My Favourite Fragrances – And My Observations About Them

Favourite Fragrances

I know.

I must have written it a gazillion times.

But I really do get super excited when I receive questions from Distant Francophile readers.

I can’t tell you how important it is to me to create content here that is, first and foremost, useful, If I can also provide a little bit of entertainment and inspiration, then so much the better.

And I feel like answering your questions helps me achieve my aims because:

  1. I’ve always believed that if one person has a question then it is extremely likely that others will too; and
  2. When I answer questions, I’m not guessing at what you might want to read about. I can tailor the information I share to suit the style loving francophiles who regularly read DF.

With that as a background, you can imagine how thrilled I was when my recent call out for questions triggered a flurry of activity in my inbox. And I can’t wait to turn my mind to addressing all of those queries in the weeks and months ahead.

But there was one particular reader question that I knew I was always going to answer first.

On the surface at least, it seemed like a pretty simple question. How hard could it be to rattle off my favourite perfumes? Especially when everyone knows how much I love writing (and for that matter, talking) about scent. But as I started to think how I’d structure this post, I knew I’d have to dig a little deeper and provide you with a few observations, as well as sharing my favourite fragrances.

My Favourite Fragrances – And My Observations About Them

Observation One – I’m A Fan Of The Classics

Interestingly, three of my favourite fragrances are what can only be termed classics. I can’t remember how old I was when I started wearing Chanel No. 5, which first hit the market way back in 1921. Perhaps I was in my mid-twenties. But I fell in love instantly and always have a bottle somewhere on my dresser.

Same goes for Guerlain’s fabled oriental fragrance Shalimar, which was launched in 1925. I was hooked from the moment I tried it. Some would say that the exotic Shalimar should only be worn in winter, and probably only at night, but I break those two rules all the time. For me the exotic, woody concoction which is laced with vanilla is perfect just about any time.

L’Heure Bleue, released by Guerlain in 1912, has only recently joined my list of favourites. But when I decided that I couldn’t live without a fragrance that was first created over 100 years ago I also realised that perhaps I had a real thing for perfumes that were inspired by a different time and place. And I’m ok with that. Anything that can still be selling around the world after 100 years must have something special going for it.

I only wish I could have smelled the original formulations of all three of these perfumes. Access to raw ingredients as well as changes to laws and societal norms have seen them reformulated over the years. But no matter, I’m very happy with the current versions of these particular classics.

Observation Two – I Have Eclectic Taste

Once upon a time, I had it in my head that I had to discover my signature fragrance – just like the French women who inspire me so much are known to do. But it turned out that my easily bored personality couldn’t commit to a single scent. These days, I have a wardrobe of perfumes and I wear them all. The fragrance I choose to apply on any given day depends on my mood, the weather and the clothes I’ve decided to wear.

My preference for classics doesn’t stop me from trying more modern fragrances. I’m a fan of Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan (1993) and I picked up a bottle of Penhaligon’s Halfeti (2015) when I was in London last year. I tend to wear both of those in cooler weather.

I’ve mentioned numerous times here on DF that one of my favourite fragrances was blended especially for me and I like wearing that one regardless of the season. Same goes for Diptyque’s L’Ombre dans l’Eau (1983). I’m as happy spritzing it on in summer as I am in winter.

Finally, I spent the last Australian summer enjoying Charlotte Tilbury’s Scent Of A Dream (2016) after receiving a bottle as gift while in New York – which came as a huge surprise to me because I wouldn’t have said that Scent Of A Dream was the kind of scent I like, let alone dream about. But like it I did. And I thought the marketing for the fragrance, which featured Kate Moss, was pretty fabulous too.

Observation Three – I Appear To Be A Bit Of A Fragrance Snob

Apart from the Charlotte Tilbury example – and let’s be honest, I’d never have tried that perfume if I hadn’t received it as a gift with a make-up purchase – I seem to steer very clear of what are commonly known as ‘Celebrity’ scents. I also avoid fragrances that may be part of the ‘grey market’ (real fragrances that are out of date or even sometimes fakes that are sold at heavily discounted prices on-line and in certain retailers).

Although I think I will always be happy to pay full price for an authentic fragrance I love, I do wonder if my avoidance of fragrances trading under the names of celebrities closes me off from finding perfumes that I might really enjoy wearing. I think I’d make a great candidate for a blind perfume experience like the one described here in The New York Times.

