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The History of Iconic Fragrances: From Chanel No. 5 to Dior J’adore

The perfume world is quaintly inhabited with an extensive and illustrious history. Iconic fragrances have often set the tone for our culture and evolved the perfume industry as a whole. And for that, as lovers of perfumes and fragrances, we owe them our undivided gratitude. We’ll explore some of history’s most iconic fragrances and in doing so, we’ll guide you to those with fragrance samples if you happen to desire a road to nostalgia.

So sit back, relax, and ready yourself for a stroll down the distinguished history of fragrances.

What Makes a Fragrance Iconic?

Maybe we should start here. We hear the term “iconic” thrown around a lot in fashion, but what does that really mean? In fragrances, there are a number of aspects we look for in a perfume or fragrance before classifying it as iconic.

It’s Unique: One of the biggest drivers of labeling a scent as iconic is its adherence to uniqueness. Its not a copy. It’s not cookie cutter. It’s unique, from notes to box cover, but without being “shocking.” Anyone can create a shocking, or even terrible smell. But it’s difficult to craft an olfactory sensation that’s deeply unique in its experience.

It is timeless: The scent’s ability to emerge as a popular option decades later drives its value as iconic. When a fragrance isn’t dated and can be worn any time, it may well be iconic.

Popularity: Without question, the mass appeal of the fragrance helps elevate a fragrance into iconic status. The more it sells, the more it’s discussed and shared, the more we seek it out.

Celebrity endorsers: Sure, any major perfume company can shell out millions for celebrity endorsements, which is why this point needs the aforementioned points to make a fragrance iconic. But all the same, celebrities tend to help boost a fragrance into a timeless position even by simply wearing it. These days, most celebrities are paid for any and all fashion associations. But it still remains one way that a fragrance gains momentum.

Chanel No. 5

It’s ok to start with the lead. Its the headline for a reason, Chanel No. 5 is one of the most iconic fragrances of all time. In the jubilant 1920’s, Gabrielle Chanel outsourced the task of creating a cultural changing scent to Ernst Beaux. Beaux deployed a couple of unique techniques to develop Chanel No. 5 and elevate into the books of perfume history.

First, he went floral. Today, floral scents are a mainstay and the most popular type of fragrance. But this wasn’t the case in the 1920’s. In fact, floral was a radical shift at the time.

Second, Beaux utialized aldehydes. Aldehydes are chemicals that help boost other scents. Aldehydes are a class of organic compounds characterized by the presence of a carbonyl group (C=O), where the carbon atom is doubly bonded to an oxygen atom and has a single bond with a hydrogen atom. Wait, what? Yeah, that’s hyper-science techy stuff that none of care about. To keep it simple, many aldehydes occur naturally in fruits, flowers, sometimes essential oils. Aldehydes add a semblance of depth and complexity into a fragrance. When deployed in top notes, aldehydes help perk up the opening with refreshing and energetic vibes.

So what does the iconic “5” mean? Well, Beaux created several versions of Chanel prior, four to be exact. So yeah, the 5th installation of Chanel was the one they dug and it was named accordingly.

Over the decades, Chanel No. 5 has boasted some of the most powerful women in the world as faces of the fragrance. These include Estalla Warren, Nicole Kidman, Suzy Parker, and today, Giselle Bundchen even makes a debut in one of their N°5 films.

Opium Yves Saint Laurent


The name alone gives way to a dreamy, 1970s acid trip with you and Jim Morrison. And Opium Yves Saint Laurent was in fact launched in 1977 and of course, met with rigid criticism as it stoked fears of pushing drug use. A fantastical blend of spice and floral arises pensive orient wonders. It is a beautiful, potent scent that remains among the most iconic fragrances of the past five decades.

Heidi Klum, Emily Blunt, and Salma Hayek have all donned the spicy perfection that offers supreme, unrivaled balance and vigor.
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