My biggest beauty pet peeve? Smelling my own perfume on a stranger in the street. Nothing is more intimate than your smell, because it attaches itself to memories in a way nothing else can. And while many have one scent that they wear year–round, I prefer to swap mine out with the seasons. Sure, I have a few best-ever perfumes that I go back to in a hurry, but I also like to keep a roster of seasonal options, from relaxed summer fragrances to fresh spring perfumes, to break it up every now and then. With temperatures dropping, it’s officially time for me to swap out my favorite fruity scent for a new winter perfume.
If you’re considering the new year the time to check out a new fragrance or two, consider this your official guide to finding the best one. Because all scents can smell similar in the store—especially after testing them all in succession—I turned to Frances Shoemack (opens in new tab), the founder of natural fragrance brand Abel, for insight on what’s trending for this season, as well as a few tips on how to get the most out of your wintery pick. Fragrances can be pricey, so you’ll no doubt want to make each spritz last for as long as humanly possible.
- Best Overall Winter Perfume: Acqua Di Parma Vaniglia Eau de Parfum (opens in new tab)
- Best Intense Winter Perfume: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum (opens in new tab)
- Best Sweet Winter Perfume: BYREDO Night Veil Vanielle Antique Extrait de Parfum (opens in new tab)
- Best Fresh Winter Perfume: Maison Margiela 'REPLICA' When the Rain Stops (opens in new tab)
- Best Fruity Winter Perfume: 19-69 Capri Eau de Parfum (opens in new tab)
- Best Floral Winter Perfume: Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Orchid (opens in new tab)
Winter Fragrance Notes
In the colder months, comfort is key—even when it comes down to your preferred fragrance. “Look for amber or wood-based scents with sweet warm notes such vanilla, tobacco or tonka, or warm spices such as cardamom and cinnamon,” says Shoemack. Choosing a warmer, richer scent might be well worth the investment, as Shoemack also notes that “for the past few years, whatever the weather, we’re seeing a trend towards smoky, warm scents for their sophisticated-meets-comfort factor. “ Put down the sweet summer perfume!
Another reason to invest in a new scent this season? Not only are warmer, traditionally cold-weather-appropriate scents trending year-round, but perfumes actually tend to last longer in the winter? “Typically heat, humidity and therefore sweat are a fragrances worst enemy, so it goes without saying that the colder months are kinder on the scent profile and longevity,” says Shoemack. Her tip to make them last even longer in the winter? Spray your perfume onto your sweater As well as spraying your skin, we recommend spritzing your scent on your softest cashmere sweater or woolen scarf where the natural fibers wear the fragrances so well,” she says.
Ahead, shop Shoemack’s favorites plus all of team Marie Claire’s picks that will carry you through until warmer weather is on the horizon and you can shop for a new spring fragrance.
The Best Winter Perfumes
"Vanilla fragrances are huge right now. But this one isn’t your garden-variety vanilla scent. This one combines cedar wood, musk and a hint of bergamot and whenever I wear it, I have the confidence, grace, and sophistication of 1,000 Jackie O’s. Yes, it’s worth the hype." — Deena Campbell, Beauty Director
Customer Review: "There’s nothing simple, cloying or cheap about it though it is very truly vanilla. The additional notes make this surprisingly unisex, I could see both men and women pulling this off. However this definitely has more dressed up vibes and isn’t a casual vanilla scent. Or maybe it is…if sophisticated is your everyday. Great staple from ADP, I will be purchasing the very large bottle for my entire household’s use." — Nordstrom
"If I was only ever allowed to wear one fragrance for the rest of my life, it would be Maison Francis Kurkdijan's Baccarat Rouge 540. It's certainly received a ton of hype over the last year, but I promise, it's well deserved. It has a woody base and is balanced by floral notes like jasmine and saffron, which makes for a truly intoxicating scent." — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Customer Review: "I absolutely love this scent. I get compliments every time I wear it. It’s a unique fragrance and one hard defined. It’s not fruity or flowery but it’s not vanilla or musk. It’s definitely costly but I’m willing to pay the price." — Nordstrom
