These $19 Fragrances Smell Just as Good as the Most Expensive Brands Out There

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Mix:Bar / Unsplash

I’ve always been obsessed with fragrances, so much so that I’ve made a career out of talking about them. I love switching up what I’m wearing each day depending on the season, the time of day, my mood, or how I’d like to feel. Scent plays such a huge role in our day to day, in ways that we realize and ways that we often don’t.

There are some that don’t share my passion for scent, for many reasons. And while I may not understand them, I try to. Some may not want to smell like the same thing day in and day out, which makes sense. Others may find the cost of a traditional fragrance prohibitive, or simply just don’t want to spend $80 on a perfume. I get that too. And there are those who just fine fragrances inaccessible as a concept, which, believe me, even as someone who is as immersed in it as I am, I completely get.

Fragrances are esoteric. They often feel like an in-crowd to which you were not invited. And even if you were, once you get there, with all the talk different notes and concentrations, it’s easy to feel like the conversation goes straight over your head.

Let me introduce you to a brand that has is trying to change all of that. MIX:BAR is a new collection of seven fragrances, in three different formulas, made to be worn alone or mixed together. They are available at your local Target or online, at a very accessible price point. What I like most is that the fragrances are good (I mean really good) and they don’t try to dumb fragrance down or make a joke out of it. They simply make it straightforward and easy to understand, without sacrificing quality.

Each scent is available in a traditional eau de parfum in a 1.7 ounce bottle for $20 and a Hair & Body Mist for $10. I know "affordable" means different things to everyone, but considering most fragrances are $50 or more, those prices are definitely worth calling out.

And they’re just…great. I really didn’t know what to expect but the caliber of these scents competes with some of the biggest names in fragrance. But let’s just get into each one, shall we?

Below I have each fragrance, with an “inspired by” and “notes of” sections that I pulled from the Target product page. I included these because I think they do a great job of succinctly telling you what to expect from the scent, and then I give you the low down after.

Mix:Bar Vanilla Bourbon, $20

MIX:BAR Vanilla Bourbon
  • Inspired by the richness of pure vanilla beans
  • Notes of: Bergamot, jasmine, apple blossom, madagascar vanilla bean, sandalwood

Why don’t we start off with an absolute banger. Vanilla Bourbon is a perfect example of exactly what Mix:Bar does, and the way it does it so well.

I get that vanilla scares a lot of people off for fear of smelling too sweet, too one-note, or too juvenile. But vanilla is lovely. Vanilla is versatile, it’s in everything. Vanilla is familiar and homey. Learn to love it again, I implore you. But this scent is so much more than just a simple take on vanilla.

This is a deep, warm, textural take on the classic note. It’s sweet, yes, but the heavy dose of sandalwood that makes it smell incredibly rich, luxe, and frankly, expensive. It is VERY good. And listen, I’m not saying it’s an exact dupe for Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, but I’m definitely saying they’ve seen each other around.

Mix:Bar Tangerine Squeeze, $19

MIX:Bar Tangerine Squeeze
  • Inspired by a refreshing summer drink
  • Notes of: Clementine, pink grapefruit, frangipani, honeysuckle, vetiver

This is way better than it has any excuse being. I like citruses as much as the next person. Do I need an entire fragrance based around citrus? It’s not what I’d reach for first. But Tangerine Squeeze is so good and so much fun.

Honestly, I wore this before I even read anything about it and the first thing I thought of was “this smells like a tropical cocktail on a beach.” And I don’t mean that it’s ultra-sweet, because it’s not. It really smells a citrus that’s been squeezed and macerated into a drink. It’s bright and very refreshing. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up because I want to wear this all summer long. This is an unexpected favorite of the bunch.

 Mix:Bar Cloud Musk, $20

MIX:BAR Cloud Musk
  • Inspired by the delightful feeling of cashmere on skin
  • Notes of: Cardamom, iris, jasmine, cotton peony, tonka beans

I suppose a musk was inevitable. Admittedly, I am not a musk lover, but I get it, okay? I see why all you people love them, even if I don’t understand it.

This is one of the biggest standouts of this collection because, while the rest of them really pull their own weight and really make themselves known throughout wear, Cloud Musk is beautiful in its restraint.

