I asked fragrance enthusiasts which perfume holds the most nostalgia for them—these 8 take them right back

The stories behind some of the most nostalgic fragrances

Tray of perfumes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We all have certain scents that remind us of a certain time, place, or person. More specifically, lots of people have one or two nostalgic perfumes that have the ability to whisk them right back in time (if you are one of the many, many who wore Marc Jacobs' Daisy back in the day, welcome).

Our sense of smell is closely linked to memories, which is why the best perfumes for women are so personal. Whether your preference is floral perfumes or you're more drawn to woody perfumes, there's usually a story behind the first time you smelled or wore a specific fragrance. 

I can be quite nosy, and I love asking fellow beauty experts about their make-up bag staples, haircare routines and favourite fragrances. So I asked a bunch of my fellow beauty editors which perfumes hold the most nostalgia for them, and the results make for very interesting reading. Here are their selections, from those that remind them of loved ones to signature scents of years gone by. 

The most nostalgic perfumes according to beauty editors

Lucy Abbersteen, Freelance Beauty Editor

Lucy Abbersteen

(Image credit: Lucy Abbersteen)

Givenchy Ysatis Eau de Toilette

(Image credit: Givenchy)

Givenchy Ysatis Eau de Toilette

Best for a chypre floral fragrance


Key notes: Mandarin, ylang-ylang, jasmine, Egyptian rose, Florentine iris, orange blossom, sandalwood, clove, Tahitian vanilla

“It feels like the easy answer, but my mum’s signature perfume, Ysatis by Givenchy, is the most nostalgic for me. She reckons she started wearing it in her late teens or early twenties, so definitely longer than my lifetime. The original was a rich chypre floral, but when I was younger and knew very little about perfume it was just a very warming, comforting scent. I’ve never known anybody else to wear it and it’s only in recent years that my mum has branched out with a couple of other perfumes, so it’ll always remind me both of her and of my younger years. It looks like the Eau de Parfum has been discontinued—news that has not gone down well—but with a bit of detective work I can hopefully hunt down a bottle. Fortunately, the Eau de Toilette is still on sale.” Lucy Abbersteen, Freelance Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor, Executive Beauty Editor, Marie Claire

Marie Claire UK Executive Beauty Editor Shannon Lawlor

(Image credit: Shannon Lawlor)

Acqua di Parma Colonia Essenza

(Image credit: Acqua di parma)

Acqua di Parma Colonia Essenza

Best for a fresh, woody perfume


Key notes: Italian citrus, rosemary, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, patchouli, white moss, amber

"This is, hands down, my most coveted perfume in my entire collection (which stands, shamefully, at over 100 bottles). There's no doubt the the fresh, soap-like take on traditionally woody notes makes it a masterpiece, but I love it for so much more than its perfumery excellence. It's the perfume I reach for whenever I need to feel like my best self. Why? It's all down to how I first came about it. 

Many years ago, on a crisp, cold December evening, I was Christmas shopping with my mum on London's South Molton Street. She wanted to pick a new perfume for Christmas, so we spent hours in Space NK testing and trialling different scents. We played a game of picking on for each other. When it came to revealing the perfume we had chosen for the other, it turned out we had both settled on the same one—Colonia Essenza. We walked out with a bottle each and have both worn it almost religiously since. Whenever I spray it, it brings that grounding, familiar sort of content and joy that I experienced that day. It's so special, I'm wearing it on my wedding day next spring." — Shannon Lawlor, Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire 

Tori Crowther, Freelance Beauty & Health Journalist

Tori Crowther

(Image credit: Tori Crowther)

Moschino I Love Love Eau de Toilette

(Image credit: Moschino)

Moschino I Love Love Eau de Toilette

Best for a fresh fragrance


Key notes: Grapefruit, orange, lemon, redcurrant, sugar cane, bulrush, lily of the valley, tea rose, cinnamon, musk, cedar

"It's everything a bottle of perfume should be for a young adult, in my opinion. It's light, fresh and, most of all, fun. It's the definition of nostalgia to me. The reason I loved it so much (and I've only discovered this recently) is because my mum's signature scent was D&G Light Blue, which is very close in notes. Moschino's I Love Love is more playful, more citrusy and younger than Light Blue, but they're definitely related. It's such a beautiful and familiar powdery, airy and friendly (if a fragrance can even be friendly) perfume. The bottle is... odd, which is probably exactly why teenage me gravitated towards it. Don't judge the scent by the eccentric bottle alone, it's elevated while still being full of nostalgia and joy." — Tori Crowther, Freelance Beauty & Health Journalist

Vanese Maddix, Freelance Beauty Journalist and Podcast Host

Vanese Maddix

(Image credit: Vanese Maddix)

Prada Paradoxe Eau de Parfum

(Image credit: Prada)

Prada Paradoxe Eau de Parfum

Best for a floral amber fragrance


Key notes: Neroli, amber, musk

"As I approach a little over a year until I enter my thirties, I’ve begun to feel the inevitable nostalgia of my twenties. I’m constantly trying to remember the songs that have played a role during the past decade, along with the scents. While Prada’s Paradoxe is one of the newer scents in my collection, it’s one I can say I never tire of. The non-overbearing, warming and floral scent has become the soundtrack to many outfits and occasions, and is one I’m guaranteed to get complimented on. It’s special to me as it has lingered during many of those occasions and it’s a scent I can see myself wearing well into my fifties." — Vanese Maddix, Freelance Beauty Journalist and Podcast Host

