Cheap Smells (or how to smell good without breaking the bank …)

By Laurin

I recently overheard someone dismiss a
wonderful early 90’s commercial blockbuster fragrance with a wave
of the hand and a dismissive, “It’s a bit…high street for me.”
House rules prevent me swearing on this blog, so I am unable to
repeat my exact thoughts. However, I would like to offer the
following observation: “Your MUM’S a bit high street.”

Nobody wants to be basic, but in the
rush to prove their connoisseur credentials with incessant
name-dropping of the obscure, expensive and hard-to-find, perfume
enthusiasts often wilfully ignore the fact that not everything that
smells good is exclusive or requires a second mortgage. There is no
shortage of mediocre scents bearing outrageous price tags to fool you
into thinking they’re something special, and by the same token,
it’s possible to find some great fragrances for very little money
at all. 

All the perfumes below can be had for under £30.

Bvlgari Black – £24 for 40ml at
www.amazon.co.uk

I would consider this a bargain at four
times the price. The fact that you can buy two bottles and still have
change from a fifty pound note is surely proof that there is a God,
and She wants us to smell good. It contains notes of rubber tires
screeching on hot asphalt, smoky black tea, vanilla, cedar and
bergamot, but to attempt to pin this fragrance down to a mere
collection on notes is to ignore its ever-changing complexity and
almost human presence in a room. It walks softly, but carries a big
stick. Or, as my friend Amy once put it, “This is a fragrance you
wear when you need to rescue a vegan from a swamp.”

Chopard Casmir – £12.95 for 30ml at
www.amazon.co.uk

This was the first grown-up fragrance I
bought with my own money. I have a hazy, possibly false memory of
billowing red scarves and gold turrets at the Dillard’s department
store launch in Mobile, Alabama. The idea of smelling like an Arabian
Nights fantasy princess while my peers were showering in squeaky
clean CK One absolutely appealed to pretentious 16-year-old me. If I
smelled this on a teenage girl today, I wouldn’t know whether to
high-five her or order her into the bathroom to scrub that off NOW,
young lady. Casmir is a daring overdose of vanilla, musk, benzoin and
tonka, just made wearable with baskets of peach, mandarin,
blackcurrant and overripe tropical fruit. It’s no surprise to me
that it was created by Michel Almairac, the nose behind the
outrageously brilliant Gucci Rush. Wear it while wrapped in cashmere
and dreaming of ancient souks. Or give it to a teenage girl with a
wink and a copy of Delta of Venus.

Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers – £10.00 for
30ml at www.superdrug.com

I own a small handful of what I like to
call “Sunday Evening Perfumes”. They are for spraying
medicinally, by the gallon, to dispel anxiety and unease. With its
sunny notes of citrus, juicy honeydew, mouth-watering peach and
breezy orange blossom, Sunflowers is the closest you can get to a
bosomy bear-hug from a long-lost friend without getting on a plane.
It’s simple, happy and completely without pretension. Spray with
joyful abandon, or when joyful abandon is in short supply.

Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars – £12.00
for 30ml at www.amazon.co.uk

Official notes: Pineapple, jasmine,
freesia, bergamot, vanilla and musk. Off the record: Like being
strangled with a candy necklace by Karl Lagerfeld’s ponytail. Sweet
shops and Brylcreem. Only buy this if you’re a collector of
perfumes by Sophia Grojsman, or a fondness of mid-nineties
“Celestial” themed décor. And if either of those descriptions do
apply to you, drop me a line. I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Frederic Malle
Portrait of a Lady
– £30 for 10ml (well, sort of) at
www.lessenteurs.com

If, on the other hand, I haven’t
convinced you of the delights to be found in purchasing a fragrance
in the same shop that’s running a special on Tampax, take heart.
There is always the option of pooling your resources with your
similarly high-minded friends and splashing out on a travel set of
Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady. At £90 for three 10ml travel
sprays, this is stretching the concept of a “budget” option, but
I find it helps to think of it as investing in your share of a
masterpiece of modern perfumery. Dominique Ropion’s instantly
recognisable accord of rose, patchouli, incense, cassis and raspberry
is the only perfume I’ve ever worn that has caused strangers to
chase me down the street, just to find out the name. Would that ever
happen with a Jo Malone? I rest my case. BARGAIN.

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2 Comments

  1. April 24, 2014 / 9:04 pm

    These are some lovely recommendations here – and it is such fun to go and have a good sniff around Debenhams or Boots. I do think though that one cannot go back with perfume or at least I can't, I overdosed on JLo Glow and now it has that slight parmesan sick gag note, likewise Burberry Original which had such a beautifully warm vanillary note but now again that foodie note just makes me feel sick. I do still like Jovan White Musk which is currently £6.95 for 96mls on allbeauty. Ooh you have made me all sentimental for perfumes 🙂

  2. April 24, 2014 / 9:30 pm

    THANK you for this post. I am in the market for a new perfume and I like your non-judgemental approach on scents 🙂 I think whoever said that a scent was too "high street" is just ignorant!

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