"I love when my perfume clings to my clothes for days, and this one from Le Labo does that in the prettiest way. I actually prefer it after I've had it on for a few hours because I catch different notes throughout the day. One spritz lasts all day (and then some), so I've only just began to make a dent in it after having it for almost two years." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Customer Review: "Divine. smells like a warm hug. this would be a great fall/winter scent but i like it enough to put it in the year-round rotation." — Nordstrom
"In the colder months, I feel like it's totally appropriate to swap out my sweeter, summer scents for something darker and sexier. And if you're looking for dark and sexy, you go to Tom Ford. This perfume blends moodier scents like cardamon, leather, and patchouli. From those notes, I was worried that this perfume would be too intense. On the contrary, it's strangely light, but retains those musky notes. I'm made my friends take a whiff of it, and even people who swear by floral scents are in love with it." — Tatjana Freund, Former Beauty Assistant
Customer Review: "You’re gonna smell like no one else. I already purchased my third bottle. It’s amazing and lasts very long." — Nordstrom
"A more dark and sexy sister to the original Flowerbomb, this perfume makes me feel like a girlboss in a good way. The fragrance notes include orchid, peach, and vanilla bean and layer perfectly for a floral scent that isn't overbearing. A scent that lingers on your clothes long after the first spritz, this Viktor & Rolf is the personification of confidence, ready to tackle any meeting or dinner date." — Alexis Gaskin, Freelance Beauty Writer
Customer Review: "I love this scent! I love the original Flower Bomb scent. This one has that same scent plus a beautiful finishing scent as well with the orchid. Perfect for the winter months! (Def would keep to the original for spring/summer though.)" — Sephora
"This scent lasts forever on my skin, even in the winter, when I feel like my scents fade the fastest. It smells fresher than most other scents I like—it actually borders on unisex-smelling—thanks to notes like pine needle and rose. It's strong enough that one spritz on my wrists is enough, and isn't sweet-smelling like other options on my vanity this season." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Customer Review: "Absolutely love this perfume! I would agree with other reviews who say it smells cologne-y, but definitely more so a unisex smell if anything! Very fresh and clean. I cant stop smelling my shirt collar whenever I spritz it on!" — Sephora
"Another smell that's not too sweet, Woodphoria from Boy Smells is one of the longest-lasting options in my collections. sandalwood clings to the skin and makes you feel warm from the inside-out, while sweeter notes like fig and coconut water add body and brightness. This is the kind of perfume that lingers on all my clothes and on my skin for hours—bordering on days—and smells initially heavy before sweetening out over time." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Customer Review: "My favorite scent I’ve tried in a long while. Love the wood notes, as it dries down it gets a bit sweeter. This is comforting and cozy scent to me, like cuddling up by the fireplace and reading a book." — Sephora
"If you love vanilla fragrances that don't smell like something you would buy for a child, this one is a great option. I've never thought of myself as someone who wears overly-sweet scents—vanilla normally gives me a headache—but this one has more body to it than others on the market. Notes like musk and cashmere round it out so it's not too sweet, and it lasts forever—like, days forever." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Customer Review: "I am a convinced vanilla lover and this fragrance is just beautiful. It smells of vanilla with a hint of musk, but the combination is a very happy one (and oh so sweet!). It smells sweet but not in a bad way. It has something really special in its smell and I highly recommend you test it, if you love vanilla." — Nordstrom
"I'm not really one for changing scents depending on the season—I like to have my signature scent and stick to it year-round. That being said, I think my current go-to fragrance is especially nice for the winter months. When I think of winter, I think of staying warm and cozy by the fireplace and holiday baking. This scent from The 7 Virtues is peak warm and cozy to me. With notes of vanilla, caramel, and amber, this fragrance is sweet without being too overbearing, with a hint of spiciness." — Brooke Knappenberger, Editorial Fellow
Customer Review: "This is one of the only perfumes i’ve ever repurchased (aside from clean reserve skin). it’s so cupcakey yet balanced, and doesn’t have that artificial vanilla that a lot of vanillas have! it’s sweet without being overly gourmand, and such an elegant scent! will repurchase many times!" — Sephora
