Celebrity fragrance sales are nowhere near the heights of the noughties, when it almost became de rigueur for a star to have a range of scents. According to marketing and research firm NPD Group, total revenue from this category in US department stores declined from $150 million to $50.6 million in three years alone between 2011 and 2014. Ouch!
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So would you wear a celeb fragrance? Such a simple question can provoke a flurry of reactions ranging from the downright Never, too common and Yeuch, too tacky to the more measured Yes, great value for money and Of course, they are sometimes created by top perfumers.
Granted, some of the snobbery around celebrity fragrances is well deserved. But hopefully this list will convince you that if you temporarily put that attitude aside, you will also discover gems among the dreck.
Where known, the name of the perfumer is listed in brackets after the name of the fragrance.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR WHITE DIAMONDS EDT (CARLOS BENAIM)
No celebrity fragrance list would be complete without the woman who created the trend. Inspired by the Hollywood legend’s love for diamonds, Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds EDT is a classic in the genre and received the Fragrance Foundation’s illustrious Hall of Fame award in 2009.
If you think celebrity fragrances lack staying power in both senses of the phrase, you need to try this one. Launched in 1991, it will take you back to an era of big-time glamour (big hair, lots of hairspray and smoke). It’s a bold floral scent with the aldehydes-o-meter turned up high.
BRITNEY SPEARS VIP PRIVATE SHOW EDP (CAROLINE SABAS)
Despite the overall decline in the sector, Britney Spears has built a lucrative fragrance empire, beginning with the launch of her first scent, Curious EDP, in 2004.
Launched in 2017, Britney Spears VIP Private Show EDP possesses many of the qualities associated with celebrity scents. It opens with a blast of fruity sweetness, courtesy of blood orange, mango nectar and red apple notes, followed by a floral trio of orange blossom, violet and magnolia notes.
However, it’s the dry-down of wood, amber and musk that makes this scent worthy of your cash. It provides a sophisticated counterpoint to all that initial sweetness.
MADONNA TRUTH OR DARE EDP (STEPHEN NILSEN)
The Queen of Pop has dabbled in everything from fashion and film to beauty and books, so it’s no surprise that she also launched her own range of perfumes in 2012.
What is surprising, though, is that she has only launched two fragrances Truth or Dare EDP and Truth or Dare Naked EDP both of which were well received, yet discontinued. But perhaps that’s part of Madonna’s cunning business plan.
Truth or Dare opens with a beautiful note of gardenia and neroli. But it’s the creamy and sensual tuberose note that makes a powerful statement in true Madonna style.
The floral action continues with notes of jasmine and lily intermingled with the warmth of vanilla, amber and musk.
The actress is no stranger to celeb fragrances, having launched her first scent, Covet EDP, in 2007. But she earned major respect from fragrance aficionados when Stash SJP EDP was launched in 2017.
Many SJP fragrances are crowd-pleasers, but the unisex Stash SJP truly showed her love for unusual and masculine-leaning fragrances.
There are brief hints of grapefruit, black pepper and sage in the opening. But it’s the heart of Atlas cedar and patchouli (with a dash of pistachio) that takes it in a most intriguing direction. A big dose of massoia adds to the earthy, woody effect, with vetiver and olibanum in skillful support.
It’s a woody, smoky beauty that’s guaranteed to surprise anyone who’s ever turned up their noses at celebrity fragrances.
SOFIA VERGARA SOFIA EDP (BRUNO JOVANOVIC)
We all know Sofia Vergara for her larger-than-life role in the sitcom Modern Family. What’s less well known is that the actress got in on the fragrance biz in 2014 and has four scents to her name.
Her debut fragrance, Sofia EDP, makes the most of her Columbian heritage with some ingredients sourced in the country of her birth. The creator behind the perfume is a famous perfumer Bruno Jovanovic.
It opens with juicy wafts of blackberry and plum, followed by a floral heart of Colombian rose and Colombian orchid. A strong woody vibe balances the sweetness.
It’s worth seeking out if you’re looking for a fruity floral with depth and sophistication.
ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE EAU DE PROTECTION EDP (ANTOINE LIE & ANTOINE MAISONDIEU)
Okay, so it’s not strictly a celebrity fragrance in the traditional sense. But it was created in collaboration with Spanish actress Rossy de Palma (best known for her work with director Pedro Almodóvar), so close enough.
Launched in 2009, it’s dramatic stuff with an unashamed dose of Bulgarian rose that follows a spicy intro of ginger and black pepper notes. All of this is accentuated by notes of geranium, patchouli and incense.
The maverick Paris-based niche house has produced provocatively named scents such as I Am Trash EDP, Fat Electrician EDP and Putain des Palaces (Palace Whore) EDP. It collaborated with Scottish actress Tilda Swinton on Like This EDP, which is also highly recommended.
LADY GAGA FAME EDP (RICHARD HERPIN)
Like Madonna, Lady Gaga’s two fragrances were also discontinued, despite their initial popularity.
Her first fragrance, Lady Gaga Fame EDP, was launched in 2012 at the height of Gaga-mania, and became known for its use of a technology that changed the juice from black in the bottle to clear when sprayed.
But there’s more to this unisex scent than this sexy gimmick. It doesn’t use the traditional structure of top, heart and middle notes.
The result is an unexpectedly wearable, sweet-meets-dark scent that features interesting contrasts between its listed notes that include belladonna, tiger orchid, jasmine sambac, honey, apricot, saffron and incense.
J.LO GLOW EDT (LOUISE TURNER AND CATHERINE WALSH)
Jennifer Lopez launched her fragrance business in spectacular style in 2002 when J.Lo Glow EDT was launched with much publicity.
An immediate mega-seller and still popular to this day, it proved that a clever brand extension could also make for a high-quality scent. The perfumers behind the fragrance are Louise Turner and Catherine Walsh.
It opens with notes of grapefruit, neroli and jasmine and then ups the floral ante with notes of orange blossom, jasmine and rose.
Lopez wanted this fragrance to have a skin effect and that’s achieved with a big helping of musk in the base.
It may sound heavy, but it all comes together to create a fresh, clean and soapy scent.
Rihanna has made a success of everything from music and fashion to make-up. She’s also put her name to some good scents over the last decade since the launch of her first fragrance, Reb’l Fleur EDP, in 2011.
Launched in 2012, Nude features notes of guava, pear, gardenia, jasmine sambac, orange blossom, and vanilla orchid. It’s a pretty and sweet fruity-floral that’s very much in tune with current trends.
The Bajan superstar often trades on her raunchy image, but Nude is surprisingly and all the better for its softness and subtlety.
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.