If you’re looking for the best smelling essential oils, you have many choices that will match the specific scents you want. Essential oils are often used as an ingredient in perfumes, oil blends, candles, air fresheners, incense, and other scented products. This article will talk about ten of the nicest smelling essential oils and how to use them for aromatherapy and perfume.
People around the world have used essential oils for centuries. It’s difficult to identify the exact date they became popular for their healing and aromatic properties, but as early as 2000 B.C., Egyptians have already used them for making perfumes, medicines, incense, and other things for their daily lives. 1
The ancient Romans used essential oils to make their beds, bodies, and hair. Today, it’s a common ingredient in scented oils, perfumes (or colognes), air fresheners, and home cleaning and personal care products.
Essential oils can be expensive. Their quality and scent also differ depending on the crop and extraction process. That’s why perfume makers and craft makers use fragrance oils, or aromatic oils, to keep their final products consistent.
However, if you’re making products for personal use and not particular about consistent fragrances, essential oils are great choices.
So, what are some of the best smelling essential oil scents that you could use for different applications? Here are some of them:
- 1 10 Best Smelling Essential Oils
- 2 What to Consider When Purchasing Essential Oils
10 Best Smelling Essential Oils
Bergamot Essential Oil
Perfumery note: top-middle
Botanical name: Citrus bergamia
Bergamot essential oil, which is light yellow-green in color, is cold pressed from the fresh rinds of the plant’s fruit. Since bergamot is a member of the citrus family, you can expect its essential oil to have a fresh and citrusy fragrance.
Take a few whiffs of this essential to improve your mood, release your repressed emotions (anger or frustration), get better sleep, and overcome your anxiety attacks.
People seem to prefer the fragrance of bergamot essential oil compared to other citrus essential oils. This essential oil has a subtle and intricate citrus-like scent, with a hint of spicy, fruity, and floral undertone.
If you want to get a better idea of how it smells, get an Earl Grey tea bag and carefully smell it.
Bergamot essential oil is highly popular in the perfume world because of its sweet fragrance. Perfumers usually use it as a top or middle note for many perfumes, including the classic summer perfume Eau d’Hadrien, which was created by Annick Goutal in1981. 2
Along with lavender, orange, thyme, petitgrain, rosemary, neroli, and mandarin essential oils, it’s one of the several notes used in creating the Cologne accord. 3 An accord is a type of fragrance that contains several ingredients, which perfectly blend together to form a distinct fragrance.
Bergamot essential oil is phototoxic, so you should avoid sources of UV radiation, such as the sun and tanning beds, for approximately 18 hours after applying it to your skin. However, it may not cause phototoxic effects if you use it in a blend at around 1 to 2 drops per ounce of carrier oil. 4
Perfumery note: middle-base
Botanical name: Jasminum grandiflorum
Considered the King of Flowers and Oils—roses are the Queen of Flowers—jasmine flowers are usually harvested between August and October. It’s difficult to harvest jasmine flowers because they’re fragile.
That’s why they’re carefully hand-picked at night by experienced pickers to ensure their scent stays intact. If the petals are bruised, this increases the amount of an aromatic compound called indole, thus changing the scent of this highly valued oil.
Jasmine was first introduced to Europeans in the 16th century by the Duke of Tuscany. 5 Since then, it became an important perfume ingredient.
Imagine this: It takes around 8,000 bruise-free jasmine blossoms to produce at least 1ml (less than an ounce) of Jasmine Absolute. 6
Perfumers also need 7.5 million jasmine flowers just to produce a kilogram of essential perfume oil. 7 That’s the reason perfumes with jasmine oil demand such a high price.
Jasmine Absolute smells so good. Most people describe its strong and rich floral fragrance as sweet, sensual, and romantic. It’s a woman’s oil, but men will most likely appreciate its exquisite fragrance, too.
Just to clarify, Jasmine Absolute is a cousin of essential oil. The difference between absolutes and essential oils is the technique of obtaining these oils.
Absolutes are produced through chemical solvent extraction, while essential oils through steam distillation. Compared to their essential oil cousins, absolutes are more potent aromatically, thus you don’t need to use too much of them.
Jasmine absolute is safe to use in low doses. However, inhaling it in large doses could affect your concentration because of its sedative and relaxing properties.
