February 8, 2012 by

Top 20 Bestselling Fragrances of 2011, or, They do still sell Shalimar here, don’t they?


Categories: The scented life, Tags: , , ,

It’s Ari’s fault. Again. 😉  I have jumped on Scents of Self’s Clever Bandwagon to do some reviews of the Best-Selling Fragrances of 2011 in the US (see Victoria’s original post on the matter at Bois de Jasmin).


Top 20 Bestselling Women's Fragrances of 2011 in the US, image from Scents of Self

Ari sees this as an anti-perfume-snobbery move, becoming further acquainted with the bestsellers, lest she suddenly be capable only of buying niche fragrances no one else has never heard of, and which are only available for purchase in person in Belgium on the alternate Wednesday of months ending in R, after one has purchased an option to buy well beforehand, and Lord help you if you leave that option ticket stuck to your fridge with a magnet before you leave the house.

Point well taken. I know that when I look at my favorite favorites, a good number of them are niche and still others are no longer available in the version that I prefer. (vintage Chanel No. 19, in the leathery old EdT, anyone? Discontinued Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur? 1974 Coty Emeraude parfum de toilette?) Hardly any of them are available at my local mall – local, pish, it’s 18 miles from my house and it takes half an hour to drive there.
Here's another shot of Hamburger!
I don’t think we’re in that much danger of becoming terrible snobs, sneering at Estee Lauder, as we are of overlooking something good at the most mainstream of mainstream perfumery outlets. Will I still love Amouage after this experiment? I’m sure I will. But I also notice that even after wearing Amouage or F. Malle fragrances, Jovan Musk for Women still smells good to me, too. Sure, it’s a little downmarket, like grabbing a burger after spending the week eating chef-cooked meals, but that doesn’t mean the burger can’t be awesome. Besides which, if I only bought Lyric, Memoir, Carnal Flower and Iris Poudre, I’d be broke. (I only have decants, y’all.)

Let’s say it out loud: the mall can still offer us stuff that’s worth wearing. Chances are, these are the things that your college roommate, your bank teller, your Aunt Becky, and the cashier at your grocery store are wearing, and they don’t smell so bad… The 20 best-selling fragrances in the United States, in 2011, not in order of volume sold: 

Burberry Body

Chanel: Chance, Chance Eau Fraiche, Chance Eau Tendre, Coco Mademoiselle* (#1 seller on the list), No. 5

Clinique: Aromatics Elixir, Happy

Dior J’Adore

Dolce et Gabbana Light Blue

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist

Estee Lauder: Beautiful, Knowing, Pleasures, Sensuous Nude

Fendi Fan di Fendi

Justin Bieber Someday (tie with Taylor Swift Wonderstruck)

Prada Candy

Ralph Lauren Romance

Taylor Swift Wonderstruck (tie with Justin Bieber Someday)

Thierry Mugler Angel (it occurs to me to wonder if all Angel flankers are included in the sales figures, or whether it was only the original fragrance)

When I saw this list, I went down it ticking items off as to whether I’d smelled it or not, and of the 21 fragrances, I’d smelled 19 of them, whether from a bottle, a tester strip, or on an actual person. The ones I hadn’t smelled were newish, Fan di Fendi and Burberry Body, both of which were released in 2010.

Are any of these new to you? Did anything on the list surprise you? Were you surprised that something or other wasn’t on the list? Are any of them favorites of yours?

Mini-reviews will be posted haphazardly over the next week or so. Some of these I’m very familiar with, and some I need to organize some skin time with (I may not be able to manage that for the Lauders, but I’ll give it a shot).


25 Responses to Top 20 Bestselling Fragrances of 2011, or, They do still sell Shalimar here, don’t they?

  1. Victoria

    I very much look forward to reading the reviews! A few years ago before the niche exploded, I would have said that exclusivity and snobbery have nothing to do with preferring Serge Lutens over Calvin Klein. They are just better quality perfumes. Today, there is so much junk in all areas of the market and niche has grown so much that it means nothing as a label. Some luxurious niche scents (with hefty price tags) are just as boring and derivative as what one finds at the department store.
    The top selling rank is not a mark of quality either. Some of them sell because they are inoffensive, like everything else on the market, or take an advantage of a great branding strategy. Chance is a great example of that–ok quality, amazing branding.
    I agree with you that you can still find great perfumes at your local mall. My Sephora always tempts me with something, and now that they have their 1oz bottles, it is so much easier to justify that Light Blue or Stella purchase. 🙂

    • mals86 Post author

      Thank you for offering the list, V! So interesting to discuss.

