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What Does Lavender Smell Like?

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One of the most well-loved scents of our time, this purple flower is instantly recognizable and has an instantaneous effect on human minds. Profoundly relaxing in its odiferous glory, lavender comes with the added benefit of quieting our inner chatter and instilling a deep sense of contentment. But what does lavender smell like?

An ancient natural medicine used for a number of things, including anxiety and insomnia, it’s now a nearly omnipresent ingredient, scenting things like yogis, massage studios, candles, taxi cabs, and even flavoring things like cupcakes and lattes! Lavender isn’t just some flower your mother likes to fall asleep to — it has a huge deal in our modern world.  

That includes perfumery — lavender is commonly used in both men’s and women’s perfumes. In this article, we’ll take a look at what lavender smells like, how lavender is used in perfume, some popular perfumes with lavender, and a little history surrounding lavender and its use. Let’s get moving.

What is Lavender?

Lavender is a flowering plant of the mint family. It is thought that lavender was first discovered (can you discover a plant?) in the highlands of India. It also has a historical presence in the Mediterranean, where the sunny climate and soil offer the perfect growing conditions.

Today, its epicenter is France, where close to 180,000 lbs of lavender is grown per year. That’s a lot of lavender. Why, you may be asking, are they growing so much of this flowering-plant-from-the-mint-family? 

Because it smells wonderful, relaxes, soothes, and aids in both the cleansing of the body and mind. According to studies, it can even help you deal with that insomnia or anxiety you’ve been dealing with. 

Just ask the Romans, who used lavender in the waters of their famous bathhouses. The word “lavender” comes from Latin for “to wash,” “lavere.” 

Later on, the Medieval-ers scattered lavender on the floors of churches and homes, perfumed their linens and clothing, and stuffed sachets full of the purple power. 

The Tudors stuffed caps and jackets with lavender, for fragrance purposes, and also to repel insects. It begs the question: why did we stop doing that? 

Anyways, you can clearly see that lavender has been revered for its scent and numerous mood benefits for thousands of years. The Romans were way ahead of their time. 

So, now that you know way too much about the historical significance of lavender, let’s take a deep look at what lavender smells like. 

What Does Lavender Smell Like?

Lavender smells delicate: like if you move too fast, you’ll startle it away. Lavender smells herbal — somewhat similar to rosemary — floral, sweet, and surprisingly earthy. In a way, it smells like purple, mixed with earth

There’s also, with most varieties (more on that later) a certain hay-like quality to lavender that increases its appeal for some, but turns off a lot of others. 

Interestingly, there are a bunch of different kinds of lavender grown for their aromas, and they smell pretty different from each other. Lavandula angustifolia and lavandula latifolia are the lavenders typically grown for fragrance, and the ones that smell the most classically lavender-y, but there are also things like lavandula stoechas (which smells much more herbal) and Dutch lavender (which smells much more sharp and sticky).

Essentially, there are a number of different varieties that lean further into a specific characteristic of lavender’s aroma. Whether you want more floral sweetness or you want a more medicinal, herbal lavender, there’s a breed out there calling your name. 

It’s the natural floral earthiness that makes lavender such a comforting, relaxing scent, but it’s the sweetness and counterintuitive freshness that makes it such a greater addition to soaps, lotions, and perfume. Lavender smells clean and comforting, and it’s easy to see why it’s ubiquitous in modern perfumery.

How is Lavender Used in Perfumery

Lavender is used in modern perfumery in both male- and female-oriented perfumes. One of the bedrock notes in fougère fragrances, it’s aromatic and fresh. It’s interesting, because lavender is one of those notes that varies wildly in smell and mood depending on what it’s paired with.   

For example, adding lavender with things like patchouli, neroli, oakmoss, and pine warms it up, making it almost spicy. The smell of a summer night. By adding lavender with things like bergamot, citrus, aquatics, sage, and orange blossom, you can push it cooler and unearth some of its minty nature. 

Other notes that pair really well include woods, leather, tonka bean, other florals, and vanilla

Many people often confuse lavender with lavandin, a naturally occurring hybrid plant containing camphor, a stimulant. While it smells similar, it’s naturally more resinous and astringent. Many perfumes today use lavandin as a substitute for pure lavender because it produces more essential oil per plant, thus being cheaper. However, the quality isn’t as good as that of pure lavender. 

Overall, lavender really is a versatile fragrance note that adds a delicate, calming charm to perfumes.

Men’s Fragrances With Lavender

As you’ve seen, vanilla is very popular in fragrances. Here are some of our favorite men’s fragrances with lavender:

