Perfume? Cologne? What’s the Difference?

Wondering about that spicy scent you smell? That’s because I just sprayed this:

Looking at this bottle of Exclamation, would you think it was a cologne or perfume (if you didn’t already know)? Maybe you’re thinking, Who cares? or What’s the difference?

So glad you asked the latter.

As you know, synthetic and natural oils and ethanol are what give perfumes and colognes their scent. Perfumes contain a higher amount of oils—about 20 to 30 percent (though some internet articles cited 15 to 30). Colognes (for men and women), however have 2 to 4 percent. And in case you’re wondering, an eau de toilette (a more potent cologne) has 5 to 15 percent while an eau de parfum (a lighter perfume) has 15 to 20 percent.

An eau de toilette spray

Another difference is how long the scent lingers and how far it spreads in the air. Consider the last fragrance you smelled. How potent was it? Very potent, if you could smell it in another room. The smell of perfume can last at least six to eight hours. Some scents last 24 hours. As for distance, I can’t help recalling a small bottle of perfume someone gave me years ago. I used just a tiny bit of it. But the scent filled my apartment, with hints of it lingering three days. Three. Days.

The scent of cologne, however, lasts a couple of hours.

Now, let’s talk about the price of perfumes. Ingredients like rare flowers drive up the price. Marketing and packaging also are factors in pricing. Fragrances like Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel and Mémoire d’une Odeur by Gucci cost well over a hundred dollars—maybe more, depending on where you buy them.


But some perfumes are extremely expensive. Chanel No. 5, one of the most well-known fragrances in the world, has a limited edition version costing $30,000/30.4 oz. We all have that on our nightstand or bathroom shelf don’t we?

Thirty grand is pocket change compared to the cost of Shumukh, which is the world’s most expensive perfume at $1.3 million. Its crystal bottle comes in a case adorned in diamonds (38.55 carats), pearls, and gold. Of course it would.

According to

The his/hers perfume apparently contains hints of sandalwood, musk, Ylang-ylang, Turkish rose, Indian agarwood, musk and patchouli.

Be sure to add that to your Christmas list. It’s on mine.

By the way, Exclamation (pictured above) is a cologne, in case you wondered. You won’t find even one diamond on its bottle. Hours after I began writing this post, ts scent has already dissipated.

Do you have a favorite cologne or perfume? What kind(s) of scent(s) is/are your favorites?

Kitty believes she can pass this off as a fine fragrance—Eau de Gandalf. Surely it is worth a million dollars, she thinks, though I was quick to tell her that no one would believe this Pez dispenser is fine perfume.

Chanel image from Shumukh image from Coco Mademoiselle found at Mémoire d’une Odeur image found at Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau de Toilette Spray found at Other photos by L. Marie.

47 thoughts on “Perfume? Cologne? What’s the Difference?

  1. I’ve wondered about the distinctions among the various kinds of scent. Thanks for researching this. My favorite scent is Hermès Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. It’s light, citrus-y with jasmine and kumquats according to the blurb about it. It’s an eau de toilette.

    • Ooo. Sounds lovely, Ally. When I looked up the fragrance, this line made me giggle: “Jasmine, Watery Notes, Kumquat, Grassy Notes.” Watery notes? Grassy notes? I thought. What does that mean? And then I read the perfumer’s notes: “I remembered the smell of ponds, the smell of jasmine, the smell of wet stones, of plum trees, kumquats, and giant bamboos.” I remember visiting several gardens while in Suzhou. The fragrance sounds lovely.

  2. Interesting post, L. Marie. I never really knew the differences between the two. Funny, just yesterday my co-worker was complaining about someone’s cologne or perfume. She pulled out her air freshener and sprayed and sprayed! I used to wear Coco Channel, but these days, I use body sprays more than perfume.

    • I didn’t know the differences either, Jill, until I researched. So interesting!

      Ha! I remember cubicle life. We were all at the mercy of someone’s cologne or perfume choice. 😀 A little bit goes a looooooonnnngggg way.

