“Designer imposter” scents go back a long time (from what I remember, to at least the 1980s), but these days there seem to be a flood on the market. Now if all of you lived near a store that sold just about every one them, and had testers available, I wouldn’t have written up this post. With the internet, we can not only learn about the availability of these, but in some cases read reviews at sites like Fragrantica.com, which for some reason thinks that some companies are legitimate enough to list in their database while others are ignored. Or perhaps they just list whatever they come across, though I’d suggested listing such scents as Stardust for Men (2001) but it is yet to be listed, months later !
Dollar store scents can be a great buy, but in most cases the more discerning person isn’t going to wear these, if he or she even bothers to try any. On the other hand are rather expensive scents that are supposed to be “as good” as really expensive ones. Using Fragrantica’s “This perfume reminds me of” feature, we can see that Cedrat Boise by Mancera, for example, is thought to be most similar to Aventus by Creed (53 votes). The “problem” is that it seems to be selling for more than $120 for 120 ml bottles these days, which is not a “cheapo” situation. In fact, if I enjoyed Aventus but couldn’t afford it, I doubt I could afford Cedrat Boise, and I’d also be incredibly disappointed if it did not smell close enough to Aventus. It certainly doesn’t seem like one could call this a “safe blind buy,” that’s for sure! On the other hand, spending $20-25 (or less) on Lomani’s AB Spirit Silver seems as safe as one an get, so long as you don’t believe it will smell exactly like Aventus.
Another company which seems to be doing this sort of thing, and which I just learned about, is Armaf. There doesn’t seem to be much of a secret about what their scents are meant to be in many if not most cases (if you do some research on Fragrantica, ebay, amazon, etc.). In fact, one ebay seller is opening claiming that Armaf’s Derby Club House Blanche is a “Creed silver mountain water copy.” The price is $30, at least if you live in the USA, and for me that’s till too high to label it a “safe blind buy,” but I can see how some might find that price (for 100 ml) and the reviews to be too tempting to pass up, especially considering how some of these “copy cats” seem to become unavailable at any price, though of course one might get lucky on ebay, or the company might decide to create a new batch (though you wouldn’t know if it smelled the same as the older batches until you obtained a bottle).
For me, the “sweet spot” is the Dorall Collection. I came upon one of their bottles at a yard sale back around 2009, purchasing what seemed to be a Polo “copy” (it’s called Mustang and is in a similar type bottle that is green). It’s a competent, wearable scent, and different enough from my vintage Polo to be worth owning for a couple of dollars. So, when I noticed a scent produced by Dorall Collection and called Dark Flower selling for about $10 for 100 ml, I did some research. Parfumo.net seems to have most of the Dorall Collection listed, usually with notes as well. In this case it seems clear that this is supposed to smell at least a bit like Black Orchid. Parfumo provides these notes for it:
Bergamot, Citric notes, Mandarin, Black gardenia, Jasmine, Ylang-ylang, Lotus wood, Orchid, Spicy notes, Floral accord, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Frankincense, Vanilla.
I haven’t tried Black Orchid in years but it does seem to bear some resemblance to what I can recall (in the drydown). DF has obvious an obvious but not very strong sandalwood note, along with florals that aren’t too “feminine” to me and gourmand elements. The balance is nice and I’d rather wear this than more than a few recent designer releases, that’s for sure. It’s a bit dry, isn’t too sweet or syrupy, and doesn’t have animalic quality (I’d say this is unisex, for those used to niche). And this brings me to a point that seems to be crucial, which is that some people seem to be seeking the strong niche scent experience whereas others, such as myself, are seeking a pleasant, dynamic, balanced, and smooth drydown. This is why I thought it would be worthwhile spending the money on DF, though another factor was the retail price of Black Orchid. If BO sold for a lot less, I’d just try have patience and get a good deal on ebay or in a swap.
So, while I have limited experience with “copy cat” scents, I certainly would mention Dorall Collection ones to those seeking a very inexpensive alternative to very expensive scents – assuming you don’t mind going to ebay once in a while to see what’s available, as well as doing some research on parfumo.net. There are also a couple of sites which may tell you exactly what the scent in question is supposed to smell like:
Note that there are others, such as the Diamond Collection. If you search ebay’s fragrances for Diamond Collection you’ll see even more audacious bottle designs and names (IMO), and I wonder about the legality of those, but my main interest is in how these smell, of course. I’m not really “in the market” for a reasonably good smell-alike of anything now, so I don’t intend to pursue this much further, other than to grab one at a really low price if I happen to see it (probably on ebay) and think I might like it. Of course, if you are familiar with vintage scents, you’ll know about at least a few that seem to have been “inspired” by others, usually best sellers, such as Chanel No. 5. The difference today is that it seems like there are “copy cats” at prices points that range from about $10 per bottle (leaving aside the dollar store offerings) up to more than $100, and I doubt there are any local stores which sell more than a small fraction of what one can buy online, unlike by the late 80s, where a trip to a medium-size mall might allow you to do a whole lot of sampling, relative to what was being produced.
NOTE: I have no affiliations with any fragrance company and don’t have a strong opinion about only wearing the “original” or trying to save as much money as possible. I find it at least somewhat entertaining and don’t mind wearing a “copy cat,” but because I don’t feel compelled to buy any new scents (already possessing more than I could use in a few lifetimes) I’m mostly swapping or looking for “too good to pass up” deals.