10 fragrances under $60

Fragrance News: Don't judge a book by its cover -- or a perfume by its bottle. Fragrance experts single out the best scents under $60 (and explain why "smelling like cheap perfume" isn't the insult it used to be). Read more

Excerpts from a fragrance editorial, Dollars & Scents, in Allure Magazine, April 2013 issue.

#1 - Calvin Klein CK One - $42 (citrus)

CK One, $42 -- This unisex citrus-herbal blend was an enormous hit in the '90s. Today, insiders praise it as "incredible," says scent-designer Dawn Goldworm. "And the perfumers who worked on it, Harry Fremont and Alberto Morillas, are still some of the best in the industry. So many people try to rip off CK One in laundry detergents and niche fragrances." The scent introduced a new kind of citrus note to Americans, says perfumers Francis Kurkdjian. "Prior to CK One, you'd find citrus notes mostly in a cologne, like Acqua di Parma Colonia or Guerlain Eau de Cologne. CK One set up a pattern of fragrances being sexy and fresh, and before that you couldn't imagine those qualities being together.

Calvin Klein ck one perfume
Calvin Klein CK One

1994 - fresh citrus
1.7oz EDT / $40
Acqua di Parma Colonia perfume
Acqua di Parma Colonia

1916 - citrus
1.7oz EDC / $91
Guerlain Imperiale cologne
Guelain Imperiale Cologne

1994 - fresh citrus
3.4oz EDC / $102

#2 - Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy - $37.50 (floral)

Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy, $37.50 -- Dark berries, powdery florals, and amber are the hallmarks of this sexy scent, which Chandler Burr, curator of the department of olfactory art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, calls "absolutely extraordinary." Whatever your feelings about pop music, many of its stars are cranking out superior fragrances, such as Midnight Fantasy, J.Lo Glow (a zesty, clean floral), and Kylie Minogue Darling (sugared fruit). Much of the credit goes to the perfumers behind them, who also created the luxurious Fresh Cannabis Santal and Chloe Love, Chloe.

Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy perfume
Britney Spears
Midnight Fantasy

2007 - floral
1oz EDP / $37.50
Kylie Minogue Darling perfume
Kylie Minogue

2006 - chypre floriental
1.7oz EDP / $52
Jennifer Lopez JLo Glow perfume
Jennifer Lopez
Glow by JLo

2002 - floral
1.7oz EDT / $50
Chloe Love Chloe perfume
Love, Chloe

2010 - floral
1.7oz EDP / $85
Fresh Cannabis Santal perfume
Cannabis Santal

2006 - woody
1oz EDP / $38

#3 - Bath & Body Works Forever Red - $44.50 (fruity floral)

Bath & Body Works Forever Red, $44.50 -- The store known for green-apple body splashes has grown up. This eau de parfum "contains a synthetic material that I love called Rhubofix -- a nuclear-powered rhubarb fruit scent that smells hot and loud," says Chandle Burr. (Others that contain it are Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose and Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, which both cost around $200.) The reality is that synthetic ingredients are not always cheap imposters. "Sometimes the chemical reproduction of a natural scent is more accurate than the ingredient from nature itself," says Kurkdjian.

Bath and Body Works Forever Red perfume
Bath & Body Works
Forever Red

2012 - fruity floral
2.5oz EDP / $44.50
Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose perfume
Hermes Eau de
Pamplemousse Rose

2009 - citrus floral
3.3oz EDC / $125
Aedes de Venustas perfume
Aedes de Venustas
Eau de Parfum

2012 - chypre
3.4oz EDP / $225

#4 - Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps - $34 (white floral)

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps, $34 -- Some fragrances start out pricey only to become less so over time for reasons that have more to do with business than fragrance. Scent designer Dawn Goldworm calls L'Air du Temps (a white floral born in 1948) and Habanita by Molinard (woody, powdery, launched in 1921) "grandmothers in the industry." In the U.S. they're sold at drugstores, but in Europe they're found at department stores. If the smell of Habanita reminds you of baby powder, "it's because Johnson & Johnson was clearly inspired by the fragrance," says Goldworm. There have been more expensive editions of L'Air du Temps -- a 2008 one in black Lalique crystal cost $840 -- but the scent smelled no more luxurious than the one you can get at Walgreens.

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps perfume
Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps

1948 - floral
1oz EDP / $34
Molinard Habanita perfume
Molinard Habanita

2012 - woody chypre
1oz EDP / $59

#5 - Tommy Hilfiger Freedom - $50 (woody)

Tommy Hilfiger Freedom, $50 -- Though it is, strickly speaking, a men's scent, with many of the qualities of a traditional cologne (vetiver, juniper, and sandalwood, plus a bracing salty note), Freedom also has "a bit of orange flower that women are attracted to," says Freedom's perfumer, Marypierre Julien. (It's like that white button-down shirt you snagged for the boy's department: crisp, snug, no frills.) According to perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, the men's aisle can be a fragrance gold mine. Take Old Spice, for example: "It's an American classic, it's very inexpensive, and its spicy-floral signature is very good on certain women," he says.

