Premium fragrances will always enjoy an untenable status in perfumery. A single spritz can carry oud from well-aged agar trees, blooming rose gardens in the South of France, and freshly harvested jasmine from an Egyptian field. Crafted from finer, responsibly sourced ingredients, expensive perfumes are more than just their eye-watering price tags.
You end up with a personal scent that sets you apart from the crowd. After all, a lesser-known, luxe fragrance is more likely to turn heads than a trendy mainstream scent. With the help of perfume experts, we got down to the nitty-gritty of premium perfumes and why they're absolutely worth splurging on, at least once in a blue moon.
Ghassan Hajjaj, a Dubai-based perfumier with three decades of experience in the industry, and Dan Terry, creative director of Oo La Lab, a perfume making fragrance lab based in Dubai and Singapore, take us through the science behind luxury perfumes, useful shopping advice and even tips on how to best store your expensive bottles - just scroll down below.
And if you've decided to elevate your collection, start your search with our curated list. From Maison Lancome to Creed, these haute perfumes also make choice presents for a loved one, especially ahead of Valentine's Day. You can order these off Amazon with a Prime membership to get fast, free delivery, and take advantage of select discounts.
1. Best Overall: Yves Saint Laurent Tuxedo Eau de Parfum
No doubt, YSL has its fair share of mainstay fragrances, so chances are that not many have gotten a whiff of the brand's luxury Le Vestiaire collection yet. Hajjaj points out the range's unique wardrobe concept using Tuxedo - a unisex smoky and spicy fragrance. "It recreates the sensation of wearing a tuxedo, which is composed of two fabrics with satin and matte textures. The patchouli in it mimics matte, while the spices make it shiny," he explained. It opens with concentrated bergamot and coriander seed oils, leading into a heart of rose and black pepper oils. Once the sharpness wears off, you're left with animalic ambergris accords with patchouli and vanilla.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh66.58 for 12 months with select banks.
2. Best Vanilla Fragrance: Creed Les Royales Exclusives Sublime Vanille Eau de Parfum
If you want to smell like royalty, then we can't not speak of the House of Creed, a Parisian luxury perfumery that's famously known to create customised fragrances for the British royal family. While Creed's Aventus and Silver Mountain Water bottles are much discussed, there are hidden gems in its Les Royales Exclusives collection, like the Sublime Vanille. It comes encased in a stunning glass bottle with golden work, and as the name suggests, highlights all that vanilla and tonka bean have to offer. You can expect Creed's signature art of blending that includes the finest ingredients and concentrated infused oils. A zesty lemon and bergamot opening helps balance out the rounder, indulgent notes in the dry-down.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh208.33 for 12 months with select banks.
3. Best Oud Blend: Lancome Paris Maison Oud Bouquet Eau de Parfum
A lovely marriage of oud and roses, Maison Lancome's haute perfume Oud Bouquet is another recommendation from Hajjaj. The oud in here comes from a trio of bold essences sourced from a 20-year-old agarwood, smoky gaiac wood and copahu wood. Through its rich, aromatic heart cuts praline and rose, adding sweetness to the woody fragrance profile. It arrives in a precious glass bottle that carries a golden plate on the back and the side, revealing its contents and Lancome's art of French blending.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh51.58 for 12 months with select banks.
4. Best Green Fragrance: Giorgio Armani Prive Vert Malachite Eau de Parfum
Inspired by voyages and different cultures, Giorgio Armani's Les Terres Précieuses collection encapsulates travel through an olfactory experience. Hajjaj's favourite is Vert Malachite, a fresh fragrance that captures the delicate balance between lily and white flowers, and natural essences of bitter orange and vanilla. This sophisticated scent is a nod to the vast lands of Russia, matched by the green stone-like bottle that's bound to draw eyes to the vanity.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh68.94 for 12 months with select banks.
5. Best Intense Fragrance: Kurkdjian Maison Baccarat Rouge 540 Extrait de Parfum
You might have seen this one making the rounds on social media. Maison Francis Kurkdjian's Baccarat Rouge 540 is often described as an acquired taste for the bitter almond note and animalic ambergris accord. The Extrait version of the original scent is far more intense, giving it a luxurious aura and longer-lasting sillage. The rich blend is infused with saffron that lends to its slightly metallic amber accords; you'll also find soft cashmere wood that adds a powdery effect, together with multi-faceted notes of jasmine from Egypt. If you attend black-tie events often, this perfume is going to be your trusty companion.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh225.75 for 12 months with select banks.