If we must, this one is a “skin scent.” While admittedly lacking the Iso E Super molecule that defines skin scents specifically, this is at least skin-adjacent in that it’s light, airy, soft, and just a tiny bit sweet. Many skin scents tend to be really dry or go kind of stale, but this is very pillowy and welcoming. I mean, it’s barely there, but I think there’s strength in that, too. It’s intentional. It kind of smells like a baby’s head. Do you know what I mean?

I think this one is great alone on bare skin but also is great to layer over other scents to enhance them, without adding on a whole new idea.

Mix: Bar Glass Rose, $20

MIX:BAR Glass Rose
  • Inspired by the petal pattern of a rose in bloom
  • Notes of: Raspberry, bergamot, rose, peony, amber

This is also a surprising one because while I thought this would be a heavy, in-your-face interpretation of rose, it’s actually quite nuanced and lovely. I’d almost venture to say that rose is not the main focus here. It isn’t so much a bouquet of roses as it is a room filled with many flowers, with roses arranged among them.

I’ll be honest, I don’t die for florals. I mean, I like them, and they will always be in perfumes in one way or another, but you’ll rarely catch me in a straight floral. Glass Rose, though, is really quite nice. It’s a light, breathy take on roses and other flowers that compliment it. It’s almost a little aquatic, or, glassy. The more I think about it, the more the name makes sense.

Mix: Bar Coconut Palm, $20

MIX:BAR Coconut Palm
  • Inspired by the addictive quality of coconut wood
  • Notes of: Coconut wood, vanilla, salty accord, incense, amber, musk milk

We all love coconut, those are the rules. Coconut is like vanilla’s big sister that people aren’t afraid to admit they like. It is sweet and milky, but at the same time, always carries with it a little bit of nostalgia since it was in the sunscreens of our youth.

Coconut Palm is fantastic. It’s very different from its vanilla counterpart and has an identity all its own. It’s got the warm sweetness of coconut, a light dryness of wood, with musk and a noticeable pinch of salt to give it more of an interesting skin-like quality. I love coconut in all its form and this one is a really interesting spin that I keep going back to.

Mix:Bar Wood Elixir, $20

MIX:BAR Wood Elixir
  •  Inspired by the natural sweetness that occurs as wood ages
  • Notes of: Blackberry, rhubarb, lily of the valley, amber wood, patchouli

This is another one that’s a definite WOW. It smells like expensive fragrances with shiny black caps, late night Ubers, and luxury hotels. I mean, people go crazy over woods, have you noticed that? Wear a woody scent and you’ll be hearing “you smell so good” all day long.

This is very wood forward, with a little blackberry to add sweetness and patchouli to add depth. It is probably the deepest, darkest of the bunch, and it’s pretty addicting. Woods are a sure-fire option that, when it comes to fragrances, are always crowd-pleasers, and this one is no different.

Mix: Bar Blackberry Tonic, $20

MIXBAR Blackberry Tonic
  • Inspired by the rich juice of dark berries
  • Notes of: Blackberry, lily of the valley, jasmine, musk wood, vanilla

I always forget how much blackberries bring to the table when it comes to fragrance. They’re sweet, pungent, tangy, and deep, and can mix beautifully with other notes.

Blackberry Tonic also has a lot of depth to it, but also the juiciness of the berry that brightens it up. The soft addition of floral and woods add texture, and vanilla softens all of the edges. Along with Vanilla Bourbon and Wood Elixir, it’s one of the more commanding fragrances of the collection, but it’s made up of diverse notes that would layer beautifully with others MIX:BAR scents.

Suggested combinations:

Vanilla Bourbon + Wood Elixir

Tangerine Squeeze + Coconut Palm

Glass Rose + Cloud Musk

Wood Elixir + Blackberry Tonic

MIX:BAR scents really take you on a ride whether you wear them alone or layered. When you first spray them on, you get a big cloud of fragrance that quickly works its way down and settles. It starts off big, but ends up wearing very closely to the skin, which I like. Each scent I wore was still there by the end of the day, if faintly. I don’t often like to re-up on my scents in the middle of the day, but with these, if I felt like I needed to give them a little boost before I left my apartment, I could definitely give myself another spritz without choking anyone (or myself) out.

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