Tommy Hilfiger Freedom cologne
Tommy Hilfiger Freedom

2012 - woody aromatic
1.7oz EDC / $50
Old Spice cologne
Old Spice Eau de Cologne

1937 - woody fresh
2.5oz EDC / $12

#6 - Kate Walsh Boyfriend - $35 (floral woody)

Kate Walsh Bodyfriend, $35 -- "If it wasn't for the bottle, you could mistake this for a Tom Ford fragrance," Burr says of this musky, seductive vanilla. The thing is, a great perfume "is not just about the quality -- it's about aethetics." But back to the (unfortunate) bottle. "The majority of a perfume's overall cost is in its packaging and marketing," says Kurkdjian. This one has a faux-leather sticker around the neck and names (presumably of boyfriends past) stamped on the back of the bottle. But once you actually spray it, none of that matters. The same goes for the powdery classic Love's Baby Soft: The pink-capped bottle looks like a feminine-hygiene spray. But as Goldworm says, "It still smells relevant today. It doesn't matter that you're buying it in a canister at a pharmacy." Put differently: Screw-top wines have finally gained respect; why not a fragrance with a cheap-looking lid?

Kate Walsh Boyfriend perfume
Kate Walsh Boyfriend

2010 - floral woody
0.5oz EDP / $35
Love's Baby Soft perfume
Dana Classics Love's Baby Soft

1974 - soft floral
1oz EDC / $12.50

#7 - Estee Lauder Youth Dew - $34 (oriental spicy)

Estee Lauder Youth Dew, $34 -- This floriental's sexiness belies its old-fashioned reputation. (As it so happens, Youth-Dew celebrates its sixtieth birthday this year.) And it has that reputation because it was made during a time when floriental perfumes were darker, heavier, and very animalistic. Today, a floriental is considerably lighter all around. At a low dosage, Youth Dew can smell contemporary and edgy, like Comme des Garcons Series 3 Incense Kyoto. And because it's got huge power, a bottle will last you a very long time. As far as how much to apply, Estée Lauder herself liked to spray it in the air and walk through the mist.

Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume
Estee Lauder Youth Dew

1953 - oriental spicy
2.5oz EDP / $34
Comme des Garcons Incense Series 3 perfume
Comme des Garcons Incense Series 3

2002 - oriental woody
1.7oz EDT / $80

#8 - Gorilla Perfume Icon - $59.99 (citrus)

Gorilla Perfume Icon, $59.99 -- Leathery or smoky scents can be tough to do on the cheap; they tend to smell almost vulgar, like beef jerky. But Icon -- with just the right amount of incense for depth and orange blossom for levity -- comes very close to hitting the same mark as superspendy options like Clive Christian V for Women ($405). "If you like dark, expensive-smelling, mysterious, smoky scents, Icon is your perfume -- at a fraction of the price of a luxury scent, with almost, to my nose, no loss in fidelity," says Chandle Burr, curator of the department of olfactory art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. Created by the cult British perfume, Gorilla, it's available in the U.S. at Lush stores.

Gorilla Perfumes Icon perfume
Gorilla Perfumes Icon

2010 - citrus
1oz EDP / $59.99
Clive Christian V perfume
Clive Christian V for Women

2012 - floral chypre
1.7oz Parfum / $405

#9 - Jovan Musk - $20.42 (floral musk)

Jovan Musk, $20.42 -- Though its heyday was in the '70s, this skinlike scent still smells modern. Musk notes get a bad reputation for being animalistic, sweaty, even sleezy. (That could be due in part to the mass production of the ingredient beginning in the '50s, when it was used in everything from laundry detergent to dish soap.) A good synthetic musk (like the one found in Jovan) can smell "very clean," says Goldworm. "It enables all of the ingredients in a perfume to stick together and makes it softer." Adds Kurkdjian, "Jovan also has a floral quality that's very No.5-ish."

Jovan Musk perfume
Jovan Musk for Women

1972 - floral musk
2oz EDC / $20.42
Chanel No. 5 perfume
Chanel No. 5

1921 - floral
1.2oz EDT / $50

#10 - Gloria Vanderbilt Vanderbilt - $15 (floral oriental)

Gloria Vanderbilt Vanderbilt, $15 -- Anderson Cooper's mother was onto something: Her woody, sensual floral with the swan logo "is outstanding and has great sillage," says Kurkdjian. That's perfume-speak for "lingering," which is a significant victory because, like many perfumes, Vanderbilt is made with materials that have a lot of staying power. This one gives the same cinnamon spiciness at the end of the day as it does at the beginning. [Vanderbilt perfumer Sophia Grojsman was inspired by Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue.]

Gloria Vanderbilt perfume
Gloria Vanderbilt

1982 - floral oriental
3.4oz EDT / $15
Guerlain L'Heure Bleue perfume
Guerlain L'Heure Bleue

1912 - floral oriental
2.5oz EDP / $115

Dollars and Scents, Allure April 2013

(Guarnieri, Anne-Marie. "Fragrance News: Dollars & Scents." Allure Apr. 2013: 194-200)

Learn about all the latest perfumes and home fragrances! Perfume Articles