As a beauty editor with an affinity for all things scent, one of the topics I get asked about most is summer perfumes. You see, selecting the best perfume for summer is complex. Firstly, we have the issue of longevity. Truthfully, even some of the most long-lasting perfumes out there will struggle to hold up under the sun. Why? It’s basic physics—heat causes fragrance to evaporate at a faster rate, resulting in the scent ‘fading’ more quickly.
Beyond that, throughout my years as a beauty editor, I have also noticed that people tend to be picky when it comes to their summer perfumes—more so than normal. Whereas lightweight, fresh scents prove crowd pleasing for spring fragrances, and earthy, woody fragrances tick the boxes for winter, come summer, everyone wants something a little different. While some like their perfumes to be rich, deep and woody, some like mouthwaring, sweet aromas that smell good enough to eat, with others preferring salty, marine-like aromas that clear the senses. And people are very set in their ways about which perfumes they prefer.
While these perfume camps are no doubt divisive, as a fragrance chameleon, I like to dabble in a bit of everything when it comes to my summer perfumes. It is my job to try as close to every perfume out there—and throughout my career, I’ve made it my mission to give every summer perfume a damn good test in a quest to find the best. The criteria? It comes down to three very simple things:
- It has to stand out enough for me to give it a second sniff.
- As with all my perfume testing, it must win me compliments.
- Most importantly, it has to last on the skin under the hottest of rays. After all, perfume is expensive (although extra points are awarded for blends that smell ten times more luxe than their price tag would suggest), so I expect it to deliver some bang for its buck.
And although I have great faith in my own recommendations, I know you might take some more persuading, so I reached out to a number of fragrance experts for their summer perfume advice. The consensus? Look towards citruses with clever blends, woody notes that aren’t too sweet or smoky and sweet florals without a hint of powderiness.
The best summer perfume notes, according to experts
“Citrus molecules naturally evaporate more quickly, but the right concentration (opt for Eau de Parfum) blended with a well-balanced formula of heart and base notes can make for a long-lasting summer scent. Look for combinations with amber, oakwood, vetiver, saffron and ginger. This sets them in a way that allows them to be worn in the summer and last all day,” says Alex Oprey, Product Director at Miller Harris.
“For summer, go for woody notes because they are not too sweet and not too heavy. I recommend sandalwood, cedarwood and musky notes because they are neutral,” says Geza Schoen, founder and perfumer of Escentric Molecules.
“The best summer feeling is the feeling of being in the ocean, sun kissed and sensual. Flowers like jasmine and vanilla are much more long lasting and will make you feel like you are on a summer beach holiday,” says Yasmin Sewell, founder of Vyrao.
The 11 best summer perfumes:
So, with all of the above in mind and my tough testing criteria, here are the summer perfumes I *know* are the best—whatever your tastes.
Woody & Spicy
1. Byredo De Los Santos
Byredo De Los Santos
I’m the first to admit that many of Byredo’s cult fragrances have longevity issues, but I can assure you that the warming depth of De Los Santos keeps it lingering on clothes well into the following morning. To put it frankly, De Los Santos isn’t like any perfume you’ve ever smelled before—it’s herby and fresh, but with a smoky incense-like depth that fills a room. Whenever I go away to somewhere much sunnier than here, De Los Santos comes with me. In fact, last summer on a girls’ holiday to Spain, I ended up having to share my bottle with five of my friends who became smitten upon first sniff.
2. Diptyque Tam Dao
Diptyque Tam Dao
While I’m not a big believer in the concept of signature scents (I have countless), if I had to choose one, Tam Dao would be very high on the list. To me, it’s a masterpiece. Like standing in a freshly showered rainforest with the faint whiff of sandalwood drifting over from a nearby temple, it is a sense-clearing fragrance that proves woody bases can be fresh and discreet.
3. Aesop Gloam
If you like your summer fragrances to pack a spicy punch, Gloam will likely be for you. It’s deep and dark, but in a way that keeps you going back for more. “There is the Pink Pepper which, for me, captures this classic British elegance, referring a little bit to Juniper. It’s stimulating, almost itching in the nose, it really calls the wearer to smell it. Saffron, but also Jasmine Sambac, give a rich warmth, while mimosa gives the sense of pleasure of imaginary travel,” says Barnabé Fillion, Aesop spokesperson and fragrance developer.
