Many fragrances have been alleged to being identical or extremely similar to certain Creeds, but 1/4 the price. Wishful thinking of course, we'd all like to get the same product for much less. In this case, Mont Blanc Individuel and Creed Original Santal have been often compared to each other, and Joop.
First of all, neither of them are very similar to Joop. I understand that there are superficial similarities (such as maybe the first 20 seconds), but both are superior and different to Joop.
To put it simply, Original Santal is about $1.2 per ml whereas Mont Blanc Individuel is $.4 per ml. That is 1/3 the price. At their respective price point, both are worth getting. Though we are all particular people.
Some similarities and differences
* OS is denser, whereas MBI is more diluted and watery.
* MBI may have more of a lightness to it, but OS is a bit more vibrant whereas MBI is more toned down.
* OS is sweeter, richer and has a more expensive association and feel to it. Compare chocolate mousse vs chocolate pudding. Doesn't mean one is better over the other. Just different.
* OS has greater projection and much greater longevity (10+ hrs), but MBI's projection and longevity (maybe about 6 hours) is still very good - no complaints.
* Both nail the lavendar, sandalwood, cinnamon and vanilla very well.
* OS has a relatively strong ginger note adding to the sweetness whereas MBI has a few light woody/floral notes which very lightly add a sense of maturity and sobriety without AT ALL distracting from the gentle sweet vibe it gives off.
* MBI is somewhat comparable to Rochas Man, except it's less cloying, and the nauseating green notes are gone.
* OS has superior note quality and the notes are easier distinguished. MBI's note quality is still very good.
* MBI has a better opening. It's smooth, it's sure, it's gentle. OS has a chaotic messy loud opening, which still is great for the moments where you have a craving for such a thing.
* The drydown however is a different story. OS is clear, crisp, a bit whereas MBI feels a bit muddled in comparison to OS. In comparison to your average fragrance, MBI nails it quite nicely. But still OS kinda does win there in terms of quality
* With MBI, there are a number of notes in the drydown, but most are harder to detect. With OS, there are only a few, but they are all readily able to be picked out.
* Keep in mind that quality doesn't always equal preference. Some people might prefer to watch a comedy on a small old television over a drama on a 50 inch flat-screen.
* MBI is much more affordable, and yes, it is a better "value for the dollar" and a better choice for the every-man. It's a good fragrance and not just because it's cheap, though the price does make it a bit more appealing.
* You may find OS a bit more cloying or feminine if you are a guy. MBI is more subtle and understated.
In the end, how similar are the two. In relative terms, MBI and OS are quite similar. Mugler Cologne doesn't stand up at all to Original Vetiver. Love&Luck and Unforgivable aren't up to the caliber Millesime Imperial is. Fresco is an embarassment. Al-Rehab Silver is a cruel joke.
MBI and OS definitely are much alike (maybe 40%), but if anyone tells you they are identical, extremely similar or 99% the same, they are either lying to you, exagerrating or their nose isn't working properly. MBI won't replace OS, but it's good enough.
To say the two are the same is unfair to both of them. It undermines Original Santal and the greater depth it has to it. It also undermines MBI. MBI is a very good fragrance in it's own right, worth trying and worth buying for many of you, and it doesn't need to exist in the shadow of OS, an overall different fragrance.
Usually, in these comparisons, the expensive fragrance is better than the cheap one but in this case, the answer isn't as clear-cut and it will depend on personal preference, as they both are different rather than one being a knockoff of the other.
Personally, I prefer Original Santal for it's density, intricate drydown and better note quality, but I will still continue to wear Mont Blanc Individuel for the lightness it has to it and in some occasions, I don't want to smell so sweet.
Price aside, both have their checks and balances so one doesn't make the other obsolete, whereas a relationship like Cool Water vs. Green Irish Tweed, GIT clearly makes CW obsolete.
Those on a budget won't go wrong with Mont Blanc Individuel, but just make sure you know that you aren't getting Original Santal for $30, but instead, you're getting a good (though not amazing) fragrance in it's own right.
People with bigger budgets might want to go with Original Santal, but don't assume that more expensive means better in this case because you might like MBI more.
I would probably give both of them a 4 out of 5, OS being graded as a niche and MBI being graded as a designer.