6. Best Fresh Scent: Blue Sapphire by Boadicea The Victorious Eau de Parfum
Boadecia The Victorious' iconic Blue Sapphire is instantly recognised by its vivid royal blue bottle and intricate engraving on the golden plate. Indeed, the regal fragrance honours the wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, harnessing citrus and green accords for a refreshing blend. Its orange and lemon highs give way to Indian jasmine, rose and cardamom, ending in oud, patchouli and amber.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh149.92 for 12 months with select banks.
7. Best Floral Fragrance: Parfums de Marly Delina Exclusifl
Another internet favourite with thousands of video reviews, Delina Exclusif by Parfums de Marly should win you compliments all around. It's a delightfully fruity and floral fragrance, opening with notes of grapefruit, lychee and pear. As the day wears on, you're met with a heart of Turkish rose, incense and vetiver, leading into a dry-down of just vanilla and musk. Delina Exclusif is a must-have spring scent for women.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh70.33 for 12 months with select banks.
Are luxury perfumes worth the hype?
Much like any high-end product, luxury fragrances tell a different story, from conception to production. The price tag reflects a lot of what's happening behind the scenes, says Hajjaj.
"Luxury perfumes use premium ingredients, such as different types of rose, jasmine and vanilla. Perfumers also have the liberty of using better, higher-quality oils. Sustainability also plays a role - when brands work with sustainably sourced ingredients, respecting the different elements, having them handpicked and such, this can lead to a higher price," explained Hajjaj.
The selling point of a haute fragrance is strictly its scent and nothing else. Premium ranges will even go as far as to include the key ingredient in the names, as opposed to commercial perfumes with titles that don't give away much.
If there's vanilla mentioned somewhere, then you can be sure to smell it - it's a promise luxury perfumes can afford to make, adds Hajjaj.
Other factors can make the fragrance even more appealing. Terry explained the role of the bottle design in evoking luxury: "To some consumers these aesthetic details are more important than others, however fragrance is an emotional purchase, so design, concept, feeling of the bottle and the spray are important details to get right."
In some cases, limited access to certain perfumes can also grant them pride of place in the ultra-luxury category. Terry said: "These days, luxury is also defined by accessibility (or rather the lack thereof), so in the case of perfumes with limited distribution, these would be more desirable, such as in the case of niche perfumes."
What are luxury perfumes made of?
So, what's in a name? Sometimes, they'll have rare ingredients, which are expensive to harvest. "For example, agarwood or oud wood from trees that are hundreds of years old will incur a longer waiting time than oud from six-to-seven-year-old trees. The scent will definitely be more complex and have more facets to it than without," Hajjaj explained.
In other cases, perfumes will use absolutes, which are the most concentrated forms of fragrance and highly coveted in natural perfumery. They're distinct from essential oils in that they don't just contain essential oil, but also a higher density of colouring, waxes and other components from the plant. According to Terry, rose absolute and jasmine absolute are two examples of ingredients used in luxury perfumes. To produce an ounce (29.5ml) of rose absolute, it takes roughly 60,000 roses.
We can expect naturally sourced ingredients, but this doesn't imply that synthetic versions of, say, jasmine and musk should be less desirable. Hajjaj tells us that advanced technology and artistic perfumers can replicate these scents exactly, and synthetic ingredients are much more stable in a bottle.
Thanks to a carefully manufactured formula, a luxury perfume can have a better sillage, meaning it can linger on the skin for hours. "It's not always the case, but they do tend to perform better if the perfume has better quality oil in a higher quantity," said Hajjaj.
Knowing how to store your perfume can greatly impact its performance and shelf life. To get your money's worth, keep perfume bottles in the dark, ideally, in a cupboard, and ensure a cool temperature of 12 to 18 degrees Celsius.
More importantly, avoid leaving your fragrances in the bathroom or refrigerating them, cautions Hajjaj, as neither environment promotes a stable formula.
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