Fragrance is the first impression you quietly convey, used to express your ever-changing moods, contrasting personas, and cherished memories. Does the invigorating burst of punchy citrus instantly revive your soul? Or do the depths of damp woods and zingy spices awaken your senses? Welcome to ELLE Noteworthies, a definitive guide to the finest fragrances we’ve encountered this year, poised to accompany you as you create new scent memories.
There are certain timeless luxury fragrances that, no matter what’s “new” on the market, you still keep that one perfume in your scent repertoire. Brands recognize it too—releasing “intense” or “extreme” remakes of their heritage scents. The only difference in these upgrades is that the fragrances have a higher concentration of the perfume formula, leading to a more potent and long-lasting composition. For our first annual Noteworthies, ELLE enlisted the help of two well-respected cosmetic chemists, our “Noses,” Esther Olu and Ginger King, to assist ELLE editors in determining the “Icon” of fragrances for 2023.
After deliberating over seven perfumes, wearing them at minimum, for one day and judging on note composition and longevity, Olu and King determined that Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Le Parfum was the shining star in the luxury market. It is one of the best vanilla fragrances you can buy that oozes sophistication and style, rather than an overly gourmand aroma. Unsurprisingly, it’s a favorite of YSL Beauty’s long-time brand ambassador, Zoë Kravitz. This spicy fragrance oozes sexy with notes of coffee to awaken the senses while cacao, bourbon vanilla, and jasmine intertwine within the formula for a boozy, powdery blend, creating a head-turning aroma that’s irresistible on your neckline. As it dries down, the notes of patchouli add an alluring, sweet sex appeal to the concoction before ending with a woody, musky base for a spicy finish. It’s elegant, it’s womanly, and Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Extreme is our Icon of the Year for the 2023 Noteworthies.
Below, Esther Olu and Ginger King share why they chose this mysterious, aromatic fragrance as one of the best perfumes for women that you can buy.
What did you love about the notes?
Esther Olu: I loved the versatility of the notes. Specifically, upon continued smelling, you get a continual diverse scent of spicy (i.e., pink pepper), fruity/floral (orange blossom, jasmine), and gourmand (vanilla, coffee). While the scents are not necessarily complex, this is a well-balanced blend of diverse notes that keeps you guessing.
Ginger King: It has an interesting coffee, vanilla, and floral profile.
How is the wearability?
Esther Olu: Black Opium had long-lasting power (8+ hours) and great silage. This fragrance had some of the best wearability in comparison to others tested.
What makes this an ICONIC perfume?
Esther Olu: What makes this an iconic perfume is its propensity to captivate and this is due to, in my opinion, its versatility. Its diverseness is what makes it so addicting.
Ginger King: This is a modern version of the iconic Black Opium fragrance. It can be more timeless than the original iconic version, which is more for a mature audience.
Who can you envision wearing this fragrance? Why?
Esther Olu: Black Opium Le Parfum is light and simultaneously powerful. I can envision this being worn by charismatic and confident individuals. The fragrance exudes such versatility that it keeps you guessing, and as such, I can also imagine those who are seductive and mysterious wearing this. This fragrance reminds me of vibrance, but not to the extent of it being overpowering, and overall, I truly envision this being used with individuals who exude confidence.
Ginger King: Black Opium Le Parfum is sensual and addictive, and it’s perfect for a special evening out.
“Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet smells fresh and evokes an elegant feel when wearing it. This is great for everyday use and especially suitable for the younger generation. Due to the rose notes in the fragrance, it is perfect for a romantic day out.” — Ginger King, Cosmetic Chemist, Grace Kingdom Beauty
Danielle James is the Digital Beauty Director of ELLE.com. Previously, she was the Fashion and Beauty Director of HelloBeautiful.com and MadameNoire.com. She’s bylined for The Cut, InStyle, Allure, Business of Fashion, Nylon, Essence, Good Housekeeping, The Grio, and Huffington Post. Danielle enjoys sailing, thrifting, Japanese whiskey, Naomi Campbell’s runway walk, and Rihanna in the comment section.