The Cost of Being a Colognoisseur

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When I started writing about perfume first at Fragrantica, then CaFleureBon, before starting Colognoisseur I was always focused on the perfume. The bottle can be a selling point but I very rarely comment upon it. Mainly because it has no impact on how I view the perfume. The other part of a perfume that I almost never comment upon is the price. I’ve received some e-mails and a couple of recent comments have mentioned the price of the perfume reviewed. I thought I might go through some of the reasons why I have chosen not to mention price as part of the writing I do on Colognoisseur.

Just as I mentioned above with bottles the price is irrelevant to me when it comes to what I think of a perfume. I think we are in a pretty diverse age with top-notch perfumes available at almost every price point. My focus has always been trying as many new perfumes in each year because that is what I enjoy writing about. If I like it enough to wear it for a couple days I am writing about it, I don’t care how much it costs.

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Yet as I’ve learned price is not irrelevant to some of you. I’ve received communication on both sides. The joy of finding a $10 perfume that you adore. The disappointment on looking up a perfume after reading a review to see a $500+ price tag. While I am understanding of the last scenario there is a semantic issue at play. When I get that e-mail somewhere in there is the phrase “it’s not worth it”. Which for the correspondent is entirely true. But that is a single data point relevant only for that person. In their mind, there is a line below which a perfume is “worth it” and above where it is not. That line is not universal. It is up to each person to decide where they draw it. I have thought if I started commenting on price and whether a perfume is “worth it” I am arbitrarily imposing my concept upon the readers.

This is not to say that I don’t share the concern that perfume brands are applying some aspirational pricing on to their fragrances. The perfume companies also should be wary of how they draw their pricing line. If too many of their consumers fall on the wrong side of the “worth it” line it is difficult to come back from that kind of error. I will admit it is perplexing to me to see the ultra-luxe pricing from a new brand fresh on the market. I presume the business people behind the brand have done their research but there are times when I hit the pricing part of a press release for a new brand and think, “Seriously?” There seems to be more of it over the last year than it appears the market can tolerate. My concern is that those who back new brands might not be so ready to back another if they have a high-priced flame out. The true success of niche brands has been the slow build from both a price and consumer standpoint. Like in most businesses slow and steady yields consistent results if not flashy ones.

Despite the understanding of what the cost of a perfume plays in how one views it for themselves I am still going to continue writing my reviews without mentioning it. Thankfully we live in an age where the answer to that question for whom it is important is a but a few seconds, and a search engine, away. For me the cost of being a Colognoisseur has nothing to do with the price tag.

Mark Behnke

3 thoughts on “The Cost of Being a Colognoisseur

  1. What a thoughtful post! I tend to agree with you on all points. I don't read perfume reviews primarily to find out the price tag, although I always appreciate it when an in-depth, professional review includes where the perfume can be bought. I'll make my own decision as to whether it is worth purchasing, balanced against all my other priorities for spending money. However, I really do enjoy reviews that point out affordable, quality fragrances. Reviews of those perfumes, as well as the super-expensive ones, help educate me on what makes a fragrance excellent, or not — and that's never going to be the retail price in and of itself. I also appreciate gaining some understanding of WHY a niche perfume might be very expensive, such as costly ingredients that really do make a difference.

  2. Since it was me who mentioned the price in a reply to one of your recent reviews I'd like to answer. My original focus point probably wasn't clear in my short statement: 

    First I have to say I am absolutely fine with your approach of not taking the retail price into account on colognoisseur.com. I don't necessarily expect this as part of a review, your knowledgeable analyses are helpful as they are, thanks for all your time and effort! 

    Also I am aware the issue was heavily discussed only a few weeks ago, when Luca Turin draw a “worth it line" lower than some may have expected, and Andy Tauer replied from a personal point of view including a lot of numbers. 

    Sure, perfume is a luxury product and there is much more to pay than material and personal costs. I personally am not shy of spending lots of money in my perfume collection. And btw I am not too much into raw material science, so I only have a vague idea of the height in the actual margins and profits when I purchase full bottles in a heavily varying range of houses like Tauer or Nasomatto, Sammarco or Creed to name but a few. 

    But: I am worried where this spiral points to. That is my major concern in the first place, I see this issue from a broader point of view than my personal line. I am of the opinion that from some level on a price is not justifiable any more. Even if there is a potential customer willing to pay that. That's shameless and it goes beyond the border between luxury and decadence. 

    • Marcus,

      You are correct it was your comment that was the last nudge to move this off the ideas board onto the editorial calendar.

      I share your concern, which I tried to convey in the editorial, with the upward spiral especially with new brands. The sky is definitely not the limit and somewhere there is a ceiling where the industry is going to crash upon.

      Mark

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