Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best Smelling Inexpensive Fragrances

When it comes to fragrances democratic forces seem to be at work: There is something good to be found at all price points. The smartness lies in finding it amidst prejudices against "cheap" (there's a difference between cheap-smelling and low price, they're not necessarily interchangeable) and against "mass market". Not to mention feeling secure in one's tastes vis-à-vis others and their own preconceptions upon revealing what you're wearing.
After all, almost everyone in the industry is using the same palette of fragrant ingredients and the same perfume authors (perfumers working for major companies), so the real difference lies only in actual concept, indie companies or those using all naturals which naturally (no pun intended) fetch a high cost of raw materials.
So let's concentrate on the smarts: What are the most worthwhile inexpensive fragrances on the market that you won't be embarassed to put on your person? For our purposes nothing costs more than 20 euros on regular retail on this top smelling, cheap thrills list.

Yardley Iris

If you have been investing in Hermes Hiris all these years, run, don't walk, to go try this iris fragrance offered by the traditionally British brand Yardley. In their new look line of soliflores (including Lily of the Valley among them), Iris is a valiant effort at offering a more than decent orchestration of that melancholic, part sensuous flesh, part somber, metallic timbre effect that all good iris fragrances project.For the price, quite impressive!

Yves Rocher Pur Desir de Gardenia
Probably the most realistic budding gardenia in existence (tie with Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia by Lauder) at a fraction of the price. Gardenias are recreations anyway, so the low price only proves how analytic chemistry can serve a perfumista's wet dream. Rendered through the magic of jasmolactones, Pure Desir de Gardenia is a wonderful, magical fragrance. It goes on and off the market, apparently, so grab it when you see it.

Lily Prune Patchouli Chic
The Lily Prune line (a subset of the Ulrik de Varens house) has been created with someone who knows just what hot buttons to push: a great starchy musk, a fabulous pod-like vanilla, a plausible woody that isn't too synthetic, and yes, a great wearable patchouli. Patchouli Chic is a chic patchouli scent indeed, fusing powdery nuances and the light sweetness of vanilla to flank the more exotic shades of the Eastern bush.

Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely
In a sea of Narciso Rodriguez For Her smell-alikes, trying but no cigar for most, this celebrity fragrance in the floral woody musky category is the only truly worth investing contender. And it's not going to break the bank. Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker shimmers with a smiling mien, pretty, light but definitely there, at the cusp between slightly dirty and shower clean. Forget the official "notes" about lavender and appletini that referenced the persona of Carrie in Sex & The City (which made possible for its star to front this fragrance), this is a sweet musk laced with a white floral accord. Abso-fucking-lutely lovely as Mr.Big would say!

Tabac by Maurer &Wirtz
The classic Tabac from 1955 is a reference aromatic fouger for those who have upgraded from their "me too" "chick magnet" fragrance choices. Preferable in the Eau de Cologne concentration (which is just as potent as Eau de Toilette), this is a good barber shop scent, the fusion of old-fashioned talc and laundry day lavender, clean with a whiff of mossy tobacco.
Top notes are aldehydes, lavender, neroli, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are carnation, sandalwood, orris root, jasmine, rose and pine tree needles; base notes are tonka bean, amber, musk, vanilla, oakmoss and tobacco.

Lidl Suddenly Lady Glamour
A very unassuming choice, coming from a German supermarket brand no less at huge markedown, but smell it side by side with Coco Mademoiselle and you just might be hard pressed to discern which smells better. I don't know what this says about Chanel, but it's good news for the pockets of those on a very tight budget not minding a dupe.

Zara Black Eau de Toilette
Zara on the other hand, despite the economical prices for high street fashion that looks as good as designer pret-a-porter is no slouch when it comes to glamourising its product. But the prices for their perfumes are still very good, probably because they follow the axiom of the clothes (covetable designs in affordable prices for chic Europeans). Zara Black smells like a very credible effort to reconciliate Flowerbomb with a softer aspect, rosy-fruitish and sweet with a delicious underlay of patchouli & musk. Zara fragrances are not to be bypassed.

Goeffrey Bean Grey Flannel
Geoffrey Been stroke gold with his Grey Flannel, a proud American classic and an innovative men’s cologne, bringing the shyness of violets into the realm of masculine confidence. Crisp greenery and musk tonalities (plus that seductive coumarin in the bottom) combine to evoke a man in a tailored suit, perfectly groomed, clean-smelling without one iota of modern aquatic “freshness” nevertheless. The man who wears this in cooler weather is the quiet type, a smart businessman or someone who has been opting for it for half his life and wisely knows not to change. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, as they say. The only misstep? Perhaps that flannel in question is really purplish green instead of grey. But we can be very forgiving in his case…

Halston by Halston
Iconic American designer of the 1970s Halston launched his eponymous fragrance for women in 1975. A graceful and confident chypre blend for women of the same spirit, Halston fuses minty green accords with melon and peach, seguing into a floral core rife with warm and sensual woods. A little soapy, quite celebral and yet sensuous compared to other sudsy fragrances aimed at germphobes or nuns.

