The Most Popular Perfumes in History

Perfumes have a long history; in ancient times, perfumes scented homes, clothes, and beds. Early Egyptians even used them in burial and embalming procedures. History has it that perfumery began with burning gums and resins for incense. In fact, the word perfume originates from the Latin phrase “per fumum,” meaning “through smoke.” 

An early record of perfumes began in Egypt around 3000 BC when priests used them in rituals. They became available to the public when priests gave up their exclusive right to use them. Over time, perfumes weren’t a luxury that pharaohs and kings could only afford. People throughout generations from all corners of the globe and walks of life began using them. In the past, some even bathed and soaked their skin in scented oils for pleasure.

Perfumes have no limits in delighting the senses; after all, an enchanting fragrance has the power to seduce. We have compiled a list of the most popular perfumes of all time, with a glimpse into the stories behind them.

Chanel’s Chanel No.5

During a 1921 trip to Monte Carlo, renowned fashion designer Coco Chanel came up with the idea of creating a fragrance. Chanel discussed coming up with a fragrance with Duke Dmitri of Russia and two of her friends. The idea quickly gained momentum, even though fashion designers rarely produced perfumes at the time. The collaboration with Russian-born French perfumer Ernest Beaux resulted in Chanel No.5 being one of the world’s most iconic fragrances. Comprised of May rose, jasmine, and bright citrus notes, the fragrance yields an exquisite scent.

Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium

Seductive and sensual, Opium personifies the edgy and daring woman. Rich with the scent of coffee and vanilla, it captivates the senses, thanks to its sweet vanilla base and bursts of white florals. Over the years, Opium has become a favourite among women who enjoy rich deep floral scents with an oriental undertone. Created exclusively for the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent by perfumers Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac, it was released in 1977. Opium caused controversy among Chinese Americans when it first launched; they believed that the fragrance name was insensitive to Chinese American history, while others accused the brand of condoning drug use.

Guerlain’s Shalimar

Shalimar was launched in 1921, making the fragrance more than 100 years old. It is considered the most prolific fragrance ever produced by the French perfumer Jacques Guerlain. The fragrance is recognizable for its powdery notes of vanilla, complemented by amber, iris, and bergamot. History has it that after reading the book A Thousand and One Nights, Guerlain was inspired to reproduce the romance between Shah Jehan and Princess Mumtaz in the form of a perfume, hence came Shalimar, named after the historic gardens in the story.

Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds

First released in 1991, White Diamonds earned over one and a half billion dollars in revenue propelling Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy across generations. Inspired by Taylor’s love of the finer things in life, the fragrance encapsulates an exquisite sensual floral scent. The actor’s unique floral collection in her Bel-Air gardens inspired the fragrance, exuding delicately crafted scents of white florals, radiant pink pepper, gardenia, and sensual musk. Even though this isn’t her first marketed fragrance, the success of Taylor’s White Diamonds relies on the perfume’s higher-than-normal concentration of oil, which makes it linger on the skin. 

Giorgio Armani’s Si

Even though it launched in 2013, Giorgio Armani’s Si is continuously garnering awards making it an all-time favorite fragrance for the modern fashionista. Created for the modern woman, the perfume pays tribute to femininity thanks to its chic, sultry and intense soft scent. Infused with blends of nectar, touches of freesia, and May Rose scent, the perfume epitomizes the strong yet feminine, sophisticated, and charismatic woman. The fragrance opens with a smell of delightful notes of vanilla and mandarin and trickles down to a lingering musk finish.

Acqua di Parma’s Colonia

Created by the renowned Italian fashion company in 1916, Acqua di Parma’s Colonia is the first unisex perfume of its kind to seduce the senses of both men and women. The unique and naturally fresh scents of mixed Sicilian fruits, rose, lemon and sandalwood are strong and linger for hours on the body. Carlo Magnani, an heir to a noble family in the Italian city of Parma, created the luxury fragrance in the historic Italian town. With its unmistakably fresh scent, the fragrance managed to seduce legendary stars like Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Cary Grant. 

David Messiha | Staff Writer 

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