A to Z Tips for Enjoyable, Affordable and Rewarding Perfume Hobby

“Keep all of your samples!” This was one of the best tips I received when I first started out as a perfumista. If I didn’t like a fragrance, I would be tempted to pass my sample onto someone else. But the more I sampled, the more my tastes kept changing, and I can’t count how many times I’ve revisited a perfume and ended up liking it. What initially seemed liked a harsh note in Chanel Cuir de Russie ended up fascinating me with its dark richness. The effervescent Estee Lauder Pleasures is not something I wear often, but I use it on regular basis to compare against new green florals. As much as I like to keep things simple, having a well-organized library of samples makes exploring perfumes much easier.

So, I need your help. I know that all of you have your own tips on making the most of the perfume hobby.  I thought that it would be fun and helpful to compile a list of our favorite perfume tips and tricks, or the A to Z of perfume advice, if you will!  It can be as lighthearted or as serious as you want.

How does it work: simply select a letter and post your tip in the comments following the format of my examples below, and I will then transfer your tip into the body of the post, along with your name (and a link to your blog, if you have one). You are welcome to duplicate letters. I am very curious to see who will come up with a tip for Z and X!

I will add a link to this post in my Highlights bars on the right, so that you can add your tips even after the thread moves off the main page. You can also email your suggestions to me at editor at boisdejasmin dot com.

A

A is for Always Ask. Sometimes I hesitate to ask a SA if they have any samples, and am pleasantly surprised when they pull one out from a drawer. The worst thing they can say is “no” and give you a withering look–Vanessa

A is for Atomizer. Bring an empty one everytime you go to see the SA that you’ve cultivated (see C for Cultivate). They can fill it with whatever you want, when you think you need more than a sample but less than a bottle of anything–Sassa Swartz

B

B is for Binge. Sometimes perfume binges are unavoidable, but try to pace yourself: it’s about enjoyment after all–Gogol

B is for Blind Buys. They are risky. Sample before buying–Victoria

B is for Book. Never go on a sniffing session without a book to hold and separate your mouillettes/smelling strips–Iodine

B is for Box. Do not mail carded and boxed samples in their packaging. If it’s a glass vial, remove it from the card/box, wrap it in bubble pack and flatten the card/box. If the spray is plastic, just remove it from the card/box and flatten it. Your samples will arrive in perfect condition–Bela

B is for Box. Always keep the box (or other packaging). Keeping the boxes becomes even more important as your perfume collection grows. The box will help protect it from heat and light, two enemies of perfume. Plus, having the complete presentation makes it easier to swap or sell later on. Some of our fragrances may even end up as collectibles down the road, and the boxes could add to their value–Silvia and Minette

B is for Bubble Wrap. Use copious amounts of it, when shipping perfume in swaps, especially bottles–Vanessa

C

C is for Comment. You never know what great suggestions the perfume blog community will offer in response. You might discover a new favorite fragrance, or even make a real-life friend–Elizabeth

C is for Compliments. Do not be shy and compliment a nice perfume when someone wears it. It is a good conversation starter and may lead to finding a friend with the same hobby and a lot of information! People love being complimented on their perfume!–Yulya

C is for Copycat. Never copy a friend’s signature scent. Be your own person. Take the journey to find your own–Cynthia C

C is for Cultivate – as in SA at Nordstrom/Sephora. Find an SA that you like, and buy everything through him/her. Your perfume, makeup, even purses and accessories. There is no end to the free gifts and samples and advance notices that these people can provide for you–Sassa Swartz

D

D is for Dab vs Spray (complementary to Spray vs Dab tip below). I use both. Dab, not spray, when you feel that the fragrance is otherwise overwhelming. Try how it will be dabbed and then decide. Maybe you only need to wear a tiny dab of it for the entire day, and then your sample is your full bottle–Warum

D is for Dark. All perfumes, especially samples, should be kept in a dark place–Olfacta

D is for Decant. A decant is a small amount of perfume transferred to a small vial or a spray atomizer. When you are first starting out, it is best to invest in a few decants, rather than the full size bottles. There are several websites online that sell decants such as The Posh Peasant, Surrender to Chance and The Perfumed Court. Also, decants are useful when traveling, in which case it is best to seal them with tape. NST has a great article on how to decant and where to buy decanting supplies–Bee, Victoria and Mary Beth

D is for Diary. Keep a perfume diary or blog. Writing about what you smell will help you learn but will also help you to remember better–Gogol

D is for Display. Perfume bottles are often beautiful pieces of art in themselves. Display them on a shelf or table in a nice arrangement for both viewing and sniffing pleasure–Diane And also, display your empty perfume bottles. It’s the female equivalent of guys displaying their action-figure collection!–Haefennasiel

