This year, the summer has come bearing plenty of gifts: rising temperatures, longer days, and most importantly, the ability to go outside. As we traipse into a season marked by slowly dwindling COVID–19 rates, we’re finding that many items that were previously nonessential during long days spent in solitude are now becoming a necessity.

To me, perfume is a lot more than the remnants of mist lingering in your bedroom before you leave for a night out. It’s a scent that is uniquely you, one that your friends can recall every time they give you a hug—a sort of trademark on your style, persona, or identity. 

Before we break down our picks for the hottest summer scents, a little background:

One of the most fundamental differences between fragrances lies in the miniature French typescript at the bottom the box: Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette. These two terms signify the concentration of pure perfume oil in a bottle. Eau de toilettes typically have a lighter formula, comprising around 10–15% perfume oil. On the other hand, eau de parfums have a higher concentration of perfume oil (15–20%), and therefore tend to last longer on the skin. Notably, the high concentration of oil in an eau de parfum will result in a more “aromatic” application—the perfume will essentially adapt to the wearer during the course of the day.

That being said, the presence of different notes in perfumes makes comparisons difficult. While many of us might be accustomed to choosing fragrances the classic way—i.e: spritzing a bottle onto a rectangular paper cutout and smelling it immediately—perfumes are designed to have a three–part smell. The ones you smell immediately are top notes that typically evaporate within the first 20 minutes of application, followed by the heart notes that last for 3–4 hours. Last are the base notes, the ones that stick around the longest, lasting almost 5–8 hours after application. Ideally, you want to wear a fragrance for around a day before you decide if you like it—taking note of how the notes interact with the chemicals on your skin throughout the process.

In summation, developing or finding a “signature” scent isn’t necessarily easy. In an effort to smoothen that process, here are some of my personal favorites for this summer—divided into fragrances for both the day and the night.

Summer Days

Maison Margiela — Replica — Beach Walk (Eau de Toilette)

Margiela’s Replica series features a series of fragrances that act as time capsules, preserving quintessential moments in an olfactory museum. Beach Walk is no exception. With top notes of bergamot, pink pepper, and lemon, Beach Walk eventually fades into a dreamy confection of coconut milk and ylang ylang, bolstered by base notes of musk and cedar. This scent evokes the feeling of a bright, sticky popsicle on a boardwalk by the ocean, making it the ideal fragrance for this summer’s renewed sense of vibrancy.

Gucci — Bloom — Acqua di Fiori (Eau de Toilette)

Bloom Acqua di Fiori is best described in one word: refreshing. Featuring key notes such as green galbanum, jasmine closed buds, and sandalwood, it is no surprise that Acqua di Fiori is inspired by the imagery of a “thriving garden” filled with flowers. Though this scent is decidedly less sweet than Gucci’s other Bloom counterparts, it is perfect for those looking to embody the adage “as fresh as a daisy.” The “greenness” of the fragrance is matched by dewy floral notes, resulting in a captivating sensory experience. 

Chloé — Chloé (Eau de Parfum)

Cult classic Chloé is reminiscent of a lively bouquet of flowers. Chloé features a mix of aromatic floral notes, including pink peony, lychee, and lily of the valley, with sweeter base notes like honey and amber. This concoction has consistently made the best sellers list for a reason; as an eau de parfum, the fragrance is long–lasting and consists of layers of decadent floral notes that unfurl over the course of the day. The subtlety of the scent is also a plus for those looking for a more delicate fragrance.

Victoria’s Secret — Love Spell (Fragrance Mist)

While not technically an eau de parfum, Victoria’s Secret’s fragrance mists are incredibly long–lasting and only require a few spritzes for full coverage. Love Spell contains key notes of peach and cherry blossom, culminating in an intoxicating floral scent with just the right amount of tart. The peach notes in Love Spell are not overwhelming; rather, they undercut the sweetness of the florals while still allowing for a fresh, inviting fragrance. Love Spell is, in my opinion, one of Victoria’s Secret’s best fragrances—and with 250ml in every bottle, it’ll be a while before you run out.

Summer Nights

Yves Saint Laurent — Black Opium (Eau de Parfum)

Black Opium features an unlikely yet addictive blend of coffee, vanilla, and white flowers. The lush scent is perfect for any night out, with the added bonus of longevity that allows the fragrance to follow you from your first steps out the door to the sound of your key clicking in the lock once you return. Black Opium contains all the warmth and sweetness of its floral and vanilla notes without losing any of the edge afforded by the caffeine kick. With the added introduction of pear, pink pepper, and orange blossom notes in the mix, Black Opium is a delectable scent that is perfect for humid summer nights.

Chanel — Coco Mademoiselle (Eau de Parfum)

Though Chanel’s fragrances are all cast in the shadow of the infamous No. 5, I find that the prodigal perfume’s younger sister, Coco Mademoiselle, has far more to offer. Coco Mademoiselle opens with fresh notes of orange before settling into jasmine and May rose, and eventually unfurling into patchouli and vetiver. The woody quality of the patchouli lightens the boldness of the opening citrus notes, making for a rich olfactory composition. I wouldn’t necessarily call this scent “delectable,” as was with Black Opium, but Coco Mademoiselle provides a similar sense of richness and nuance. To me, Coco Mademoiselle has the same appeal as a clean, fragrant hotel room, with the warmth of a candle offsetting the crispness of white sheets.  

Bath & Body Works — Champagne Toast (Fragrance Mist)

A surprising, yet tantalizing, amalgamation of champagne, berries, and tangerine—this Champagne Toast is a fragrance for celebrations. The scent contains none of the acidity that you might associate with champagne; rather, the champagne is more of a lively afterthought to the fruitier base notes. Champagne Toast smells like bubbly and invokes imagery of fireworks and ballrooms; as such, it would be the perfect way to elevate any evening outfit. Personally, this is the scent I associate with my best friend and all the celebratory nights we’ve shared with one another. Like her, Champagne Toast is the life of the party in every sense. 

Ari by Ariana Grande (Eau de Parfum)

Though Ariana Grande has released a slew of fragrances, her original perfume is still my favorite. Ari is a luscious combination of pear, raspberry, and vanilla orchid, with the added surprise of marshmallow and creamy musk in its base notes. Much like the woman behind the perfume, Ari is the height of romanticism, and will have you feeling as if you’ve stepped into a soft, cloudy wonderland. For me, this is the smell I associate with Grande’s Honeymoon Tour; with glitzy minidresses and sparkling thigh–high boots. Ari is both mesmerizing and delicate all at once—the ideal combination for anyone searching for a captivating, honeyed scent.  

Whether you're taking a walk in the sunshine, gallivanting at the beach, or basking in the sticky humidity at dusk, these next few months are bound to be wrapped up in a mirage of shiny new memories. With this guide, you don't just get to experience the summer—soon, you'll be smelling like it too.