While there's something lovely about having a signature scent that you wear year-round, I prefer to think of fragrance in the same way that I would my wardrobe. Sure, I have some staple perfumes that I come back to time and time again—my fragrance basics, if you will—but I like to layer in new scents in the same way that you might try a trending style of shorts or a new dress silhouette when the seasons change. And there's one season in particular when this concept really comes into its own: summer.
I adore summer perfumes. They tend to be fresh, fruity and delicious, and wearing one always makes me think of sunny beaches and tropical cocktails, even if my reality is more of a drizzly walk around the park. Yes, while my feet are staying firmly planted on UK soil over the coming months, there's no doubt that the very best summer perfumes will be transporting me to sunnier climes in a spritz or two. And this year, there are so many good ones.
Ahead, keep scrolling for the 13 best summer perfumes that truly smell like holiday.
Forget coconuts, pineapples and all of those other sweet accords that often creep their way into summer perfumes. This new launch from Dior is fresh, woodsy and decidedly more sophisticated than that. It smells like warm, salty skin at the end of a long day at the beach with a welcome hit of greenery from sun-dappled trees.
Soho is vibrant all year round, but it really comes to life in the summer, so it makes sense that one of its most iconic streets is the namesake for Ouai's seasonal offering. This is a truly delicious perfume that features a mouthwatering array of notes. At first sniff, it's like a chic fruit cocktail of apricot, grapefruit and mandarin before a floral sweep of rose, magnolia and violet settles in. It all sounds very sweet, but once it's dried down, you'll notice it has a warm, musky finish that keeps it feeling grown-up. I absolutely adore it.
I've seen this shared on Instagram so many times that I'm coining this Loewe perfume the fashion set's scent of the summer. And even without the chic packaging, it's easy to see why. This is a universal summer scent that I truly think anyone would adore. It combines notes of bergamot, yuzu and Ceylon tea to make for a lively and refreshing spritz that smells great without being overpowering.
There couldn't be a perfume more suited to the British summertime than this new drop from Zara. Created by Jo Malone CBE, Zara Rain is a collection of four fragrances inspired by the subtle scents of rain. It might not sound like the obvious place to start for a summer perfume, but it works. Citrus Meze is a love letter to citrus fruits: a juicy blend of bergamot, grapefruit and orange flower with neroli and musk preventing it from becoming too cloying.
I'm a big fan of Maison Margiela's Replica collection and the way that all of the fragrances evoke memories of specific times and places, but I wasn't hugely excited to see that its new launch was inspired by matcha—a scent that, traditionally, I'm no lover of. How wrong I was. This is a fresh summer scent that, yes, definitely smells of green tea but has so much more going on. It contains ripe bergamot and mandarin, lush jasmine and orange flower and even a hint of sweet white chocolate. To me, it smells like enjoying a matcha latte in the garden on a sunny Sunday morning—both comforting and uplifting and a real joy.
While I'm yet to get my hands on the classic Diptyque summer collection, I have been lucky enough to try this unexpected new scent from the French fragrance house, and I'm head over heels for it. Since it's inspired by journeys through the Middle East, I was expecting this to be a heady fragrance more suited to autumn or winter. In fact, when I read leather, saffron and cedar, I was anticipating an oud-inspired perfume that wouldn't really be up my street. Instead, this is a balmy, vibrant fragrance that smells like strolling through a Moroccan market in the height of summer. If you like your perfumes to have a little spice and a lot of warmth, then you'll adore it.
No prizes for guessing what Atelier Cologne's summer perfume smells like! An homage to the humble lemon, this is a bright, zesty perfume that smells like sunshine in a bottle. And while many lemon fragrances that I've tried in the past can veer into cleaning-product territory, this one transcends its citrus base with touches of Madagascan vanilla and a salty sea breeze.
Despite this scent being unashamedly citrus with its punchy bergamot and tangerine notes, it's delightfully herbal, too—almost like a fancy cocktail. As well as fruitiness, it has aromatic hints of rosemary and vetivert, which lends it an almost earthy feel. It's unexpected and absolutely delightful.
Floral lovers will adore this elegant iris scent. Honestly, I couldn't really tell you what iris smells like before stumbling across this perfume, but it's this: soft, powdery and subtle. Sure, it's flowery, but the modern mix of mandarin and neroli means that I think this summer perfume will have widespread appeal.
Inspired by great British summer fêtes, the Jo Malone summer collection is cottagecore vibes in a bottle. While Rose Blush definitely has that English-country-garden feel, it's jammier than traditional rose scents and doesn't feel overly floral thanks to a twist of herby basil and sweet lychee. If I could spread it on a scone and eat it, I would.
In my opinion, all perfumes are unisex, but this new launch from Parfums de Marly definitely goes out of its way to avoid any notes traditionally coined as masculine or feminine. Instead, it's a riotous concoction of tangy green apple, sun-soaked mandarin and Sicilian bergamot with a musky base of oak moss, amber and cashmere wood. I think it's the perfect scent to spray on during a balmy summer afternoon as you transition from day to night.
Genuinely, what would a roundup of best summer perfumes be without the iconic Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess? When most people think of summer fragrance, it's this one that springs to mind, and it definitely delivers on seasonal spirit. It's a tropical tirade of vanilla and coconut, sweet tiare flower and sunny bergamot—but it's that amber base that provides its trademark warmth. I come back to it every year, despite smelling it on so many people because it truly reminds me of summer.
For me, this is a summer perfume that's made for when the sun goes down—in fact, it kind of smells like enjoying a dark and stormy at a beachside cocktail bar. It combines dark rum and deep berries with hints of honey and cinnamon for a sweet-yet-spicy warmth. It's delectable, and I'll be dousing myself in it to make a Friday night at the pub feel a little more alluring.