Top 10 Perfumes : Chosen By French Perfumers

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I kept a perfume article from Grazia France magazine that I read a while back and here is a summary of its contents. Grazia had six French perfume creators (or ‘noses’ as they’re called in the industry) each compile a list of their Top 10 perfumes, excluding their own creations. There’s nothing I like more than a Top 10 list and was especially interested to see what perfumes they enjoyed and perhaps influenced them in their work as perfume creators.

The French perfumers came up with a total of 35 perfumes and Grazia whittled this down to a final 10. I have no idea how they finalised this list, so take it as a fun exercise rather than a methodologically sound piece of research.

The Perfumers : 

Jean-Claude Ellena

Jean-Claude Ellena: The in house perfumer at Hermes and the creator of many well loved scents.  My  favourite of his creations is L’Ambre des Merveilles. Personally I have not quite gelled with his style but I realise I may be coming around as I like Eau Des Merveilles and Jour d’Hermes and am keen to try some of his newer creations such as Cuir d’Ange.

dominique ropion

Dominique Ropion: This perfumer is regarded as quite a rock star in the perfume world as he’s been the nose behind some amazing niche and mainstream scents. His mainstream designer perfumes such as Flowerbomb for Viktor & Rolf have been best sellers and his niche scents such as  Portrait of a Lady for Frederic Malle have a cult following.


Mathilde Laurent: Before joining Cartier in 2005 as in house perfumer, Laurent worked at Guerlain, where she created some beautiful perfumes  including Guet Apens / Attrape Coeur.  Her exclusive line for Cartier has been well received but my favourite scent of hers is La Panthère, a nouveau chypre housed in a fabulous bottle that was released last year.

maurice roucelMaurice Roucel : This perfumer has made some incredible perfumes and works across mainstream and niche.  He created the sublime Iris Silver Mist for Serge Lutens, one of my all time favourite scents. Roucel also signed the niche favourite, Musc Ravageur for Frederic Malle, a lush oriental and a modern Shalimar for our times.


Isabelle Doyen : She works with Camille Goutal at Annick Goutal to create their gorgeous perfumes.  I’m a huge fan of this French perfume brand that forge ethereal floral scents such as Un Matin d’Orage as well as gutsy, powerhouses e.g. Sables, Ambre Fétiche and Mon Parfum Cheri, Par Camille.

Camille Goutal : Perfumer at Annick Goutal and daughter of the founder who works with Isabelle Doyen.

Note : Isabelle Doyen is on the left and Camille Goutal is on the right in the photo above.

The most frequently mentioned perfumes were Aromatics Elixir and No 19.  These perfumes made  4 out of 5 lists.  Aliage from Estée Lauder was also cited many times but it wasn’t included on this list due to lack of distribution in France. Guerlain (Vol de Nuit, Apres l’Ondee, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleu and Mitsouko) and Chanel (Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, No 5 and No 19) were the most represented of the big houses on the lists.   These perfumes must have been noted across the lists but only two made the final cut. The chypre family is the best represented (Aromatics Elixir, Mitsouko and Femme) that may come as a surprise.  The perfumes selected are of course very French centric but I suppose that is to be expected!

Note that Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen submitted one list between them.

The Top 10 Perfumes On Their List (in no particular order, apart from the first two perfumes which were across 4 out of the 5 lists)

Note that I have attempted an English translation, however my French is rudimentary so it’s an approximation only. The translations look pretty bad to be honest, but I think you will get the general sentiment!

chanel no 19 perfume

No 19 :  Chanel : Henri Robert, 1971

“L’incarnation du chic et de l’élegance parisienne dans un formule complexe, symphonique.  Un parfum moderne sans être trop daté.  On a rarement senti autant de matières premieres nobles (beau jasmin, belles roses, sublime vetiver). Un parfum poli, discret et présent à la fois : une merveille.” Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen

“The epitome of chic and Parisian elegance in a symphonic, complex formula.  A modern perfume without being too dated.  We rarely smell so many noble ingredients (beautiful jasmine, beautiful roses, sublime vetiver).  A polished perfume, discreet but present : a marvel.” Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen

aromatics elixir

Aromatics Elixir : Clinique : Bernard Chant, 1972

“Il y a la jolie complexité des parfums d’hier, et cette profusion très indienne des belles matières naturelles concentrées qui s’empilent – santal, patchouli, rose.  Ça sent l’humain, ça sent la peau! Et puis, il y a ce côté huileux qui fait briller les peaux et les adoucit.” Jean-Claude Ellena

“There is an attractive complexity in the perfumes of yesterday, and this profusion, very Indian with beautiful concentrated natural materials that layer – sandalwood, patchouli, rose.  It smells human, it smells of skin! And then there is an oily shine that softens on skin.” Jean-Claude Ellena


Mitsouko : Guerlain : Jacques Guerlain, 1919

“Il est d’un equilibré parfait avec son départ bergamote-mandarine, son coeur rose-ylang et ce tapis de mousse de chêne, de vétiver et de cannelle. Il y a surtout l’introduction pour la première fois de cette note pêche duveteuse et juteuse, qui modernise la composition.”  Dominique Ropion

