Fave frugal fragrances

Sylvia, back in the day, dined on tea and toast for many weeks to re-up her signature fragrance, Guerlain's Liu, ferried to Toronto by a flight attendant girlfriend with a Paris route. She was rescued from extreme deprivation by dinner dates—she accepted every invitation. (The etiquette hints at the era, early '80s.)

I once suggested she shop department-store brands, a nice Lancôme, perhaps. Sylvia looked at me like I'd suggested she wear jeans to work.

Times change; Sylvia has retired, Liu is discontinued. When I recalled her old habit, she plucked a bottle of Origins Ginger Essence from her fridge (where Sylvia always keeps her perfumes), and said, "Fifty bucks."

I'm always hunting for inexpensive but delightful daytime fragrances. Splashing on a satisfying $35 to $70 scent is a particular pleasure. Some women hunt for low-cost dupes of beloved but expensive bottles. That's a mug's game; better to scout for a pleasing scent that stands on its own.

"Where is the Jean Naté of 2018?", I wondered. Still around, a Big Gulp-sized bottle for the price of a takeout lunch—but the scent that permeated my undergrad library so that books smelled of it no longer earns a passing grade. Thanks, Frédéric Malle.

I asked Kay and Gwen of the marvellous online decant store perfumeniche.com if they knew of any such treasures; Gwen generously sent a list. Some are listed as mens's scents, but you can wear them too. Order decants from perfumeniche.com, or spring for full bottles at discounters like Amazon, Marshall's and Kohl's.

Bulgari Black, one of Gwen's "desert island picks"; "tea, cedar, amber—and rubber"
Yatagan by Caron : "assetive, swarthy, exotic, powerful"
Dirty English by Juicy Couture: "deep, dark and delicious"
Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin, "a great anise-based fragrance"
Indi by Katy Perry, "soft, intimate, subtle and sexy"

I'd also add 
Quartz for Women, by Molyneux: a classic woody/white flora

Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker;  I stockpile it—a light, graceful bouquet
UPDATE: BUYER BEWARE. I stockpiled 6 bottles, bought online from a reputable discounter and stored them properly for 1-2 years. Not one of these bottles had the slightest scent except alcohol. I opened them  one after another, in disbelief, and had other persons validate my experience.) If you buy "Lovely" anywere, open it right away to check that it is OK. Also the juice should be pale pink, and mine were colourless. (Could be counterfeit.)

My original bottle was from the days when Coty produced the product; the scentless ones were distributed by Lancaster and Lovely Distribution Inc. later licensees.

Sarah Jessica Parker Stash, pricier than Lovely because it's an eau de parfum, and harder to find. "Aromatic, smooth and silky".
(The SJP scents are available in decants from perfumenniche.com.)

Gwen noted that many high-end makers now offer 15ml-30ml travel or promotional sizes, which makes access more affordable—unless you fall in love and then face the music for your full bottle of By Kilian Back to Black.

Let's hear your picks!

If you have a punch-above-its-weight favourite that sells for $US 50 ($CDN 65) or less per bottle (I'm not specifying bottle size), please share the name.

Whether it delivers for the rest of us depends greatly on body chemistry and the accords each person likes, but at least we'll know what to try!


Bunny said…
I am trying to figure out why, when a personal scent was so important to me, that now fragrance just doesn't come up on my to buy agenda. I'd lightly douse each morning but today the scent of a lovely soap lingering on my skin seems to be enough. Maybe I should give a new try with these decants. I've noticed the same among many my age. You've reminded me that it is a lovely aspect of readying for the day. I could use that.
Roberta said…
For the last decade I wore Aveda scents, because they were light and unusual, and because people always commented on how good I smelled. Then a few years ago I discovered Jo Malone. Now I rotate through half a dozen of her fragrances. Every year Nordstrom's offers an assorted package of 5 small bottles, and I buy those to try out the new things.
Barbara said…
I like Clarin's "Eau Dynamisante".
Annick Goutal's "Nuits d'Hadrien" is a wonderful fragrance for Summer, but out of your price range (and mine as well).
Barbara said…
...and I often just like to use a of perfumed Body Powder like the Italian Brand "Felice Azzuro". It' s a good skincare in the Summer Heat without overwhelming others by your fragrance.
Duchesse said…
Bunny: Sao IS fragrance, just in a different form, and some soaps project quite a bit of scent. I read an article in The New York Times lately about perfumes being made for twenty to late thirty-year-olds, with "barely there" notes, like the Clean line. It's a style you might enjoy exploring.

