Counterfeit perfumes - how to smell a fake

CHOICE sniffs out the facts on the counterfeit perfume business.
Learn more
  • Updated:21 Nov 2007

04.Spot the difference

Spot the Davidoff difference

One of these bottles of Cool Water is real and the other is fake. Can you tell which is which? CHOICE couldn’t. The two bottles are nearly Davidoff cool wateridentical apart from some subtle differences.

It wasn’t until both perfumes were sprayed onto cardboard that the big difference became apparent. "The top note is vaguely Cool Water but… it doesn’t last, and it’s sour ..." said Coty’s Managing Director about the counterfeit version.

And the answer? The one on the right is the real Davidoff Cool Water.

Echo Woman

Here is the packing from two bottles of Echo Woman — one real, one fake. Once the packaging has been openEcho womaned, you can immediately see the difference between the two.

The counterfeit perfume sits inside an empty box, while the legitimate perfume is padded with extra packaging — though you wouldn’t be able to check this if the perfume was sealed in cellophane.

Market buyers beware

Vivien from Sydney got less than she bargained for when she bought a prestige perfume from a market stall.

"It was probably about two years ago that I bought a fragrance from the market. The stallholders said it was original when I asked, and it certainly looked legitimate. It was sealed in cellophane and it even had 'Made in France' on it. It really looked quite authentic.

"I was suspicious, of course, because of the price — it was $20 at the market and $100 in the shops, but still I thought, 'it’s worth a try'. But it was really quite obvious when I got home that it wasn’t the right perfume.

"After the first fragrance started to wear off, it had this really bad smell — like cat’s wee! I knew what the perfume should have smelt like and it wasn’t that. I didn’t bother to take it back to the market. I just put it down to experience."

Jargon buster

A fragrance, just like a wine, has different layers: the top, middle and base notes. Here's what they mean:

  • Top note: The first part of the fragrance to hit your nose — the initial 'impact', which is composed of more volatile materials.
  • Middle note: The second part — the 'heart' of the fragrance that defines its character.
  • Base notes: The last part of the fragrance that lingers on the skin, made from lasting materials.

It's also useful to understand the naming conventions for perfume:

  • Eau de Cologne contains 3 to 6% perfume oils.
  • Eau de toilette contains 6 to 15% perfume oils.
  • Eau de parfum contains 15 to 25% perfume oils.

Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.