The best lilac perfumes can fall into a few different categories. Some are a field full of fresh flowers. Others are comforting. Even though they aren’t, a few smell almost like soliflores (a single floral and nothing else–in this case, lilac). Some are even a little edgy and complex, which might be a surprise.
I’ve loved lilac notes in perfumes since before I even knew what note I was smelling. I first noticed it in Gucci Guilty, then it appeared again in Lancome Tresor.
To me, there’s something comforting about lilac, no matter which way it shows up in a fragrance. I guess that makes sense since lilac essential oil has been used in lowering anxiety and stress. (Lavender usually gets all the credit, but lilac deserves some, too.)
Bottom Line Up Front
Lilac perfumes are usually a little sweet, and feminine and feel like a breath of spring. However, there are some exceptions to the rule, like sexy, peppery Gucci Guilty, which is one of my most recommended (if you love the lilac note but want something less straightforward than a simple floral).
If you want something beautiful that takes you to a glorious field full of spring flowers on a perfect, warm, sunny day, go with Champs-Elysees. For something a little easier to get your hands on that smells like clean, fresh florals, opt for Pacifica French Lilac.
My Top Picks at a Glance
I’ll get right to it here, but keep reading if you want to know more about each fragrance. Some of these straddle two categories, but I noted those cases.
- Gucci Guilty
- Lancome Tresor
Best if you want to smell as much like lilacs as possible:
- Aerin Lilac Path
- Pacifica French Lilac
- Guerlain Idylle Duet Jasmin-Lilas (this one could fit into the “field full of spring flowers” category, too)
If you love the idea of smelling like a field full of spring flowers on a sunny day:
- Estee Lauder Pleasures
- Guerlain Champs-Elysees
- Molinard Muguet
- Tocca Giulietta (this one almost fell into the “as much like lilacs as possible” category)
Tips for Choosing Your Lilac Fragrance
Decide what kind of scent you’re going for: sexy, sensual, comforting, peaceful, pretty and feminine, fresh, or a combination of two (or more) of those things?
Look for notes to support the honeyed, slightly-powdery lilac, and steer the perfume in the direction you want. For example:
- Love fresh, bright scents? Look for citrus or green notes.
- White florals that make you feel pretty? Look for fragrances with jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, or other flowers you love.
- Want a comfort scent that feels like your favorite lightweight sweater on a mid-spring day? Vanilla, woods, and even patchouli (sometimes) as base notes will help you find your best lilac perfume.
Do you love complex scents that transform as you wear them or something linear that smells the same when you put it on as it does hours later? Generally, more notes listed mean more complex scents that evolve over time.
When possible, always spritz your potential new fragrance on in the store and spend some time with it before purchasing. If that’s not an option, consider ordering a sample online from a shop like Scent Split or even Scentbird.
What Do Lilacs Smell Like?
Lilac feels like such a chameleon note to me. Lilacs can come across as sweet (sometimes a little overpowering), powdery, fresh, and/or creamy. Recreating the natural lilac fragrance in perfume is not an easy task.
Sylvaine Delacourte explains that, in perfumery, to get the lilac scent, the perfumer will use different notes to get close to the smell of lilac. This might involve pairing similar notes with paracresol, an animal note.
My selection criteria for the best lilac perfumes focused on:
- Finding complex and linear scents.
- Choosing lilac perfumes from different fragrance families; most will be some type of floral, of course, but there’s wiggle room there–some are fresh. In contrast, others are warm and sensual, for example.
- How easy they are to find. I didn’t want to create a list of lilac perfumes you’d have difficulty getting your hands on. Not all of them will be available at your local department store, Sephora, or Ulta. Still, I aimed to mix it up and mainly included scents you won’t have to jump through hoops to try.
- A range of price points. You can get a lilac perfume for anywhere from $22.00 to over $200.00.
The 9 Best Lilac Perfumes
Here are my top nine lilac perfumes. In some cases, these are the best lilac perfumes that strongly feature lilac but don’t center on it.
In other cases, the goal seems to be to get as close to smelling just like the flower as possible.
