I Just Rebought This $65 Aughts-Era Perfume, and It Was the Best Decision Ever

“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” Coco Chanel allegedly once quipped. A little dramatic, but I can understand the pro-perfume stance behind it. I can remember every single one of my “signature fragrances,” and the era in which I wore it. After all, scent and memory are closely linked to one another. Take for instance, CK One ($68), which was marketed as “the first unisex fragrance” to gain mainstream popularity. It came out during the fall of 1994, when I was obsessed with My So-Called Life. I’d spritz it on my wrists and neck before school each day, fantasizing about having my own Jordan Catalano to make out with in the boiler room. In my “perfume dating history,” CK One came right between Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers and Gap Dream. I’m not sure if there’s anything else I can remember so linearly as I do my signature scents.

I was solely devoted to each and every one of my perfumes, but once I became a beauty editor and had access to trying many different kinds at once, my collection naturally expanded. I’m grateful—it’s definitely a major perk of this career. But sometimes, I do miss how special it was to wear one specific fragrance for years and have it be something that people associated me with. Still, I’m not one to complain, and now I have the privilege of switching up my fragrance depending on the mood or season, and trying certain fragrance categories that I may have been hesitant to try before. I’ve also found a new appreciation for fragrance in recent years thanks to my friend and fellow writer, Krista Burton, who knows everything under the sun about perfumes. Whenever we are in the same city, we’ll hit a perfume shop to hunt for new scents and stock up on samples. 

As you’ll soon find out, many of my go-to fragrances are gourmand scents. Though, I love a floral one every once in a while. However, you won’t find rose perfumes on this list. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with my chemistry and gives me a headache every time, which is a travesty since I love roses and rose scents in general.) 

Ready to smell… like me? Keep scrolling to learn about 12 of my favorite fragrances—from new floral obsessions to longtime gourmand favorites—including Aquolina’s *very iconic* Pink Sugar Eau de Toilette Spray ($65).  

This was the Marie scent of the late aughts. I wore the heck out of this perfume and loved how I’d walk into a party and people would say I smelled like birthday cake. I stopped wearing it about 10 years ago, but I recently was a guest on a podcast where we discussed The Devil Wears Prada. There’s one scene where Andy unloads a bunch of PR swag onto her friends (relatable), and one of the items is Pink Sugar. (Her friend Doug sprays it on his wrist and says “I love your job.”) I obviously had to rebuy it after seeing that! If you’re curious about what makes this sugary concoction, top notes include bergamot, orange, raspberry, and fig leaf, while the middle notes are licorice blossom, lily, cotton candy, and red fruits. Lastly, the base has vanilla, caramel, musk, tonka, and sandalwood. But to me, it just smells like really good memories.

I’ve talked about my love for Vacation before; it’s just one of the most brilliant newer brands, and I always get excited to see what it’ll come out with next. If you love that signature summery “sunscreen scent,” you’ll want to pick up this fragrance, which has the notes you’d expect: coconut water, banana, and pineapple, but then throws in pool water, lycra, and sea salt. Just genius.

When Rihanna launched her first-ever fragrance in August 2020, it sold out immediately, and all I had was a teeny tiny sample spray. Usually when things are too hyped, I get turned off, but I used up that entire sample! When the perfume was back in stock, I bought it immediately. And guess what: This is the perfume that I am currently wearing the most. It’s not really a gourmand. Although, there are vanilla and coconut notes. But it smells warm, spicy, and sweet. I’m obsessed. 

Speaking of Rihanna, like the rest of the world, I was intrigued when word got out that Rihanna’s signature scent was Love, Don’t Be Shy by Kilian Paris, especially because it’s a gourmand floral fragrance. When it hits my skin, I can smell the fruity notes of neroli and bergamot, but after a while, I smell the candy scents à la sugar, vanilla, and caramel. It’s warm, sweet, and sexy, which is how I feel the Fenty perfume is (yet it somehow still smells different and unique), so it’s easy to see why Rihanna loves it. 

When I first heard about this scent last year, I knew I had to have it. Hello, birthday cake! But it’s also a dream collaboration between perfumer Marissa Zappas and astrologer Annabel Gat. It’s pure sweetness, with notes of sugar, cupcake, and whipped cream, but also balloons! This is one that I can’t stop spraying. Plus, the bottle is super cute and looks great on my vanity.

I was immediately drawn to Viktor&Rolf’s newest scent because of its witchy, crystal ball–inspired bottle. How clever, right? But then I ended up really loving the scent itself. This is one that is fresh and floral at first due to the fennel at the top, then settles into my skin with a more sugary feel thanks to the strategic addition of Madagascar vanilla. I’ll be wearing this a lot in the coming months. 

Another new favorite of mine is Vanilla Milk from Ellis Brooklyn. I knew from the name alone this was going to be a winner, and I’m so glad I was right. It’s not straight-up vanilla, as there is rose, cocoa shell extract, and sandalwood present. Pick this one up if you love vanilla bean; it uses two different kinds.

The gourmand that started it all! Angel wasn’t the first gourmand to ever exist, but it definitely changed the category forever, as it brought these types of scents into the mainstream. The notes are too many to list, but standouts are bergamot, cotton candy, honey, and chocolate, to name a few. This scent is also famous for its lasting power. It’s a forever classic.  

Celebrity fragrances have a special place in my heart. My very first celebrity-fragrance memory was when I had a pink bottle of Michael Jackson’s Magic Beat (that came with a star necklace). I also had Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth and then in the 2000s (pre–Pink Sugar), I wore the Paris Hilton nonstop! Now, Dolly Parton (mom) has entered my illustrious lineup with this delicious floral fragrance. It’s bright and happy, just like her. Highly recommended.

I remember this fragrance was somewhat controversial when it first came out, and I can understand why. When you think of a cherry scent, the fear that it might smell like cough drops comes to mind. But this ended up being one of my favorite scents ever. With notes of black cherry, tonka, and almond, it’s equal parts sweet, comforting gourmand, and spicy cherry. A unique twist on your average dessert scent that’s at least worth getting a sample of. Who knows, you might fall in love with it too.  

If you are a hard-core gourmand lover, Salt Caramel by clean fragrance brand Shay and Blue is a must-have. With only four notes—caramel, sea salt, tonka bean, and bourbon vanilla, it’s a simple fragrance that packs a punch. Close your eyes. Imagine walking around a new city you’re visiting and deciding to go into a candy shop. There, you’re greeted by an intense caramel fragrance. You’re happily surprised that they make their sweets in-house. You quickly buy a bag of caramel truffles and barely make it out the door before you open it and inhale. That is what wearing Salt Caramel feels like. 

My husband and I don’t share fragrances often, but we both love By the Fireplace. We light a lot of candles in our home and especially love anything that reminds us of winter and getting all cozy by a fireplace (which we do not have). Sometimes, smoky scents can be too overpowering, but once this one settles into the skin, the woody notes make way for the sweetness. Utterly divine. No wonder it’s so popular.

Key fragrance notes: amber, musk, patchouli, red fruits, vanilla

Key fragrance notes: bitter almond, carvi, sambac jasmine, jacaranda, vanilla, musk

Key fragrance notes: freesia, plum, amber, cashmere woods, Madagascar vanilla beans, cistus oil

Up next, 8 Fragheads Tell Us What Perfume Should Be Our 2022 Scent

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