A couple of months ago, I finally gave you my take on Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540. My reviews for today’s 10+ fragrances are a comparative analysis based on that review, so do have a read. It’ll give you a reference point to get the gist of where I’m coming from. And this might be true even if you already have a bottle of BR540.
BR540 has become one of the most hyped, coveted, and recognizable since its release. It was incredibly unique when it first came out and is also unbelievably versatile – not too male or female, not too sweet, appropriate for many seasons, occasions, and times of day. It’s already easily reached perfume hall of fame status. No wonder, then, that so many have tried to ride the burnt caramel, cotton candy, saffron, ambroxan wave that BR540 started in hopes ultimately of cashing in on its success, no doubt. I’m going to give you a note breakdown for each scent, so as I reminder, here are the deceptively simple notes in BR450:
- saffron, jasmine
- amberwood, ambergris
- fir resin, cedar
One of the qualities of Baccarat Rouge 540 that I deeply value is its beast mode performance. Let me say right now that none of the dupes I’m going to mention, except perhaps for the last two that are clones or “inspirations” rather than dupes, have anywhere close to the projection, sillage, or longevity of BR540. And just that in itself, my friends, makes this spendy perfume worth the indulgence – if your wallet allows. But obviously I have dupes, too, and there are reasons for that that I’ll share later.
I’m going to introduce these alternatives to BR540 in order of least similar to most similar. Some of these fragrances simply consist of the same DNA as BR540, if you will, and then go in their own direction, while others seem to want to be BR540. I did switch up the order a few times because there were different facets of each that constitute the similarities, so I didn’t find this ranking to be the easiest of tasks. I wouldn’t be surprised if you disagree with my placements. Heck, I might change my mind again later on.
However, similarity in smell to BR540 is not enough to make it a viable substitute. Price point and performance are also very important factors, as is the degree to which you like or dislike the point of difference in any given fragrance. Weighing in on all these factors, at the end I’ll give you my top three alternatives. You may never need to buy or repurchase BR540 again. Or will you?
Ooh La Rouge by Christian Seriano
This is the only one that I no longer possess in my collection, but to be honest I only had a sample of it anyway. As you can tell by the name, “Project Runway” TV series winner Seriano was not trying to hide much with this creation launched in 2020. Here are the notes:
- praline, saffron, blood grapefruit,
- jasmine, gardenia, tuberose,
- amberwood, musk
It’s a much more floral version of BR540 that didn’t last long on me. It is also a lighter scent in one way, but at the same time it’s also darker because of the amber note. Honestly, it was tricky for me to rank this one correctly without having access to the juice, and that’s why I mention it first. If you know this fragrance, let me know how you would rank it. Florals are not my favourite, so I didn’t want to place it high. Also, I remember it being a wee bit too sweet. I’m not a fan of the bottle, either, but that’s not a factor here.
Mancera Instant Crush
I love Mancera and sister company Montale’s fragrances for their performance. Instant crush is not as strong as the rest in the Mancera lineup, but it does have some similarities to BR540. It’s very smooth, and like Burberry Her which I’ll mention next, has a fruitier opening. Here are the notes:
- saffron, ginger, Sicilian mandarin and bergamot
- amberwood, Moroccan rose, Egyptian jasmine, Indonesian patchouli leaf,
- Madagascar vanilla, white musk, sandalwood, oakmoss
There are definitely familiar notes in Instant Crush, which is an amber floral launched in 2019. Montale and Mancera use in house perfumers – the sister companies are a family business. This fragrance bears that familiar Mancera and Montale DNA signature, however, so you’ll know it’s not MFK’s work. It’s intoxicating and delicious, metallic and synthetic, woody ambroxan bomb, and that’s why it’s on this list. It’s also much louder and less sophisticated, less beautiful, and less ephemeral. I wouldn’t say no to a full bottle, though.
First is Burberry Her, created by none other than Francis Kurkdjian himself. I guess you could say he duped his own masterpiece work of 2015. Why not! This one is obvious not identical, though. It’s sweeter, fruitier, and more floral than BR540. There are red berries in here, like strawberry and raspberry. It’s yummy, but not a brilliant as BR540. This floral fruity gourmand was launched in 2018 and here are the notes:
- strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, sour cherry, black currant, Mandarin orange, lemon,
- violet, jasmine,
- musk, vanilla, cashmeran, woody notes, oakmoss, amber, patchouli
So yes, it has a few similar notes to BR540, but definitely a berry berry sweet and sour take, and also minus that certain je ne sais quoi that we love about the original. The version I have is a rollerball, which I dislike because the liquid gets clogged up with your body oils.