I included both types because I know from personal experience that you can love a note and want to notice its presence without smelling just like that thing. For me, it’s magnolia–the essential oil doesn’t do it for me on its own. Still, I adore perfumes that feature magnolia as a note.
When I got a bottle of Gucci Guilty, my nose wasn’t trained enough to pick out specific notes, especially not in something as complex as this scent. However, I can smell it now. Oh, boy, is it beautiful! The lilac is woven through other florals (rose, violet, and geranium) and a bit of fruit (peach, mostly) that hits after the peppery opening notes tickle my nose.
Finally, it settles down to a warm blanket of patchouli, amber, and a touch of vanilla.
- Complex, sexy scent
- Beautifully blends powders, pepper, earthiness, and warmth
- More expensive than some other options (around $82.00 for an ounce)
- Lilac isn’t as prominent here as in some other scents, like Lilac Path, below.
Aerin Lilac Path
I love it when a perfume’s name tells me precisely what I need to know. Aerin Lilac Path is all about the lilacs. According to Sephora’s listing, there are some other notes in there, including galbanum, jasmine, angelica seed oil, and orange flower.
- If you love lilacs, this one won’t disappoint. Lilacs are the main event here.
- It’s not linear or one-dimensional; lilacs are supported well by the other notes.
- It’s expensive. The smaller bottle is 1.7 oz. and costs $135.00.
- May smell outdated to some.
Guerlain Idylle Duet Jasmin-Lilas
Guerlain does lilac well, just like violet. Idylle Duet Jasmin-Lilas came out in 2012, but it’s not readily available in department stores anymore (if it ever was). It’s like springtime in a bottle–soft (for Guerlain), gorgeous fresh lilacs dancing with the sweetness of jasmine and the grounding elements of woods and musk.
It’s a mix of lilac, green notes, jasmine, rose, musk, and woods.
- Not everyone will be wearing this scent, so your fragrance will stand out.
- Beautiful bottle
- A mood-lifting, happy scent that’s not too sweet or too fresh
- Not overpowering; stays close to the skin
- Lasts all day
- It’s a little challenging to find and expensive when you do.
Guerlain’s ability to bottle a spring day astounds me. Champs-Elysees took some time to grow on me, but I couldn’t get enough once it did. It’s peachy, light, optimistic, and mesmerizing in its sparkling vibrance. According to Fragrantica, notes include melon, almond, peach, violet, black currant, anise, lilac, mimosa, lily-of-the-valley, peony, almond blossom, rose, hibiscus, vanilla, sandalwood, almond tree, benzoin, and cedar.
- It’s a joyful, uplifting scent.
- Though it may sound like an olfactory cacophony, it’s surprisingly smooth. It feels bubbly to my nose at first (peach, anise, and mimosa, I’m betting). Still, it settles into something creamy and beautiful you can wear anywhere.
- You’ll probably have to order online from Guerlain.
- Only one bottle size is available, and it costs $135.00.
This is one of those straightforward florals I mentioned. If you want to feel pretty and feminine and enjoy linear fragrances, this is one to consider. Notes include lily-of-the-valley, lilac, lotus, jasmine, and rose.
- Simple, pretty, feminine, floral scent
- Comes in a stunning purple bottle
- Not too powdery or sweet; smells fresh
- It’s not something you can pick up at the department store. Still, you can find it reasonably priced online at retailers like FragranceNet.
- Lilac may present as just a supporting note for the lily-of-the-valley in some cases.
- It’s sometimes listed as unisex, but you may be disappointed by this one if that’s what you’re looking for.
I bought a travel size Lancome Tresor a few years ago. I love how the powdery lilac and iris balance the bright, juicy peach. There are other florals and fruits (including pineapple, which is unexpected). There’s warmth, too, and all the notes float lightly on top of a vanilla haze after the perfume has dried down.
Some people I know who wear and love this think of it as a sensual scent, but it’s just comforting to me. I love it for rainy days when I have the chance to curl up on the couch with a book and a hot beverage. I went to Fragrantica for a breakdown of this perfume because there’s so much going on and it’s difficult for one nose to pinpoint all the notes.
