Affordable makeup and skincare brands are easy to find, and these days utilise the same ingredients and formulas as luxury brands, but when it comes to shopping for fragrance on a budget, it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re anything like me then the term ‘cheap perfume’ probably makes you think of overly-sweet, watered-down scents that don’t exactly scream luxury. However, finding great-smelling fragrances (without breaking the bank) is getting much easier, and there are actually some real gems to be found from high street brands such as Zara and & Other Stories.
So which affordable perfumes actually smell as good as their more expensive counterparts? One way to find out is to take a look at the perfumers behind your favourite luxury fragrances, because chances are they’ll also have created more affordable scents. That’s right, do some digging and you’ll find that it’s possible to discover perfumes that were formulated by the very same ‘noses’ behind leading luxury fragrance brands such as Byredo, Diptyque, and Penhaligon’s - but don’t have the hefty price tag.
Luckily for you, we’ve done all the hard work and rounded up affordable fragrances created by the perfumers behind some of our favourite expensive scents. If you find that a lot of luxury perfumes are out of your budget, or you simply want an everyday scent that doesn’t break the bank, keep on scrolling. Oh and don't worry, the bottles are still chic enough to put pride of place on your dressing table.
1. Byredo Bal d'Afrique
Perfumer Jerome Epinette is the nose behind seven iconic Byredo fragrances, including my personal favourite, Bal d’Afrique. The fragrance is inspired by Byredo founder Ben Gorham’s time spent in Africa, and the result is a warm and vibrant concoction of bergamot, marigold, and violet, combined with base notes of cedarwood and vetiver. To me, it smells like a hot summer evening in a bottle.
& Other Stories is one of my favourite brands to shop for affordable fragrance. I’ve never been disappointed by any of their scents, which is no surprise considering that Epinette is the nose behind the majority of them (16 to be precise). Like Bal d’Afrique, Sicilian Sunrise is a specific location and evokes the same feelings of being somewhere warm and sunny, thanks to its blend of citrus and aquatic notes.
Floral Street might be towards the higher end of ‘affordable’ but every single one of the brand’s fragrances are available in travel size rollerballs which clock in just under the £30 mark. Combining coconut, jasmine, black pepper, and musk, Arizona Bloom is just one of nine fragrances Epinette formulated for Floral Street.
2. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat 450
Thanks (in part) to TikTok, Baccarat Rouge 540 is one of the most famous perfumes on the market right now. It has notes of saffron, amberwood, fir resin, and cedar, but the allure of this scent is almost possible to convey in words – you really do have to smell it to get it. Just trust me when I say that it’s worth the hype. The nose behind Baccarat Rouge 540 is Francis Kurkdjian himself, who aside from founding his eponymous brand, has also formulated fragrances for brands such as Acqua di Parma, Juliet Has A Gun, Dior, and Guerlain.
Kurkdjian created Green Tea for Elizabeth Arden back in 1999 and it’s been a bestseller ever since. An energising and uplifting fragrance with notes of lemon, mint, rhubarb, fennel, and amber, this affordable fragrance is very different to Baccarat Rouge 540, but just as intriguing.
Described as a ‘floral, woody musk’ this crowd-pleasing fragrance shares some similar notes to Baccarat Rouge 540, including saffron and amber. It’s a favourite of Who What Wear beauty editor Eleanor Vousden, who recommends it to anyone who wants a scent that’s majorly long-lasting.
3. Penhaligon's Halfeti
Perfumer Christian Provenzano is the nose behind scents from luxury brands such as By Kilian, Jo Malone, and Penhaligon’s. In fact, he created Penhaligon’s most iconic scent, Halfeti, which fragrance connoisseurs consider to be a modern classic. Its top notes of cypress, saffron, cardamom, and grapefruit are instantly recognisable, drying down to a lingering haze of oud, leather, and musk.
4. Jo Loves Pomelo
With 25 years of fragrance industry experience and a hugely successful brand (Jo Malone) behind her, fragrancer Jo Malone CBE launched Jo Loves in 2009, a luxury fragrance collection inspired by natural ingredients. Pomelo features just six key notes (pomelo, rose, vetiver, clove, patchouli, and clove). It’s fresh and zesty at first spritz but dries down to something softer and cosier.
In 2019, Jo Malone CBE joined forces with Zara for what became one of the most iconic and successful fragrance collaborations in recent years. The initial collection of eight fragrances has grown in the three years since, but one of the original perfumes, Ebony Wood, remains a favourite. Warm, musky, and woody, this is a perfect winter fragrance. It smells just as good as a Jo Loves scent, but costs a third of the price.
