Saturday, August 11, 2012

My View: Everyday Fragrances vs. Niche Fragrances

I don't buy niche fragrances very often, due to the fact that I think most are way overrated and, even more significantly, due to their high prices.  When I buy one, I'm careful and picky.  I have a wife and two kids to support, so I don't have money to throw around buying niche perfumes blindly.  I'm always appalled when I see threads on that say things like "I blind bought Clive Christian 1872 For Men: Will I like it??".  What kind of a psychopath would do that? 

Yesterday I bought myself a bottle of Baudelaire, an expensive niche fragrance by Byredo.  I bought it over the counter at a store, so luckily I was able to sample it before buying it.  It smelled great - unique, dark, rich, aromatic and masculine - and I felt it was good enough for me to justify coughing up the $150 to buy it.  I brought it home and couldn't wait to wear it the next day, which is today.

You know what I'm wearing today?  360 Perry Ellis Blue, an old $20 TJ Maxx cheapie that I love.  It smells a lot like Drakkar Noir, and I'm wearing it because I love it and I'm in the mood to wear it.  The Baudelaire is still sitting in its box in the shopping bag on my dining room table, unused.  Obviously I'm going to wear it, but I'm not going to until I'm in the mood to, like I do with every fragrance I own, and I don't know when that time will come.  I wouldn't be surprised if I don't crack this thing open until sometime in September. 

There is a point to this story.  I have a huge collection of fragrances - over 300 bottles - and about 30 or 40 of them are from niche brands.  It's the same thing with almost every one: I hardly ever wear them.  No matter how good they are, no matter how positive a review I give them, most of my niche scents collect dust.  I don't consider Creed to be a niche brand, but a lot of people do and Creeds are very expensive, so I'll use them as an example.  I've owned nine different Creeds, and I ended up swapping six of them because I never wore them.  The three I held onto - Bois du Portugal, Original Vetiver and Green Irish Tweed -  all smell great, but I don't think I've worn any of them in at least two years.  I have a full bottle of Mazzolari Patchouli, a very expensive niche perfume, that I've owned for a couple of years, and I think I've worn it four or five times.  I'm glad I have it because it hits the spot perfectly when I'm in the mood to wear it.

This brings me to the main point of this post: I much prefer designer and drugstore fragrances because they make me feel good and I'm always in the mood to wear them.  When I wake up every morning, I rarely think, "You know, I think I'll wear Muscs Koublai Khan today".  I reach for stuff like Quorum, my favorite fragrance, Drakkar Noir, Brut, Eau Sauvage, etc., 99% of the time.  And it's not because niche frags are expensive or that I'm afraid of using them up too quickly either.  It has nothing to do with that. 

The reason I wear non-niche fragrances on a daily basis is simply because I like them better than niche ones.  Cost may be a factor in my decisions on buying niche scents, but it has nothing to do with my decisions on when to wear them.  If I truly were in the mood to wear Muscs Koublai Khan every day, I would, but I don't. 

Of course, there are a couple of exceptions for me.  Both Santa Maria Novella's Patchouli and Patchouli Indonesiano by Farmacia SS. Annunziata are the only niche scents I wear on a regular basis, and I do so because patchouli is my favorite smell, and those are the two best patchouli perfumes in the world.  Having made those two exceptions, the truth is that I get more excited spraying on Quorum or Kouros on a regular basis than I do putting on Santal Noble, for example, once every couple of months.  I'd spend $1000 on a bottle of Quorum if I had to, but I wouldn't even think of spending that kind of dough on Mazzolari Lui.  Luckily I can get a big bottle of Quorum for only fifteen bucks.

My wife, who is also a perfume maniac, feels exactly the same way, and I think it's worth mentioning her here.  She'd wanted a bottle of Guerlain's Double Vanille Spiriteuese for a while now.  This stuff costs a whopping $250 a bottle, more than the price of most niche perfumes.  Yesterday was our fifteenth wedding anniversary, and I was going to buy her a bottle of the Guerlain yesterday as my gift to her.  We went out last night to the store to buy it.  When we got there, she changed her mind.  You know what she chose as her gift instead?  A bottle of Miss Dior, a perfume that she's been wearing religiously for the past 25 years, and which costs about a third of the price of a bottle of Double Vanille!  What inspired her was the fact that it was a bottle of Miss Dior "Originale", which supposedly reverts back to the same scent she remembers wearing all these years.  She's used up probably six or seven large bottles of Miss Dior over the years, yet this was a no-brainer for her.  She was thrilled.  To prove my point, I think it's worth noting that today, unlike me, my wife is wearing the perfume she got last night.

