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Marlene Stang

Professional Fragrance Expert

Best Summer Perfume & Best Women's Fragrances

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Ah, the warmer days of summer. Whether you are enjoying them abroad or on your front porch, the languid beauty of this season is the perfect inspiration for exploring fresh, sensual fragrances that are transporting and maybe even a little exotic. Many people find themselves veering toward lighter, sheerer scents as the temperatures rise, although within those parameters, the possibilities are endless. Fans of the "clean" genre might opt for an oceanic scent with aromatic overtones, while lovers of fruity and floral fragrances may choose to explore scents inspired by tropical fruits and blooms. Wearers of oriental fragrances needn’t worry that switching to a lighter fragrance will require them to sacrifice sultriness and warmth, since some of the most exquisite eau de toilettes on the market feature animalic and gourmand notes that speak more of sun-warmed skin than sea air.

It is very important to note that fragrance can have a photosensitizing effect on the skin, which means that wearing it may make your skin more sensitive to light. It is best to avoid applying scent to areas that will be exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time, so sunbathers beware (and you shouldn’t be baking anyway!). Each of the selections I’ve made here is truly something of a vacation in a bottle, in my opinion, either by virtue of the notes in its composition or its power to simply suggest summer on the skin. So bon voyage, and may at least one of these fragrances serve as an olfactory counterpart to whatever time you manage to steal away for yourself in the coming months.

The best summer perfume ensures you have a light breezy scent that complements your style. Our best women's fragrance recommendations are always the finest summer scents at the best price.

Best Summer Fragrances by Marlene Stang

The Best You Can Get

  • Figue Amère Eau de Parfum by Miller Harris

    Marlene says: When she created this intoxicating blend, Perfumer Lyn Harris was inspired by a trip she made to Ibiza where the scent of bitter, ripe green figs commingled with the sea air. This fragrance satisfies on so many fronts, opening with a brisk burst of green violet that lends the scent a fresh, herbaceous saltiness only to then meld into a fig note that is at once bitter and subtly sweet. It is rare, really, to find such a layered interpretation of the fig concept in a fragrance, since so many fig scents on the market either focus on the sugary succulence of the pulp or the dry, almost earthy aroma of a fig that has yet to be plucked from the tree. Each of those aspects of the fruit is celebrated here, and the result is sublime. Notes of amber and cedar in the base support this delicate balance, with the former contributing a sexy warmth to the dry down and the latter a compelling woodiness that accentuates the drier qualities of the fig. The subtlety of this blend is equally enticing on men and women alike, and I challenge anyone who wears it not to feel relaxed and enlivened by its contrasts.

    • Fresh
    • Warm
    • Dry
    • Crisp
    • Unisex
  • Lea St. Barth Eau de Toilette by Calypso St. Barth

    Marlene says: Liliane Jossua, owner of the trendsetting Calypso Boutique on the island of St. Barthelemy (not to be confused with Christiane Celle’s Calypso, also originally based there) was inspired by her daughter when she created this cult favorite. This fragrance is a drop-dead sexy testament to the fact that the word “beachy”, if we are talking about fragrance, need not only refer to the scent of cool ocean air. No, it can also refer to the scent of sun-kissed skin in all of its alluring glory. Lea also proves that a simple composition can nonetheless be amazingly textured, with its melding of sheer Egyptian musk, deep Mexican vanilla and almond. On my own skin its evolution is relatively linear, with the musk rising above the other two notes only slightly in the end for a soft finish that rounds out the scent’s initial (but brilliant) sweetness. I find myself craving this kind of simplicity in the summer months, however, as complexity in a fragrance can register as “noisy” on the skin when exposure to heat intensifies the overall impression it makes.

    • Sweet
    • Sultry
    • Intimate
    • Warm
    • Gourmand
  • Kai Perfume Oil

    Marlene says: No review of the best summer scents would be complete without a mention of this niche-brand phenomenon. Creator Gaye Straza was inspired by her regular childhood trips to the Hawaiian Islands as a child, and sought to capture the infamous and elusive scent of the region’s balmy air in a bottle. The result was this pure but intoxicating blend of white gardenia, stargazer lily, and fresh musk that has attracted a legion of followers that includes Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, and Charlize Theron. A very full-bodied floral with a clean, subtle dry down, its most popular form is the highly concentrated fragrance oil roll-on that Straza originally launched back in 1997. Fragrance oils applied directly to the skin such as this are characteristically very long-lasting and intimate, meaning that others usually have to lean in a little closer to the wearer to catch a whiff. Luckily, those in search of a potent sillage can reach for the fragrance in its more effusive eau de parfum form, as well as any one or all of the bath and body products in which it is also available.