      I think you’re right – bestselling does not necessarily mean good. There are at least a handful on the list that I purely hate (I won’t say which ones just yet) – some because they seem like awful chemical messes, and some because they just don’t suit my taste. But there is usually at least something to other people’s pleasures, and I’m looking forward to revisiting these to try to find what’s good about them. At least a few of them I KNOW I’ve smelled and can’t remember them at all (okay, those I’ll mention by name: Chance, Happy, and Romance).

      I suspect that a lot of these bottles must get bought as gifts on the advice of the SA’s (“This is very popular, sir. Most women love it, and I’m sure your wife will, too.”). I’ve gotten a gift or two like that myself…

  2. Dionne

    Oooh, what a fun idea! I’ll be interested in the results. I can imagine, though, what it would be like if I gave some of these skin time; there’s a very good reason why I was convinced for years that perfume simply didn’t work on. Or as I quip to friends, “I’m not snobby, but my skin is.”

    Case in point, I was visiting a friend this last week and got talking perfumes with her. She brought downstairs her bottle of Victoria’s Secret Heavenly Angel’s Desire…. something or other (wow, they have a LOT of flankers! we checked it out on Fragrantica.) Online reviews generally state it’s a easy-going light floral, and when she sprayed it on herself, that’s what it was. Pretty, easygoing, non-offensive. But I had to grin as I said, “Watch what happens when I put it on.” Right away it was screechy and sour, which really surprised her. “Yup, and it’s going to get worse.” Half an hour later, smelling that elbow made us both reach for our noses. She was floored at how bad it had turned on me.

    Someday I’m going to figure out what’s causing that. And it’s not just mainstream stuff either – I sprayed 24 Faubourg a couple of weeks ago….. such a lovely smell on the blotter. So very very horrible on me.

    • mals86 Post author

      Snort! So funny. (Well, and sad too.) I can see you both, sniffing that elbow… I believe you. There is something about the Estee Lauder fragrances that sends me dashing for the unscented Tide, about two hours into the development. I think they’re mostly good scents, and all three of my aunts wear EL, and they smell great. Not me.

      I haven’t yet figured out what causes that.

      • Dionne

        Yeah, It’s one thing when the shnoz has developed enough to be a bit more discriminating – like my experience sniffing D&G’s The One after a year down the rabbit hole. Not bad, but not as good as I’d remembered.

        It’s a whole ‘nother thing when non-perfume people smell something on you and stammer, “Uhhh, I don’t think it’s supposed to be doing that.”

        • mals86 Post author

          Exactly. I had my usual Lauder-on-skin reaction today – two people recoiled from Sensuous Nude (which is not that strong a fragrance!) at the grocery store.

          • mals86 Post author

            Uh-oh. I went to check out the notes list for S Nude, and I think the SA sprayed me with S NOIR instead. So that means I have to go BACK to try it out.

  3. Tiara

    I can believe it’s just the original Angel that’s the best seller as I seem to catch that everywhere. Bit surprised on the Sensuous Nude though. Of the three in that group (Sensuous, Noir & Nude) Nude is my least favorite. Most of the other Lauders haven’t worked for me (exception was Bronze Goddess) but I love Sensuous and its flankers.

    While I adore the anticipation of waiting for a perfume mail delivery, there is something equally wonderful about going into a bricks-and-mortar store, selecting a scent and walking out with a bottle in hand.

    • mals86 Post author

      You know, I *don’t* smell Angel everywhere! I have smelled it several times, but it was always on the same woman, mother of one of my kids’ classmates. It’s not sold at my local mall, and that may make a difference. You can get it at the bigger mall, 50 miles away, and Wal-mart sells it in clamshell packaging.

      I was surprised on the S Nude, too. Since I wrote this, I went out and hit the mall myself, and sprayed S Nude on my skin – and it’s awwwwwwwful on me, with a weird overripe fruity-musky note that actually made two people recoil from me at the grocery store on the way home. Erp. I didn’t test Sensuous this time, but I think I liked that one better.

      It is so much fun to go and just… pick something out! Like I said, I did do some run of the mill shopping on my way home, and decided to buy the last two carded mini bottles of Juicy Couture parfum they had at the Wal-mart.

      • mals86 Post author

        (As I just noted above, I think the SA grabbed the Sensuous NOIR bottle instead of the NUDE. It was definitely purple. Drat.)

  4. Zazie

    Perfume snobbery – presumed or otherwise- has been discussed or suggested on several blogs lately.
    I have too many things to say about the subject, and about the way some bloggers have tackled it. I’ll “just” say this:
    1) many expensive niche houses offer mediocre juices. Train your nose and avoid the delusional packaging/prices.
    2) most department store fragrances smell awful to me – at best they smell ok. Very few fragrances at the mall smell good. That’s why I started reading perfume blogs. I was looking for an alternative to all that crap.
    3) a selection of niche houses offers almost consistently decent/good juices. Overpriced, but good.
    4) Cheap thrills are fun, but they do smell cheap – no cheap thrill smells like n.5 parfum. Not even the not-cheap-thrill n.5 edt.
    5) You are always overpaying your perfume. You set the bar.