Observation Four – I Shop For New Fragrances While Travelling

But not it appears because I want to take advantage of duty free pricing. In fact, upon reflection, I’ve realised that I rarely purchase fragrance in the duty free environment unless I’m purchasing it as a gift or restocking one of my classics.

The reason that travel and fragrance go together for me is the fact that while I’m on vacation I have time to explore and test new fragrances properly. I can test a perfume for a few days and really give myself time to decide if I really love a fragrance. I don’t feel under any pressure to buy the first fragrance I try just because I’m in a hurry.

And researching perfumes while on holiday has one added advantage. I get to link beautiful fragrances to wonderful memories. It is amazing how quickly I’m taken back to our travels when I wear a scent that I purchased on vacation.

Observation Five – I Don’t Actually Own Or Wear One Of My Favourite Perfumes

One of my very favourite fragrances – Diptyque’s Oud Palou – is worn by a close friend. It always smells divine on her. I’d never even consider wearing it myself – I now associate the fragrance entirely with her. I’m sure I must comment on how lovely it is every single time she wears it.

Your turn now. What are your favourite fragrances? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.


Please note: This is an unsolicited post and no compensation of any kind has been received from the brands named.

About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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4 thoughts on “My Favourite Fragrances – And My Observations About Them

  • Alison

    Hi Janelle! Thank you for sharing, I enjoy reading your posts. Though I currently live in South America (Chile), I do find myself reminiscing of my times in France, or Europe in general, and fantasizing about a certain aesthetic I have found only there, and vaguely in other cities outside of Europe…(I wonder if it is possible to recreate the aesthetic- whether it’s based on values? or philosophies of life?- in other areas…or is the french aesthetic purely defined by society standards when grouped together? So many questions on my mind, but no need to respond!)

    My question to you with regards to this post on fragrances, is ask you how you test your fragrances? I understand that each person’s body chemical interacts differently with that of the bottle, so I was curious to ask you how you determine when one is “right” for you? Do you take your time purchasing after you have test it on yourself and waited a couple of hours/days? Or do you do more of an impulsive buy and from there determine whether you like it over the next months?

    Greetings from Chile!


    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Alison. You raise many excellent questions that are well worth exploring on DF one day. As for the perfume question….It took me a long time to learn that impulsive buys don’t work for me. Like so many people, a fair number of scents give me a headache and I’m also prone to rashes….given these rather unfortunate reactions, I’ve learned to live with a fragrance before I part with my cash!! Once I know a fragrance doesn’t cause my body to react, I can then focus on whether or not it works for me. I check whether I like all the notes – especially the base notes that stay with us the longest. I also make sure that my family like the scent on me…they have to live with it too. If you are interested, I shared more tips on choosing fragrance in this post Cheers, Janelle.

  • Garden Goddess

    My all time favorite fragrance is a French one called “Fracas” by Robert Piguet; alas, no longer in production. I found the last spray bottle at a swap meet and have been hoarding it ever since.

    And for my question: What types of notes do you think a fragrance should have day vs evening, and for each season? I like the more flowery for daytime and more spicy for evening, and heavier/spicier with vanilla and citrus for Winter; lighter more herbs for Spring, grassier and more flowery for summer, and again more spice for Autumn. If I liked musk, I’d probably put that for Winter as well–but I don’t, so I just ignore it. 🙂 But realistically, I’d wear Fracas year around if I could! I’d love your opinion since you are into fragrances.

    • Janelle Post author

      So good to hear from you Garden Goddess. Personally I’ve never tried Fracas but everything I read about it tells me it is a five star fragrance. (And the fact that Luca Turin compared it to a Ferrari intrigues me and makes me wish that I had tried it!!!!)

      It’s so interesting that you ask about certain notes and when I wear them. My first response to your question was that, like you, I prefer ‘greener’ (as I call them), fresher and more floral scents in spring and summer. But when I sit with that idea for a little longer I realise that I am a huge fan of ‘Oriental’ fragrances – my current favourites make that clear. (I also loved Lou Lou and other ‘big’ orientals as a teenager – it was the 80’s after all). What I concluded was that I tend to wear the lighter, quieter orientals in summer, and head to the heavier, louder ones in winter. And once I sat with your question even longer, I realised that there are 3 scents that I’m happy to wear regardless of season – No.5, Shalimar and the fragrance that was blended for me. I definitely wear those based on my mood rather than any seasonal influence. Not sure that helps – but one thing I should share is that I firmly believe you should only wear a fragrance if you love it. And I definitely love all of the options that sit on my dresser.