Creating a perfect spring fragrance is no small feat. Tasked with encapsulating a period of rebirth, renewal, and hope, the season’s fragrances have a lot to live up to. They must be sweet without becoming cloying, refreshing without being too severe, and flower-laden while still appealing to those who’ve banished the blooms. In the past, having so many boxes to check led perfumes to play it safe, but 2022’s new launches aren’t gunning for mass appeal. This year, brands have focused on innovation and individuality, offering creations that can accurately sum up a mood or approach the familiar with a new verve.
Regardless of their concept, these perfumes push boundaries. Whether their scent’s core concept focused on the classicism of rose or rarities like sustainably sourced cacao from the mountains of Peru, perfumers went the extra mile to deliver an authentic experience. Drawing inspiration from myths, the lives of fashion legends, or even the local bakeshop, they took pains to imbue their creations with soul.
As such, spring 2022’s lineup of perfumes from niche houses, designer brands, and local artisans evoke an emotional response. The right scent can bring back a memory from childhood, remind you of a favorite book, or make you smile. The season’s finest manage all that, and they smell pretty damn good too.
Never underestimate the simple pleasures. Valmont’s Just Bloom doesn’t rely on a series of weird ingredients or heaps of hype; it just delivers precisely what you want in a spring fragrance. White flowers run the show, and all those buds of lily of the valley and gardenia are a feast for the senses. Still, what sets Just Bloom apart is its use of vegetal ambergris, a cruelty-free version of the waxy substance once sourced from sperm whales. Containing all the richness and depth of the original, it’s a thoughtfully derived note that takes an already intriguing scent to the next level.
Albero Morillas has blessed the world with a number of classic spring scents—CK One, Marc Jacobs Daisy, and Armani Acqua di Gio to name a few—but the master perfumer finds the season’s start bittersweet. Morillas decided to create a fragrance about the moment right before the weather changes, the crisp early days when flowers have begun to bloom, but winter’s chill still lingers in the air. Vert Empire is an ode to a specific moment familiar to all who love nature. Originally from Seville, Morillas envisions the period as a walk through his Mediterranean garden, the air fragrant with citrus fruits ready for harvest, plus Angelica roots and sage adding to the intoxicating atmosphere.
If there’s a prize for most original fragrance packaging, House of Oud ought to be in the running. Every hand-painted, egg-shaped bottle within the line looks like it should be behind glass in a museum. Thankfully, the scents are too appealing to be tucked away in a gallery. A collaboration between Italian perfumer Andrea Casotti and Mohammed Abu Nashi, a producer of Jakartan oud, the collection utilizes the opulent note to great effect without relying on its overpowering aspects. The amber-focused Just Before is light and airy with hints of lemon, bergamot, and saffron, all of which make it seem uplifting and romantic.
Romance served as the impetus behind the brand’s Young Rose, but the scent isn’t a sappy tale. The love story that founder Ben Gotham wants to tell is one of reckless abandon and youthful exuberance, the kind of fiery passion that gets people in trouble. No flower gets remixed as often as the rose, but Byredo always takes the iconic note into uncharted territory. Fittingly, the fragrance starts out with a blast of Sichuan pepper, the misnomer spice that has no relation to peppercorns but is instead a berry of the prickly ash tree. That citrusy tartness is enveloping and primes the wearer for the heady dose of Damascus rose and orris about to hit their system.
Anyone dreaming of warm weather has had their thoughts drift towards the Ionian Sea and the cluster of islands along its frontier. Artists and authors have drawn inspiration from Kerkyra, aka Corfu, since antiquity, but it’s more than the place where Odysseus washed ashore. A cosmopolitan destination with inviting beaches, Corfu is the subject of Memo Paris’s new take on the chypre genre. Ambitious, with an otherworldly feel, Corfu’s rhubarb and basil give the scent an herbaceous quality, while creamy notes of musk and cashmere woods elevate the composition into mythic territory.
Few things are as crowd-pleasing as a slice of sprinkle-flecked cake. The saccharine, unpretentious charm of supermarket sheet cake and box mix Betty Crocker confections is known to all, so a spritz of Marissa Zappas’ irreverent Annabel’s Birthday Cake taps into your scent memories. It’s hard not to think about grade school celebrations or office parties when you get a whiff of Zappas’ creation, but the fragrance, created in collaboration with astrologer Annabel Gat, goes beyond nostalgia. Balancing its foodie elements—cocoa absolute, honey comb, and lemon sugar—with heliotrope puts a new twist on a familiar treat. Besides, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another fragrance with notes as original as a balloon or tuberose frosting.
