Thursday, 29 August 2013

When mainstream rivals niche - The Odiferess guide to a bargain, plus a giveaway!

How much would you consider too much to splurge on a perfume? Are you the proud (or even guilty) possessor of a deck of Clive Christian and Amouage bottles? Or do you hunt with diligence for a good deal?

 Clive Christian No 1 limited edition cost £115'000 per 500 ml and came delivered in a bentley!

Discussions with friends from the online niche fragrance community seem to indicate that we are not affluent. Our habits have largely stemmed from fanatical love rather than the necessity to get rid of a wodge of spare cash. We share the need for a bargain, be it in the form of a used bottle or decant on ebay, a swop with a friend in an online community or a patient wait for a store to have a discount day. I admit to breaking into a genuine hand tremor and heart palpitation upon finding a Keiko Mecheri for £30 in TK Max, such was the climatic thrill of the bargain hunt.

With this in mind I ask you, how long is it since you’ve thoroughly explored the less covetable or more mainstream brands? We are lured by the exoticism of the niche market but we must remember that in addition there are some damn fine fragrances that don’t necessarily require getting into debt for or risking a blind buy due to the exclusivity of niche distribution. So, I give you..

The Odiferess guide to saving money for the niche obsessive or 'stop being daft and pay your rent this month'.

How it works – The cheaper scents listed here are not intended to be a ‘smells like’. They are simply scents that I feel are worth a sniff or that possess a similar atmosphere to their niche counterpart or share many of the same notes. Some of the cheaper scents are still niche or high end designer, included here because they are available at great prices online.

If you like Mancera -Aoud Cafe: Try Gaultier - Kokorico, this massive commercial flop probably occurred because it smells beautifully niche but was marketed to the mainstream. It’s now discontinued but very easy to get hold of and worthy of a blind buy if you like bitter and gourmand notes alongside an oudy whiff. Main discernible notes – coffee, cacao and woods. Projects for miles and lasts forever, not subtle. Guide £15 to £25 online.

If you like Mancera -Roses Greedy or L’Artisan Parfumeur – Traversee du Bosphore: Try Yves Rocher – Rose Absolue, a curious jammy rose with a Turkish delight note, high quality ingredients. Turin and Sanchez like it. I think it’s dreadful, but I can understand it’s allure if you have a quirky gourmand loving nose. Yves Rocher do exceptionally cheap discounts regularly (50%) on their website and give a free gift and samples with every order. Guide £20 ish with the discounts, if there isn’t a discount immediately wait till the following month and there should be one. You could also buy their brilliant bitter almond scented body ‘Nourishing Moisturiser’ at the same time which is extraordinarily lovely when layered with Mitsouko.

If you like Guerlain – Spiritueuse Double Vanille: Try Chopard – Casmir. This is a high end designer scent outside of the UK but for some reason it’s a bargain bucket delight here. Main discernible notes: This has the wonderful balsamic combination of Tonka, Vanilla, Opoponax and Benzoin with a slightly fruity apricot tone on top. It’s notably peculiar but very appealing, particularly when you feel the need for opulence and depth. My 30ml bottle cost me £13 brand new on ebay and is the prettiest in my collection with it’s perky little golden Arabic minaret.

If you like Serge Lutens – Ambre Sultan or Chergui or Dior - Mitzah: Revisit your Estee Lauder counter to smell the enduring classics Youth Dew and Cinnabar. Extraordinarily good quality orientals with killer projection. Likewise remind yourself of YSL – Opium. Opium has been the subject of many a moan about IFRA’s restrictions on clove, cinnamon etc but it still smells immense in it’s current formulation. For a genuine bargain from both of these brands, linger until 3 days after Christmas and acquire a discounted gift set where you’ll benefit from some free body lotion or shower gel.

If you like Tom Ford – Oud Wood or Serge Lutens - Bois de Violette: Try Cartier Essence du Bois. This is essentially a cross between the two scents, a very gentle and somewhat watery oud, citrus and cedar fragrance with a subtle and not overly sweet note of violet (flower and leaf). A thing of wonder for those who find oud notes too sharp and astringent. Although relatively expensive in department stores, it appears on ebay for about £40 for 100ml.