  • La Nuit de L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent is a soft, suave scent for men, with lavender playing a key role in its undeniable charm. Many a man has fallen in love with its understated sex-appeal. Notes like cardamom, virginia cedar, and carraway add to the sweet-spiciness and the tenuous caress of this scent. If you’re looking for a delicious smelling, yet understated and elegant cologne with lavender, La Nuit de L’Homme is the first place you should look. Read our La Nuit de L’Homme review for more. 
  • Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male is often called a timeless barbershop scent; and while we agree it’s timeless, we’re not so sure about its place in men’s hairdressing. With notes like mint, cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla pairing with the lavender, Le Male is a trend-setter — it helped prove to the world that men’s perfumes don’t have to be manly all the time. It’s also a compliment magnet, lasts a long time, and is cozy. What more could you want?
  • Dolce&Gabbana Pour Homme is a classic aromatic-citrus scent featuring lavender front-and-center. It’s very versatile. A beautiful, soapy floral scent, lavender teams up with neroli, sage, tonka bean, and tobacco to create a clean yet warm men’s cologne with lavender. 
  • Dior Sauvage Elixir is a very unique men’s scent; unlike the other colognes on this list, it isn’t a delicate men’s scent. Instead, it’s loud and out there, and the lavender somehow works really well. With things like nutmeg, amber, licorice, and sandalwood, it’s a fall and winter beast of a scent. What’s more, it’s strong and lasts for ages. If you’d like a louder scent with lavender that still exudes quality, check out Sauvage Elixir.
  • Versace The Dreamer is an enigma — something far more lovely than it should be, yet exactly how you’d imagine it. I’m partial; this is one of my favorite men’s fragrances in existence. Yet, no other scent captures the art of being so well, that of sitting with yourself under a star-shot sky and coming to terms with existence, and the role that dreams play in yours. If you don’t care what others think of your cologne, wear The Dreamer; they’ll love it anyways.
  • Montblanc Legend is a men’s fragrance with lavender that I can truly say is multipurpose, multifaceted, and multidimensional. Likely the most versatile scent on this list, it’s also the least offensive. Still, it works as a compliment magnet and is fantastic if you’re a wear-one-scent kind of guy. 
  • Egoiste Platinum Chanel is elegance — a black and white suit-and-tie made scent. Masculine in the way of the male Greek statues of old Platinum Egoiste is a perfect scent for the man who is simply good at things, without having to try too hard. If you’re looking for a supremely classy, up-market men’s fragrance with lavender, grab yourself some Egoiste Platinum by Chanel.

Women’s Fragrances With Lavender

Lavender can make a wonderful addition to women’s fragrances. Here are a few of women’s fragrances with lavender we deem unmissable:

  • Guerlain Mon Guerlain is a beautiful combination of lavender and vanilla; the epitome of warm, smoothe, and uplifting, Mon Guerlain is superbly blended. While lavender intermingling with vanilla is the showstopper here, you’ll be able to detect a number of other notes appearing as time goes on. Long lasting and versatile, for many people, the quest for that love-at-first-sniff signature scent ends here. 
  • R.E.M. Ariana Grande is a sweet lavender perfume for women. Teaming up with notes like tonka bean, caramel, and a very interesting rendition of zefir (a note that smells similar to cupcake frosting), it’s sugary and thick, counterbalancing the earthiness and cool freshness of the lavender. If you’re in the market for a sweet cold weather scent with a prominent lavender note, check out R.E.M. by Ariana Grande.
  • Burberry Brit Rhythm is another women’s perfume with lavender. Those looking for a fresh, floral, and more aromatic rendition of lavender will love this scent. It’s excellent for the spring, with notes like orange blossom, blackberry leaf, and coumarin (the scent chemical in tonka bean). There’s also a really smooth, subtle muskiness that comes out in the dry down. If you’re in the market for a more understated perfume, Burberry Brit Rhythm is a great option.
  • Music For a While Frederic Malle is a somewhat polarizing women’s scent with lavender. It brings a fruitier vibe, pairing lavender with pineapple, mandarin orange, and “fruity notes.” There’s also a heady dose of vanilla, and an anise note that I really love. This is a scent you need to try before you understand it; if you love it, you’ll really love it. Regardless, it’s a wonderful lavender scent for the autumn.  
  • Ashlemah by Bvlgari is lavender paired with candied violets. It’s as “purple” a scent as you can get, with just three notes: lavender, violet, iris, and heliotrope. People say it smells like something out of the 19th century. It’s very elegant, and smells extremely high quality. Pick this one up if you want a superb classy scent, with lavender as an added benefit. 
  • Libre by Yves Saint Laurent is a women’s perfume with lavender that shines in the colder months, particularly the fall. With lavender in both the opening and the heart, it’s safe to say that Libre is a very lavender-oriented women’s perfume. Simply put, it smells fantastic from first spray. It’s long lasting and incredibly attractive, with madagascar vanilla, jasmine, black currant, and ambergris augmenting the lavender, and painting with a warm, sweet, feminine palette. If you’re looking for a high quality, long lasting perfume with lavender, YSL’s Libre is a fantastic choice. 


Lavender smells comforting, relaxing, and deep, with an earthy floralness that’s hard to ignore. One of the most omni-present scents in modern times, it’s come to represent the smell of clean skin and calm, in soaps, lotions, deodorants, and perfumes.

We hope you enjoyed this article, and wish calm and content times ahead. 


Isaac Marks

Isaac Marks

Isaac is a fragrance expert from Chicago, Illinois, specializing in smelling good at all times. When he isn't sniffing things, Isaac likes to read, write, run, bake, and play the guitar.

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Jack Harbor

Full Time Fragranista

Jack Harbor is an expert in all things scent – from wearing, to mixing, to making perfumes, his expertise is varied and robust. He loves to smell good, and loves helping other’s smell good – for the good of us all!

Jack Harbor

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