Why Are Perfumes So Expensive?

Updated 04/21/19
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Byredo Casablanca Lily: $550. Alaïa Paris: $2500. Smelling like a warm breeze in Tunisia: priceless. Whatever feeling or memory you wish to invoke, there's a nuanced fragrance for it, and it can cost a pretty penny.

Typically, luxury perfumes are extraordinarily expensive because their ingredients are rare, not simply because the branding is so posh. Many of these scents are crafted from the exquisite oils extracted from delicate flower petals or tree roots, and even musk from male deer. Cheaper perfumes, on the other hand, usually feature ingredients that are more common and easier to procure, or synthetic chemicals created in a lab. 

Here's the lowdown on why exactly perfumes are so pricey.

Rare Ingredients

Ingredients are the main thing that drives up the cost of perfumes. Some contain rare flower petals or the essences of unusual roots; think tuberose and jasmine. The scarcity of an ingredient—say, one that blooms for only one month a year—can add to its value. 

For example, the fragrance branded in 1930 as "the world's most expensive perfume," Jean Patou Joy, was so upscale because it takes 10,600 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen May roses to make a single bottle.

Some of the ingredients that are most prized in the perfume industry include the following:

  • Jasmine: It takes around 240,000 handpicked jasmine flowers to yield one ounce of essential oil.
  • Bulgarian rose: These roses are handpicked each May from a valley in Bulgaria where they've been cultivated for centuries.
  • Oud: This oil is distilled from the heartwood of agarwood that's been infected with a certain type of mold.
  • Ambergris: This is a waxy substance that comes from the intestines of sperm whales.
  • Orris: Considered one of the rarest perfume ingredients, this is derived from the root of the iris.

    Occasionally, luxury scents may also contain synthetic ingredients that are difficult or expensive to make.

    Million-Dollar Marketing

    Some companies spend millions on marketing their perfumes. They splurge on A-list celebrity spokespersons and extravagant ad campaigns. Some brands market perfumes similarly to art or very fine wines, creating only so many bottles to be sold. This exclusivity generates hype, and buyers with lavish taste seem more than willing to pay the price—perhaps for the bragging rights that come with owning a coveted bottle of something so special.

    Luxurious Packaging

    Spritzing on perfume is almost ritualistic for some. Perfumers know that beautiful packaging can elevate that experience, as well as make a product stand out in a sea of fragrances. For example, some of the world's most costly scents come in Baccarat crystal bottles. Baccarat is a French company that creates and sells the finest crystal in the world. Other bottles boast diamonds and solid gold details.

    An expensive bottle of perfume is the ultimate luxury and a status symbol. Is it worth it? If it makes you feel like a million bucks, maybe it is. One thing's for sure: perfumers are banking on that.

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