Choosing the best Chanel perfumes is not a big difficulty. The hallowed halls of the French house are brimming with gorgeous fragrances, from the iconic N°5 to cool, contemporary clients like Gabrielle. In fact, the only remotely difficult thing about creating this all-time greatest list was narrowing down the numbers to a neat top five.
But I did, because while you can’t really go wrong with a Chanel perfume, this well-organized list will help you get it right. Whether you’re shopping for the best women’s fragrance as a gift or treating yourself to a new floral scent, fragrance sales are skyrocketing – John Lewis reported a 24% year-over-year increase – there’s so there’s no better time to get started. your new Chanel signature fragrance.
Whatever your tastes, you’re in good hands with the best Chanel perfumes and this list represents the crème de la crème of what the Parisian house has to offer (according to yours truly, anyway). Good luck my friends!
The best Chanel perfumes of all time
No wonder this topped our best Chanel perfume list, and no apologies for picking an obvious winner either. No. 5 caused a stir when it was launched in 1921 due to an unusual overload of nose-tingling aldehyde notes and has retained that impact 100 years later. It’s thanks to an extremely balanced composition of clean, soapy aldehydes, sophisticated florals, and lingering drying that should satisfy anyone wanting to know which fragrance lasts the longest for day or night use.
Many people catch their first whiff of this scent via an older family member (thanks, Mom) and in great stray girl tradition, I felt No. 5 was a little too much in my teens. Needless to say I saw the meaning now. It may take a bit of maturity to fully “get” Chanel N°5, but honestly, that’s part of the appeal. It smells like nothing else, is instantly recognizable and yet never feels boring or overly familiar. As always, mothers know best.
A softer version of Chanel’s second best-known fragrance, it’s a bit more delicate than the original Chance, which may make it slightly younger in terms of fans. That’s not to say there’s nothing frivolous about this fruity-floral blend, it’s just ultra-feminine and all the better. “Chance Eau tender is the epitome of beauty, like a pink satin ribbon in your hair,” perfume experts Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven write in The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choose Your Next Scent.
I say Chance Eau Tendre is a Goldilocks fragrance. It’s floral without being heady, clean without being acidic, and smooth and sweet without fading into nothingness. It has the crisp lightness of some of the best Jo Malone perfumes but with a chic French twist. Basically, it’s fair in every way and would be almost impossible to hate. If you’re looking for one of the best Chanel perfumes to give someone you’re not 100% sure how they taste, this is probably the one.
Call it favoritism, call it unconscious bias, call it what you will, but this under-the-radar Chanel fragrance based on the wild beauty of Edinburgh (ahem, my hometown) deserves a shout-out. Unlike many of the brand’s better-known scents, which tend to lean into classic floral notes, this feels modern and a bit untamed, all mossy green forests and smoky peat with a lemony bergamot top.
With notes like that, you won’t be surprised to learn that it makes one of the best colognes for men as much as the best Chanel perfumes. It’s part of the Les Eaux de Chanel line, all of which are eau de toilette, and it certainly has easy appeal for those who prefer their scents more airy. I would say the 125ml bottle lasts a long time, but it really depends if your other half is pinching it daily like mine do.
Like all of us, fragrances usually reflect the era in which they grew up, but you can always trust Chanel to put a refined spin on a trend. “Coco was launched in 1984 during what was perhaps perfume’s loudest era and was closely followed by Poison and Obsession the following year,” Sarah and Samantha explain. “What sets Coco apart is an understated Parisian sophistication where others veered to excess in all areas. It doesn’t assert itself too much.”
That said, it’s still a sexy little number, with exotic jasmine and ylang-ylang florals, heady patchouli, and soft, creamy tonka. Kinda like the best vanilla flavor, there is a rich sensuality here, which is well balanced by energetic top notes. Wear it after dark and you’ll exude understated elegance, wear it during the day and get ready to get noticed – the choice is yours.
Gabrielle may be the fifth-best Chanel fragrance in this roundup, but it’s directly number one for visual appeal. Would you like to look at this magnificent bottle? In ultra-thin laminated glass with a very cool contemporary design, you’d never put it in the back of the drawer (so remember and freak out – Google makes perfumes expire a year later).
Inside the bottle, we get a scent composed of 100% floral notes, without being overpowering or particularly traditional. It packs in exotic jasmine, a fleshy tuberose base and has an unexpected freshness with those many flowers involved. If I smelled this on a friend, before I knew and loved it, I might not have guessed it was Chanel at all, such are my associations with that brand and classic perfumery. Then again, if there’s one thing this list proves, it’s that the best Chanel perfumes regularly push the envelope — they just wear it with a hint more style than most.
woman&home thanks Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven for their time and expertise.
The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choosing Your Next Fragrance is published by Francis Lincoln.