Sweet & Creamy
4. Juliette Has a Gun Lust For Sun
Juliette Has a Gun Lust For Sun
Lust For Sun is a summer perfume in its purest sense—like sunshine, cocktails and poolside lounging all bottled up. What’s so masterful about it, however, is that it maintains a sense of undeniable luxury. It doesn’t have any fruity stickiness to it, instead being creamy and fresh—like warm, sun-drenched skin that’s been layered with suncream.
5. Zara Amalfi Sunray
Zara Amalfi Sunray
If you want to get a true sense of the beauty of this affordable perfume from Zara (that was created by Jo Malone CBE, no less), I need you to engage your imagination. Close your eyes and imagine you’re lounging on the veranda of an Italian holiday home.After a long day of exploring, you’re showered, you’ve moisturised your sun-kissed skin and now, you’re mastering the art of doing nothing. You’ve poured yourself a refreshing cooler and there’s nothing to be heard except for the crashing waves and rustling of the lemon trees. Bottle that feeling, and you’ve got Amalfi Sunray.
6. Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 + Mandarin
Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 + Mandarin
I’ll admit, I don’t make my job easy for myself by being honest about the best fragrances out there. Why? Because I inevitably end up featuring some form of Escentric Molecules Molecule 01. Molecule 01 contains just one note, a totally synthetic scent called Iso E Super—it’s unique, iconic and almost impossible to describe. Fresh, skin-like and a little metallic, Iso E Super might be tough to describe, but it makes for the perfect perfume base. So, when perfumer and founder of Escentric Molecules, Geza Schoen, decided to add mandarin to it to create this summer-ready perfume, it made perfect sense. “Mandarin oil itself is quite transparent and thin and doesn't last very long. So, for Escentric Molecules M+ Mandarin, I felt it needed some more aspects. I wanted to recreate the immediate aroma you smell when peeling a mandarin, so I used traces of other ingredients to achieve this effect, such as a touch of jasmine and orange absolue— it radiates off the skin,” he says.
7. Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess
Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess
I couldn’t possibly have a round-up of the best summer perfumes without including this iconic scent. Bronze Goddess is, if you’re asking me, the scent of summer. If you don’t like creamy perfumes, then it won’t be for you. However, if you like your summer fragrances to radiate warmth and sunshine and you haven’t smelled Bronze Goddess before, consider this your sign—it’s like if Harrods had a tropical beach club that sold coconut punch.
8. Vyrao Free00
Vyrao is a little-known perfume brand that I think is destined for really big things—especially if Free00 is anything to go by. The perfumes are organic, meaning the formulas don’t contain pesticides or fertilisers. The whole point of them is that they’re not super intense, so if you want a summer perfume that’s going to linger on shirt collars for days on end (like De Los Santos), then know Vyrao’s Free00 won’t be for you. However, if you like sweet, citrus smells that deliver a floral freshness for a midday, summer pick-me-up, then this is for you.
Earthy & Fresh
9. Ellis Brooklyn Salt
Ellis Brooklyn Salt
If you haven’t heard of Ellis Brooklyn before, you’re about to see it everywhere. It’s an uber-cool, US-based brand that specialises in fragrances that tell stories and create core memories—and Salt is just that. Unlike other sea-based smells, Salt isn’t water-like. Instead, it’s like skin after a post-sea dip. Like tropical florals, musks and driftwood, but with a dry, salt-like freshness that leaves it feeling elemental, rather than sweet.
10. Miller Harris Hydra Figue
Miller Harris Hydra Figue
In my opinion, few things spark more beauty-related joy than an expertly blended fig fragrance, and this one by Miller Harris is stunning. It’s like sitting under a fresh fig tree on the Aegean coast, watching the rest of the world sail by. It’s woody, marine but, above all, it’s fresh with green notes of fig that leave the mind totally soothed.