Roberta: Jo Malone would not fit into my request for frugal bottles. I like it, even though it is widely criticized for low staying power. Owned by Estée Lauder, who make some very long-lasting fragrances.

Barbara Schieran: At $79 CDN (3,4 oz at Nordstrom) the Clarins is out of range too. But it is nice to know what women like! Someone in my building uses baby powder (the classic Johnson's scent), amazing the sillage that has.

Honeybunches! I said $US 50 or less. Okay, $60...Or maybe you can really use Gwen's list?

Jean Shaw said…
I'm a fan of Pacifica's line, especially the Malibu Lemon Blossom (heavenly). Not super-long staying power, but that's a tradeoff I'm willing to accept. You can easily layer Pacifica products, too, to come up with your own blend.

I also like L'Occitane's verbena fragrance.

Clearly, I am fond of citrus-based fragrances; once upon a time, I loved lily of the valley notes.
Duchesse said…
Jean Shaw: Brava, Jean for contributing a scent within the price range; I found your Pacifica on Amazon.ca for about $22 plus $7 shipping but readers may be able to do even better elsewhere. Short longevity is the price we pay for lower cost, but occasionally you find a big one (Dirty English for example) that lasts for many hours.

Sounds lovely for summer.
Hummingbird5 said…
Clinique Aromatics Elixir (the teeny bottle at 34.00 to abide by your price rule). Herbacous, brisk, clean-with-character. One of my favorites, regardless of price. I'm with you on SJP, too. But, sadly, not what it was before IFRA slaughtered so many beauties.
Leslie M said…
I love the Arbole Arbole from the Passage Naturals decant 6 pack. Perfumeniche also generously added 2 complimentary decants in the shipment! I was surprised that I liked Exultant, also in the pack. Initially, too much incense and smoke, but it mellows to a woody violet scent. I really enjoy it and it does not overpower. Fresh.com used to have a jasmine eau de parfum and soap that my husband particularly liked. I haven’t seen it for years, but continue to look. A clean jasmine scent is hard to find. Fresh has other scents that sell for $50US if you purchase the 30 ml bottle. I can’t vouch for for the current offerings, though they are usually very light and, pardon, fresh.
Amie said…
Philosophy's Amazing Grace. 2 oz is $49 USD. I love it. Soft and feminine without being too sweet.
Philosophy just came out with a rose scent, Amazing Grace Ballet Rose, and I enjoy that also.
Jane in London said…
It's worth trying Boucheron's Place Vendome EDT (the original, I have not tried any of the variants). I got a 100ml bottle for £29 from Perfume Click, and I see it can be got from Amazon for around £30. No doubt there are similar deals in your part of the world. The scent is delightful imo, soft and discreet. And the good design and quality of its bottle is a bonus.

Adele said…
The idea of a signature scent is alluring!

I find that I've developed a sensitivity over the years, and scents I used to love (Nuits d'Hadrien) are too strong for me. Fresh has a scent, Cucumber Baie, that I just love, but it doesn't have much staying power. Always on the lookout for something light, citrus-y and not too floral, so I'm looking forward to more suggestions.
water said…
Slightly related topic - personal grooming schedule and budget? I need to step up the game a bit, but what's reasonable time and money wise. Facials? lash tints?
LauraH said…
My perfume journey was put on pause for travel and gardening:-) This post brought it back into focus and I'm looking forward to resuming the hunt. Some interesting suggestions. Thanks.
Duchesse said…
All: I am on a train all day so... a group thank you. You are smartvto hunt for sales or free shipping to drop the price and sometimes you can get both.
Some scents are ‘ big’, not overwhelming if you use a small spray, so they last a very longbtime. If you like one ofvthose, you can apply the «  cost percwear » concept. But, not with a sheer splash like the Fresh line, which I too like.

water: What is worth it to you depends on what you are willing to DIY and what you. will outsource. Make two lists, musts ( e.g., most of us, hair cuts) Second list is nice - tos, then ask yourself w ho, how often and how much you are willing to spend.

