Why Is Cologne So Expensive? (EXPLAINED)

There’s no doubt that it smells wonderful, but why is cologne so expensive? Packaged in tiny bottles and wrapped in opulent packaging, it’s easy to wonder whether you’re being taken advantage of when looking at buying a fine fragrance.

In today’s guide, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the finer points of the fragrance making world, answering your most frequently asked questions about expensive and affordable colognes. By the end of the article, you’ll know whether it’s worth it to buy an expensive cologne — and when you should consider going for a cheaper one, instead.

What Makes Cologne Expensive

Cologne, as opposed to necessities like food, water, and housing, is a luxury item. This puts it in a category with other fine goods, like watches, sports cars, and fine wine — products defined more by their quality and desirability rather than how affordable they are. In the case of colognes, their sometimes shocking price tag is driven by three main factors:

Quality and Quantity of Ingredients

The best colognes and perfumes use copious quantities of exceptionally high quality ingredients, sourced from specialized producers around the world. For each aromatic in the composition that’s not readily available outside of the fragrance industry, you can expect to pay a significant markup. Cheaper colognes, on the other hand, will use smaller portions of synthetic ingredients that tend to fade quicker and make less of an impression.

Rarity

Since its very beginnings, fragrance making has been concerned with finding and creating nuanced expressions of extremely rare and sought after aromatics. Precious woods such as sandalwood, cedarwood, and vetiver only grow so quickly, increasing their already high prices as more people want colognes using them; the same is true of resins like oud and amber, or animal products like musk and ambergris.

Exclusivity

More than anything, name brand colognes trade on their ability to evoke a certain lifestyle. They sink significant resources into their branding campaigns, paying famous actors and athletes enormous sums of money to endorse their fragrances — creating an air of exclusivity in the same way as any other luxury product. This, in turn, leads to higher prices for each bottle of cologne.

What Is The Most Expensive Fragrance In The World?

How much would you expect to pay for a fine fragrance? One hundred dollars? One thousand?

How about one million dollars? That’s the asking price for the world’s most expensive fragrance: DKNY’s Million Dollar Golden Delicious.

Most of that cost doesn’t come from what’s inside the bottle, though, as the bottle itself. Covered in precious stones from around the world and carved from yellow and white gold, the bottle has been crafted to mimic the New York City skyline. The best part, though? After selling this one-of-a-kind bottle, DKNY donated the profits to the global charity Action Against Hunger

Are Expensive Fragrances Worth It?

Even the most affordable cologne is still considered a luxury item, seeing as no one really needs to wear a fragrance to survive. But how much is too much to pay for a luxury item? Really, the sky’s the limit.

In our opinion, expensive fragrances — just like other luxury items, including cars, whiskey, and watches — can be worth buying. But there’s a big caveat: You really need to enjoy the category that you’re buying from for it to feel worth it. If you genuinely love fine fragrances, then an expensive cologne will bring you significant joy and be entirely worth paying for.

How Much Should You Pay For Cologne?

The exact amount that you should pay for a bottle of cologne is entirely relative to your life circumstances, aspirations, and reasons for wearing cologne. 

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to freshen up before heading into an office job, a simple bottle in the ballpark of $50 will work — though the best office colognes may run a bit pricier. Alternatively, men who are looking to use cologne to draw female attention may want to invest substantially more in their fragrance choice, as higher concentrations of aromatics are often a better way to get noticed.

What Does Cheap Cologne Smell Like?

Once upon a time, all cologne was expensive as a result of the laborious process needed to make it, as well as the relative scarcity of the aromatics used to create each composition. With the advent of modern molecular science, though, many of the world’s finest aromatics have been closely replicated with chemical synthetics.

Essentially, this is what cheap cologne will smell like: Synthetic. Used sparingly, these inexpensive synthetic scents can make great compositions more affordable; used exclusively, they can lead to an unnervingly plastic or chemical smell that pervades the entire cologne.

How To Tell The Difference Between Cheap And Expensive Cologne

There’s one dead giveaway for telling the difference between a cheap cologne and an expensive one: How long it lasts. 

While cheap colognes can use synthetic ingredients to deliver an intense blast of aroma, they will quickly fade away. Sometimes lasting no more than an hour, they’re a far cry from the incredible longevity of most expensive colognes. Buy an expensive cologne from a quality producer, and you can expect to have it develop slowly on your skin over the course of 12 hours or more, leaving you with a wonderful scent all day long.

Are Niche Fragrances Better Than Designer?

First, let’s be clear on the terms: Niche fragrances are produced by a company that specializes in perfumes and colognes as their only products, while designer fragrances are made as an additional offering for an already-established fashion house.

Deciding between niche and designer fragrances is where it gets tricky, though — and the choice largely comes down to a matter of fragrance wearing experience combined with personal taste.

Devotees of designer fragrances tend to appreciate consistency and popularity over uniqueness, and love the mass appeal of colognes and perfumes designed to win over entire crowds of people. Niche fragrances, on the other hand, tend to become the favorites of long-time fragrance wearers, since they apply more novel techniques and ingredients in their approach to fragrance making.

Which Expensive Colognes Should You Try First?

So, you’re ready to put your money where your nose is and splurge for a bottle or two of expensive cologne. Congratulations! May we suggest focusing on an expression of a rare ingredient, such as:

Using our curated guides, you can’t go wrong with finding an expensive cologne that will suit your tastes and wow your senses.

Which Affordable Colognes Should You Try First?

The best place to look for affordable colognes is with established brands that cater to a younger audience. That way, you’ll get the best quality available for the price, all without heading into a price range that means you’ll be regularly coming across fakes and imitators.

Our favorite brands of affordable colognes include:

And remember: Affordable shouldn’t mean low quality. Just because a cologne isn’t packed with huge amounts of rare ingredients doesn’t mean that it can’t be impeccably balanced — in the same way that a humble home-cooked meal can be just as satisfying as a five star dinner, given the right context.