Perform a skin patch test first to determine if you’re allergic to it. Avoid this if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from a serious medical condition.
Lemon Essential Oil
Perfumery note: middle
Botanical name: Citrus limon
Lemon essential oil is cold-pressed from the peels of the fruit. It takes around 1,000 lemons to produce a pound of lemon essential oil. 8
It has a laundry list of benefits. That’s why it’s one of the best-selling essential oils today. It’s a common ingredient in household cleaning products, skin care products, and aromatherapy recipes.
It’s dubbed as “Liquid Sunshine,” and there’s a good reason for it. Aside from being versatile, it has a light, mildly sweet, and citrus fragrance that’s uplifting and energizing. A chemical compound called limonene is responsible for its citrusy fragrance. 9
Because of its wonderful fragrance (and medicinal compounds), it’s extensively used as an aromatherapy oil and ingredient in homemade perfumes and air fresheners.
Lemon essential oil blends well with many essential oils, such as lavender, geranium, sandalwood, neroli, rose, ylang-ylang, peppermint, eucalyptus, fennel, and frankincense essential oils.
Are you experiencing mental fatigue or plagued by negative emotions? Put 3 to 4 drops of lemon essential oil in your diffuser for energy, concentration, and better mood.
You could also add a few drops of lavender essential oil to enhance its overall fragrance and therapeutic benefits.
You can also use it to disinfect and eliminate bad odor in the air and on surfaces. To make your own air freshener, fill a dark-tinted spray bottle (ideally made from glass or metal) with distilled water.
Add 12 drops of lemon essential oil per ounce of carrier oil or alcohol, such as vodka. Gently shake to mix the ingredients then your DIY air freshener is ready to use.
Always dilute lemon essential oil if you plan to use it topically, as it can irritate your skin. As with other citrus essential oils, it may increase your sensitivity to the sun, tanning beds, and other UV-radiation-emitting device, which could lead to sunburn, skin darkening, and even blistering. Avoid exposing the area of your skin where you applied the oil to direct sunlight.
Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil
Perfumery note: middle
Botanical name: Cananga odorata
The ylang-ylang (pronounced as eee-lang eee-lang) tree originates in the rainforests of Indonesia, and then spread to Malaysia and the Philippines in the 19th century.
In Indonesia, the petals of the ylang-ylang flowers are usually strewn across the beds of newlyweds and are considered as powerful aphrodisiacs. Meanwhile in China, wealthy people would spray their clothes with ylang-ylang essential oil before storing them in chests.
This tree is highly prized for its night-blooming flowers, which are picked at dawn, the time their fragrance is most intense. The smell of ylang-ylang essential oil is described as sweet, soft, floral, and romantic.
Ylang-ylang essential oil is a main ingredient in many floral perfumes. In fact, ylang-ylang was one of the three flowers used in making the famous “Chanel #5” by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Ernest Beaux. 10 (The other flowers were rose and jasmine.) Chanel #5 became an instant hit worldwide when Marilyn Monroe told a journalist that she wore it in bed.
There are different ways to enjoy the alluring fragrance of the ylang-ylang essential oil:
- For instance, you can make an aromatically potent massage oil for low libido by combining 2 drops of jasmine absolute oil, 2 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil, and 2 teaspoons of almond oil.
- If you’re stressed or exhausted, combine 5 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil, 4 drops of geranium essential oil, 3 drops of lemon essential oil, and 3 tablespoons of distilled water, and then transfer the mixture into an amber glass spray bottle.
Ylang-ylang essential oil blends beautifully with geranium, bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, vetiver, marjoram, and sandalwood essential oils.
Ylang-ylang essential oil is generally safe and has no reported severe side effects. However, it might cause irritation in some people with sensitive skin.
It’s best to dilute it with milder carrier oils and perform a skin patch test before using it in large amounts on your skin. When inhaling ylang-ylang essential oil, avoid using high concentrations because it can cause headaches and nausea.
Lavender Essential Oil
Perfumery note: middle
Botanical name: Lavandula angustifolia (also called True Lavender or Common Lavender)
Lavender essential oil is probably one of the most recognized and loved scents worldwide. The lavender plant and essential oils are extensively used in the perfumery, cosmetics, and medicinal industries.
