We all know that alcohol is a major component of most perfumes. But that’s not the subject of this list. We’re talking about the special appeal of boozy fragrances. They often have something seductive and mysterious about them.
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The variety of boozy notes ranges from the familiar to the exotic. Rum, whiskey, gin and absinthe notes are popular choices. But you can also find scents with sake, tequila and white wine notes.
Boozy fragrances tend to range from the heavy and noticeable to the subtle and nuanced. We’ve included a mix of those styles here.
Perfumer: Rodrigo Flores-Roux
Key notes: Jamaican rum absolute, Cuban sugarcane, davana essence, cardamom absolute, clary sage enriched essence, black leather, fir balsam, nutmeg, black pepper, styrax absolute, tobacco leaf accord, Mexican black vanilla, akigalawood, cade essence, castoreum, balsawood.
Wear it if: You want a designer fragrance that oozes rock ’n roll attitude, even if you’re not a rebel at heart. As always, there’s an intimidatingly long list of notes in this John Varvatos 2015 release. To simplify things, it opens with a shot of rum that develops with sensual facets of tobacco, leather and woods. It gets the balance between sweet and dark just right.
Perfumer: Daphne Bugey
Key notes: Rose, leather, gin, black pepper, wood.
Wear it if: You want a very British niche fragrance. The niche heritage brand launched its charming Portraits collection in 2016. It features an assortment of aristocratic characters and EDPs with names such as Roaring Radcliff, The Blazing Mr Sam and Terrible Teddy. Although rose is the focus of this scent, there’s a lovely dash of gin that’s very elegant in its simplicity.
You’ll be paying top dollar for this one, but wait till you see the packaging, from the bottle’s cap to the ornate box it comes in.
Key notes: Grapefruit, pomelo, whiskey, frozen lavender, sage, red thyme, cardamom, leather, benzoin, tonka bean, wood.
Wear it if: You want a super-smooth and -sophisticated scent. There’s good reason why this release from 2015 is regarded as one of the best Carolina Herrera releases in recent years. It opens with a warm and understated waft of whiskey enhanced by cardamom, leather and tonka bean notes. It’s a seamless blend that’s tailor-made for the office and fancy occasions.
Perfumer: Sidonie Lancesseur
Key notes: Cardamom, coriander, aldehydes, lily-of-the-valley, rhubarb, rose, oakmoss, ambroxan, sandalwood.
Wear it if: You want an upmarket niche fragrance scent with a vodka-lite vibe. It must be Kilian Hennessy’s cognac-making heritage, as several of his fragrances have a boozy vibe, including Single Malt EDP, Straight to Heaven EDP and Apple Brandy EDP.
Although vodka is not an officially listed note in this unisex EDP, the opening notes of cardamom, coriander and aldehydes skillfully create the effect of this spirit on ice. It’s a light treatment that’s followed by pronounced notes of rose, oakmoss and cardamom.
Perfumer: Olivia Giacobetti
Key notes: Black currant, wormwood, angelica, ginger, patchouli, pepper, nutmeg, star anise, cloves, incense, balsam fir, pine tree needles.
Wear it if: You want a classic scent that’s full of intriguing nuances. A lot of boozy scents take the sledgehammer approach and let you know in no uncertain terms that you’re under the influence, so to speak. This is not one of those fragrances. Wormwood, the chief ingredient of absinthe, headlines this unisex EDP as its opening note. The initial herbal effect is carried through to the heart, with the addition of spices. It all settles beautifully on a woody and smoky base.
Perfumer: Alberto Morillas
Key notes: Precious aged rum, black cardamom, Taif rose, tuberose, tanned leather accord, oud accord.
Wear it if: You want a sexy oriental fragrance with a hint of rum. Bulgari Man was originally launched in 2010 and Black Orient, which was launched in 2016, is one of its best flankers. A rum and cardamom combo sets the tone for this EDP. The floral heart gives way to an irresistible leather-oud combo. It’s straightforward stuff, but highly effective in the way all the notes work together.
Perfumer: Nathalie Lorson
Key notes: Bergamot, black pepper, bay leaf, clary sage, African geranium, cinnamon, rum, wood, leather, benzoin, incense, cedar, patchouli.
Wear it if: You want a solid and timeless fragrance. Many people are surprised to find out that Bentley is in the fragrance game. What’s not surprising is the quality of releases from the British luxury automotive brand. All their fragrances have been created by top perfumers. Launched in 2013, Bentley for Men EDT set the luxurious and sophisticated tone for their scents. Its first flanker, Bentley for Men Intense EDP, took it to another level of classiness. The rum note stands out in this oriental-spicy composition, with incense, leather and wood adding to its appeal.
Perfumer: Olivier Cresp
Key notes: Cinnamon, orange brandy, angelica, juniper berry, cardamom, leather, black pepper, orris wood, brown sugar, black cherry, vetiver, ambrox.
Wear it if: You want the unmistakable aromatic waft of gin. Inspired by the quality of London dry gin, juniper berries, which give gin its distinctive flavor, open this EDT in style. But there’s more to this modern classic than its boozy intro. A cocktail of citrus, spice and a hint of sugar all complement each other. Vetiver-lovers will also appreciate its presence. This is a skin scent, so if you’re looking for a power performer, alas, this one is not for you.
Key notes: British gin, Jamaican lime, Scottish Highland pine, Duke of Windsor roses, Bahamian orange, Canadian cedar, Australian eucalyptus.
Wear it if: You want a posh scent with British sensibilities. There’s good reason why we often include Creed fragrances on our “best of” lists. They are high-quality releases that reflect their inspiration so well. Inspired by the upmarket London suburb of Mayfair, which also happens to be home to the brand’s London boutique, Royal Mayfair is a luxurious fresh, green scent. The gin opening sets the scene and is followed by standout notes of rose and eucalyptus.
Perfumer: Jacques Huclier
Key notes: Fruit, bergamot, orange, malt, patchouli, coffee, cedarwood, whiskey, peat, vanilla, amber, musk.
Wear it if.. : You want a distinctive fragrance that makes a statement. Mugler A*Men fragrances are generally not for everyone, but this is probably the fashion brand’s biggest crowd-pleaser. Mugler A*Men EDT pioneered the use of a coffee note and that’s still present in Mugler A*Men Pure Malt, albeit a toned-down version.
What makes this fragrance special is the dynamic between the big and sweet fruity opening, the warmth of the malt and whiskey notes and the earthiness of the patchouli and peat notes.