    Point 4 is particularly true if you gravitate towards a certain family of fragrances (like florals), where there is a huge difference in price between raw materials of different quality .

    Of the best selling list above, I have smelled a dozen fragrances. I hate most of them (je hais, in particular, j’adore) and despise several (candy anyone?). I would save 4: Angel, Chance, n.5 and coco mademoiselle. They smell good (on others). But if I spray something from the mall, it never happens to be any of these (frequent mall spritzes: Fidji, pamplelune, herba fresca, Mitsy, Shalimar, joy, n.5 eau première). I might even get a bottle of Fidji, reformulated and all – see? we perfume lovers are not snob. 😉

    • mals86 Post author

      I’d agree, we’re not all snobs! I mentioned that $3 bottle of Jovan Musk for Women earlier, but Sand & Sable is another cheap thrill (well, it’s easily available in the US – maybe not in Italy!).

      Several of your “frequent mall spritzes” are not even available at my mall! I can locate testers of Shalimar, in EdT only, and No. 5 EP, but that’s it. And my current favorite mall spritzes aren’t on that list either – I (still) like Marc Jacobs Daisy, and I’ve recently been impressed by Esprit d’Oscar. Are the Estee Lauder fragrances available to you?

      (I would agree with you on the florals. I HAVE gotten snobby about my florals. Give me a nice Parfums de Nicolai, or a Tauer or Sonoma Scent Studio, please… Now, I did very much like J’Adore L’Absolu, but that was a LE and I doubt it ever hit my local mall anyway.)

  5. Julie

    I had bottles of 3 of the ones on the list in my pre-perfumista days (Pleasures, Happy, and Light Blue) and almost bought a bottle of Chance Eau Fraiche, but didn’t since it was too pricey for what it was, a generic light fresh floral. I am surprised a bit to see Aromatics Elixir and Angel up there since they are so distinctive – the rest are mostly light and inoffensive types. Look forward to seeing the reviews!

    • mals86 Post author

      Chance Eau Fraiche I liked, but it’s not my style and I doubt I’d pay Chanel prices for something that lasts about half an hour. Pleasures and Happy bored me – I mean, back in the day when they were new, before I got into perfume – but I retried Light Blue today and thought it “not all that bad”! It’s muskier than I’d remembered.

      I really wanted to re-smell Aromatics Elixir, since it nearly knocked me OVER last summer when I smelled it at the big mall in my hometown… but the local mall didn’t have a tester. Nor any bottles for sale, although they had every Happy flanker known to man. I did think that was odd to have on the best-seller list; I smell Youth Dew on other people a lot more often than I smell AE.

  6. annemariec

    The list includes a standard mix of classics, cult classics, golden oldies and stuff that just flits by, hopefully never to be heard of again.

    In one sense I don’t care where I get my fragrances, mall or wherever, or how cliched or dated they may be, as long as I like them and can afford them. I like EL’s Beautiful and Pleasures. I buy them and wear them because they smell good on me and make me happy. But on other days I ask myself whether instead of making EL shareholders richer I am best putting my money into indie lines that offer passion, innovation, great customer service and value for money.

    • mals86 Post author

      Oh, good point. You know I love Tauer, SSS and DSH Perfumes and would rather have several of their scents than just about anything I could find at the mall, with the exceptions of Esprit d’Oscar, Daisy (yeah, I know, I know, but I like it), and No. 5. And to be honest, I’d rather rescue an old bottle of No. 5 from the late Aunt Gertie’s dresser on ebay than buy it fresh.

  7. Aparatchick

    I must say I’m surprised to see Aromatics Elixir on the list. I quite like it, but it doesn’t strike me as something that fits in with the contemporary tastes for either gourmands or fresh little things. And I can’t remember the last time I saw any advertising for it (though I may not be looking in the right places). Nice to know that plenty of people buy it!

    • annemariec

      I agree. I can sorta see why Angel would feature, acquired taste tho’ it might be for many people. But Aromatics Elixir? That is one of the hardest-to-wear fragrances I have ever smelled, in niche or mainstream.

    • mals86 Post author

      That was the one that surprised me the most! AE is so far outside the norm of “pleasant little perfumes that don’t bother anyone, but don’t smell like much either.” And no one seems to talk about it very often; it’ll get the occasional mention among perfumistas, but I don’t think we all love it passionately – it’s more of a “hey, that’s a good smell,” sort of comment, rather than the I LOVE AROMATICS ELIXIR you’d expect from people who, apparently, keep buying the stuff.

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