This brings me back to the main topic of this article: niche versus what I call "everyday" fragrances.  Niche perfumes fill a niche, so to speak, for me: they satisfy that craving I get every once in a while to wear something truly unique and totally unlike anything else in my collection, and certainly unlike anything I'll be smelling out in public.  I've had a bottle of Iris Bleu Gris for over a year now, and I think I've worn it twice.  However, if I'm in the mood to wear Iris Bleu Gris, nothing else will satisfy me.  And that is why I own a very carefully selected collection of niche perfumes.

I love every one of my niche frags, but the truth is, I could live without them.  By contrast, I feel like I couldn't live without Quorum, Kouros, Brut, Azzaro Pour Homme, and all the other significantly less glamorous and pricey fragrances I wear on a regular basis.  These things are stone cold classics, and they are for a reason.  If Eau Sauvage or Quorum or Drakkar Noir were to suddenly be discontinued forever, I'd feel like a part of me was gone forever.  These scents have become a part of who I am, something I doubt I'll ever be able to say about some $180 bottle of niche perfume I may own.  To put it all in a nutshell, niche scents satisfy me every once in a blue moon like no other fragrance can.  Designer and drugstore fragrances, on the other hand, light my fire every day.

And this, readers, is why I'll take the inexpensive, old reliable wardogs over niche fragrances any time.


  1. Yes! I feel exactly the same. I could live without niche, but I HOPE no more old school or powerhouse fragrances ever get discontinued. In fact I hope some discontinued fragrances come back. For instance I wish Krizia would pull thier head out of their ass and start reproducing Moods. I see you have been talking about the Perry Ellis "knockoffs" I hope you plan to review more of them.

  2. I hope the classics aren't dc'ed too. That's why I own eight bottles of Quorum and four bottles of Kouros!

    These Perry Ellis 360 frags are really great, and I have five of them - Red, Blue, Black, Reserve and the original 360. They're all excellent, and I plan on reviewing them all. Blue will probably be my next one to review, and is my favorite of the series.

  3. I enjoyed Blue, it's an underrated scent, heavily indebted to Drakkar Noir. White wasn't bad, either.

    I enjoyed this post because it gets to the heart of why fragrance is and isn't worn: sometimes we just don't feel like wearing things, and the stuff we feel like wearing all the time gets worn regardless of its price or pedigree. Personal taste dictates the winners and the losers in this, as in all fashionable things.

    I have a somewhat different feeling about niche in regards to what I would wear (if I could) - my favorite green scent is Grey Flannel, but my other favorite green scent is Green Valley. I loved Green Valley and owned a "new" bottle even though it was discontinued. The fact that I've used it up and it's no longer offered really irks me. I would have Green Valley at all times if I could. I've been looking for a green fragrance that can match it, and haven't had much luck.

    My feeling is that most of the best masculine fragrances are the inexpensive ones. It's the paradox of perfume for men, and it works for me! I like knowing that I smell better with Old Spice than the guy wearing Ambre Sultan.

    1. I remember reading your review of PE Blue on Fragrantica, and I think it was the only positive review by a guy there; a woman wrote a positive review of it, describing it as a sexy frag. I guess I'd agree with that.

      Now that you mentioned Green Valley, I should clarify one thing on my part. There is one niche fragrance I couldn't be without, and that's SMN's Patchouli, or Patchouli Indonesiano. I could live with either of them, but I'd have to have one of them. All other patchoulis smell watered down and un-patchouli-like compared to those two.

      Oh, and by the way, I couldn't live without Grey Flannel either.

  4. I don't know if you've tried it or not, but is Borneo 1834 similar to those 2 patchouli scents you mentioned? That is the only niche patchouli fragrance I've sampled.