D is for Drain those samples. A little pile of empty sample vials is a great indicator of whether a full-bottle purchase is in order–Elizabeth

E

E is for Empty Spray Atomizers. Order a couple of dozen so that you can use them with the vial samples that you get, or use them with your minis–Sassa Swartz

E is for Envelopes. I write the names of perfumes I want to try on the outside of the envelopes. I spray the strips and put in the correct envelope. When I arrive home, I start testing them. If I find one that I like, I go back the next day and generously spray my wrists. If I’m still in love with the fragrance, I go back the next morning, purchase and enjoy!–Cynthia C

E is for Evocative. Sometimes the best way to get started is to start with perfumes that have evocative names–Gogol

E is for Extras. When you arrange a bottle or sample swap, throw in an extra sample or 3. This is just good karma!–Elisa

F

F is for Fridge. Storing your perfume in the fridge will help retain its freshness. I keep reading that perfume should not be exposed to cold temperatures, which is not true. A cool temperature (not freezing cold) is ideal. The French perfume conservatory The Osmotheque stores their wares in a climate controlled environment. The libraries inside the perfume houses are houses in regular fridges. I would only recommend sealing your bottles in a couple of zip-lock bags to prevent your butter smelling like Coco Mademoiselle–Victoria

F is for Friends. Perfume may smell different on you; don’t just buy it just because it smelled gorgeous on your friend–Suleen

F is for Full Bottle – that thing that you always think you need, but rarely do–Sassa Swartz

G

G is for Gender-bending. Don’t assume you won’t like something because it’s marketed to the opposite gender–Elisa

G is for Go hard or go home! If you can’t tell how you feel about a perfume, put more on–Elisa

H

H is for Headache. The worst time to try anything–Mary Beth

H is for Heat. The less, the better!–Olfacta

H is for Hormonal. Changes in your hormone levels can affect how fragrance smells on your skin and on how you perceive smells, so beware the PMT shopping!–Tanya M

H is for Husband’s video game hobby. It doesn’t count higher than your perfume collection!–Victoria

I

I is for I (me).  It is all about how I feel about the perfume, whether I like the smell, whether I get pleasure from sniffing it. Not the brand, not what the friends are liking. I. Maybe it’s pretty obvious, but it took me a while to arrive at this thought–Warum

I is for Inventory. You *must* keep track of what you’ve acquired or you’ll get the same sample over and over, because it always sounds good! Keep the inventory online (I like GoogleDocs) and you can consult it while shopping out in the world–Unseencenser

J

J is for Jargon. It can puzzle you initially and that you soon will master, so you will be able to fully understand what you read on blogs–Annemarie  (Victoria: I’ve compiled a list of fragrance descriptors here: Speaking Perfume: A to Z)

J is for Joy – not the perfume, the feeling. Study, investigate, try, experiment – but spend as much time as you can wearing what brings you joy–Unseencenser. Spread your joy in your hobby around. Write about it, talk about it, express it, be encouraging to others. Live in the moment of your scent and revel in it out loud. Joy is a happy contagion. You never know when your joy in perfume will catch someone else in it’s tendrils–Dervishspin

K

K is for Keep All of Your Samples. Our tastes change the more we are exposed to different scents. It is a good idea to revisit fragrances time to time. This is especially true for classics and complex, rich blends that require a longer courtship from you. Plus, it is so much easier one wallet to have a sample to check one more time before shelling out for a decant or a full bottle–Victoria, Mary Beth and Unseencenser

L

L is for Label samples/decants you make carefully. Make sure labels are readable and protected from the moisture. It is heartbreaking to have a sample of a perfume you like and not know what it is–Undina

L is for Layering. This way you can make use of something you would otherwise find unweareable and get the most of a limited perfume wardrobe–Amer (for instance, check out this guide on layering created by Elle Magazine and perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena)

L is for List. A lists helps a total newbie to get started. List some perfumes you really want to smell. List some that you need smell in order to learn what you are smelling–Gogol

M

M is for Migraine. Some perfumes trigger them–Gogol

M is for Miniatures. If you are a fickle perfume junkie, a nostalgia freak and like the Lilliputian factor, you can find some old classics and mass market juices at online stores (such as www.miniatureperfumeshoppe.com). Great for your handbag, weekend away and building a mini perfume wardrobe to compare–Tanya M

M is for Minimum of sampling or spraying different perfumes when you are trying to choose a perfume. You will get confused about the smells–Suleen

N

N is for Nerd. Feel free to be one!–Silvia

N is for Never say Never. I do regret some samples I have given away, but at the same time it is liberating to be free of the ones you never learn to appreciate, so I am on the fence with the sample retention principle!–Vanessa