If you like Frederic Malle - Musc Ravageur: Try L’ Erbolario - Meharees (to see my review on Meharees click here). It’s annoyingly hard to get hold of in the UK but much easier in mainland Europe. Price guide: £30 (but import costs from Italy could make it more expensive for UK folk).

If you like (or liked the idea of but actually disliked) Byredo – Pulp: Try Van Cleef & Arples – Oriens. Imagine the striking blackcurrant astringency and sweet praline of Pulp but without the ‘bin juice’ vegetal note that many people could not tolerate in this cult niche and you have Oriens – wearable Pulp. Also worth a sniff could be Mugler’s Womanity – salty Pulp. Both cost around a third of the price Pulp (around £25 to £40) and don’t smell of bins.

And if you’ve ignored the mainstream department store counters lately, revisit: Chanel – Pour Monsieur, Dior – Eau Sauvage and Lancome – O de Lancome for beautiful lemony oakmoss chypres. Dior – Dior Homme and Guerlain – Shalimar Initial for cosy warm woods.

Lastly make frequent visits to TK Max for a lucky surprise (my recent findings included Annick Goutal’s Nuit Etoilee and Ninfeo Moi at about half normal retail price and other rarities such as Brosseau’s Ombre Platine and the original Halston Cologne) You’ll have to root underneath Britney and Beyonce’s awful effluence but that’s part of the thrill akin to the sensation of watching the Grand National hoping for a winner.

I will be giving away 1 ml decants of both Meharees and Casmir to one lucky reader (just UK due to our daft postal regs). To win, hit ‘like’ on the facebook page and leave a comment there with your tips on bargain hunting and cheapo masterpieces. I would dearly love my international readers to join in too, please come forth as you are appreciated, I apologise for my country’s postal service..


  1. I am heartily in agreement with your proposed strategy, and am proud to say that the only bottles I bought all this year were a Celebuscent from Cheapsmells - the wonderful Dita Von Teese, new for just £10.80 delivered! - and La Perla edp from Ebay @ £16.

    T K Maxx used to be a jolly fine hunting ground for me at the start of my hobby/habit, and my best ever coup was Cuir de Lancome in the Torquay branch. Sadly, the pickings are very lean nowadays in my local branch in Stafford - we are talking largely effluence - some of it surprisingly obscure!

    Good tip re O de Lancome - must seek that out again...

  2. Oh Vanessa, I'd adore a bottle of Cuir de Lancome, you lucky girl!
    I re-smelt O de Lancome last weekend and was really impressed by how much Oakmoss/Oakmoss substitute I can smell. I wore it in my teenhood and have great memories associated with it. I'll be waiting for the post christmas box set for that one as I imagine it could provide some cheer in the dark months of winter. Possibly a Cinnabar too..

  3. I'm in the U.S. so it's not a comment for the draw.

    I have an advice on bargain hunting that would work anywhere in the world ("you" addresses anybody who reads this, not just the blog owner): unless you're into bottle collecting or want to add as many full bottles of wearable perfumes to your collection as possible on a given budget - just don't do a general bargain hunt. Period.

    Most people who are into perfumes for at least a couple of years have more perfumes (be that FB, decants or samples) than they can possible use within the life span of those perfumes so instead of getting 2-4 "bargains" put the money towards a great but expensive bottle that you think you can't afford.

    Of course, once you plan to buy a specific perfume, do everything in your power to get it cheaper than the list price. Or move a bottle to the top of your "to buy" list only because there is a great deal for it now. But it should be on that list to start with. Do not buy A perfume for yourself just because you can get it cheap (buying it to re-sell or swap - if you think you can do it - is totally fine).

  4. This is a great post! In general, I agree with the last person who commented, but I've found some great bargains online and at TJ Maxx and Marshall's in the USA. Sometimes, however, I will spend $ on something that someone says is "just like" a great perfume and it's simply not. L'Artisan's Traversee du Bosphore, btw, is available at quite low prices on line! Less than the average dept store scent. Same with some Lutens. Shop around! But, now you've made me curious about Kokorico. Cheers!