    1. Borneo doesn't smell anything like the two I mentioned. Borneo is sweet, with a kind of chocolate note added to the patchouli. SMN's and Farmacia's patchoulis are total hardcore patchoulis, with nothing standing in the way of the earthy patchouli aroma.

    2. This post is spot on. I have and love some niche scents, but what I wear most often are some of my least expensive scents--Z-14, for example, and Heritage. I do not consider Creed niche, either--just very high end and good. I do wear my Creeds often (GIT, BdP and Baie de Genievres) particulalry as they do not seem to keep, so I USE them. For me, niche scents are those that truly go out on a limb which makes them wonderful but challenging to wear. Almost all of the frags from Comme des Garcons fall into that categorie for me. Old school masculine classics are my favorites as well and they are still around for a reason--hopefully in the same formulation that they started out in! Some fragances start out as more mainstream and become niche--I am thinking about one of my favorites, Knize Ten. This used to be fairly widely available (every issue of the New Yorker carried its ads in the 50s, 60s and even 70s. It then got so hard to find that one of the few places you can buy it are niche retailers like Lucky Scent. But really, it is not niche....

    3. I think Knize Ten became niche due to it being unavailable for several years, driving the prices of old bottles way up for a while. Now it's back, but not easy to find unless you order it online.

    4. My point exactly--availability is driving the designation. Now that you can get Creed at any Nordstroms it really can't be considered to be niche. The internet really changed everything. One basenoter called a Caron fragrance a cheap buy. Well, you can find in cheaply online on discounter's sites. It can be bought cheaply but is not cheap--it is still one of the most respected houses in France and 5 minutes in their flagship boutique will give you religion on that point. I am actually embarassed about spending too much on fragrance. On principle I like to pay full whack for Creeds (so I can complain if something were to go wrong which it never does) but really, there are such good--no, great--fragrances available for much less (like Grey Flannel) that there isn't really a need to spend a lot on niche. For example, you could buy Heeley's Cuir Pleine Fleur or Knize Two for over one hundred dollars or buy Grey Flannel for its full retail price of something like $40 and actually get a better scent, that spawned the two niches in the first place..... Thought-provoking post!

  5. For me it's all about access, I live in an isolated area of an isolated country, the nearest botlle of drugstore scent is 100km away, the nearest bottle of anything beyond that is 300km away. I either have to buy blind for designer from the net or I can sample and purchase niche.
    Even then a fair portion of what is reviewed is unobtainable, or very difficult to get, including the stuff you find at TJ Maxx. I do the best I can by reading the reviews of people who's taste seems the same or has a good nose but in the end there's still a few that go through my hands that fail to impress.

  6. I'm in Australia, and don't get me wrong I'm not trying to make a point.
    I'm looking at the niche in my collection, L'Ombre Fauve, Santal Noble, Ambre Precieux, Wild Fern, Chene, Fumerie Turque, Antico Caruso, Knize Ten,Or Black, Antico Caruso, PdN New York and Micallef's Royal Amber and Imperial Santal.
    If there are as good cheap designer scents out there for less money I want them and I'd be happy to be enlightened by you. I do own and love Heritage, Havavna, Grigio Perla, Patrick, Grafton, Quorum Silver, Rocky Mountain Wood and Potion. I'm just not a great fan of the hairy chested patchouli's, a lot of the designer smell flat to me shrugs.

  7. I find it difficult to take the writer seriously when in one sentence he says 'I have a wife and kids to support, so I don't have money to throw around buying niche perfumes blindly'; and then says he has over 300 bottles of fragrance. Even if they were all $20 'cheapies' that would still be over $6000 in fragrance, but then he admits 30 to 40 of them are niche. So I don't feel too sorry for him when he's probably spent a five figure sum on fragrance.

    Perhaps the person blind buying Clive Christian is simply choosing to spend his $10,000 fragrance budget in a different way. The writer says he's swapped six bottles of Creed, and I doubt whoever bought Clive Christian's 1872 would have much trouble selling it on if he didn't like it.

    If you're wearing a fragrance twice a year I'd suggest all you need is a sample vial.