N is for No Need to Try/Buy Everything at Once. There are lots of perfumes released each year and lots at the stores and discounters; pace yourself (see B for Binge and P for Pace Yourself for more reminders that it’s best to take it one perfume at a time)–Rosarita

N is for Notes. Teach yourself to distinguish individual notes by smelling every essential oil, absolute and tincture you can get your paws on. Actually, make it a point to smell everything!–Minette

O

O is for Opinion. Yours is as important as that of anybody else. Do not let a negative comment influence you if you like a perfume, and vice versa, don’t be swayed by positive reviews until you test the fragrance thoroughly (see T for Three Times)–Bee and Victoria

O is for Organized. I keep samples organized by fragrance family in those taffeta bags they often come in, but any small bag or container will work–Olfacta

O for Overdose. If you want to make sure whether a fragrance would turn out right on you, before buying, spray it on abundantly–excessively, actually–have a walk and watch how you react–Iodine

P

P is for Pace Yourself. When you first start, the amount of stuff to try can be overwhelming. But even if your sampling budget is tiny, you will eventually get to the point where you’ve got an impressive sample collection–Dionne

P is for Patience. Always sample a fragrance that tempts you on your skin and WAIT. The alcohol needs to evaporate, and the juice needs to warm on your skin – let it bloom and grow and sniff at intervals, then decide if its a keeper–Tanya M

P is for Pleasure. Perfume is the most effortless way to infuse pleasure into your daily life.  Wear what you like and don’t feel pressures to enjoy a fragrance just because others are raving about it (or vice versa)–Victoria

P is for Populist. If possible, skip that snob-phase where you think only the luxe or niche will do. There are beautiful discoveries to be found at every price point–Elizabeth

P is for Pregnancy and Perfume. Try to avoid your favorite perfumes during early pregnancy; you could end up hating them for ever–Suleen

Q

Q is for Quality or Quantity. Do you want to spent your money on stuff you really, really love or do you want to buy and try a lot? Hélas, you will probably opt for both–Annemarie

Q is for Question. Don’t be afraid to question the wisdom of “The Guide”. It’s fun and informative, but don’t assume that if you disagree with a review, the authors must be right and you must be wrong–Denise

Q is for Questions. They are the questions that you always should pose as a beginner (or an expert). Answers can be stupid, but questions never are–Annemarie

R

R is for Read. Read blogs, read messages on online forums, read perfume-related books–Gogol

R is for Reference Cards. Keep reference cards in a box and write them as you sniff along, listing perfumer, year of creation and top/middle/base notes. Over the years they will become a quick and invaluable reference tool–Silvia

R is for Reformulations. When you fall in love with a scent enough to buy an full bottle, if you possibly can, get two. Even classic beauties like get reformated or discontinued–Elizabeth Ann

R is for Rules. Listen to what others have to say, take the best ideas, and then make up your own rules, using what works for YOU as your guide. So what if no one else is doing it the same way? You are unique. Your perfume habit will reflect it–Minette

S

S is for Samples.  Sampling programs and swaps make it easy to try a wide range of scents and make perfume hobby more affordable–Victoria

S is for Seasonal Changes. If you don’t like something in summer, put it away and try it again in winter (and vice versa)–Elisa

S is for Smell on Skin, not Strip. Never commit before trying on skin. Some perfumes smell incredibly different on paper, others quite close–Vanessa Always try a perfume on your own skin before you decide to buy it. Wait at least an hour for it to reveal itself. More time is better. Some suggest waiting until you’ve tried something several times, but I tend to fall in love pretty quickly (or not), so I sometimes break that rule–Minette

S is for Smelling. Train yourself to become aware of and smell everything in your environment. Sniff the air like a wolf or a cat – ask yourself what is on the wind. Perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez (ed: the head perfumer for Rochas Parfums) told me he sometimes gets caught holding odd objects to his nose for a deep sniff, but he doesn’t care. Be like Jean-Michel. It’s fun and insructive–Minette

S is for Splits. Share the cost of a full bottle with one or more friends–Silvia

S is for Spray vs Dab. A perfume can smell different when sprayed versus when touch-applied. I overlooked a lot of good scents when I first started sampling until I learned to transfer my sample vials to a spray atomizer (see E for Empty Spray Atomizers)–Sweetpea

S is for Storage. Proper storage—cool, dark place, outside of direct sunlight–makes your collection lasts longer and remain in good shape–Victoria

T

T is for Talk. Talk to your local perfume salesperson (sometimes they know their stuff, sometimes they don’t); talk with your friends, family about perfume. You’ll learn a lot–Gogol

T is for Three Times. Never buy a fragrance until you haven’t tested it minimum three times on skin, possibly at least once in Overdose (see O for Overdose)–Iodine