Halston Z-14 (for men)
Mentioning the Halston brand twice should tell you something. Halston Z-14 is a masculine leather fragrance with aromatic accents (artemisia, basil, cypress) and mossy greens which was introduced as far back as 1974; nothing lasts that long on the market without merit! Giving it a sniff you will find out just what that first dedicated, loyal band of men knew all along: It acts on women like catnip does on cats! Boozy, deep and totally sexy, Halston Z14 is to be avoided by the very young, probably, but if you’re a man and not a boy, then, boy, will this be your badge of honor!

Princess Marella Borghese Il Bacio
Launched by the design house of Marcella Borghese in 1993, Il Bacio, meaning The Kiss in Italian, is that particular marvel: a good fruity floral. Fresh and crisp without screechiness nor surupy sweetness, it accents rose, iris and honeysuckle with the fruity armful of plum, melon and passionfruit, all on a base ofmusky amber. It sounds disgusting, I know, but give it a try. It's quite elegant and feminine, rather than juvenile.

What's YOUR favourite perfume steal?


  1. Oh I can't wait to try the Yardley Iris!

    I just bought a bottle of Il Bacio for an amazingly low price. Unfortunately, I must be anosmic to some of the ingredients. It's like there is a hole in the perfume, if that makes any sense.

  2. I haven't tried many of these but I totally agree with Halston for women. Nothing about it says Drugstore. And I still swoon over Z14! My first love wore it and 25 years later I can't smell this without thinking of him.
    Some other suggestions might be CABARET by Gres, most of the Estee Lauder choices, CORIANDRE is odd in a good way, and I still like OBSESSION.

  3. I could agree with Lovely.

  4. Halston Z-14 (rich, aromatic) and Halston 1-12 (zingy, sharp, fresh) are both brilliant, and both don't at all deserve their banishment to the bargain basements of America.
    Also, Drakkar Noir is a nice, inexpensive scent, if not at the same level of either Halston fragrance.
    And Body Shop's "White Musk Man"! Doesn't get much more inexpensive.

  5. Recently going through several perfumes for the post in my blog about finding the perfect lilac scent, I discovered for myself several inexpensive perfumes that I like enough to buy them for my collection - Lilac by ElizabethW ($20 for 15 ml), French Lilac by Pacifica ($12 for a roll-on, don't remember the size) and Pur Desir de Lilas by Yves Rocher (price varies depending on the current promotion).

  6. Oooo, we do get the new yardleys but not that Iris! Imust find out if its going to be sent to Australia - sounds great Helg!

    *I have always liked Jean Nate in summer but for some insane reason , noone will import it here - its great and cheap to splash about when the temp goes up!

  7. mercy dixon01:09

    There is a perfume company from my city of Portland OR called Slumberhouse that makes phenomenal perfumes for $60 per 1oz bottle. Considering other niche brands like Nasomatto charge upwards of twice that for an ounce I consider it a steal, plus they are very strong. Fortunately the Slumberhouse perfumes have good sprayers so I can do half sprays no problem. I recommend Ore and Jeke which you can get from Indiescents.

  8. Toni04:46

    Some of the CB I Hate Perfume accord bottles are fairly inexpensive, $25 or so for 15ml of perfume oil which is a great deal. My only complaint is that sometimes CB I Hate Perfume's stuff tends to be slightly weaker than I'd prefer.

  9. Anonymous08:05

    Gres Cabotine original - EdP. Very lovely and very cheap.

  10. Great post!

    my husband used Tabac when we were dating (now he's into Eau Savage).

    I've used Narciso and Lovely and I prefer Lovely much more.

  11. Alexandra09:30

    I like the Moroccan Rose from Body Shop, and I also quite like the new Dirty Body spray from lush (this one is very refreshing, like mint chewing gum).

  12. stella p09:43

    Umbar from Zara. My son wears it, and he often smells much better than my husband in his expensive stuff! I am also glad that I bought an extra bottle of Comme des Garcon's H & M :) Other I enjoy myself is Demeter's Fig Leaf, and the Rose Absolue from Yves Rocher!

  13. what a brilliant selection. I wear Lovely a lot- and I always get compliments- it's a really solid well made scent- I also think Grey flannel and tabac are excellent and I rather love their retro look

  14. Grey Flannel is one of my summer go-to's; it always smells fresh. 4711, too, although it never lasts. I have some vintage (mine, actually) Halston -- does the version available now smell the same? And I see Z-14 often at Maax, maybe next time I'll pick up a bottle.

  15. Anonymous14:08

    halston,grey flannel are also on my list..norell bath oil[parfum] is incredible..lady stetson..ivoire is a big fave and so cheap to find..coty stetson..z-14,dali,la perla original..so many!