5. Diptyque Eau Rose
Diptyque is a cult classic brand with a reputation for creating complex, interesting fragrances which truly stand out. In true Diptyque fashion, this is an unconventional rose, sweetened by fruity top notes and grounded by woody base notes of musk, honey, and cedar. The creator? Fabrice Pellegrin, who has contributed niche scents to some of the biggest names in the business, including By Kilian, Penhaligons, Yves Saint Laurent, and Paco Rabanne.
Earlier this year, Pellegrin collaborated with Zara on a collection of four affordable fragrances, each inspired by a different type of forest. I was particularly impressed by Sacred Green Forest, a mossy unisex scent which combines jasmine, ylang-ylang, and incense. It’s every bit as complex and unusual as a fragrance I would expect from a luxury brand like Diptyque.
6. Le Labo Santal 33
A smoky and alluring fragrance with major sex appeal, it’s easy to see why Santal 33 is Le Labo’s bestseller - and a cult classic in its own right. Simultaneously seductive and sophisticated, it’s a musky, woody blend which really is as far from a fruity or floral fragrance as it’s possible to be. The nose behind this scent is Frank Voehl, a senior perfumer who has created for other luxury brands (including Boy Smells and Commodity) as well as creating affordable scents for brands such as Zara and Glossier.
Also warm and musky, Glossier You has many things in common with Santal 33 (notably an impressive longevity). It’s creamy and crisp all at once, somewhat woody, somewhat floral. Although it’s available as an eau de parfum, I’m a huge fan of the solid version. The chic and weighty packaging imparts a more expensive look and feel than the affordable price tag suggests.
7. By Kilian Love
Fragrancer Calice Becker is the nose behind a grand total of 41 By Kilian scents, and has also created for Dior, Estee Lauder, Tom Ford, and Marc Jacobs. It’s a tricky task choosing just one By Kilian scent to spotlight, but I settled for Love, Don’t Be Shy, since it’s one of the most luxurious fragrances I’ve ever smelt. A decadent cocktail of marshmallow, amber, neroli, orange blossom, and rose.
When sweet scents are created for high street brands they can often be a little sickly. Not so when the perfumer is accustomed to creating scents for designer brands and the brand is renowned for its commitment to quality ingredients. Consisting mainly of ‘edible’ scents, including honey, almond, and vanilla, Terre de Lumiere is rich, sweet, and heady.
8. Tom Ford Lost Cherry
Luxury brand Tom Ford isn’t known for producing sweet scents, which is probably what makes this one so captivating. In fact, the best word to describe this perfume is ‘intoxicating’, it blends sweet elements of cherry, almond and plum with sensual notes of liquor, rose, and sandalwood.
Coming from a brand that specialises in skincare, you might not expect the Nuxe fragrances to be as impressive as they are. But smell this with your eyes closed and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d actually picked up a bottle of Tom Ford perfume. Rich notes of jasmine and patchouli give it an ‘expensive’ edge.
9. Le Labo Ambrette 9
With 182 fragrances to his name (including creations for Acqua di Parma, Givenchy, and Jo Malone), perfumer Michel Almairac is one of the biggest names in the industry. His creation for Le Labo, Ambrette 9, is (in my opinion) one of the brand’s most underrated scents. It’s overwhelmingly musky but with notes of citrus fruit.
Yes, the very same perfumer behind Le Labo Ambrette 9 also created Ghost, one of the most iconic perfumes of all time. This recognisable scent has captivated those who wear it for over twenty years (in my experience, Ghost fans wear nothing else). Despite being considered a classic, it’s surprisingly affordable - a 30ml bottle comes in just below £30.
10. Gucci Bloom
The mastermind behind Gucci Bloom, Alberto Morillas, is one of a handful of ‘master perfumers’ in the world and widely considered to be one of the best. He also created icons like By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad, Calvin Klein CK One, and Marc Jacobs Daisy. When it comes to Morillas' more affordable creations however, my favourite is Roger & Gallet’s Gingembre Rouge. It’s an underrated scent with notes of pomegranate, ginger, and orange. I know this sounds like it wouldn’t work, but of course, due to Morillas’ genius, it does.
11. Ex Nihilo Fleur Narcotique
Ex Nihilo scents may be luxurious and impressive, but they’re far from affordable, which makes it even more exciting when you can find an affordable alternative. Perfumer Quentin Bisch also created Nuxe’s Le Matin de Possibles, a fresh white floral which is my go-to everyday scent for summer.
12. Maison Margiela Beach Walk
You might not be aware that Caudalie (best known for its skincare) makes perfumes, but it does, and they’re seriously impressive. The nose behind this particular one (and the above), is Jacques Cavallier, a master perfumer with almost 200 creations to his name. The de Vignes has notes of tea, jasmine, grapes, and honey. It smells expensive (but isn’t).