T is Travel size bottles. Always get them when you can. They are great for traveling, trying a smell out and simply if you get tired of fragrances and do not wish to end up with the almost full bottles of unwanted scent–Dianna

V

V is for Visit the websites of (smaller) brands to find fantastic and affordable sample offers–Annemarie. Annemarie lives in Europe and likes the samples programmes of brands like Divine, Etat Libre d’Orange, Histoires de Parfums, Juliette has a Gun, LesNez, Memo, Mona di Orio, Olfactive Studio, Parfum d’Empire, Parfums de Rosine and Tauer Perfumes. For instance, Parfum d’Empire offers 13 samples of their whole collection for 16 euros, Histoires des Parfums has 6 samples for 10 euros plus refund if you buy a full bottle, Olfactive Studio offers 3 samples for 4 euros and Mona di Orio sells 7 ml samples/decants for just 8 euro. Those who live in the US, can try Aedes.com and Luckyscent.com sample programs.

U

U is for Undesirable Fragrances/Unwanted Perfume Presents.  I’ve had a few well meant presents that are pleasant in themselves but just didn’t work on me. If they could not be swapped, sold on ebay or given away, I have found a use for them as home fragrances. For instance, they can be sprayed on blotting paper and left in shoes, linen drawers, books, etc. Otherwise, leave in a public place with a post-it note, saying “smell me and take me home” – your random good deed for the day!–Tanya M

U is for Unsniffed. Never buy unsniffed. Don’t rely on the list of notes only, if you don’t want to end up with the scrubber (also see B for Blind Buys)–Bee and Behemot

U is for Unscented. If you are looking to buy completely unscented products, be sure that the label says “scent-free.” Anything else means that it does have a mild perfume added–Victoria

W

W is for Wary at Work. Be careful with fragrance at work, because some people do have awful perfume induced conditions. If you go light, you will be less likely to get into “fragrance free workplace” issues–Warum

W is for Wear What You Like. Don’t worry about what others say or write, trust your own nose–Dionne

W is for Write down the names of what you are smelling on the blotters. Nothing worse than a clutch of anonymous blotters at the bottom of your handbag after a good day’s sniffing–Vanessa

X

X is for Xerox (not exact copies). If you liked a certain fragrance and it has changed, got discontinued or turned out to be too expensive, search the blogosphere for recommendations–Tanya M

X is  for X-rated. Don’t be shy of trying perfumes totally outside your comfort zone. If you are a delicate, spring floral kinda gal go and try something with a hint of earth, animal or leather–you may be pleasantly suprised–Tanya M

X is for Xylophone… if humble pieces of wood can produce melody then humble materials can make good perfume. Don’t be fooled by an extravagant list of ingredients. Follow your nose–Amer

Y

Y is for Year Cycle. Watch the turn of the seasons, note what you like to wear for holidays that mark the Year Cycle (Christmas/Solstice for Winter, MidSummer, fragrances that mark the start of Spring and the Fall for you in the area where you live). Mark your personal year with perfume and you will experience time differently–Warum

Y is for Yearn. Unless it’s a one off chance to buy something, think about it over before handing over the credit card. It will save you money and will ensure you appreciate every purchase to the max–Silvia

Y is for You and Yourself, Your nose and Your reaction, Your smile and Your joy that are Your best guides in the end. Blogs and reviews are there to inform and inspire you. Brands and their campaigns are there to seduce and impress you. Other noses may be more trained or refined, but you have just your own nose and that one will tell you what is right for you–Annemarie.  Trust yourself to know what is right for you. Don’t buy a perfume because it smells great on someone else, or becaue your boyfriend likes it on another woman (especially not because of that!). Only you know what makes your heart flutter and helps you feel more confident–Minette

Z

Z is for Zebra pattern packaging and the likes. It might seem tacky but the contents might be far from it (and vice-versa). Don’t let the bottle dictate your opinion on the juice–Amer

Z is for Zero. Sometimes you need a day with zero perfumes–Gogol

Z is for Zip-lock Bags. Collect them, especially tiny ones (for example, 2″x2″). They make great holders for sample vials. You can organize your vials into categories, for example, and you can see what you have without having to label. Plastic bags can also contain the sillage from powerful scents!–Patty

 

Photography: Big Pleasure Point by grufnik via Flickr, some rights reserved.

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93 Comments

  • Vanessa: A is for “Always Ask”. Sometimes I hesitate to ask a SA if they have any samples, and am pleasantly surprised when they pull one out from a drawer. The worst thing they can say is “no” and give you a withering look.

    B is for “Bubble wrap” – copious amounts of it, when shipping perfume in swaps, especially bottles.

    N is for “Never say Never”. This is in fact “Keep all your samples!” by another letter… : – ) I do regret some samples I have given away, but at the same time it is liberating to be free of the ones you never learn to appreciate, so I am on the fence with the sample retention principle!

