On paper, the difference between a fragrance oil and an alcohol-based fragrance is minimal at conception. It’s in the distillation process, however, that things get interesting for the discerning fragrance shopper. The method a perfumer employs to get said fragrance into your hands – whether they use oil or alcohol – is what affects the final result.
Where alcohol-based fragrances tend to be more dramatic, fragrance oils are considered to be closer to the purest expression of the fragrance. If you’re on the hunt for a new fragrance and tossing up between oil or alcohol-based fragrance, it’s worth keeping several considerations in mind and noting that, as with so many things, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy a fragrance.
Alcohol-based fragrances are far more common than their oil-based counterparts - they’re often what you’ll see lining the shelves of department stores in droves. There’s a lot to like about an alcohol-based fragrance, and a well-made fragrance is still capable of producing a sublime experience for the wearer. Their ease of application makes for a more streamlined experience, however, the risk of overdoing it remains high. A ‘one and done’ approach is highly-advisable.
That’s because alcohol sharpens certain elements of the fragrance, bringing forward each note individually. Alcohol-based fragrances tend to be sharper and announce themselves with more gusto. They can also be a little more volatile, so practice caution - avoid rubbing them or mixing with other scents as this can tarnish the fragrance.