I'm An Expensive Department Store Perfume Girl But I Just Discovered These Indie Perfumes That Cost Under $11

It was fun receiving a new package in the mail and exploring different blends I’d never risk a full hundo on.
Publish date:
January 23, 2014
perfume, scents, signature scents, indie beauty, etsy

Like a crazy person, I have two Tom Ford Private Blend scents –- Amber Absolute (now discontinued, his new amber scent is Rive d’Ambre) and Tuscan Leather. They cost $210 each, which made me wonder: Who do I think I am, Benedict Cumberbatch’s third-favorite girlfriend? I also have Diptyque’s Tam Dao, which I love for summer. But, really, pig, that’ll do. There’s no way I can justify/afford another department store perfume purchase. I only wear perfume when I leave the house, which is, er, not often (WRITERZ, LOL).

But I still love the romance of perfumes. I love the stories they tell, how they can lift my mood, and how they leave me with sense memories. I’ve been buying a lot of nail polish from small companies on Etsy, which I love because I’m supporting small businesses and getting interesting products fairly cheaply. So I thought: Why not check out indie perfume makers?

Friends, I discovered there are so many Etsy sellers that make their own perfumes. And now I’m obsessed with them. I cannot believe how cheap, nice and beautiful they are. Plus, the cheapest one I’ve found –- a violet-scented solid perfume -– costs just $4. Just one little note: All the fragrances I tested came in very small packages: the oils tended to be in bottles of 5ml or smaller, so the prices reflect this as well.

Here’s what I thought of a few I purchased recently.

“Ginger Milk Tea” and “Campout” perfume oils by Ripe ($10 ea)

Ripe has my favourite packaging of everything I tried. I basically wanted to buy everything in the shop because it looked so purty. Ripe’s handmade perfume oils have enticing names like Black Pomegranate, Dirty Gardenia and Oxford Suede. (They also carry other scented products like colognes and lip balms.) I went with two choices: Ginger Milk Tea and Campout.

Ginger Milk Tea was a sweetly creamy scent that had me craving ginger tea all night long. It smells like what you would imagine you’d get in a nice café owned by Little Bo Peep. I am a spice lover in perfume -– one of my regs is Comme des Garçons 2 –- so this wasn’t spicy enough for me. But if you would like to smell like a fancy teacake, this would fit the bill for sure.

Campout was more my speed. Ripe promised woodsy pine and cedar with hints of sweet marshmallows, and I was not disappointed. Maybe I’m a sucker for a story, but I loved this deep, warm scent based on a beloved outdoor tradition. On me, Campout’s sandalwood notes wafted through every now and then, making it a complex scent that shifts with time.

They recommend that you reapply 2 or 3 times a day, and I think that’s about right if you wanna smell good 24/7.

”67 Chevy Impala”, “Balthazar” and “Castiel” perfume oil bottles by Delightful Rot ($8 ea)

OK, cowgirls. Rein it in right here with a bottle of 67 Chevy Impala ($8). In the bottle, this scent has a distinct rummy smell that says, “IT IS STRAIGHT-UP HOLIDAY TIME, Y’ALL.” Once you drop it on the skin with a little applicator wand, it warms and spices up to a more complicated blend of musk, dirt and leather.

Still, this is actually quite a gentle scent: a good starter for someone interested in the masculine end of the perfume spectrum but finds commercial offerings too pungent or sharp. I’m a big fan of unisex perfumes, and though Delightful Rot stipulates this is a man’s scent, I’m happy to have this one in my collection.

Can I also say that for the STEAL price of $8, I also received samples for two scents called Balthazar and Castiel. WHAT. Delightful Rot’s range of fragrances please the nerd-girl in me. Other blends include Sherlock, Loki and Catwoman. Reow! The bottles themselves look like little apothecary’s vials: very cute.

Balthazar reminded me of my drinking days, with its vanilla and champagne notes. The mystical undertow of sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh makes me think of the guy in the library you want to avoid –- but kind of in a good way? Kind of like Professor Snape. It dries down to a simple vanilla scent, so this should suit cookie-scent lovers. Castiel might be my favorite of the lot. It smells like a clean man who solves mysteries. Okay, it smells like what I think the Jonny Lee Miller version of Sherlock Holmes might smell like. It smells of clean, heavy laundry (the website describes it as “heavy wet clouds and the worn cotton of a khaki trench coat” –- SWOON) with just a touch of mystery. Love it.

These guys lasted around three hours on me too.

“Druid” and “Duskblade” perfume oils by Common Brimstone ($8.37 ea)

Don’t let the name fool you; Common Brimstone’s Druid fragrance isn’t necessarily reminiscent of pagan dancing in the moonlight (I’m not gonna judge, though; do wut you like). It’s actually quite a conventionally pretty wood and amber scent with a dark floral edge that subtly evokes the forest. I love this, but it is also the most muted scent of all the ones I tried. It hasn’t got a sharp, penetrating character on me (keep in mind that perfumes react differently on everyone, so this might not be the case for you), and it also only lasted an hour or so in my application.

Duskblade, with its sharp and spicy plum notes, is nothing like what I usually wear, so it won’t go in my permanents. It does have some leathery notes, but it’s predominantly a fruity floral, which I have never bought before. But it sounded so good and I’m glad I got a chance to try it! What I liked about it was that it smelled kind of like that plum/berry scent that new jelly shoes or cutesy plasticware has. You know when you open up your jellies shoebox and you’re like “AHHHHHH SMELLS SO GOOD AND FUN”? That’s this, so go sick if that’s your thing.

“Violet” solid perfume by daisycakessoap ($4 ea)

OK, I can’t even pretend this isn’t my favourite. Once I got it and sniffed it, I immediately put it in my purse. That’s it. New friends.

This solid perfume is super easy to apply: just like with a tub of lip balm, you can stick your finger in the pot and rub what you got on your pulse points. BAM. I LOVE violet candy, and this smells exactly like a sugared violet. It’s not complex; there are no other notes, but that’s as it should be for this guy. Other girls get really excited when I wear this.

“YUM,” they say, “WHAT’S THAT SMELL.” Their eyes roll back in their heads, etc. So good. Lasts a few hours, and I love putting my finger in that pot anyway (ew, haha).


I really enjoyed exploring the world of indie perfumes. It was fun receiving a new package in the mail and exploring different blends I’d never risk a full hundo on.