    S is also for “Smell on Skin, not Strip”. Never commit before trying on skin. Some perfumes smell incredibly different on paper, others quite close.

    W is for “Write down the names of what you are smelling on the strips”. Nothing worse than a clutch of anonymous blotters at the bottom of your handbag after a good day’s sniffing.

    I could go on – I am sure we will all have lots to say on this! Look forward to seeing the collated data. This is such a fun and useful exercise. : – ) April 2, 2012 at 8:18am Reply

  • Amer: Z is for Zebra pattern packaging and the likes. It might seem tacky but the contents might be far from it (and vice-versa). Don’t let the bottle dictate your opinion on the juice. April 2, 2012 at 8:19am Reply

  • Olfacta: D for Dark — all perfumes, especially samples, should be kept in a dark place.

    H is for Heat — the less, the better!

    O is for Organized — I keep samples organized by fragrance family in those taffeta bags they often come in, but any small bag or container will work. April 2, 2012 at 8:44am Reply

  • Sassa Swartz: C is for Cultivate – as in SA at Nordstrom/Sephora. Find an SA that you like, and buy everything through him/her. Your perfume, makeup, even purses and accessories. There is no end to the free gifts and samples and advance notices that these people can provide for you.

    A is for atomizer – bring an empty one everytime you go to see the SA that you’ve cultivated in letter ‘C’. They can fill it with whatever you want, when you think you need more than a sample but less than a bottle of anything.

    S is for spray – never discount a scent that you haven’t sprayed on your skin.You really can’t tell what it smell likes from a vial.

    E – Empty sample spray atomizers – order a couple of dozen so that you can use them with the vial samples that you get, or use them with your minis.

    F – Full bottle – that thing that you always think you need, but rarely do. April 2, 2012 at 8:51am Reply

  • Amer: L is for Layering. This way you can make use of something you would otherwise find unweareable and get the most of a limited perfume wardrobe. April 2, 2012 at 9:00am Reply

  • suleen: T-try to avoid your favourite perfumes during early pregnancy you could end up hating them for ever.

    F-friends perfume may smell different on you dont just buy it cause it smelled gorgous on her/him.

    M-minimum of sampling or spraying different perfumes when you are trying to choose a perfume you will get confused about the smells April 2, 2012 at 9:09am Reply

  • Gogol: T for Talk. Talk to your local perfume salesperson (sometimes they know their stuff, sometimes they don’t); talk with your friends, family about perfume. You’ll learn a lot.

    D is also for Diary (or W as in Write) – keep a perfume diary or blog. Writing about what you smell will help you learn but will also help you to remember better.

    L for List. A lists helps a total newbie to get started. List some perfumes you really want to smell. List some that you need smell in order to learn what you are smelling.

    M is for Migraine. Some perfumes trigger them.

    R is for Read. Read blogs, read messages on online forums, read perfume-related books.

    E is for Evocative. Sometimes the best way to get started is to start with perfumes that have evocative names.

    B is also for Binge. Sometimes perfume binges are unavoidable, but try to pace yourself: it’s about enjoyment after all.

    Z is for zero. Sometimes you need a day with zero perfumes. April 2, 2012 at 9:10am Reply

  • Anne: B- for Bois de Jasmin. The best perfume blog! April 2, 2012 at 9:43am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Vanessa! So many great and sensible tips. I’m wrapping some bottles in bubble wrap right now, so I’m going to head your advice.

    Are you game to try X? I know that you have it in you. :) April 2, 2012 at 9:58am Reply

  • Victoria: Fantastic! And a great advice. The perfume marketing is so visual, and it is hard not to be influenced by the packaging, but it is often best to smell without prejudice. One doesn’t wear a bottle after all. April 2, 2012 at 9:59am Reply

  • Victoria: I’m impressed with your organization system. I just remember where I keep different samples–not the most sensible way to keeping track of things. April 2, 2012 at 10:02am Reply

  • Victoria: Great ideas! I especially like your F. Yes, we always want full bottles, but most of the time a decant is more than enough.

    Just a clarification on S is for Spray. Do you mean that you should always test on skin or do you mean that a fragrance should be tested sprayed, rather than dabbed? April 2, 2012 at 10:04am Reply

  • Victoria: Another good one! April 2, 2012 at 10:04am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much! My best friend can attest to your first tip–she can’t wear her favorite perfumes anymore, because they are associated with the early pregnancy and morning sickness.
    I’ve changed it from T (trying) to P (pregnancy)–just for clarity. April 2, 2012 at 10:06am Reply

  • Victoria: Great tips! Thank you. A diary was useful to me, and I still keep one. Sometimes jotting down a couple of sentences on each perfume I smell is enough to keep my recollections fresh.

