Not that we’ve had much in the way of rays, but choosing a summer fragrance that will capture and accompany the essence of the season, holidays, and sunshine memories is a tough choice. I’m a big advocate of wearing whatever you feel like, regardless of season, but moods change when the sun comes out. I’m preaching to the choir, I know because I realize you know fragrance very well, but newer readers sometimes like to have a guide and I’ll be doing these from time to time.
While It’s very easy to pick a ‘summer’ perfume up whilst you’re being corralled through Duty Free or from one of the four half-decent picks in the Jet2 onboard shopping catalogue, will this fragrance mean anything to you in years to come? Or is it just the same bottle of 20 year-old fragrance the brand has slapped a summery floral pattern on, removed the base notes, added aqua or citrus and called ‘limited summer edition’ – we all know the worst offenders, not naming any names.
What to look for when choosing a summer fragrance
When it comes to choosing a summer fragrance, what are the important things to look for:
- Something that’s not going to attract mosquitos and midges – apparently Victoria’s Secret Bombshell is the best fragrance to repel mosquitos (but also friends, family and prospective partners – shhh). Notes that they don’t like are said to include cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, mint, lemongrass and clove – sorry to say that they (apparently) love a white flower blend!
- Choose a summer fragrance you’ll remember, something different that you maybe haven’t tried before rather than a ‘summer edition’
- A fragrance that’s lighter and without heavy base notes including tonka and vanilla, but an exception could be made for middle-eastern, heady ouds.
- Citrus notes and accords (combinations) or aquatic notes depending on preference are all common and constituent parts of a summer perfume.
- Something that smells great when sprayed directly onto fabric or clothes and will wear well during summer heat – you might want to stick to spraying the beach towel or your sarong because while mostly, fabrics can take a light spritz of edp, silks and satins may not. Another option is to spray pieces of ribbon that you can keep in your pocket or tie in your hair.
Remember, spraying fragrance directly onto your skin, particularly in hot sunny weather, makes skin more sensitive to the sun, so if you can, get it on your kaftan.
What makes a great summer fragrance?
But what makes a great summer fragrance? It’s hard to choose if you don’t know what you’re looking for. So here are my top tips for summer notes that give the Amalfi coastal vibes of a blue sea and sky trip away (which is becoming ever more possible).
A hybrid of a lemon and a bitter orange, the green citrus Bergamot has become a summer staple. It’s greener and less sharp than lemon and not as fruity as orange. It’s fresh and known to be exceptionally emotionally uplifting. Bergamot for me is an absolute go-to and smells like summer
Similar to Bergamot, and in the same family, is Yuzu. Yuzu is becoming very popular and once grown solely in east-Asia including Japan, it’s now produced in Australia, Spain, Italy and France – it’s becoming more commonplace (and is the top note in my Japanese Cleansing Cloud Balm Bar). Yuzu is a little bit more fruitier and floral compared to bergamot and is the summery fragrance behind my Japanese Cleansing Cloud soap. Light, sharp, fruity and fresh.
Neroli & Orange Blossom
These fragrances are from the same source – the bitter orange tree. Neroli is extracted through steam distillation and orange blossom is extracted through solvent. However most fragrances, unless they cost the earth, tend to use synthetic copycats, but these days they’re pretty incredible. These floral notes bring an orangey sweetness that’s uplifting and in some cases sherbet-like; very summer indeed. It’s one of the most used summer florals for good reason.
Rose (Moroccan or Turkish)
Opt for the headier Moroccan or Turkish rose notes which deliver warmth, greenery and an almost musky base and can hit the right mood on sultry days.
What is the best summer fragrance?
This is totally subjective and we beyond the times where what fragrances we choose is dictated by season. Summer fragrances mean different things to different people and what I’ve outlined above is based on my own experiences and preferences. But being in the beauty industry for many years, I’ve tried more summer perfumes than I’d care to mention – some incredible, some good and some, well, some best forgotten about. Below is my list of my current best summer fragrances and why:
Zara by Jo Malone Citrus Mezze
This is not a collaboration with Jo Malone London, as part of Estée Lauder, but Jo Malone herself, the fabulous perfumer and a staple of the British beauty scene. Alongside Spanish fashion retailer, Zara, this incredible collaboration birthed a simple (on paper) summer-time fragrance composed of Grapefruit and Bergamot; a heart of Neroli and Orange Blossom with base notes of Musk and woods. In Citrus Mezze, these six ingredients make an archetypal summer perfume – it’s fresh, zingy and plays exactly to Jo Malone’s clever use of grapefruit in perfume. You can read my full original review of the whole collection here
Malin + Goetz Limited Edition Strawberry
I know what you’re saying: “Jane, a strawberry fragrance? Really? I’m not 12!”, but hear me out. As a perfect summer scent, this will be unlike any strawberry inspired fragrance you may have experienced before. There is most certainly strawberry in the mix but you can only just reach it – the fruit is tantalizingly close all the time but you will never quite get the full jam.
Top notes are Strawberry, Bergamot and Pink Pepper; heart notes are Milk, Green Notes and Jasmine; base notes are Musk, Cedar, Oakmoss and Orris. Cute it is not, curious and an excellent summer fragrance it most certainly is. Read my full Malin + Goetz Strawberry review here.
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Nettare Di Sole (Sun Nectar)
If ever a fragrance caught the anticipation of summer, this is it. I rarely look at fragrance descriptions before I try them so that first impressions aren’t skewed and my immediate thought when I spritzed this onto my arm was of warmth and sunshine. And very much a Mediterranean sun – that kind of sweet morning heat that you can feel revving up to something more intense as the day goes on. From the list, it’s a summer fragrance with good lasting power and fabulous for holiday nights out.
Notes are bergamot, orange blossom, magnolia, rose and jasmine over a base of honey. There are evident solar accents as well as aquatic notes that drift through the body of the fragrance. I find the honey base quite distinctive but not in any gourmande sense – more of a gentle wrap around for the florals. It’s just lovely and a distinctly discerning summer perfume. Read my full Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Nettare Di Sole review here.
Escentric Molecule 01 Mandarin
The words that came into my head after my first spritz of Escentric Molecule 01 + Mandarin were ‘neon’ and ‘electric’. This is the most amplified, vibrant citrus fragrance I think I’ve ever come across because it really does replicate that juicily explosive moment of breaking into the peel of a mandarin. Mandarin will make the experience of sitting by the sea, strolling on the beach or sunning yourself in the garden that much more immersive; it’s fun, it’s camp and it’s summery – Hi-de-hi! Read my full Escentric Molecule Mandarin review here.
Jo Loves: Pomelo Fragranced Paint Brush
The second Jo Malone (herself) entry into this summer fragrance list and one of my absolute favorites. From Jo’s brand Jo Loves, her absolute favorite fragrance Pomelo – that’s now 10 years old – is suspended in a quick drying and skin-cooling gel, dispensed via a pump-push brush in a gorgeous silver case, leaving you fragranced with Pomelo how and where you want.
All products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.