In my neighborhood Walgreen's are two shelves of perfumes, bottled plainly, with banners proclaiming things like, "If you like Giorgio, you'll love OdorGrenade!" For Drugstore Week, I decided to tackle one of these fragrances. I passed by the dupes of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, Juicy Couture, and Thierry Mugler Angel and went straight for the InStyle Fragrances "Impression" series for An Impression of Chanel No. 5.
I understand the desire for a deal. Heck, there's nothing I like better than finding a bottle of Guerlain Eau Impériale at Goodwill or getting a Caron half off at a discounter. I can imagine someone looking at a bottle of perfume and saying, "$100? For alcohol and chemicals? Why should I pay for the name when it all smells the same?" It's true that if you simply consider the value of the ingredients in a bottle of perfume, the markup is stupendous. Even factoring in the cost of manufacturing, the bottle, and the payment to the perfumer, someone is making good cash on a perfume that sells well enough to overcome the cost to market it. I guess there's a reason celebrities who profess to hate perfume (despite saying their perfume will be good — a non-perfumey perfume!) hustle to cosmetics companies to plaster their names on bottles.
But how good are these faux perfumes? An Impression of Chanel No. 5 is well named. On smelling it, I bet most people familiar with perfume will think, "This reminds me of something. What is it? Wait, it reminds me of No. 5." But they'll never confuse it with No. 5. The simplest description of No. 5 would be neroli lightened by a tingly rush of aldehydes plus a lovely cocktail of rose and high quality jasmine plus a skin-like drydown of musk and sandalwood. An Impression of No. 5 gets across the idea of rose, jasmine, and sandalwood bathed in a tamer dose of aldehydes that hints at Windex. Then it adds some powdered sugar and something a lot like pineapple.
The divide widens as Impression ages. An Impression of Chanel No. 5 stays fairly linear, shedding its No. 5-like characteristics bit by bit over a few hours to become An Impression of Vanilla-Rose Inflected Sugar. Then the whole thing collapses and vanishes. The real No. 5, on the other hand, stays complex and only gets better as it wears.
In short, an Impression of Chanel No. 5 is exactly what it says it is: an impression. But like holding a real Hermès silk twill scarf in one hand and a street vendor's polyester knockoff in the other, there's a real difference, no matter how many horse bits and chains the print shows. For a ten spot, an "impression" can be yours. Maybe that's all you want. In this case, you'll get what you paid for.
Instyle Fragrances An Impression of Chanel No. 5 is available in 100 ml Spray Cologne.