    When you say binge, do you mean buying too much at once or testing too many perfumes at the same time? April 2, 2012 at 10:08am Reply

  • Elisa: E is for Extras. When you arrange a bottle or sample swap, throw in an extra sample or 3. This is just good karma!

    G is for Gender-bending. Don’t assume you won’t like something because it’s marketed to the opposite gender.

    G is for Go hard or go home! If you can’t tell how you feel about a perfume, put more on.

    S is for Seasons change. If you don’t like something in summer, put it away and try it again in winter (and vice versa). April 2, 2012 at 10:12am Reply

  • Victoria: You’re too kind to me, Anne! There are many great blogs out there. I’m just glad to be writing and to share things with all of you here. April 2, 2012 at 10:16am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Elisa! In my swapping days, extras were often such a blessing. It was like receiving an unexpected gift. April 2, 2012 at 10:22am Reply

  • iodine: O for Overdose. If you want to make sure whether a fragrance would turn out right on you, before buying, spray it on abundantly- excessively, actually- have a walk and watch how you react. If it doesn’t make you sick it’s going to be love.
    T for three. Never buy a fragrance until you haven’t tested it MINIMUM three times on skin, possibly as in O (overdose)at least once.

    B for book. Never go on a sniffing session without a book to hold and separate your mouillettes, otherwise you’ll end up as in W! April 2, 2012 at 10:28am Reply

  • sweetpea: I like this post and I’m so busy reading, I haven’t come up with tips to add yet. Did need clarification on “S is for Spray.” I assume it means to transfer a fragrance from those little sample vials with the plastic lid/dipstick they give you at, say, Luckyscent, into a sample-size atomizer so you can spray not dab to apply. If that’s what it means, then the way it’s written is a little unclear unless the reader has encountered this problem themselves.

    Also, wondering why something smells different when sprayed versus when touch-applied. Anyone know? I overlooked a lot of good scents when I first started sampling including Irisss until I learned to transfer to a sample atomizer.

    Anyway, fun and helpful read! April 2, 2012 at 10:32am Reply

  • bee: maybe someone can help with (better) definitions of the following, it is more a list than anything else..
    A – anosmia, the mysterious inability to smell some selected notes
    U – unsniffed buy – don’t
    O – opinion: yours is as important as that of anybody else
    S – sillage, you always notice it when you don’t like it (generally on other people)
    S – scrubbers
    S – skank
    D – decant
    definitions for all abbreviations: FB, SOTD etc. April 2, 2012 at 10:36am Reply

  • elizabeth: C is for Comment. You never know what great suggestions the perfume blog community will offer in response. You might discover a new favorite fragrance, or even make a real-life friend (shout-out to Elisa!).

    D is for Drain those samples. A little pile of empty sample vials is a great indicator of whether a full-bottle purchase is in order.

    P is for Populist. If possible, skip that snob-phase where you think only the luxe or niche will do. There are beautiful discoveries to be found at every price point. April 2, 2012 at 11:48am Reply

  • Cynthia Coker: E-envelopes. I write the names of perfumes I want to try on the outside of the envelopes. I spray the strips and put in the correct envelope. When I arrive home, I start testing them. If I find one that I like, I go back the next day and generously spray my wrists. If I’m still in love with the fragrance, I go back the next morning, purchase and enjoy! April 2, 2012 at 11:59am Reply

  • Dionne: P- Pace yourself. When you first start, the amount of stuff to try can be overwhelming. But even if your sampling budget is tiny, you will eventually get to the point where you’ve got an impressive sample collection.

    W – Wear what you like. Don’t worry about what others say or write, trust your own nose. April 2, 2012 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: Great! Three is my magical number. I wear a perfume on skin at least three times (and often more) whenever I prepare a review, and I also go for the overdose. It’s actually how perfume is tested by most evaluators and perfumers–three generous sprays. You really can get a good understanding of sillage and how it wears on skin this way. April 2, 2012 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, see you came up with one–Spray vs Dab. I’ve added it to the list.

    Spraying covers a bigger area, so as I was just replying to iodine above, it gives you a better sense of how perfume might wear on skin. April 2, 2012 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: I’ve added a few short descriptions to some of these and put them up. Thank you for your ideas. April 2, 2012 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you! I agree, it’s tempting to test niche hoping that every perfume will be good quality, but often it isn’t the case. Best to smell with an open mind. April 2, 2012 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: That’s a great suggestion! The websites that sell blotters sometimes sell the special blotter envelopes, which are so useful for this purpose. However, I still haven’t found a place where you can buy them in small quantities. April 2, 2012 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Dionne. Pace Yourself is a great advice. It’s so hard to resist getting a bunch of samples at once, whereas it’s often best to try a couple of fragrances at the time and learn about one’s tastes before splurging on more. April 2, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Mary Beth: Headache – The worst time to try anything new.