    • Floral
    • Fresh
    • Tropical
    • Part of a range
    • Long-lasting
  • Sel Marin by Heeley

    Marlene says: The image of an anchor on the face of the bottle says it all. This fragrance captures the scent of the sea - not just the air above it, but its salty waters and the driftwood that it sends to the shore to dry as well. This is the definitive fragrance for those who favor ozone scents with hesperedic (citrus) overtones; it’s an extremely evocative eau de parfum for men and women alike. Created by British expatriate and Paris resident James Heeley, a renaissance man famous for his streamlined, modern designs of everything from furniture and planters to teapots and, now, perfume, Sel Marin begins with subtle citrus notes of lemon and Sicilian bergamot that quickly evolve to reveal a heart of seaweed encrusted with sea salt. Supporting this oceanic freshness is a brilliant base note accord of fresh birch, dry cedar, and an ever-so-slightly-powdery vetiver note that softens the fragrance just enough to keep it from being too cold. There is something incredibly compelling about a fragrance that is this elemental and raw.

    • Clean
    • Brisk
    • Aromatic
    • Long-lasting
    • Unisex
  • Bahiana by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier

    Marlene says: The green and red feathers that adorn a bottle of Bahiana certainly allude to the fact that the juice inside is inspired by that most bright and sensuous of locales – Bahia on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast. If thus far you have found yourself unable to choose between the sultry warmth of a scent like Lea and the cool freshness of a blend like Sel Marin, may I recommend to you this scent since it really captures the best of both worlds. Opening with a crisp top note accord of Brazilian orange, mandarin, and caipirinha lemon (named for the citrusy beverage that is the national drink of Brazil), its tone then shifts to reveal contrasting notes of sweet coconut, lush green leaf, and tagette (marigold). The blend’s base note accord of rosewood, gaiac wood, elemi (a lemony, pine-like resin), amber, and musk further balances the coconut’s sweetness with a dryness reminiscent of some of the sexiest men’s fragrance’s on the market – and yet I cannot emphasize how much even I love wearing this, floral lover that I am. This is one very grown-up cocktail.

    • Fruity
    • Sweet and dry
    • Bright
    • Uplifting
    • Unisex

You will be happy with any of these

  • Garden of Hespera by Mor Imperia

    Marlene says: I might even consider buying it for the empty bottle alone – a beautifully scalloped black lacquer globe with a vintage-style atomizer, enclosed in an emerald green and black box that features a stunning marriage of neo-classical and art deco design elements. But I digress. From a fragrance standpoint, I’m going to just come right out and tell you that if Miller Harris’ Figue Amère sounds like your cup of tea but is too expensive for your budget you might want to consider this gorgeous fig scent. Top notes of green, unripe fig, and golden apple meld with an aromatic floral heart that features rose spiked with cardamom and ginger. The fragrance’s base features notes of cedar, oakmoss, aegean cypress, white cyclamen, heliotrope, and laurel leaf and dries down to a woody softness that is also characterized by a green freshness. Overall, this scent possesses a floral quality that is not present in Figue Amère, but it is similar in terms of the very Mediterranean context in which it sets the fig note. A compelling blend of shade and spice, this blend is both sophisticated and totally rejuvenating.

    • Fresh
    • Woody
    • Fruity
    • Soft
    • Part of a range
  • Coconut Tuberose by Gap Body

    Marlene says: I first fell in love with this simple but intoxicating fragrance one day when I was browsing, you guessed it, at The Gap. This is the second Gap fragrance I’ve reviewed, and I suppose it is a pretty clear indication that I think the brand produces consistently good fragrances. I loved the commercial superpower’s, now discontinued, Om when I was in college, and if pressed I would say that in general, Gap fragrances tend to straddle that fine line between commercially viable for a wide audience and on point as far as the trends go. The scent of tuberose, that heady white flower that blooms at night, scares a lot of people – you either love it or hate it. Here, a subtle coconut accent highlights the tuberose’s gentler, almost buttery qualities, as opposed to the sharp, almost medicinal greenness that is also part of its olfactory profile. The base note is a sheer, almost watery musk that retains some of the tuberose’s creaminess as it dries down for an effect that reminds me of the sort of embossed, French-milled soap you might find in a city like Grasse. If you equate summer with the carefree smell of shampoo-like freshness, this fragrance is a good choice for you. It is understated, feminine, and easy to wear.