Cloud by Arianna Grande
In a nutshell, this has more sugar, vanilla, and a coconut note. The performance is poor and I paid more for this than I wanted to. I don’t like this bottle either. Very twee, very juvenile, but I guess this is appropriate for the target market, which I assume is largely very young people. The perfumer of this floral fruity gourmand is Clement Gavarry and the perfume was launched in 2018.
I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Arianna Grande was when this came out. My bigger excuse is living in Japan since the 90s. There is a lot of western pop culture that I do miss out on. It’s easier not to in the age of the Internet, but I don’t choose to keep up with certain trends. I think that is a benefit to having a certain modicum of maturity – I don’t really care. Anyway, here are the notes for Cloud:
- lavender, pear, bergamot,
- whipped cream, praline, coconut, vanilla orchid,
- musk, woody notes
Cloud is now probably one of the first dupes of BR540 that many people think of. When I smell it on others, though, I can usually recognize that coconut note. It’s lovely and creamy, but lacks the sophistication provided by the saffron in BR540. It’s a very girly or teenybopper fragrance to me. That by no means translates into a dislike of this fragrance, though, despite the bottle. There is an intense version out on the market now, which I assume dupes the BR540 Extrait de Parfum, but I could be wrong.
Sunset Riot by Allsaints
Allsaints is supposed to be fashion brand like Banana Republic, Zara, and the like, I suppose, but I was unfamiliar with the brand until being tipped off about this fragrance, Sunset Riot. It was recommended on a blog post I read some years ago, but sadly I cannot recall where. Anyway, I looked up the company and found that they do have a presence in Japan, with several branches in Tokyo and also in some of the bigger cities, but the online versions did not sell fragrance, like Zara does.
Normally I might tend to brush off fashion houses that offer fragrances, but Zara has been killing it recently, and I have also been impressed with Banana Republic, having done a review of their Icon Scents some time ago. Anyway, I procured this bottle and I love the juice it contains. I also really love the juice it contains. To me this more unisex fragrance has the airy, ambery, ambroxan bomb feel of Baccarat Rouge 540 but goes in a different, metallic and minerally direction. It’s got a decidedly urban feeling to it and is not as sweet as BR540 to my nose. I get a little waft of disinfectant in a warmed plastic container, pencil shavings dusted with pink pepper, sea salt, and also that seaside calone note that I usually don’t like, but in this it works very nicely. The ocean vibe I pick up does not show up in the very abbreviated note list, though, so it could be just me, and instead there’s a rose note which I admit I don’t pick up at all – maybe because it’s well-blended:
- amber, cedar, pink pepper, orange blossom, rose
Designer Allsaints currently has at least six fragrances, all of which have the same aesthetic with their presentation. Like BR540, you can see an image through the back of the bottle on the sticky part of the label. This one appears to be some sort of flower. I love the stone or concrete cap on this, the snap sound it makes, the shape of the bottle, the minimalist presentation, and most importantly, the juice the bottle contains. Sunset Riot was released in along with Metal Wave and Incense City in 2018, Leather Skies and Flora Mortis came out in 2019, and 2021 we have Concrete Rain. Interesting names and I would now like to sniff them all if they are anything like this. The nose behind all the fragrances is Gabriela Chelariu (I’m sorry, I might be pronouncing that incorrectly), and it’s likely that all of her concoctions put a new spin on well-loved fragrances already in the market.
This one was very hard for me to get in Japan. I think I went online for it and paid over retail. But it was worth it and I would consider repurchasing this. Good longevity, especially on clothes, but low wattage when it comes to sillage. Does well on clothes.
Private Musk by Swiss Arabian
I’ve already reviewed Private Musk for you in a previous post, and I did not rate it as high as it probably deserved for a couple of reasons. It’s an oil, and I am not a fan of oil-based perfumes. I like to be able to spray on clothing. Although oils last longer on the skin, they typically also have very poor projection. But this oriental musk does share a few notes in common with BR540:
- saffron, orange, jasmine,
- caramel, cotton candy,
- oakmoss, white amber
I’ve come to enjoy this perfume oil a lot more since I reviewed it – perhaps you can see that by the fact that it’s already over a third gone. This one is great for layering under other BR540 dupes. I think it makes them last longer. The actual smell of this differs from the original in that it’s far muskier, softer, and has a Middle Eastern quality to it. While BR540 is unapologetically synthetic smelling, I find think one to be a lot more natural. It’s quite lovely.