In aromatherapy, this light-yellow oil is known for its calming and sedative properties, which are useful for fighting stress, insomnia, and anxiety.
There are various types of lavender essential oils in the market today. The most common type is called “True Lavender” (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil, which most people recognize as the lavender fragrance. This essential oil has a pleasant, clean, and floral fragrance.
Its cousin, lavandin (Lavandula X intermedia) oil, has a stronger scent and was specifically developed for the French perfume industry. It was only in the 19th century that True Lavender essential oil was used in the perfume industry.
True lavender essential oil was a key component of the classic fragrance for women called “Jicky” by Guerlain, which was launched in 1889. 11
Here’s something interesting: You might find a number at the end of the lavender essential oil. This indicates the amount of linalool and linalyl acetate in the essential oil.
Linalool is a type of naturally occurring terpene alcohol that’s responsible for the fragrance of lavender and other flowering and spice plants. 12
But, if you’re new to aromatherapy, get ready to be disappointed by its smell, especially if you’re used to perfumes with strong fragrances. It may take a few whiffs before you’ll truly like lavender essential oil.
As with most essential oils, lavender essential oil is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children (under the age of three), and people with asthma and allergies.
Overall, it’s considered safe as long as it’s diluted properly.
Rose Otto Essential Oil
Perfumery note: middle
Botanical name: Rosa damascena
Rose Otto essential oil, or Bulgarian Rose oil, is distilled at a low temperature from the freshly picked petals of the Damascus rose, one of the rarest flowers in the world.
The Damascus roses, or Damask roses, are grown extensively in the “Valley of Roses” in the south of the Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria.
It takes a lot of roses to produce Rose Otto essential oil. On average, it takes at least 60 roses to produce one drop of Rose Otto essential oil, or 60,000 roses to create one ounce. 13
The wonderful fragrant qualities of this essential oil are said to be unsurpassed. 14 One of the keystones of perfumery, Rose Otto essential oil has a rich, deep, and sweet floral fragrance, with a hint of spice and honey.
The simplest way to take advantage of the sensual and exquisite fragrance of Rose Otto essential oil is to apply a drop of it on key areas of your body, such as your wrists, neck, and/or chest.
When using it to make a simple perfume, remember that the mixture should have 95% carrier oil or alcohol (vodka would do) and 5% Rose Otto essential oil. 15
Note: Rose Otto essential oil thickens and solidifies in cold temperatures. To liquify it, you can warm it in your hand for 60 seconds or place it in a small amount of warm water.
There are no known serious side effects of Rose Otto essential oil as long as you use it diluted. Like with most essential oils, use it with caution on pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, or people with allergies or health problems. Perform a skin patch test first to determine if you’re allergic to it.
Cedarwood Essential Oil
Perfumery note: base
Botanical name: Juniperus virginiana (also called eastern red cedar, pencil cedar, and Virginian juniper)
The oil extracted from cedarwood has long been used in many cultures all over the world for centuries. The ancient Greeks used it to preserve human bodies, believing it would make a person immortal.
Meanwhile, the ancient Egyptians used it for embalming, cosmetics, and perfumery.
Cedarwood essential oil is extracted from the wood itself using the distillation method. There are many types of cedarwood essential oils that are commonly sold under the general name “cedarwood.”
In the United States, cedarwood essential oil usually comes from the Virginian (Juniperus virginiana) cedarwood, Atlas (Cedrus atlantica) cedarwood, and Mexican (Juniperus ashei) cedarwood. 16
The color of this essential oil ranges from light yellow to reddish-brown. It has a distinctive and beautiful woody, spicy-resinous, and mild balsamic fragrance, with a mild sandalwood undertone.
This base note essential oil has been one of the oldest ingredients in making perfumes and other fragrance preparations due to its aromatic properties.
You can find it men’s aftershaves and fragrances, such as Bois de Violette (unisex) by Serge Lutens, and women’s fragrances, such as Jo Malone’s Sweet Lime & Cedar. 17
Note: Don’t confuse cedarwood essential oil with juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) essential oil. They come from different tree species that are in the same plant family (Juniperus).
