Affordable Perfume That Smells Expensive


A lot of people don't get into perfume because it's expensive. I get that. It's a luxury commodity, and a wasteful one to boot: overpriced smelly water that starts evaporating as soon as you put it on. The whole premise is absurd. 

But, it's also what gets us scent people going. The process of change and decay is how scent gets our attention: we're awake and aware of ourselves, enraptured, intoxicated, in love. And for that, dear reader, we believe good perfume is worth whatever we can afford. Smell good, feel good—a lesson in life's little luxuries. 

Here is a biased guide for those of you who want to smell nice without paying the price. These perfumes have great return on investment: tons of compliments for very little expenditure. Plus, they're not readily available in department stores, which means fewer chances of running into your scent doppelgänger (always unsettling). If you try one, let us know what you think!


Nemat Fragrances - Amber Oil
<$20 for 10ml / Amazon and Nemat

Sometimes the cost of a perfume is inversely proportional to its effects, which is just one of life's great jokes on perfume snobs. Anyway, here are the facts: Nemat's Amber oil is the cheapest fragrance in my collection, and the one that people comment on the most by far.

What does it smell like? Warmth, at first sniff, and comfort.  Since it's an oil, the projection is weaker than alcohol-based scents: it starts off super clean and restrained, close to the body, then blooms into a musky, floral-woodsy smell, like the skin of a sexualized angel.


Kiehl's - Original Musk EDT
$54 for 50ml / Kiehl's

Musk, like amber, is an accord that varies drastically from brand to brand. Many smell clean, barely imperceptible (The Body Shop's White Musk is a great example), while Kiehl's is a warmer, spicier rendition, with notes of orange flower, rose, tonka, and patchouli to complement the musky base. It's warm, spicy, and changes throughout the day, but smells great on everyone at any given stage.


Malin + Goetz - Cannabis Perfume Oil
$50 for 9ml / Malin + Goetz

Have you ever wanted to smell like a candle? I have—Malin + Goetz's beloved Cannabis candle, to be exact. Well, the scent gods heard my prayers and M+G released Cannabis as a perfume oil, which I am drawn to like a moth to a flame. The scent itself is undeniably pleasant, with no weed note to speak of: citrusy and spicy/woodsy, with notes like fig and pepper to keep things interesting. (Want something sweeter? Try Dark Rum.)

Maison Louis Marie - No. 4 Bois de Balincourt Perfume Oil
$57 for 15ml / MLM

A heavier woodsy scent to round out this roundup, with notes of sandalwood, cedar, nutmeg, vetiver, and amber. (It's incredible to me how many perfume descriptions sound like poems.) I'm a huge fan of Maison Louis Marie—they make well-structured, compelling fragrances at a fraction of the cost of other niche houses of equal calibre. This scent in particular is a great dupe for Le Labo's wildly popular Santal 33 and—dare I say it—smells even better. (Also check out Antidris-Cassis, which reminds me a lot of Diptyque's l'Ombre dans l'Eau, also a personal favorite.)



Photo credit: (one)(two)(three)