Get your money’s worth with perfume

Get your money’s worth with perfume

By Adriana Ermter

In 2006, while at a press event in a chic Yorkville boutique in Toronto, I took my most expensive breath: an inhalation of the then, just-launched Clive Christian perfume No.1, aka Imperial Majesty. At $12,700 per ounce it was, and still is, the world’s most expensive perfume. It smelled like spiced flowers with a powdered finish and if my wallet could have handled it, I would have bought and proudly displayed its British lineage and stunning Baccarat flacon next to my bottles of Celine Dion’s $25 Signature and Creed’s $330 Virgin Island Water fragrances.

According to Cathy Masson, the vice president of category management beauty for Shoppers Drug Mart – beyond the price tag – every perfume has its virtues. But, she says, when it comes to savvy spritzing, there are three rules to observe before heading to the cash register:

1. Test drive your perfume. It’s the best way to determine whether an eau is worth its price tag or not. “Fragrance is personal,” explains Masson. “Your individual preferences along with your body’s chemistry and how the perfume reacts to your skin will determine what scents you like.” So if you don’t love it, don’t buy it. Spritz a different fragrance on each wrist and then continue shopping. If you still love one of them three hours later, head back to the counter to buy.

2. Know your notes. Pricey, natural ingredients such as ambergris, produced in the intestines of sperm whales; oud from the tropical Agar tree; and orris, the roots of the iris flower are the diamonds of the perfume industry. Notes like this are created from “rare, natural oils, sourced from around the world,” Masson says. “And they’re some of the most expensive ingredients in perfumery.” Higher in concentration, these essences tend to last longer than their synthetic counterparts and are found predominantly in perfumes and eau de parfum (EDP) rather than toilettes. Plus, they’re typically mix-mastered by the industry’s best. Which leads us to no.3.

3. Familiarize yourself with the big names. As in restaurants, a top-tier chef in the kitchen often comes with rich price tags on the menu. Same goes for fragrance. The involvement of an A-list perfumer can jack up the cost of a perfume. But it’s usually worth the price of admission. “Perfumers create fragrances that tell a story,” explains Masson. And thanks to “years of experience and knowledge,” says Masson, these spritzes are often intriguing and have a layered, more complex olfactory construction compared to what is offered in the mass category.

At the end of the shopping day, trust your gut and go with your nose, says Masson.  That’s the ultimate message in the bottle: “It’s how the perfume makes you feel.”


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Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.