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Your Guide to Single-Note Fragrances

Plus, Martha's go-to scent.

perfume bottles ralph lauren prada essentials
Photography by: Yasu + Junko

Imagine the scent of your favorite flower or fruit—the way it instantly lifts your mood, then launches you into nature. Single-note fragrances share that exhilarating power, capturing the essence of classic blooms and citrus plants at their peak. While they often enlist complementary ingredients, the lasting result mimics something plucked directly from a garden or grove, pure and simple. Here are some top picks.

 

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perfume bottles ralph lauren prada essentials
Photography by: Yasu + Junko

Floral Fragrances

Hibiscus

The bloom is synonymous with the tropics—just imagine tucking one behind your ear as you wade into turquoise waters. In reality, it doesn’t have a very strong scent, says Stephen Nilsen. To amplify its qualities, Aerin Hibiscus Palm Eau de Parfum has heady notes of frangipani, ylang-ylang, and coconut milk. $120, aerin.com.

 

Rose

There are hundreds of varieties of this popular beauty, and each smells distinct, “depending on its age and the time of day you come across it,” says Calice Becker. Louis Vuitton Rose Des Vents Parfum pays homage to the flower, placing you in a field of May roses in Grasse, France. $240, louisvuitton.com.

 

Gardenia

The intoxicating white blossom yields very little juice when extracted, says Rodrigo Flores-Roux. So in 1925, when Coco Chanel and her “nose,” Ernest Beaux, set out to replicate it and create Chanel Gardenia Parfum, they added orange blossom, jasmine, and tuberose. $200, chanel.com.

 

Magnolia

Louisiana’s state flower is known for its spicy, lemony aroma. Commodity Magnolia Eau de Parfum conjures the tree in full bloom—petals, glossy leaves, bark, and all—with added layers of citrus, rose, and jasmine. $105, sephora.com.

 

 

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Citrus Scents

Bergamot

Bursting from trees all over Calabria, Italy, this sunny fruit’s trademark is its tart, bright peel, which also distinguishes Earl Grey tea. Essential Parfums Nice Bergamot softens its stronger qualities with cedar and tonka bean. $75, essentialparfums.com.

 

Lime

To make Ralph Lauren Collection’s Lime Eau de Parfum as zingy as the real thing, Becker froze limes to extract their sparkling nature as they warmed. “I wanted a refreshing, invigorating scent reminiscent of a citrus fizz,” she says. $190, ralphlauren.com.

 

Mandarin Orange

Orange blossom, mandarin leaf, and orange peel give Prada Infusion Mandarine Eau de Parfum its sweet, delectable quality. Opoponax (a cousin of myrrh) delivers a warm, sultry finish. $160, saks.com.

 

Bitter Orange 

The taste and scent we associate with marmalade comes from the flowers of this tree, says Flores-Roux. Jo Malone Orange Bitters Cologne rounds out its holiday favorite (back for a third year) with mellow amber and sandalwood. $88, jomalone.com.

 

Grapefruit 

A medley of tangerine, bergamot, and lemon, plus splashes of rhubarb and peach, gives Fresh Hesperides Grapefruit Eau de Parfum brightness and longevity. $50, fresh.com.

Wild Card

Though its seeds have a distinct taste, the poppy is actually odorless. The creators behind Nest Fragrances’ Wild Poppy Eau de Parfum reimagined it as a fruit-inflected, floral blend of Himalayan jasmine, rose de Grasse, pear, and raspberry. $74, sephora.com.

 

Martha's Pick

Our founder’s go-to fragrance is Fracas de Robert Piguet, a scent that features tuberose. She got her first bottle when she was 18, and never stopped wearing it. $165, nordstrom.com.

 

Our Experts: Calice Becker, perfumer for the Ralph Lauren Collection; Ilias Ermenidis, a perfumer at Firmenich; Rodrigo Flores-Roux, a perfumer at Givaudan; and Stephen Nilsen, senior perfumer at Commodity Fragrances.