    • Floral
    • Sweet
    • Fresh
    • Tropical
    • Long–lasting
  • Fleur de Vigne by Caudalíe

    Marlene says: This is one fragrance that, the company says, can safely be worn in the sun. Developed by Caudalíe, the world-renowned French skincare expert, it contains natural oils and extracts that possess both aromatherapeutic properties and skin benefits. Inspired by the scent of grape blossoms, which bloom and fill the air with scent during the month of June, the fragrance begins with a burst of grapefruit, mandarin, bergamot, lemon, and orange. Notes of black current bud and green maté commingle to produce a heart note that is at once subtly sweet, fresh, and a little sharp, while sandalwood and cedar in the base comprise a woody and grounding dry down. This is the perfect scent to spritz all over whenever you need a lift; I found it to be instantly energizing. The scent is so European too – it reminds me of Grace Kelly driving through Monaco with Cary Grant in the Alfred Hitchcock film “To Catch A Thief”. The lotion is wonderfully refreshing as well, and an excellent choice if you would like to extend the spray’s staying power.

    • Fresh
    • Citrusy
    • Aromatic
    • Non-photosensitizing
    • Part of a range
  • Vanilla Grapefruit by Lavanila Laboratories

    Marlene says: Like Lea, this is a very sultry, “come hither and smell my skin” scent that also possesses a certain freshness. Here, that quality comes courtesy of a sugary grapefruit top note that is also accented with hints of bergamot and lime. I couldn’t really detect the heliotrope note that rests at the scent’s heart, however this might be because heliotrope is itself a sweet floral that here just serves to add an airy quality to the even sweeter vanilla note that defines the base. The fragrance’s Madagascar vanilla base note is truly the star of this scent, and is accented with a cedar note that imparts to it a subtle dryness somewhat reminiscent of the scent of a vanilla bean. The citrus notes imbue the blend with an effervescent quality that is cheerful and inviting, making it a good transition into the world of vanilla for people who usually find the note too cloying. The creators of this fragrance line were motivated by a desire to create scents that they wouldn’t be allergic to, and hence avoided the use of parabens, pthalates, and petrochemicals. I personally side with those in my industry who argue that the above-mentioned ingredients are not the evil creations that some people make them out to be but, if you disagree, than this might be one more incentive for you to try this fragrance. It also contains botanical extracts such as olive leaf and chamomile, and is blended with 100% organic sugarcane alcohol.

    • Sweet
    • Gourmand
    • Citrusy
    • Warm
    • Intimate
  • Satsuma by The Body Shop

    Marlene says: A high-quality perfume oil for this low price is pretty much unheard of nowadays, and the Body Shop is a company that began selling oils long before any one else did. Satsuma is one of their bestsellers, and a much-loved staple for many people who live and breath in the realm of fruity/citrus fragrances. Containing notes of pineapple, apple peel, grapefruit, orange, mandarin, plum, and a creamy sherbert note, it is an extremely long-lasting "up" scent inspired by the aroma of Satsuma mandarin. As the fragrance oil can be added to the company’s unscented "Scent Me" shower gel, body lotion and massage oil, you can, in affect, create your own range. The Body Shop also offers a Satsuma scented body butter, shower gel, soap, body polish, and home fragrance oil. These products contain natural fragrance that is actually derived from actual Satsuma mandarin peel, and they also layer beautifully with the Satsuma fragrance oil.

    • Fruity
    • Bright
    • Long-lasting
    • Excellent sillage
    • Part of a range

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For the best summer perfume, consult our experts who search the Web for fruity and floral fragrances that waft pleasantly on the summer breeze. Our best women's fragrances are never too heavy and always the best price. These summer scents are perfect for work and evening after evening with that special someone who loves your summer eau de parfum.