Tom Ford's latest fragrance collection comprises four individual perfumes, each with a $495 (£312) price tag. Consumers are increasingly willing to pay through the nose for perfumes, but are the price tags really justified, and in a world where the price of perfume is soaring, how can we get the most from our fragrance?
Expensive perfumes are nothing new. Those visiting Harrods may be tempted to pick up an (albeit Swarovski-covered) bottle of Robert Piguet parfum for £8,500, while Chantecaille's Tiare perfume is a relative snip at £500.
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Over at Liberty, Frederic Malle's colognes will set you back around £100, although these all pale into significance against Tom Ford's £312 bottles of Jardin Noir, which went on sale in September. But while the high cost of some fragrances is often justifiable, this isn't always the case, and to work out if a perfume is worth splashing out on, it's important to understand precisely which factors affect the price tag.
One such factor is research, and the perfumers behind a product such as Tom Ford's Jardin Noir collection will undoubtedly have conducted a significantly greater amount of research than those behind Britney's or Beyonce's latest creation. "Really creative and innovative fragrances can take a huge amount of time and resource," explains Penny Williams, development and training director at Orchadia Solutions fragrance consultancy. "Up to thousands of individual drops of perfume ingredients are used in dozens, or even hundreds, of experiments." To complicate things, the type of perfume that requires this level of research is often made by niche brands that won't sell in the same quantities as more mass market ones, which means the perfumers are often required to push the price up even higher to recoup the costs – the absolute opposite of pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap.
Expensive ingredients or clever marketing?
Then there's the ingredients. To start with, fine fragrances contain a much higher percentage of perfume oil than cheaper perfumes or body sprays. And often the oils used are the at the higher end, expensive and rarely used in mass market fragrances. As well as cost, this can also be because more expensive and rarer fragrance oils may not be available in large quantities.
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"A very big brand has enormous overheads, by the nature of their success, and are far less likely to use these materials," says world renowned perfumer Roja Dove. "More importantly, the global yields of these ingredients are so small and finite that it would be impossible for the big houses to use them in blockbuster fragrances." But as Roja points out, these fragrance oils are used for a reason. "It's essential to understand that a Jasmine absolute from Grasse, in the south of France, costs more than £30,000 per kilo," says Roja. "However, you can also buy jasmine for a few thousand pounds per kilo. When we create, no perfumer would spend all that extra money just to say they have. The finest materials cost a huge premium. There is a reason why - they smell luxurious, and offer a sense of quality that a lesser material does not. It's like comparing the finest cashmere in the world with a synthetic imitation; you might convince yourself that they are the same thing, but that is delusional."
So how can the consumer work out if a perfume is worth splashing out on? Penny Williams advises a simple approach. "If I like the smell of a perfume, I try it on and if I still like it and think it’s a fair price, then that works for me as judgement of good value. Remember that even expensive fragrances still offer good value when you consider how many times a bottle can be sprayed – a 100ml bottle of perfume contains approximately 1000 squirts of perfume!"
However, there's no denying that in some cases, a high price tag is precisely what makes a fragrance so covetable, and isn't necessarily an indicator of the fragrance's quality.
Getting the best out of perfume
Unfortunately, we're unable to control which fragrances we're drawn to, but there are certain ways in which we can get more from our fragrance. One to bear in mind is that the different scents of the various beauty products we use can all affect our perfume. Applying a fragrance-free body lotion - or better still, a body lotion from the same range as your perfume - over your perfume will help to seal in the fragrance. "Always try to buy a matching body wash, and body cream," suggests Roja Dove. This is important because of the conflicting scents of other products. "Your hand soap smells of one thing, your body wash another, your shampoo of something else, then there are you hair-styling products, conditioner, toothpaste. body lotions and hand creams," explains Roja.
When it comes to storage, keep bottles away from sunlight and heat, ideally in the boxes in which you purchased them. When applying perfume, hold the bottle between 5 and 7 inches away from the skin and lightly spritz the neck, collarbone and wrists. Avoid the common mistake of applying fragrance behind the ears - there are tiny sebaceous glands here which can alter the way a perfume smells. For a truly indulgent approach, take a note out of Mrs. Estée Lauder's book, and spritz the perfume in front of you then walk through the fragrant cloud. Then again, if the perfume in question is a £312 bottle of Tom Ford's Jardin Noir, you might want to stick with single-spritz approach....