    Electrical tape – a decanter’s best friend for sealing caps.

    Reference scents – those pesky ones you didn’t like for some unknown reason or those you use as benchmarks (your perfect rose or incense or whatever). Also used for the classics.

    Rabbit hole – that dark bottomless pit we’ve all entered. April 2, 2012 at 12:33pm Reply

  • Silvia: Great idea! I am loving all the tips, here we go with some of mine:

    B is for always keep the box: it preserves the perfume from light and makes it easier to swap or sell on.

    N is for be a nerd: it is allowed!

    R is for reference cards: keep them in a box and write them as you sniff along, listing perfumer, year of creation and top/middle/base notes. Over the years they will become a quick and invaluable reference tool.

    S is for split: share the cost of a full bottle with one or more friends.

    Y is for yearn: unless it’s a one off chance to buy something, think about it over and over, it will save you $$s and will ensure you appreciate every purchase to the max. April 2, 2012 at 12:36pm Reply

  • rosarita: This is so much fun to read, thanks for doing this, Victoria! These suggestions are great. Mine is N is for No need to try/buy everything at once. There are lots of perfumes released each year and lots at the stores and discounters; pace yourself. :) April 2, 2012 at 2:02pm Reply

  • Warum: I is the most important letter here. It is all about how I feel about the perfume, whether I like the smell, whether I get pleasure from sniffing it. Not the brand, not what the friends are liking. I. Maybe it’s pretty obvious, but it took me a while to arrive at this thought. April 2, 2012 at 2:37pm Reply

  • behemot: U- unsniffed.
    Never buy unsnifed. Don’t rely on the list of notes only, if you don’t want to end up with the scrubber.
    (Atelier Cologne “Orange Sanguine”, I am looking at you!) April 2, 2012 at 2:39pm Reply

  • Warum: W is for Wary at Work. Go careful at work — some people do have awful perfume induced conditions. If you go light, you will be less likely to get into “fragrance free workplace” issues. April 2, 2012 at 2:39pm Reply

  • Warum: Oh I can see how this happened! (I do have just a sample, but I am looking at the same fragrance) April 2, 2012 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Warum: Y is for Year Cycle. Watch the turn of the seasons, note what you like to wear for holidays that mark the Year Cycle (Christmas/Solstice for Winter, MidSummer, fragrances that mark the start of Spring and the Fall for you in the area where you live). Mark your personal year with perfume and you will experience time differently. April 2, 2012 at 2:44pm Reply

  • Warum: D is for Dab VS Spray. No, this rule is not supposed to contradict the “Spray VS Dab” rule. I use both. Dab, not spray, when you feel that the fragrance is otherwise overwhelming. Try how it will be dabbed and then decide. Maybe you only need to wear a tiny dab of it for the entire day, and then your sample is your full bottle. April 2, 2012 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Patty: Z is for zip-lock bags – collect them, especially tiny ones (for example, a couple inches wide by a couple inches long). They make great holders for sample vials. You can organize your vials into categories, for example, and you can see what you have without having to label. Plastic bags can also contain the sillage from powerful scents! April 2, 2012 at 2:51pm Reply

  • Victoria: The tape is a great advice. Decants can leak, after all. I’ve added it to the decant entry.

    Do you mean that one should keep on hand a little library of reference scents or classics? April 2, 2012 at 3:38pm Reply

  • Victoria: Keeping the box is so helpful! I also found that moving perfumes was much easier, if I had their original boxes on hand. April 2, 2012 at 3:39pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thanks to you and everyone else for sharing your suggestions. I’m enjoying this thread very much. April 2, 2012 at 3:39pm Reply

  • tanya moulding: H for hormonal, changes in your hormone levels can affect how fragrance smells on your skin and on how you perceive smells, so beware the PMT shopping!

    M is for miniatures, ok similar to samples but not quite, if you are a fickle perfume junkie, a nostalgia freak and like the Lilliputian factor, you can find some old classics and mass market juices at online stores (www.miniatureperfumeshoppe.com) Great for your handbag, weekend away and building a mini perfume wardrobe to compare.

    P is for patience. Always sample a fragrance that tempts you on your skin and WAIT. The alcohol needs to evaporate, and the juice needs to warm on your skin – let it bloom and grow and sniff at intervals, then decide if its a keeper.

    U- undesirable fragrances, yes I’ve had a few well meant presents that are pleasant in themselves but just pong on my skin! If you cannot swap, sell on ebay or give away, I have found them to be not as offensive if sprayed on blotting paper and leave them in shoes, linen drawers, books etc. Otherwise, leave in a public place with a post-it note, saying ‘smell me and take me home’ – your random good deed for the day!
    Hi-ooh, lots of great tips…here is my twopennyworth, may be duplications!

