The Best Non-Floral Fragrances for Spring

Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada snarkily quipped, “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.” When it comes to fragrance… we tend to agree. Don’t get us wrong; floral perfumes are stunning in the springtime, and they just make sense as the flowers come into full bloom. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to wear something a bit different. Lovers of warm, gourmand, or sweet scents, here are ten stellar options for those springtide days when you want to smell lovely–but not floral. (The key here is finding something that won’t smother you in the heat.)

Mizensir’s Très Chère is the sweet-smelling musk scent of my dreams. OK, there is a floral note in here, but this is not an overly flowery scent. The notes include orange tree blossom extract, ambrox, jasmine sambac, bourbon vanilla, and sandalwood essential oil. For me, it is reminiscent of walking through a Parisian bakery, smelling the airy powdered sugar atop a fluffy sponge cake. Perhaps there is a vase on the counter, brimming with jasmine–and every once in a while, you get a delightful whiff.

Lush American Cream was simply made for springtime, it seems. A vanilla and strawberry perfume inspired by milkshakes of the 1950s, you’d worry it might be too sickly sweet for this time of year – but that beautifully fresh berry note prevents that. It also has sage and lavender. On first spray, it’s a candy-cold sweetness that slowly metamorphoses into a delicious vanilla ice cream cone (the waffle is still warm), drizzled with stewed strawberry syrup. For lovers of this scent, also try the American Cream Hair Conditioner, Solid Conditioner, Solid Perfume, and Washcard.

For something a bit different, try BDK Parfums’ Gris Charnel, easily accessible in the United States through Bluemercury. This fragrance took the internet by storm a few years ago, for good reason. In the opening, it’s spicy and figgy, and reminds me of a black leather jacket. It quickly, changes, though, into a cozy, aromatic, distinctive blend that reminds me a tad of Glossier You. This has notes of cardamom, fig, tonka, black tea, and more, and is perfectly unisex. I love this one by itself, but if this cup of black tea is a bit too bitter on its own for your taste, try adding some milk

Commodity’s Milk- fragrance is a delicious, comforting, creamy concoction of marshmallow, tonka bean, and mahogany wood. It’s called Milk- to indicate it’s the “personal” flanker of the scent; there are also Milk and Milk+, which have different “scent spaces” as the brand calls them, depending on how much you want your fragrance to project. Each flanker smells slightly different as well. Milk- makes me think of the delightful sweetness of frothed milk. This one is gorgeous on its own, but I discovered that layering it on top of Gris Charnel leads to the spiced chai latte fragrance of my dreams. I love this one in the warmer months because it’s extremely light and fluffy–not at all heavy. 

Who wouldn’t want to smell like Rihanna? Rumor has it that Kilian’s Love, Don’t Be Shy was once the singer’s signature scent. With a warm base of amber, its other main notes are marshmallow and orange blossom. Like Très Chère, though, this is not your typical springy floral scent. Part of the brand’s “narcotics” collection, it is a deep and sensual fragrance that offers a burst of bubblegum-sweetness upon first spritz, then dries down to ambery, sugared petals and candied oranges. Yum

Vanilla is arguably one of the most popular fragrance notes–it’s just so likeable, and it can be done so many ways. One of my recent favorite discoveries has been Burberry’s Goddess, a blend of three types of vanilla plus a fresh hit of lavender. This sweetens as I wear it, and I like to compare it to a frothy vanilla latte with just a drop of lavender syrup, topped with a few sprigs of fresh lavender. This is not your typical “baked goods” scent – it works beautifully in warmer weather; that slight herbal note keeps it from becoming sickly. Addictive and comforting, it’s like a hug from your favorite person.

Another vanilla that I can’t get enough of is Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. This is a smoky, deep vanilla that I’m seriously considering making my signature scent due to the fact I have found that it thrives in all weather. It opens as pure vanilla extract, then warms and becomes an ambery, sensual cocoon of sweet, slightly boozy vanilla. This is one of those perfumes that doesn’t really feel like a fragrance you’re wearing–rather, it becomes part of the way you smell. There are no aldehydes or other perfumy notes in here. It’s also surprisingly unisex–after all, vanilla is a spice derived from an orchid. This one deserves all the hype it gets.

Looking for an ultra-feminine fragrance to fulfill your dreams of Victorian royalty? That’s what Xerjoff’s Casamorati Dama Bianca (available at Twisted Lily) does for me. It’s a freshly sweet aroma that reminds me of the color white–think one of those soft powder puffs you’d find resting on an elaborate vanity–perhaps in Kensington Palace. Fluffy, powdery, light, a bit warm – this one has a delightfully surprising mix of notes: lime, Chinese kumquats, Egyptian jasmine, lily of the valley, cedarwood, and white musk. Even the bottle it comes in is romantic. I would go so far as to say this is the single most perfect springtime scent for those who don’t like typical florals. It’s divine. 

These last two fragrances are softer–some might call them skin scents. If you ask me, though, skin scents are the some of most versatile fragrances. I’m not always looking for a compliment from a stranger 15 feet away with my perfume; sometimes, I want to keep my scent bubble a bit more private. Ode to Dullness by Juliette Has a Gun is one of the most interesting scents in my collection, and perfect for the transition to warmer weather. It starts off, to my nose at least, as a dry rootbeer (it’s the badiane, also known as star anise)–then cozies itself into the skin and settles as a warm, lightly sweet mixture of cashmere flower, tonka bean, and musk. With a top note of freesia, this is a quiet, cuddly blanket of a fragrance that reminds me of the way a clean sweatshirt smells after it’s been worn outside all day–under the sun, walking through the woods, sitting by a campfire. 

Finally–and this list was in no order–you must try Aerin’s Amber Musk, no matter who you are. I’m going to make the claim that this fragrance is the safest blind buy on the list. This gorgeous woody amber scent with notes of ambrox, coconut water, rose centifolia, lily of the valley, benzoin, sandalwood, and musk can be worn at any time of year, by anyone, at any age. It’s creamy and slightly sweet, with a bit of warmth creeping in during the dry-down. I also get a bit of a tangy note–think a sugared slice of clementine. It is another of those fragrances that will make those around you say, “You smell good.”