma Picasso, the renowned painter’s daughter and brand owner, this perfume was designed to be her form of artistic self-expression. This is a bold, mesmerizing fragrance that is more of a work of art than just a fragrance.

Top notes: Angelica, carnation, neroli, rose, coriander, bergamot, Amalfi lemon

Heart notes: Hyacinth, jasmine, ylang-ylang, mimosa, patchouli

Base notes: Sandalwood, musk, castoreum, civet, vetiver, oaks moss, amber

Best for: A powerful woman looking for a bold, edgy scent that packs a punch.

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32. Tabu by Dana

Price: $16.41 for 3oz

With roots dating back to 1932 as one of the original Oriental perfumes, this is a classic perfume in every definition. Once the everyday fragrance of Hollywood starlet Ava Gardner, this sophisticated yet sassy perfume from the famed Spanish parfumier is the perfect accompaniment for any special occasion, day or night.

Top notes: Orange, bergamot, neroli, spices, coriander

Heart notes: Clove, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, narcissus, clover

Base notes: Patchouli, civet, cedar, vetiver, sandalwood, benzoin, amber, musk, oakmoss

Best for: Any woman needing a reminder to embrace her femininity and sensuality before an evening out.

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33. Gucci Rush

Price: $53.54 for 2.5oz

Introduced to much excitement in 1999, this is a perfume that gets the wearer noticed before they’ve even entered the room. A luxurious yet still wearable scent from the couture Italian fashion brand, this artful blend of Oriental florals and woods is the perfect match for a sophisticated soiree.

Top notes: African freesia, peach, California gardenia

Heart notes: Turkish rose, jasmine, coriander

Base notes: Vetiver, patchouli, vanilla

Best for: Anyone who wants a scent that makes their first impression for them, in a good way.

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34. Perry Ellis 360

Price: $25.70 for 3.4oz

This summery, aquatic fragrance was released in 1994 and expertly balances both warm and cool tones. A carefree, sultry scent with a touch of sweetness, this perfume will be the perfect accessory for a spontaneous special occasion.

Top notes: Melon, tangerine

Heart notes: Water lily, herbs, lavender, sage

Base notes: Amber, musk, vanilla

Best for: The woman looking to stand out from the crowd with a totally unique fragrance.

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35. Angel by Thierry Mugler

Price: $96.38 for 3.4oz

A unique fragrance from the house of Mugler, this 1992 release was created as an ode to women’s sensuality and is one of many gourmand perfumes from this French brand. This unique, unforgettable scent may be too powerful for everyday wear, but is a beautiful option as a commemorative perfume for a special occasion.

Top notes: Bergamot, melon, coconut, mandarin orange, jasmine, cassis, cotton candy, pineapple

Heart notes: Caraway, nutmeg, honey, apricot, blackberry, plum, orchid, peach, lily-of-the-valley, rose, red berries

Base notes: Tonka bean, patchouli, sandalwood, amber, musk, chocolate, caramel

Best for: Any woman looking to embrace and flaunt all of the aspects that make her fabulous.

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No matter which of these perfumes you choose to add to your collection, you’re sure to see why these perfumes are considered to be classics. From daytime at the office to a special occasion in the evening, any of these selections will serve you well—as will any of our other discount perfume offerings.

Sources: Viora London | Byrdie | Harper’s Bazaar

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