The House of Creed boasts more classics than most; since 1760, it has created fragrances beloved by Empress Eugenie, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn, but its latest, Wind Flowers, is fit for millennial muses. Opening with a combination of Tunisian orange blossom, jasmine, and peach, it is youthful and light. Inspired by movement, it dances through the air from the first spritz. Over time, sandalwood and tuberose emerge, adding a richness to the composition that lingers on for hours.
Odds are you’ve owned a bottle of Marc Jacobs Daisy at some point. Since it was released in 2007, the scent has become a modern classic associated with gamine girlishness and the whimsical side of the designer’s ready-to-wear. Most fragrance flankers fail to top the original, but the trio of scents released to commemorate Daisy’s 15th anniversary doesn’t aim to repeat history. Each of the scents is a new proposition; Skies leans aquatic and earthy with notes of quince, lotus flower, and seaweed, while Love is a woodsy nature walk through a mossy field of cloudberry. Eau So Fresh stays true to its name with a zesty burst of grapefruit and gooseberry that fades into musk and cedarwood as the hours pass.
Though its name alludes to neutrals, Dior Gris is anything but subdued. A signature of Christian Dior, pearl grey was a key element of his ‘New Look’ collection and the color of his childhood home in Normandy. As such, the shade has been a part of Dior since the very beginning. Capturing the essence of that unique hue fell to master perfumer François Demachy, who created a classic chypre floral that feels multifaceted. Just as Dior’s fabrics can appear slightly different depending on the light, the mix of jasmine, bergamot, and moss melds with the wearer adapting to their body’s chemistry. As versatile as a suit from Maria Grazia Chiuri’s runway, Gris is a standout creation with impressive sillage.
Tom Ford knows what he’s doing. The designer fills his runway with clothes fit for seduction and his Private Blend line with scents to match. This season, Ford offered up a bouquet in the form of three variations of rose, each inspired by a destination frequented by his jet-setting clientele. Rose de Chine utilizes yellow peonies grown in China’s Yunnan province alongside myrrh and cistus absolute to create an aura of mystery. Rose de Russie doubles down on leather notes by adding in the spice of white pepper. The lightest—and most traditionally spring—of the bunch, Rose d’Amalfi, contrasts the florals with the brightness of bergamot to create a coastal cocktail with zing.
At first glance, the bonbon-shaped bottles of Bulgari’s Allegra collection call to mind sugary sweets and youthful pleasure, but the fragrances themselves are sophisticated. Baciami, which translates to “kiss me” isn’t about a peck on the cheek—its classically minded notes like gardenia, amber, and vanilla are there to seduce. Deep and multifaceted, it packs more oomph than the typical spring fragrance, but its passionate perspective makes it ideal for nights out. It’s also completely customizable, designed to be layered with Bulgari’s Magnifying essences—or another scent from within the range, like the sparkling Iris Spettacolore.
Nothing symbolizes eternal passion better than a tattoo, and Akro’s alluring scent is an ode to romance written on the skin. A soothing blend of vetiver, jasmine, and birch Ink also contains edgy notes like tar and its namesake pigment to hammer home the body art theme. If you’ve ever sat down to write a love letter with an old-fashioned fountain pen, you’ll recognize the inky aroma beneath the flowers. Those who’ve gotten themselves inked may be transported back to the tattoo parlor after their first spray.
Sometimes the most creative thing a person can do is strip things down to brass tacks. When Escentric Molecules founder Geza Schön created his first scent, the aptly named Molecule 01, he began by isolating Iso E Super, a synthetic ingredient with a woodsy aroma akin to cedarwood that is used as a building block within countless perfumes. In taking an element that was once considered a background player and making it the focus, Schön gave fragrance fans something new. The brand’s latest launches build on that concept by taking beloved fragrance ingredients and then amplifying them with the addition of Iso Super 3. The resulting scents offer minimalist interpretations of fan-favorite notes like patchouli, iris, and mandarin.
When your fragrance shares a name with an iconic Beyoncé song, you have to deliver the goods: that scent better be as lively, intense, and memorable as Mrs. Carter’s discography. Montale’s Crazy in Love lives up to its musical namesake by keeping things romantic and upbeat. There’s plenty of wild rose and violet, and the addition of amber and vanilla bean strays from the typical floral composition. Sinking into your thoughts like the best earworm, Crazy in Love will stay with you long after its fades from your pulse points.
Depending on your perspective, the desert is a place of foreboding dangers or powerful beauty. Nature is multifaceted, and Oribe’s newest scent taps into both sides of the landscape by presenting an oasis of juniper berries and lavender set against darker notes of sunstruck pine and cedarwood, an enveloping aroma currently experiencing a moment thanks to multiple new releases built around its soothing properties. The variant used in Desertland is so true to life you’ll feel you’re standing beneath the branches of a tree.