Schools like Aveda’s Institut e and massage schools often offer reduced prices for student work. Call to
royleen said…
I, too, have been enjoying Passage des perles "Naturals" Decant Pack from Perfumeniche. I rarely wear scent these days, because of daily yoga practice. I have loved every one of the Naturals I've tried. They also sent two complimentary decants. That was such a nice tip, Duchesse! Thanks!
Caroline said…
Here are my suggestions - I reach for these often during the spring and summer months -

Elizabeth Arden Green Tea fragrance - 1.7 oz, $29.50 (created by Francis Kurkdjian, light, refreshing, perfect to keep chilled in refrigerator, there are many flankers which I haven’t tried but could also be interesting)

Caudalie Rose de Vigne Fresh Fragrance - 1.7 oz, $39 (lovely, very fresh and almost tart, quite good lasting power; I also enjoy Eau des Vignes (another fragrance from Caudalie’s Fresh Fragrance line), which is extremely light, much softer than the Rose de Vigne, and perfect for first thing in the morning)

Can’t resist sharing my other warm weather favorite (decidedly outside the budget we’re talking about:)) - Les Parfums de Rosine Une Zeste de Rose - a lovely and light lemony Rose that is also complex and beautifully composed
Jules said…

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about fragrance. I read the lovely and kind comments and now have new fragrances to research-one of my favorite things to do!! Thank you to these folks as well!!

May I suggest the Pinrose Rollerball Style Kit ($47 US)for 9 x 3 ml travel-sized rollerball bottles or the Atelier Cologne Perfume Palette ($18 US) for 8 x 2 ml travel-sized ampules? I purchased both at Sephora. Very little money for easy portability and lots of mixing options or not, as your mood suits...allows me to try new things and to smell different than everyone else-which is definitely my goal. I feel like I have a delicious secret and that brightens every day for me!
Wendelah said…
My favorite cheap fragrances can be bought at CVS: Original Stetson and Lady Stetson. I wear them both, they smell amazing, and neither one makes my nose run, which is a thing that happens now with perfumes. Original Stetson is a cologne and does have to be reapplied, but it costs less than $25 for 3.5 fluid ounces. Lady Stetson has all-day staying power. You can buy an ounce for less than $20, a travel size goes for much less.

My other favorite is Beyond Paradise. Unfortunately, it does cause a allergic reaction now so it sits in the cabinet unworn. And I see that Estee Lauder has discontinued it. It smells so incredible that sometimes I put it on and put up with the sniffles for a day.
Leah said…
Pacifica also does roll-ons for cheaper - you can find testers at Whole Foods (for those in the US) if you want to try them on before buying.
Rita said…
Bvlgari Rose Essentielle, now 57.25 at Amazon, but at times the price drops. Also, there is a Bvlgari 7-piece mini fragrance sampler For $41, I may try that.
s. said…
Tocade? http://www.basenotes.net/fragrancereviews/fragrance/10212865
Mardel said…
I used to love Bulgari Black but haven't worn it in ages. I might have to check it out again. Otherwise I don't have any thing to contribute in the price point, but perhaps I'll be trying some new things soon.
Eleanorjane said…
If you buy a tiny bottle in a set of others Penhaligons Artemisia is affordable. I think it's a beautifully complex fragrance that dies down to something warm and spicy. I have had the most comments about it of any perfume I've worn.
Duchesse said…
Hummingbird5: See my update about "Lovely" above.I just binned 6 bottles I had stockpiled.

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