Red Temptation by Zara
Although this fragrance came out in 2020, it’s a more recent discovery for me, and actually prompted me to finally put together this video that you’re watching now. I originally bought the 8 or 10 ml size, and the only thing that disappointed me was that it turned out to be a roller ball scents instead of a spray. I went back online and immediately purchased not one but two large bottles. This is the first time I’ve deliberately purchased a backup of any scent, but that might speak to scarcity and price rather than deeply rooted love. When I bought the roller ball, the bigger bottles were sold out, and as a fast fashion brand, I don’t trust that the fragrances will be available for long. And Zara is ultra-affordable, so I readily brought out my credit card, and purchased a few other smellies that I’ll share with you later. Here are the notes in Red Temptation:
- saffron, coriander, bitter orange
- praline, jasmine
- amber, moss, musk
So, yes, this is indeed an obvious dupe. The name is even obvious. Of course, it’s not going to be exactly the same, and for the price, rest assured the differences will be negative. The first difference is that the carrier for the whole fragrance appears to be an equal volume of rubbing alcohol. Not only is the formula weaker, but it’s also very top heavy with an abrasive, metallic alcohol scent. It does calm down, but never sniff this after immediately applying. I also detect a very faint salty marine note in here, but nothing like Sunset Riot. It lack anything remotely close to performance that BR540 possesses, but, if you think of it as a less sophisticated body mist as opposed to a perfume, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed considering how much it costs, which is under 20USD for 80ml.
Tinharé by Le Couvent des Minimes
Tinharé is an amber floral fragrance launched in 2019 via nose Eric Fracapane. It’s an interesting dupe for BR540, as people who smell it on others might be pressed to identify the differences. But when at least I smell it on myself, I am not blown away, but not underwhelmed either. It’s notably less sweet to my nose that BR540 and falls a little flat. The fragrance does to come cheap, either. A few of you may not be familiar with the brand, but you can in fact find it on Amazon, and my local mall sells it. Here are the notes, but I suspect there might be more to it than is listed here:
- woody notes, vanilla, mandarin, jasmine
The “burnt cotton candy” aura of BR40 is there, but you don’t get the shape-shifting quality of BR540. If you don’t want to pay the super exorbitant price for BR540, yet want a higher quality and less synthetic-smelling fragrance than Cloud (minus the sugar and coconut) and don’t mind spending a bit more, this is an option. I rather think this is more similar to Red Temptation than BR540. It has about the same longevity, which is not great. I only rank it higher the the Zara dupe because it’s a little classier, I feel.
Amber Oud Rouge by Al Haramain
Amber Oud Rouge is a marketed as a unisex amber floral and was launched in 2019. As you can see by the notes, it’s got an extremely similar profile:
- saffron, jasmine; ambergris, musk, white cedar extract
This obvious dupe has notable presentation elements that one might perceive as a plus. It comes in a box lined with velvet-like material and there are metal embellishments on both. I think you might be paying for that, though, although the fragrance is not unreasonably priced. This is a middle eastern brand but DNA here is more French, like MFK. I don’t like heavy bottles, but this looks OK, and I plan to use the box to hold bits and bobs in my office.
Amber Oud Rouge is not as powerful as BR540, but I wouldn’t say it doesn’t perform. Al Haramain is generally good that way. The scent itself is seems sharper than 540 to me, and perhaps also earthier and not quite as sweet. Actually, this is more a copy of the extrait version, I feel. This bottle bears a stronger semblance to the extrait de parfum bottle, too. I read on that this fragrance might be discontinued or perhaps it is already. Rumor has it there was cease and desist letter from MFK. Perfume formulations are not copyright protected, by the way – just putting that out there, but branding and trademarking are.
Still you’ll likely be able to pick up a bottle from online discounters, which is where I got mine. Al Haramain has several perfumes with similar presentation in the Amber Oud line which apparently all emulate more expensive perfumes, by the way, so you might want to check that out if you enjoy a good dupe.
Interplay (& Interplay Extrait) by Alexandria Fragrances & Casino Royale (& Casino Royal Nights) by Dua Fragrances
I am grouping these last two together because to me they are just about the same. I have actually purchased and almost used up all four fragrances offerings. Each clone house brand creates the intense version of BK540 in addition to the regular. I think they are pretty excellent clones. Identical to BR540? Perhaps not, but you’d have to be quite the aficionado to identify the differences. If you care a lot about cost and don’t mind the idea of clones, it’s hard to go wrong with these. I wrote in defense of clone houses some time ago, so do check that out if you haven’t already.
