Holiday Buying Guide: The Top Perfumes

If you don't know what to buy, here's a handy guide.

By , Columnist

I must have tried or sniffed hundreds of perfumes and very few have made a lasting impression. Most of the recent concoctions smell much the same after a few minutes and are often not worth the money, as you are really paying for the label, and perhaps the 'star' who is promoting it.

I read somewhere that the contents of the average bottle of perfume actually cost about 60p, and the more expensive ones about 70p. So with the continuing credit crunch or recession — call it what you will — it makes sense to chose wisely, and with perfumes that means one that lasts. With the big performers below you can often get away with the cheaper eau de toilette versions.

The strongest perfume on general sale is reckoned to be Poison by Dior, but for some who like feminine scents, it can be too overpowering. The next is Mitsouko by Guerlain. Created in 1919, this is an all-time classic, worn by ultra-confident women and is whispered to be 'the mistresses' perfume'. Guerlain's stablemate, Shalimar, created in 1925, is also strong but not as strident and has been a favourite for decades.

The best known Chanel perfumes, No. 5 and No. 19, are still very popular and reliably classy. A spray of either should last all day. Dior's Diorissimo, with its strong lily-of-the-valley top note, is ultra feminine and Dior's first fragrance, Miss Dior, is much liked by younger women.

It's hard to fault the Estee Lauder range, but the two that last longest are Youth Dew and Private Collection; both smell more expensive than they are.

The Hermes range has some star performers: 24 Faubourg was Princess Diana's perfume in the last year of her life; Parfum d'Hermes and Caleche by Hermes are two more great scents.

Givenchy III, one of the great perfumes of the 1970s, still holds its appeal. Arpege by Lanvin, created in 1927, is one of the very few fragrances that seems to appeal to all ages, young to very old. Balmain have some lovely perfumes: Jolie Madame, Vent Vert, Balmain de Balmain, and the unusual Ivoire are worth trying.

The only modern perfume I would personally recommend is Michael Kors (the original); with strong tuberose (actually a lily) at its core, it can fill a room.

Once you have chosen a perfume, the best way to maximise its power is to spray or add a drop to one wrist, rub onto the other, then rub both behind the ears, taking care to catch in the hair each side for a really lasting effect. You can spray into the air and walk through the mist, but you will use up more perfume this way. Finally, never spray directly onto fabrics, especially silk, leather or suede, as perfume, regardless of strength, can ruin them.

Happy shopping!

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Margaret Holder has been writing about the Royal Family in newspapers and magazines for thirty years. She also broadcasts frequently on the BBC, both radio and television. She reckons she has now written more royal documentaries than anyone else in the world. Some are still being shown on channels in…

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