  3. I think used cologne once by accident. It was a small vial that my dad got in the mail with a magazine. He never used the stuff, but I was curious. So, I dowsed myself before school when I had a field trip. It was gone by noon and didn’t impress me. Haven’t tried it since then and I don’t really know anyone who uses perfume. Are they really only used before dates or going out on the town?

    • I remember some pungent colognes my dad had. He usually received those on his birthday or Christmas. And he never really used them either.

      Yes, it seems there are limited uses for some in regard to cologne, though I remember some guys in high school and college who splashed it on liberally just as you did. 😀 Drakkar Noir was huge at one point. I loved that one! 😊

      • Yeah they do, probably because some men have been very generous in their use of cheap colognes. 😀 One only needs a tiny bit of an expensive cologne.

        My dad was given lots of aftershaves. But he preferred the smell of Irish Spring soap to any aftershave. 😀

  4. When I was a teenager, sandalwood and patchouli scents were the rage. We were all hippies then and used oils, not perfumes or colognes. I vaguely remember wearing some girlish colognes before my hippie days. Cheap stuff. I think Charlie was the name of one. My first “real” boyfriend wore English Leather. I loved that scent then. If I get a whiff of something similar today, it takes me back a few decades 😉 These days I go for unscented this, unscented that. My sense of smell seems stronger than I’d expect given my age, and I don’t tolerate perfumes or colognes very well. A woman in my office uses some kind of scent … I can smell it before I reach her office and it will linger in a conference room if she’s been there for awhile. The worst is when I’m on a treadmill and a person gets on the one next to me smelling like they just took a shower in Jean Nate (sp?). But then I love the scent of flowers like confederate jasmine and honeysuckle and lilacs. I guess for me the difference is in application. A little dab can go a long way 😏

    • When I was a teen, I used Charlie and some fragrances by Bonne Bell. My dad had English Leather. I still remember the commercials for English Leather and Jean Nate. And let us not forget Brut. 😃 😄 My mom has always loved any fragrance by Estée Lauder.

      With so many open office areas and allergies, I’m guessing pungent perfumes are frowned upon.

      • Oh, yes, in the office environment (or any kind of closed space), scents are usually banned. But I think often the problem is people wear too much scent when (as they used to say) a dab behind the ear is sufficient. Goodness, I forgot about Brut. My brother always got English Leather or Brut for Christmas. I remember Bonne Bell too. 🙂

    • How about ‘Wind Song?’ I used that in High School for a short time and then Love’s Lemon Scent….remember that?
      Actually, in college, I used an oil mix from a friend that never had a name, but man it smelled great and made my pupils dialate…oops…

  5. Fun post, L. Marie.
    I am old enough to remember using Evening in Paris. We (my friends and I) all had little bottles of it, purchased at the local Ben Franklin’s. 🙂 with babysitting money or a wagon load of pop bottles turned in to the local corner store.
    These days, I don’t often wear any fragrance, though on occasion (a wedding, banquet) a spritz of Aerin Gardenia Rattan is lightly sprayed – a spritz in the air for me to walk under. Probably the only thing scented my hair. 🙂 haha
    I wore Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion for years and years. My Tom, my cousin Ted, my nephew Louie – they all loved it and wanted to hug me. Do you suppose it was the strong hint of vanilla that was the attraction?

    • I remember Evening in Paris, Penny. I also remember the commercials for Passion back when Elizabeth Taylor was alive.
      I looked up Aerin Gardenia Rattan. This description came with it: “Gardenia Rattan captures the spirit of summer. Like a breath of sea spray, sparkling wet marine notes envelop the senses, while a gentle blend of white flowers including gardenia, tuberose, and tiare Tahiti exude lush femininity. Amber adds rich texture, like the last warming rays of the perfect summer day.”