Eleanor Vousden, Beauty Editor, Who What Wear UK

Eleanor Vousden

(Image credit: Eleanor Vousden)

Narciso Rodriguez For Her Eau de Parfum

(Image credit: Narciso Rodriguez)

Narciso Rodriguez For Her Eau de Parfum

Best for a fruity floral


Key notes: Rose, peach, amber, musk, patchouli, sandalwood

"After graduating from Lacoste Touch Of Pink and DKNY Be Delicious Red in my early teenage years, Narciso Rodriguez's For Her sticks out in my mind as my first foray into 'grown-up' fragrance. I remember saving up to buy the sleek black bottle and wearing it at the start of a new term when I was around 17. I remember feeling a little self conscious on the first wear, as though the fragrance was wearing me, and not the other way around! The musk scent was so unlike the sickly sweet fragrances I had tried before, but I grew more and more fond of the warm, skin-like scent that clung to my scarf and coat all season long. I still love it now and wear it with more confidence in my late twenties, having found that warm, musky perfumes are now my signature." — Eleanor Vousden, Beauty Editor at Who What Wear UK

Laura Capon, Beauty Editor

Laura Capon

(Image credit: Laura Capon)

Paco Rabanne Black XS For Her

(Image credit: Paco Rabanne)

Paco Rabanne Black XS For Her

Best for an amber woody fragrance


Key notes: Tamarind flower, pink pepper, cranberries, rose, black violet, cacao, Massoia wood, black vanilla, sandalwood

"I don’t know if I can say I still love Paco Rabanne Black XS, but it’s so synonymous with my early twenties that I can smell it just typing this. A heavy amber woody scent that I doused myself in before every night out. Just one spray of it and I was ready to binge drink vodka oranges all evening. I even loved the bottle as it appealed to my slightly gothic style at a time when Kat Von D was my icon. It was a moody scent with black violet and black vanilla and, despite how it lingered, I always took it with me on a night out. Thankfully, these were also the days when I'd take a digital camera and a Polaroid to the club, so I had ample space for it in my going out bag. 

"Our break-up was sudden and tremendously embarrassing. It was a night out that began and ended for me in the big two-floor Croydon Wetherspoons. I didn’t have too much to drink, rather I was unwell and had a sudden onset of a very bad stomach… if you catch my drift. As the toilet trips multiplied, I attempted to mask the smell of my cubicle with the contents of my favourite black and pink bottle. Turns out, adding that 10th note was a step too far and I have never been able to smell or think about it since without remembering the night my bowels betrayed me." — Laura Capon, Beauty Editor

Humeara Mohamed, Freelance Beauty Editor

Humeara Mohamed

(Image credit: Humeara Mohamed)

Justin Bieber The Key Eau de Parfum

(Image credit: Justin Bieber)

Justin Bieber The Key


Key notes: Mandarin, pear, osmanthus, boysenberry, jasmine, peach, water lily, musk, woods

"Like many other late '90s babies, I was besotted—nay, indoctrinated—by a teenage heart-throb. I was a proud Belieber, no less, firmly under Justin Bieber's spell. I wore a dog tag with his name on it around my neck; my first foray into nail art was to messily scribble 'JB' on my paws with white polish; my room was covered in life-sized posters; and I obviously wore his then-coveted fragrance. My friends indulged me—in fact, it was they who pooled together the money to buy me 'The Key' for my 16th birthday in July 2013. It's discontinued now—a fact that I've only just realised while writing this piece, because up until I bought my last bottle, it was still available to buy on Amazon for a friendly £9.99. 'Never say never!', my husband chirped when I told him this sorry fact. IYKYK. 

"The Key is so special to me—it followed me through my most turbulent and formative teenage years. It's the scent that my husband associates with me; I wore it every single day when we first met at 19 years old. I wore it during my internship at Dazed, much to the horror of many a beauty editor, and I still—to this day—love it. Now, though my obsession with Justin is long gone and hanging posters of his floppy hair no longer feels like a good interior design choice, I would 100% buy the creamy concoction of powdery musk and juicy fruits if I could." — Humeara Mohamed, Freelance Beauty Editor

Aleesha Badkar, Digital Beauty Editor, woman&home

Aleesha Badkar

(Image credit: Aleesha Badkar)

Creed Aventus For Her Eau de Parfum

(Image credit: Creed)

Creed Aventus For Her Eau de Parfum

Best for a luxurious fragrance


Key notes : Green apple, pink pepper, Indonesian patchouli, Calabrian bergamot, Bulgarian and Turkish roses, Indian sandalwood, styrax, musk, peach, cassis, lilac, amber, ylang-ylang

"Not the most old-school nostalgic fragrance, I know, but for me, this is one that makes me think of my best friend every time I smell it. She became an everyday wearer as soon as it launched in 2016, and so it takes me back to those years in my late twenties when we would spend our Friday nights in wine bars eating cheese and charcuterie, or at home with her sister and now-husband playing darts and beer pong, or even going away for a road trip and spa weekend. Nowadays, our Friday nights are more often spent trying to eat a takeaway while her three little boys run around and punctuate every three words of our conversations with a 'muuuuum' or 'Aunty Leeshaaaaaa'... Obviously, I love both [times], but that musky, fresh, citrussy Aventus scent will always put a smile on my face." — Aleesha Badkar, Digital Beauty Editor, woman&home

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.