That’s why it’s important to know the botanical name and name variations of the cedarwood essential oil you want to buy.
Use cedarwood essential oil with care. When used in high concentrations, it could irritate your skin. Never use this on young children and pregnant women because it has toxic and abortive properties. Always dilute it adequately and perform a skin patch test.
Vetiver Essential Oil
Perfumery note: base
Botanical name: Vetiveria zizaniodes
This essential oil is extracted from the grass roots of vetiver, also called khus khus and vetivert, which is organically grown in Haiti. Emotionally, this essential oil is calming and grounding, thus it’s great for massage therapy and promoting quality sleep.
For many years, vetiver essential oil has been widely used in making perfumes as a fixative or a base note—meaning, it holds back the evaporation of lighter top notes.
In fact, it’s believed to be one of the components in 90% of all perfumes. 18 The aroma of this essential oil is often described as earthy, spicy, musty, and woody that lingers on the skin for many days. (Some people say it smells like a campfire.)
When combining vetiver essential oil with other essential oils, it’s suggested that it should comprise only 5% of the total oil mixture. 19
Make sure to buy vetiver essential oil from reputable suppliers or resellers. It’s often sold at a high price because it’s difficult and takes a large amount of work to extract.
This causes other suppliers to dilute it with cheaper (and less effective) essential oils or fragrance oils to lower its price.
Vetiver essential oil is generally safe. But, according to WebMD 20, it’s unsafe for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women (as it might induce a miscarriage).
Always dilute it with a mild carrier oil and test for allergy through a skin patch test before widespread use.
Patchouli Essential Oil
Perfumery note: base
Botanical name: Pogostemon cablin
Patchouli is an evergreen perennial herb that grows wild in Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia India, South America, and various islands of Indonesia.
The oil extracted from this herb has a light yellow to dark color. Called as “the scent of the sixties,” it produces an intoxicating and a distinct musky, sweet, herb-like, woody, balsamic, and spicy aroma that others might not find appealing.
Like vetiver essential oil, patchouli essential oil is a popular base note and fixative in many perfumes for men and women.
Some of the famous perfumes that featured patchouli essential oil include Angel by Thierry Mugler, Prada Amber Pour Homme, White Patchouli for Women and Men by Tom Ford, Obsession by Calvin Klein, Polo Black for Men by Ralph Lauren, Patchouli by Demeter, and Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf. 21
Because of its strong fragrance, even when you dilute it with a carrier oil or other essential oils, you only need to use a small amount of patchouli essential oil.
When using it in a blend, start with a drop and then wait for a while before adding more of it to your blend, so it won’t overpower other oils.
Patchouli essential is usually safe to use on your skin or when inhaled. You can use it by itself or combined with other essential oils, such as vetiver, frankincense, sandalwood, cedarwood, bergamot, jasmine, rose, myrrh, and citrus essential oils.
However, it can be overstimulating when used in high doses. It may also cause photosensitivity and loss of appetite. If you’re just recovering from a sickness or have an eating disorder, it’s best to avoid this essential oil.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Perfumery note: middle
Botanical name: Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary is more than just an herb that enhances the flavor of your favorite meals. The oil extracted from this herb is extensively used for a long list of purposes in health and wellness, cosmetics, and aromatherapy.
This essential oil boasts of a refreshing, woody, and camphorous aroma, with a pine and lemon undertone.
When inhaled, rosemary essential oil can chase the blues away and improve your concentration and mood. 22 If you need to re-energize yourself and boost your mood, simply add 3 to 4 drops of rosemary essential oil to your vaporizer or diffuser.
You can use it by itself or combine it with other compatible essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile, basil, peppermint, geranium, frankincense, thyme, cardamom, cedarwood, clary sage, and lemongrass essential oils.
When used in recommended amounts, rosemary essential oil can be safe. Some people with sensitive skin may have an allergic reaction to this essential oil.
Don’t take this internally because it might damage your kidneys and cause vomiting, seizure, spasms, digestion issues, or worse, death. Children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with blood sugar problems should avoid this essential oil.
What to Consider When Purchasing Essential Oils
Choose reputable brands, shops, or suppliers
Always do your research when buying essential oils. Since good quality essential oils are expensive to produce, suppliers often dilute them with synthetic fragrance oils or other cheaper essential oils to reduce costs.