"Green Cedar is my ultimate winter scent. It uses a combination of two cedarwoods—a densely rich Cedar wild harvested on the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and a crisp Sauna-vibe Cedar grown and twice distilled in Texas. Combined with rich magnolia and fragrant cardamom, this a warm, comforting scent reminiscent of a deep inhale in a misty forest—I’ve been told by more than one person it’s addictive and I agree!" — Francis Shoemack, Abel Founder (opens in new tab)
Customer Review: None available
"Call me basic, but I'm a Santal 33 loyalist year-round. I've been told how good I smell by friends and strangers alike (direct quote: "You smell expensive!"), thanks to this alluring, woody scent that somehow never gets old as the years go by." —Rachel Epstein, Former Editor
Customer Review: "Not like any fragrance I've ever had. I loved it so much I had to have the lotion too. It smells amazing. I get asked all the time what I'm wearing and I love that everyone around me isn't wearing the same. It has great staying power. Not a fruity or floral scent like the typical every person scent these days. It's just perfect sexy scent. I won't ever change fragrances again. This is it for me!! Worth every penny!" — Nordstrom
"With loads of light citrus notes, this perfume is an evergreen scent that serves as an immediate mood booster come wintertime. Crafted to embody the intoxicating aromas of blossoming orange trees, 19-69 Capri is fresh and spicy, but never overpowering. Catch a whiff of it and you'll find yourself transported to an Italian terrace by the sea." — Sara Holzman, Style Director
Customer Review: "I don't usually love citrus-focused perfumes, but this one is so beautifully nuanced with heady orange blossom and fresh green notes It's not acidic at all.. I have had this one for a few years--before the brand was available at Sephora--and it is still my favorite for warm weather. I'm so happy to see their offering here! Unlike many designer fragrances, which can be overpowering and too intense for me, this has a freshness that lasts but doesn't attack your senses." — Sephora
"During the cooler months I tend to do away with the whimsical sweet florals in exchange for the more sensual and cozy scents. The fresh woodsy vibes of Jo Malone’s Cypress and Grapevine Cologne has been my latest obsession. It’s a unisex fragrance with enveloping notes of cypress, grapevine, moss, amber, and cedarwood. Just one spritz of this gem behind the ear and I immediately feel a sense of warmth." — Chelsea Hall, Former Assistant Fashion and Beauty Editor
Customer Review: "I’m obsessed with this fragrance!! It smells rich and warm, lasts for hours! Highly recommend!!" — Sephora
"While some people might associate Glossier's signature fragrance with summertime, I love wearing in the colder months. It clings to my knits in a really nice way which makes it last just a little longer, too. It's comprised of notes like pink pepper and amber for a balance of spice and woody warmth. It's subtle, easy to wear, and doesn't give me a headache even after hours of wear." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Customer Review: None available
Meet The Expert
Former winemaker with a keen sense of smell, Frances was searching for a truly natural perfume and came up short. Soon after, the idea for Abel was born. Fellow New Zealander, Master Perfumer Isaac Sinclair became Shoemacks’ first ally in the quest to disrupt an industry that didn’t believe natural perfume could be chic, modern, or stand up alongside the world’s best. A decade has since passed, Abel, now based in Wellington New Zealand is sold in 25 countries globally, to much acclaim. The Abel team has grown and so too has the collection - albeit at an organic pace. Abel’s mission, while remaining steadfast, has also grown. No longer satisfied with making the world’s best natural perfume, they are driven to have a positive impact both on the environment and the community.
Julia Marzovilla is the E-Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she covers everything from the latest beauty and fashion launches and sales to celebrity outfits and news. She also creates shopping guides that span every vertical on the site. Prior to joining the Marie Claire team, she contributed similar shopping stories to sites such as Bustle, InStyle, The Zoe Report, Who What Wear, and STYLECASTER. In her spare time, Julia can be found creating shopping guides for all of her friends, spending too much money on yet another pair of black boots, and cooking in her far-too-small kitchen.
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