Both Dua and Alexandria have updated their packaging, but this is what an older bottle from Alexandria looked like. This particular fragrance is a clone of Frederick Malle’s Portrait of a Lady, which is a very pricy masterpiece. I am content enough with this one. I have decants of the regular and the extrait from each clone house left over, but honestly, I couldn’t tell you which clone house is which. Overall, I prefer Alexandria’s packaging to Dua’s, but what I really appreciate about the Dua brand is that they do something interesting with their clones of top-selling designer and niche houses – they combine them. A while back I had a bottle that combined By the Fireplace with BR540. Sure you could layer those fragrances – the real deals or clones of them, but I loved the idea of having it already masterfully done for me. I depleted the bottle in what seems like a month in retrospect.
The nose behind Interplay from Alexandria is Hany Hafez, and the notes are:
- jasmine, saffron, ambergris, sage, oakmoss, and cedar. So essentially sage rather than fir resin
The nose behind Casino Royal from Dua is Mahsam Raza and the notes are:
- jasmine, saffron, orange, marigold, buchu (or agathosma), cyclamen, ambroxan, oakmoss, Moroccan cedar, ambergris, balsam fir.
If I blind tested these clones side by side with each other, and with BR540 and 540 extrait, No, they would not smell identical to each other. The Dua versions are oilier in texture, a little more almondly, and the marigold is not my favourite element, but honestly, they will be close enough for many fragrance lovers. With so many clones and dupes and the fact that I still a fair amount in my original bottle, and because I have so many other fragrances I want to explore, I very much doubt I’ll be repurchasing my bottle of BR540 when it runs out and instead may settle for a clone. But you know, there is nothing like the real thing.
OK, those are the alternative that I have had the pleasure of sniffing, but please note, there are plenty more out there that I personally have not had a chance to get my nose on. Examples are Rosewood Amor by Banana Republic & In the Stars by Bath & Body Works. These are affordable alternatives that I will try and sniff out when I go back to Canada (Finally! Hopefully we are nearing the end of corona-related travel sanctions now). Another cheap fragrance I know of but have not tried is another Zara fragrance called Night Pour Homme V, with apparently poor longevity, Montale’s Sensual Instinct is said to be similar to Mancera’s Instant Crush. As I said earlier, Montale and Mancera usually have super technical merit, if that’s important to you. There’s also Oud for Greatness by Initio, and I do have a sample of that one. It has a sweet and airy quality, but the wood in here is too oudy for me to put on this list. And Initio fragrances are expensive, as are those from Tiziana Terenzi, which apparently also has a fragrance that bears some semblance to BR540 called Spirito Fiorentino. And finally, I’m certain that many if not most of the clone houses out there like Dua or Alexandria have made their attempts at cloning BR540. Gharaam by Swiss Arabian, Aristocrat by Ajmal, and Federico Mahora (FM) Pure Royal 910 are examples, although you might define then more as dupes than clones. The line can be blurry.
And if you’re interested in exploring “inspiration” options (meaning clone houses), check out this page listing every clone house I know of.
Why all the Dupes?
So why would I have all these dupes, you ask? Well, I started out with a few of them, simply because I didn’t want to spend all that money on the real deal. But I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing like the real thing. What the dupes ARE useful for, however, is giving you something you can douse yourself with guilt-free everyday, without using up your precious bottle of BR540. Instead, you can save the real McCoy for days that are special or at least above average, you know?
The last time I wore this was at a wedding a few months ago. So many complements. I hope I didn’t take away too much attention from the happy couple. Another reason I have all these dupes is shear curiosity. Anything that smells similar to BR540 will likely makes my heart sing, so I’m not adverse to a blind buy to check if the claims are true.
I suppose that buying all these dupes knowing they are not exact matches that are a little different from the original can be compared to buying flankers of scents you’re obsessed with, just to get more variety of that love.
Of course, a final reason for all the dupes, in my case, is so I can share a few of them with you here on YouTube. Certainly, this is why I purchased Red Temptation. But I’m glad this video is just about done now. I’m not necessarily finished hunting down BR540 dupes, but I’ve reached a point where it’s time to cull my collection a wee bit. I plan to use through some of these bottles quickly so I can make some room on my perfume shelves for new discoveries.
My Top Three Dupe Recommendations
So clones aside, you’re waiting to hear my top three from my list of dupes, yes? Well, scratch off anything that starts to get expensive, because then you might as well get the real thing, unless, as I mentioned earlier, you want those little tweaks that add variety. For an all-rounder dupe, I would say Al Haramain’s is worth it. I think it’s the closest-smelling at a reasonable price point. Second, I would get Sunset Riot. It’s different enough to make it its own thing, in a very interesting and pleasing way, and I say that as someone who is not a fan of aquatic scents. I was impressed with this one. Finally, I would go with Zara’ Red Temptation, even though alcohol opening is nasty and the performance is not great (but definitely better than the average Zara fragrance). BUT there is an obvious BR540 vibe and OMG, the price!