“It is the perfect balance with bergamot – mandarin, its rose -ylang heart and its carpet of oak moss, vetiver and cinnamon.  There is also the introduction for the first time of this fluffy and juicy peach note that modernised the composition.” Dominique Ropion

le jardin sur le nil

Un Jardin Sur Le Nil : Hermes : Jean-Claude-Ellena, 2005

Une espèce d’emerveillemet entre nature et parfum avec, à côté des notes acidulées de pamplemousse et de mangue, des notes très peu visitées et difficiles à manier – rhubarbe, jacinthe, carotte et feuilles de tomates.  Un chic absolu et une maestria dans l’expression de la naturalité.”,  Mathilde Laurent

“A marvel between nature and perfume, with acidic notes of grapefruit and mango, sitting next to  notes less often used and difficult to manage – rhubarb, hyacinth, carrot and tomato leaves.  An absolutely chic perfume and a maestro in the expression of naturalness.” Mathilde Laurent

This perfume is featured in Chandler Burr‘s excellent read : The Perfect Scent.  It follows its development  with Jean-Claude Ellena and the Hermes team.

femme ad

Femme : Rochas : Edmond Roudnitska, 1944

“Jamais on a vu un parfum aussi féminine et aussi ….corporel.  Il a l’odeur d’un corps, il s’adresse au corps. Très moderne: on ne se permettrait plus.  Il y a ce très bel effet peau de pêche… Mais c’est le cumin (à peine perceptible et pourtant en surdose) qui lui donne son humanité.” Mathilde Laurent

“Never have we seen a perfume so feminine and so … of the body.  It has a smell of the body, it addresses the body. Very modern, we wouldn’t dare anymore.  There is a very good effect of peach skin.  But it is the cumin ( barely perceptible, yet overdosed) that gives it humanity.” Mathilde Laurent

Mure et Musc

Mûre et Musc : L’Artisan Parfumeur : Jean-Francois Laporte, 1976)

“La trouvaille est d’associer un musc duveteux aux notes de framboise, à une rasade de fruits noirs et rouges.  Un parfum fruité (sans êtres sucré) qui a une linge simple.  Et quand un homme ose porter Mûre et Musc, c’est carrément a tomber de séduction.” Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen

“The trick is to associate a fluffy musk with rasperrry notes, a shot of black and red fruits.  A fruity fragrance (without being sugary) which has a simple line. And when a man dares to wear Mûre et Musc, it’s just irresistible.” Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen


Diorissimo : Dior : Edmond Roudnitska, 1956

“On pourrait y voir le tout premier muguet figuratif, il s’agit pourtant d’un muguet stylisé, suréel.  L’odeur du printemps, bien plus grande que l’odeur de cette fleur bien élevée.” Dominique Ropion

“We could see the first figurative Lily of the Valley, it nevertheless is a stylised Lily of the Valley, surreal.  The smell of spring, much larger than the smell of this well behaved flower” Dominique Ropion

feminite du bois

Feminite du Bois : Serge Lutens : Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon, 1992

“Ça commence comme un fantasme, celui de Serge Lutens : reproduire non pas l’odeur du cèdre, l’arbre, mais celle d’un atelier de menuiserie qui travaille le bois de cèdre pour faire des moucharabiehs à Marrakech.  Le souk, les épices …. Un cèdre sec et pétillant.  Une vraie pépite!” Maurice Roucel

“It starts like a fantasy, that of Serge Lutens.  It doesn’t reproduce the smell of the cedar tree, but that of a craft shop that works cedar wood to make moucharabiehs in Marrakech.  The souk, the spices … a dry sparkling cedar.  A real gem!” Maurice Roucel

opium emily blunt

Opium : Yves Saint Laurent : Jean Louis Sieuzac and Raymond Chaillan, 1977

“Un parfum de scandale, vindicatif, qui ébranle.  Un paquet de décibels qui rompt avec le style ampoulé du XX siècle.  C’est l’introduction de la notion de performance dans la parfumerie.” Jean-Claude Ellena

“The scent of scandal, vindictive, that makes you melt.  A high decibel package that breaks with the mould of twentieth century style. It is the introduction of the concept of performance in perfumery.” Jean-Claude Ellena

flower kenzo again

Flower : Kenzo : Alberto Morillas, 2000

“Il y a dans le même flacon sensualité et innocence, séduction et douceur cotonneuse presque régressive, tout ça grâce à la muscenone, un musc qui a toute la douceur d’un sein féminin.  Les notes poudrées faisaient alors leur retour dans la parfumerie.” Maurice Roucel

“In the same bottle there is sensuality and innocence, seduction and cottony softness nearly regressive, all thanks to the muscenone, a musk that has all the softness of a female breast.  Powdery notes made a return to perfumery.” Maurice Roucel

What did you think of their choices?  Any surprises?

Notes : Images : Featured Image : Marie Claire UK : Mathilde Laurent : Now Smell This : Jean Claude Ellena : The Guardian : Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal : : Dominique Ropion : : Chanel No 19 : : No 19 : pinterest : Aromatics Elixir : pinterest : Mitsouko : : Le Jardin Sur Le Nil : Fragrantica : Femme : : Maurice Roucel : perfumeshrine : Feminite du Bois : Olfactorias Travels : Flower : : Diorissimo : Frangratica

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Perfumes : Chosen By French Perfumers”

  1. What an interesting and diverse mix- I wasn’t expecting so many bright sweet scents. I absolutely love Jardin sur le Nil and I can’t wait to try Mure et Musc.


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