The snakeprint-covered bottle in dramatic black and gold might lead you to think that Mancera’s Wild Python is an audacious creation worn solely by extroverts. While the tuberose heavy fragrance is potent, it’s also pretty. Seductive but lacking the venomous side its name alludes to, Wild Python uses peach, orange blossom, and jasmine to reinterpret an iconic flower. Tuberose is a note with bite, and many famous fragrances that put it front and center—Robert Piguet’s Fracas and Guerlain’s Jardins de Bagatelle come to mind—play up its heady quality. Mancera takes a softer approach that allows newcomers to experience tuberose’s charm without risking a headache.
Maison Margiela’s Replica line has accurately recreated everything from the feeling of sitting by a fireplace to picking up a latte at the start of your day. With When the Rain Stops, they aim for the first moments post-storm. April showers lead to May flowers, and the Margiela team captures that vibe. Aquatic notes can skew marine and beachy, but here, complemented by rose and pine needles, they register as morning dew on the petals of a fresh bloom. One sniff, and you can almost see the sun peeking out behind the clouds.
The phrase “breath of fresh air” is just a figure of speech—or is it? Source Adage’s bracing Monto’ac may have you rethinking the term. Inspired by coastal hillsides and brisk hikes through the forest, it’s brimming with silver sage, oakmoss, and green tobacco leaves. With a name that means “great spirit” in the Croatoan dialect of the Carolina Algonquians, Monto’ac has a calming energy and crispness that stands in contrast to all the light, citrus-based “fresh” fragrances.
The Harmonist founder Lola Tillyaeva draws inspiration from balance. Light vs. dark, yin and yang, and other points of contrast serve as central themes within her brand and the sumptuous scent Metal Flower, tackles the the concept of past meeting present. An exploration of rose, it takes the most beloved of all notes and modernizes it by adding in some sci-fi sparkle. Aldehydes provide the metallic effervescence you can only get from synthetic compounds, but the natural ingredients like orange blossom and ylang-ylang prevent things from going sharp or overly chemical. Anyone who thinks florals for spring can’t be groundbreaking should get a whiff of this.
Tears don’t always denote sadness. Gucci’s latest scent, Tears from the Moon, is about a positive emotional response. Dreamt up by creative director Alessandro Michele and master perfumer Alberto Morillas, it’s a lively exploration of Lily of the Valley, white peony, and stephanotis, a fragrant flowering vine native to Madagascar. Layering is one of the hallmarks of the Alchemist Garden range, and the bright floral pairs well with both the ultra-feminine entrees—try the tiare focused A Chant for a Nymph for a tropical experience—and its unisex blends (go for the black pepper and incense-focused Love at Your Darkest if you’re in the mood for something heady and mysterious).
There are luxury fragrances, and then there is Guerlain. Ever since the Parisian house’s founder Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain earned favored positions within the courts of Europe’s royalty by creating signature scents for Napoleon and Queen Victoria, grandeur has been a part of the brand’s ethos. The exceptional Creations range honors that history with limited editions of fragrances in hand-crafted bottles, often created in collaboration with art world luminaries. 2022’s edition of Cherry Blossom was inspired by the Japanese tradition of Hanami, which celebrates the beauty of the flower. Each flacon features the work of Japanese artist Kyoko Sugiura, who trained a team of 18 women to create the delicate petals that cover them.
The desert is having a moment in perfumery, but everyone interprets the concept differently. Ceramics and home fragrance mainstay Astier de Villatte’s first fragrance Tuscon is an ode to wide open spaces and the freedom found in the American West’s rugged landscape. Inspired by its popular incense of the same name, the scent is a Paris meets Arizona mashup where perfumer Alexandra Monet takes plants native to the latter—cacti, strawflower, thyme—and blends them into an elegant mixture designed to trigger wanderlust.
In the desert valleys of Peru, you’ll find one of the rarest varieties of chocolate. Cocoa Porcelena grown in Chulucanas is prized for its robust flavor—it’s potent enough to serve as a coffee substitute. A fully sustainable brand that uses fair trade processes and sticks to the idea of “slow luxury,” Atelier Materi chooses its raw materials with care. To create its take on the cacao note, perfumer Marie Hugentobler teamed with the French brand Maître Chocolatier to develop the ideal roast. Once that was perfected, she utilized rum, tobacco, patchouli, and tonka bean to create a refined gourmand that’s a compelling alternative to the typical.