Don’t be cheap
If you want a good-smelling essential oil with its healing properties still intact, get ready to pay the price. Extracting essential oils from plants is meticulous and labor-intensive.
Each oil also requires a huge amount of plant matter to produce a small quantity. If you’re only after the scent, fragrance oils might be more affordable options.
Know the botanical name and the place it comes from
Each plant has a unique botanical name, which allows us to identify its therapeutic properties, characteristics (like its scent profile), safety recommendations, the essential oils that blend well with it, and the best ways to use it for our specific purpose.
Meanwhile, the country of origin is crucial because it will greatly affect the quality of an essential oil due its climatic and soil conditions.
Use the appropriate diffuser for your needs
Choose a nebulizing diffuser if you want a more intense fragrance. If you want something affordable, easy to clean, and sturdy, use an ultrasonic diffuser.
It’s important to remember that heat can destroy an essential oil’s chemistry, thus making them less effective.
However, heat diffusers cover larger areas and are more efficient in spreading the aromas of thick essential oils. Examples of heat diffusers are candle heat diffusers, electric heat diffusers, steam diffusers, and hot plate diffusers.
Learn how to combine different essential oils for aromatherapy and perfumes
It’s not going to be easy. It will take time and practice. There are many things you need to learn: the perfumery notes of essential oils (top, middle, and base), the correct way of smelling and describing their scents, essential oils that go well together to achieve the fragrance and therapeutic effect that you want, and so on.
What’s the correct way of smelling essential oils?
Smelling them directly out of the bottle is a big no-no.
Because you’ll only smell the top note, which is the lightest essential oil that’s first to evaporate, usually lasting only 2 hours maximum.
If you’ll only take a whiff from the newly opened bottle, you’ll miss the middle note and base note. The middle note becomes noticeable around 10 to 30 minutes after the top note evaporates, while the base note will unfold on the skin 30 minutes after application.
What’s the correct way of smelling blends and essential oils? Birch Hill Happenings 23 suggests the following:
- Slowly turn the bottle, and then pour 1 to 2 drops of the essential oil or blend on a scent testing strip that’s specifically for smelling perfumes and essential oils. If scent testing strips are not available, you can use a clean paper towel. (Don’t use a tissue.)
- Slowly wave the scent testing strip under your nose for a better assessment of the true fragrance of your perfume or oil blend. You don’t need to spend hours doing this because it might lead to sensory overload.
Try familiarizing yourself of the common terms used for describing the scent of essential oils. Some of these common terms are citrus, balsamic, herbaceous, camphor, spicy, woody, minty, sweet, vanilla-like, green, and pine.
Knowing how to identify and describe the scents of essential oils is tricky and takes a lot of practice, so be patient.
If you’re serious with aromatherapy or making your own perfume, learning how to mix or blend essential oils is important to get the medicinal effect and/or fragrance that you want. This is not going to be easy.
Fortunately, there are many books and online resources that will teach you how to do this correctly.
Each essential oil is assigned to a ‘note.’ It’s possible that an essential oil could have two notes. Notes in perfumery terminology will tell you about the volatility or evaporation rate of a specific essential oil.
Top notes are light and airy, thus evaporate the fastest. The longest it will linger on your skin is probably around 1 to 2 hours.
The middle notes are “the heart of the mixture,” while base notes are thick and linger on the skin for hours after the top and middle notes disperse.
- Examples of top notes: basil, cinnamon, eucalyptus, juniper, and grapefruit.
- Examples of middle notes: Clary sage, neroli, orange, carrot seed, and cypress.
- Examples of base notes: frankincense, ginger, myrrh, sandalwood, and vanilla.
There are so many great-smelling essential oils in the market. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Don’t be afraid to select and combine different essential oils to find the fragrance that suits your liking.
If you need inspiration, think of your favorite colognes and perfumes and research what oils were used to create them.
Remember: if you’re suffering from an illness, speak with your doctor before using essential oils for any purpose, especially if it’s your first time to use them.
So, what is your favorite essential oil scent? Can you share your best recipes for your homemade perfumes and scented products? Don’t forget to leave your comments below.