  16. Hi Helg!

    Two "thumbs up!" for Grey Flannel and Halston by Halston. And adding to the list, the devastating Caron Yatagan, which usually can be gotten pretty inexpensively at the discounter sites.

  17. I was so glad to see Halston on the list! That was my very first chypre in High School and I wore it many years until I discovered Mitsouko. The formula is changed but its a nice redo even so. The original has a much more soft slightly sweet powdery dry down missing from the newer version and the newer is a little flat somehow with more iris (?) or some floral up top. I noticed oak moss has been changed to tree moss and it smells completely different to me. Still very good though.

  18. capillary16:34

    Il Bacio! My mother wears that one, and I sprayed it on myself recently. You're right: it's sweet and fruity but instead of hating it I think it's charming. It smells natural, somehow, and the base stops it from being too squeaky and high-pitched.

    I've never heard anyone else mention it anywhere so it's great to see!

  19. dleep17:00

    I can't wait to try some of these. I get a lot of positive comments on the mini-bottle of White Diamonds that I bought at the drug store for $10 and also the Fresh White Musk body spray.

  20. Cabaret by Gres, every time I wear it I get many, many compliments.

  21. I forgot about Grey Flannel--I used to wear it in my younger day. i have a small bottle here and I'm going to put some on right now!

    Also z-14 smells great and it's cheap!

  22. Nice list! Probably the closest perfumes that are relativly inexpensive that I've enjoyed are the Tocca perfumes. But I find them more geared toward being worn in the summer.

  23. Anonymous00:50

    well, i love to wear grey flannel (and i'm a girl). it's delicious.

    as far as cheap fixes go, i would say that ciara might very well be my favorite. it is total incense on me, and i love that. also enjoy several pacifica scents - think their california star jasmine is a terrific jasmine scent. and for a big snootful of hot white flowers, i love kai oil.

    and i agree with those who love cabaret by gres - it's terrific.


  24. @ Melissa,

    I loved Coriandre! I remember it from the early 80's and I used to find it in some of the best discount stores in NY--sadly many of the fun junky stores are no longer around.

  25. Nice one !

    Perfumes are an integral part of a person's whole life

  26. Amazing answers everyone! Thank you so much for adding more inexpensive gem fragrances to my list and for sharing your experiences with them. You've given me also suggestions about trying out some new ones and possibly writing reviews on them.

  27. Anonymous22:08

    I think Lovely by SJP is such a great fragrance. My sister & I are perfume addicts & love trying different scents. But recently she started trying Designer Imposter line on the recommendation of a friend who said we spend way too much on perfume. I wasn't sure, so our friend sent us this video. (http://bit.ly/kxaYKr) Their body sprays are actually awesome. And the price tag looks pretty good to us too. haha! Has anyone else tried them? What do y'all think?

  28. I think you're sounding rather spammy, actually. Don't let there be a second time....

  29. Nice to see "Tabac" in the list. I always considered it to be the male No 5.
    I am certain "Gloria Vanderbilt" shouldn't cost more than 20 euros as well, a bargain for the quality of the fragrance, as far as I remember.
    Lastly, no list of this kind should omit "Charlie" I think.


  30. I adore Z-14 and I am a woman. In fact, I sampled the much more expensive Terre D 'Hermes and decided after a very rigorously scientific side by side test that I liked the Halston better. They bith have that sort of fizzy citrus thing going in the top notes but I found dry down richer in the Z-14.

  31. hairymary14:28

    Glad to see some love for Zara Black. Got it the last time I was in a Zara store and really like it!

  32. Anonymous04:33

    just discovered WORTH Pour Homme my search is over! and Yardley Citrus and Wood which to me smells exactly like Terre De Hermes

  33. Anonymous07:39

    One fragrance I found missing here is Adolfo Dominguez Vetiver Hombre! Classic vetiver with moderate longevity, but what a breathtaking fragrance!!

  34. Anonymous20:39

    Obsession, Tabu, Ciara, Toujours-Moi, Mauboussin, L'Aimant. Anything from Dana and Elizabeth Taylor, Yardley... Vanderbilt and Fancy Nights as well. Gres scents also come inexpensive, and they are truly wonderful. Rochas also doesn't charge much, and Femme is a must try, also Eau is great for summer. Clarins Eaux are also great for summer. Jeanne Arthes and their other company Jeanne in Provence. Atelier de Bois de Grasse. And the Arabian companies, Lattafa, Armaf, Rasasi, Afnan, Al-Haramain... Ok, I better stop here.

  35. Anonymous12:13

    It's now nearly 2023, a dozen years after you posted this, and "Lovely" has had its brain removed. Apparently the site of production shifted and the fragrance is so degraded it now smells like a cleaning product. My current budget buy is Paul Smith for Women.


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