As a beauty editor who 'sees' scent as well as smells it, these are the most special perfumes I've ever experienced

There are several fragrances from my past which evoke the strongest visuals and emotions

Perfume For Emotion
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For as long as I can remember, I've had a more complex relationship with scent than the one simply through my nose. What I mean by that is this: perfume is tied to emotion, memory, people and places often more potently for me than it usually is to others. So much so that it can often provoke anxiety, intense nostalgia and sometimes even tears. Because I don't only process scent with my nose, but often through my eyes and other senses, too.

The exact term for this is 'synesthesia,' which is defined as a phenomenon where you experience one of your senses through another. I always tip-toe gently around this word and don't tend to attach it to myself because I'm not sure it necessarily captures my relationship with scent. 

With perfume, synesthesia often works by seeing colour or shapes when you smell something; I don't always have this, and thus I do not claim to have clear-cut synesthesia, nor would I ever declare myself some sort of 'nose' or perfume expert. I've just always been able to see how a perfume smells as soon as I hear its name or think about the bottle. It doesn't always come in shapes or colours (although I can sometimes describe it this way); more so in a way that I can instantly smell it by sight. 

This may all sound a little complicated, and it's hard for me to explain. In short, I've just always tied perfume to other senses and memories or places because of how strongly I experience them, meaning some have a real emotional attachment. 

With that said, I want to share the perfumes that evoke the most emotion in me, and which I think you too may find meaning in. Some are popular skin scents that many have found comfort or excitement in, whereas others may be new to you. 

These are the perfumes I consider most 'special' and would encourage you to try if you like your fragrance to evoke emotion.

1. Chanel Les Exclusifs De Chanel Beige

Chanel Les Exclusifs De Chanel Beige

(Image credit: Chanel)

Chanel Les Exclusifs De Chanel Beige


Key notes: Frangipani, honey, freesia, hawthorn

This is the perfume I can 'see' the easiest, mostly because I've been wearing it for the longest period of time. It looks sharp and sparkly yet smooth like honey, epitomising sophistication and sex appeal. 

It most reminds me of the time I was in the back of an Uber on the way to a house party in my twenties and the driver recognised it, much to my complete surprise (it's a lesser-known Chanel scent); this led to him revealing to me he had once worked in perfume with well-known noses and experts. 

Beige represents growth for me most, as it's seen me through the biggest changes in my twenties and now early thirties. It's also stability (but not in a boring way); any time I'm going through a weird phase in my life, I return to this as some sort of safety net. It's kind of like that TV show you re-watch over and over.

It's interesting how personal experience can shape a scent, as in conversation with Chanel fragrance experts last year, I was met with surprise when I told them it makes me feel sexy, as one look at its ingredients list (and name) and you'd think this was as subdued as they come. For me, this is anything but beige; it's a thrilling journey. 

2. Le Labo The Noir 29

Le Labo The Noir 29

(Image credit: Le Labo)

Le Labo The Noir 29


Key notes: Fig, cedar, tobacco

Hearing its name, it may come as little surprise to you that The Noir by Le Labo looks dark to me; the colour of midnight. It reminds me of the witching hour and those months between October and the end of the year.

If Le Labo's elixir was a city, it'd be New York – the place I first starting wearing it. It never sleeps and has this energy about it that's inimitable. It sort of has a hint of melancholy, but one that insomniacs such as myself sometimes feel while being up at night time when everyone else is asleep. 

Again, this is another scent I feel very sexy and confident in, and one I'd usually wear only after the sun sets (and never in the summertime).

3. Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt

Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt

(Image credit: Jo Malone London)

Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt


Key notes: Sea salt, sage, ambrette

Even after a long career in beauty smelling all the latest Jo Malone London creations, this is still my favourite, mainly because it reminds me of innocence. I started wearing it when I first moved to London in my early twenties and was interning at a well-known magazine. I was living in a flat-share and didn't know what the hell I was doing. This perfume became a constant. 

It smells and looks like innocence; a fresh, salty beach where my mind could wonder on days I was sick of the city. 

I adore this most when it's layered with my other JML favourite: Nectarine Blossom & Honey, which gives it a slightly sweeter kick. I would still wear this combo today but it does feel very nostalgic to me, like my twenties now are as a whole. 

4. Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 

Escentric Molecules Molecule 01

(Image credit: Escentric Molecules)

Escentric Molecules Molecule 01


Key notes: Iso E Super

It took me a while to jump on the bandwagon with this one, and I only found myself loving it years after it first took the beauty industry by storm. It is simplicity in a bottle, made from a single molecule: Iso E Super. 