Notes include peach, rose, apricot blossom, lilac, pineapple, lily-of-the-valley, bergamot, iris, heliotrope, jasmine, apricot, vanilla, sandalwood, amber, and musk.
- It lasts and lasts on the skin.
- It’s comforting but not too powdery or sweet.
- It’s complex and feels like a whole adventure is unfurling on your skin throughout the day.
- It may feel outdated to some people. For me, I associate it with the scents my mom wore when I was growing up, but she says she never wore this one.
- Sometimes I get random whiffs of smoke from it, which doesn’t make sense based on the notes.
I overlooked Tocca scents for far too long, writing them off as too soft and underwhelming. However, I have discovered some gems within the line. Giulietta is one of the best lilac perfumes out there. It’s soft, delicate, powdery, and romantic.
Notes include green apple, pink tulip, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, iris, orchid, lilac, heliotrope, cedar, musk, amber, and sandalwood. It’s floral with a barely-detectable bite at the beginning that settles down to a woody, musky base.
- It’s easy to find in stores.
- Fresh and clean, with some powder.
- Available as part of a Tocca sampler set so you can try it with little commitment
- Light enough to wear to work
- It may be too soft and powdery for some preferences.
Estee Lauder Pleasures
I imagine you’ve heard of Estee Lauders Pleasures, as it’s been around since 1995. It’s a sparkling, fresh floral that smells clean, feminine, warm, and musky. Notes include green notes, freesia, pink pepper, violet, violet leaf, tuberose, red berries, lily-of-the-valley, peony, lilac, lily, rose, jasmine, geranium, Karo Karounde, musk, cedar, sandalwood, and patchouli.
- Delicate and feminine without too much powder or heaviness
- Perfect for spring and summer
- Conjures up mental images of bright, clear spring days surrounded by flowers
- Can be worn just about anywhere, any time of day
- Sometimes it can smell a little sharp to me, and I wish the warmth of the base notes were more present.
- May be too boring or dated for some
Pacifica French Lilac
Here’s an optimistic, clean lilac scent. It’s not so complex that the lilac note you’re craving gets buried by–or too woven into–other notes (though additional notes are obviously present). It’s fresh, floral, and youthful.
Notes include lilac, hyacinth, heliotrope, magnolia, nectarine, and ylang-ylang.
- This one’s very easy to find; you can even pick it up at some Target locations.
- What you sniff is what you get–there’s nothing too complex here. It’s just light, feminine, pretty, and one of the best representations of lilacs in perfume.
- Good longevity
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- If you want something complex, this probably won’t be what you’re looking for.
- May be too sweet for some tastes.
Question: Does lilac perfume smell good?
Answer: There are several lilac perfumes on that market that smell good. Some lean toward the fresher end of the floral spectrum, while others are heavier on the powder and sweet notes. If you love lilac, you should be able to find one that fits your preferences.
Question: What kind of scent is lilac?
Answer: It’s complicated. It’s sweet, powdery, green, sparkling, and fresh, all at the same time. That makes it a beautiful note to use in perfumes because it can create a bridge between different notes.
Question: What scent is similar to lilac?
Answer: Nothing, really. Some flowers and other notes can combine to come close. You could compare them to lily-of-the-valley, but pull in some freshness of a dewy rose, the sweetness of jasmine, a touch of the powder from violets, and the green notes from violet leaves. There’s nothing quite like the scent of lilac.
Question: Is lilac a middle note?
Answer: It can be. It could also be a top note.
Conclusion: Which Lilac Perfume Should You Buy?
If you’re tentatively interested in the best lilac perfumes, don’t spend a lot of money on one at first. I’d start with Pacifica French Lilac because it’s easy to find, you may be able to try it in the store before committing, and you will only need to spend about $20.00.
If you already know you’re a lover of all things lilac and just want to find the absolute best example of the flower in perfume form, consider tracking down Guerlain Idylle Duet Jasmin-Lilas or Aerin Lilac Path.
If you love complex, sexy, daring scents with detectable lilac but aren’t entirely based on the note, I recommend Gucci Guilty.