  6. I had my candle warmer on yesterday, and the scent filled up the whole house. It was a Yankee Candle, and they named it Sun & Sand. It smells like Coppertone suntan lotion, which is one of my favorite scents. If the company’s goal was to bring back childhood memories of the beach, they’ve succeeded. It lasted for a good 8 hours. Today I can still smell it, but only in the room where I have it.

    I have that exact same bottle of Exclamation on my dresser. The colognes I love are supposedly not made anymore, because they aren’t in stores, but I can find them on the internet. I still use my favorite cologne from highs school, Tatiana (on internet). And, my husband buys one for me on birthdays that he says is expensive and can only be found on the internet called, Layla. This latter one smells like a cleansing rain shower. I love it.

    I haven’t been in the blogging world as much lately, so hope all is well with you.

    • Hi, Lori! I hope you’ll return to the blogging world. Hope your writing is going well too.

      I looked up Laila and found that its “delicate mountain wildflower notes are combined with natural oils to create a clean and fresh scent that invites compliments. Juicy watermelon adds the right amount of sweetness and makes this an excellent perfume for daily wear.” Sound like a fun fragrance!

  7. I got a gift box of Euphoria containing both perfume and cologne + a purse spray and room freshener. My husband says it cost over $100.00, but it will last me years and years.

    No matter that it costs over a million bucks, I wouldn’t wear Shumukh because it has a horrible name. However, I may pry loose the diamonds, pearls, and gold and trot off to the jewelers for decent settings.

    Thanks for explaining the scents. I’ve lain awake at night pondering the difference! (My mother wore Evening in Paris.)

    • So glad to explain, Marian! 😃 If you manage to pry some of the diamonds off the Shumukh case, please share! 😃
      When I looked up Euphoria, I discovered that it “has notes of pomegranate, black violet, black orchid, and mahogany.” Intriguing!

  8. I used to wear Exclamation back when it was first introduced. I’d forgotten about that and it made me smile to think they still made it. I don’t wear scents now, but this is an interesting post.

  9. I enjoy having a ‘scent’ but only in the subtlest of ways…often the cheapest of which is to explore body sprays first before committing to a more pricey cologne or spray mist. I’ve found a knock off from the CVS which I’m liking right now which is not named but ‘INSPIRED by Clinique’s Happy’
    My go-to for decades has been ‘White Musk’ but I’m desperately trying to break that mold!

    • Good advice on the body sprays. Drug stores are good for those bargain priced scents. I remember buying my mom a body spray kit at Walgreens.

      White Musk is very nice. 😄

  10. “Thirty grand is pocket change compared to the cost of Shumukh, which is the world’s most expensive perfume at $1.3 million. Its crystal bottle comes in a case adorned in diamonds (38.55 carats), pearls, and gold. Of course it would.” ~> I didn’t put Shumukh on my Christmas List, I just asked Santa to give me the cash equivalent!

    I rarely use any scents these days ~ I still have a bottle of Chloe around.

    • Good idea, Nancy! That amount of cash would buy a lot of Christmas gifts. 😃
      According to Sephora, Chloe has “a combination of floral powdery notes: hints of peony, lychee, and springtime freesia. The airy, flirtatious head notes drift away to reveal the richer and more sensual side of the rose. The distinctive character of this unique rose is accompanied by magnolia and lily of the valley, as well as subtle intimations of warm amber and elegant cedarwood.”

  11. I used to wear perfume in my youth – cheap stuff usually, like Charlie, no diamond encrusted bottles unfortunately, although I did use Chanel no. 5 whenever funds allowed! But these days I find that every product we use is so scented that they all tend to clash if we’re not careful. My favourite “scent” is actually the shampoo I use – Aveda Shampure – which I love so much that I don’t want anything else to interfere with its aroma… 😀

  12. I have several colognes and maybe some perfumes on my bathroom counter. I think most of them are too old. I wonder how long perfume lasts. I hate to throw them away, and yet, I don’t think they smell as good as they used to.

    • Nicki, I wonder how long they last too. That’s something I didn’t find out in my research. Now I’d like to know. I’ve had a bottle of cologne on my table for years!

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