When I picture this perfume, it looks smart and slate grey. It's fuss-free, without all the bells and whistles of many other iconic scents, and I love the fact it smells fairly unique upon each individual's wrist. 

On me it smells cool and sexy and makes me feel confident. If it was a drink, it'd be a gin with single spherical ice cube. 

5. Glossier You

Glossier You

(Image credit: Glossier)

Glossier You


Key notes: Iris, ambroxan, pink pepper, ambrette

I'm sure the way I'm about to describe this perfume is how many people 'see' it in their mind's eye. It's warm and comforting, like a fluffy pink cloud that envelops you whole. In the same breath, however, it's rather sexy and moreish, making it multi-dimensional. 

I have to be in a specific mood to wear this; sometimes it can feel a little too 'pretty' or 'sweet' depending on how I feel, but it's sort of like a big hug in a bottle, making it one you'll always return home to. 

6. Aesop Karst

Aesop Karst

(Image credit: Aesop)

Aesop Karst


Key notes: Juniper, rosemary, vetiver

If I had to describe how Karst looks and feels to me, it would be running water. Not smooth water from a tap or at the surface of a calm sea, but rough, fast-moving waves you experience while white water rafting. The water is loud and refreshing to all the senses, from your nose to your eyes and ears. 

As well as being blue and foamy white, Karst has a hint of green in there, taking you on a journey to a forresty woodland once you reach land.

Aesop's offering is sophisticated and grown-up, which is why I tend to associate it with first dates, when I have often reached for it.

7. Phlur Missing Person

Phlur Missing Person

(Image credit: Phlur)

Phlur Missing Person


Key notes: Musk, neroli, Australian sandalwood

Missing Person went viral on TikTok when it launched, and is perhaps one of the (if not the) most famous skin scents around these days. It's musky and warm, and to look at in my mind's eye, it's small in shape and sheer in texture. 

The understated scent is supposed to remind you of a missing lover who once lay next to you in bed, which I can totally relate to. It also smells like bubble baths and self-care, reminding me of that phase of quiet independence where you put the pieces back together following heartbreak. 

8. Jo Loves Red Truffle 21

Jo Loves Red Truffle 21

(Image credit: Jo Loves)

Jo Loves Red Truffle 21


Key notes: Fig, pine, truffle

If there was ever a perfume that screamed 'throwback' to me, it's this bottle. I remember first being introduced to Jo Loves as a brand and gravitating so instantly to this, as opposed to some of the better known scents like 'Pomelo' or 'White Rose and Lemon Leaves,' (both of which, BTW, I do also really enjoy). 

I don't know if this is going to make any sense, but if Red Truffle 21 was a song, it'd be Taylor Swift 'The Man.' It's about feeling empowered, strong and not taking any BS. It's solid to look at rather than soft and mellow like Glossier You. 

Red Truffle 21 is a really unique fragrance and I've never smelt anything quite like it, making it a firm favourite all these years later. 

9. Frédéric Malle Géranium pour Monsieur

Frédéric Malle Géranium pour Monsieur

(Image credit: Frédéric Malle)

Frédéric Malle Géranium pour Monsieur


Key notes: Mint, geranium, musk

This is the perfect scent to illustrate how I make connections between perfume and place. As someone who travels fairly regularly, I tend to choose a brand new scent to take away with me on any big trip I make. I can therefore feel flooded with memory of said place each time I spritz from the bottle in future. 

Frédéric Malle Géranium pour Monsieur is Australia. I remember going into the Liberty store and buying a tiny vial of it a couple of days prior to my first two week trip over there, and only breaking it open once boarding the plane. 

This smells like road trips up the coast and Airbnbs in the middle of the bush. It is missing my ex-boyfriend who I'd never been apart from but who I argued with near-constantly. In all its minty, geranium-y glory, it's jetlag and days sprawled on Bondi beach, and ultimately, that feeling of regret that I spent so long pining over a person back home instead of fully enjoying the experience right in front of me.

Rebecca Fearn

Rebecca is a freelance beauty journalist and contributor to Marie Claire. She has written for titles including Refinery29, The Independent, Grazia, Coveteur, Dazed, Stylist, and Glamour. She is also a brand consultant and has worked with the likes of The Inkey List on campaign messaging and branded copy. She’s obsessed with skincare, nail art and fragrance, and outside of beauty, Rebecca likes to travel, watch true crime docs, pet sausage dogs and drink coffee. Rebecca is also passionate about American politics and mental health awareness.