    X for x-rated, don’t be shy of trying perfumes totally outside your comfort zone. If you are a delicate, spring floral kinda gal go and try something with a hint of earth, animal or leather – you may be pleasantly suprised.

    Xerox – not exact copies, but if you like a certain fragrance and its changed, discontinued or too expensive search the blogosphere for recommendations. For example the jimmy choo fragrance on my friend reminds me of christian dior’s Dune. April 2, 2012 at 3:57pm Reply

  • Yulya: C is for Compliment. Do not be shy and complement a nice perfume when someone wears it. It is a good conversation starter and may lead to finding a friend with the same hobby and a lot of information! People love being complimented on their perfume! April 2, 2012 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Diane- The Beauty Alchemist: D is for Display. Perfume bottles are often beautiful pieces of art in themselves. Display them on a shelf or table in a nice arrangement for both viewing and sniffing pleasure. April 2, 2012 at 4:57pm Reply

  • Victoria: Seems straightforward, but it’s true. Remembering that it is about pleasing yourself is crucial.

    Thanks for these great suggestions! Added them in. April 2, 2012 at 8:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: I hear you! :)
    Did it turn into a scrubber on you? Or just was disappointing? I have a large decant but still don’t know if I need a full bottle. April 2, 2012 at 8:02pm Reply

  • Bela: B for Box – Do not mail carded and boxed samples in their packaging. If it’s a glass vial, remove it from the card/box, wrap it in bubble pack and flatten the card/box. If the spray is plastic, just remove it from the card/box and flatten it. Your samples will arrive in perfect condition.

    Lots of great suggestions. :-) April 2, 2012 at 8:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: Wow, you’ve filled out the entire alphabet! I think that we’re only missing anything with letters J, Q and V. :) April 2, 2012 at 8:15pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love ziplock bags in general, and I reuse them. It isn’t surprising to find a row of ziplock bags drying in my kitchen. :) April 2, 2012 at 8:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: So many great suggestions! I like your idea to build a library with the miniature bottles. April 2, 2012 at 8:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: What a lovely and thoughtful idea! I always feel great whenever I’m complimented on my perfume. April 2, 2012 at 8:22pm Reply

  • Victoria: I keep only a couple of bottles on display on my dresser, and I rotate, depending on what I feel like wearing. Some of my favorite bottles like Lolita Lempicka are there almost constantly. April 2, 2012 at 8:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: Great tip! I cannot count how many times I’ve received fragrant envelopes filled with glass shards. A piece of bubble wrap goes a long way. April 2, 2012 at 8:24pm Reply

  • Denise: Q is for Question – As in, don’t be afraid to question the wisdom of “The Guide.” It’s fun and informative, but don’t assume that if you disagree with a review, LT and TS must be right and you must be wrong. Some widely respected perfumes and perfumers have been shredded in its pages (Mona di Orio comes to mind), while other perfumes you’ll never like get five stars. Let your own tastes guide you. April 2, 2012 at 11:34pm Reply

  • unseencenser: I is for Inventory – you *must* keep track of what you’ve acquired or you’ll get the same sample over and over – because it always sounds good! Keep the inventory online (I like GoogleDocs) and you can consult it while shopping out in the world.

    J is for joy – not the perfume, the feeling. Study, investigate, try, experiment – but spend as much time as you can wearing what brings you joy.

    And the tip about saving your samples – I don’t know where I read that but I too have found it to be invaluable! April 3, 2012 at 12:09am Reply

  • Haefennasiel: Display your empty perfume bottles. It’s the female equivalent of guys displaying their action-figure collection! ;) April 3, 2012 at 2:16am Reply

  • Annemarie: To complete the alphabet:
    V is for visit the websites of (smaller) brands to find fantastic and affordable sample offers.
    J is for the jargon that can puzzle you initially and that you soon will master, so you will be able to fully understand what you read on blogs like these.
    Q is for questions that you always should pose as a beginner (or an expert). Answers can be stupid, but questions never are.
    Q is for quality or quantity. Do you want to spent your money on stuff you really, really love or do you want to buy and try a lot. Hélas, you will probably opt for ‘both’.

    Maybe redundant but for me very true:
    Y is for you and yourself, your nose and your reaction, your smile and your joy that are your best guides in the end. Blogs and reviews are there to inform and inspire you. Brands and their campaigns are there to seduce and impress you. Other noses may be more trained or refined, but you have just your own nose and that one will tell you what is right for you. April 3, 2012 at 5:11am Reply

  • Amer: X is for xylophone… if humble pieces of wood can produce melody then humble materials can make good perfume. Don’t be fooled by an extravagant list of ingredients. Follow your nose. April 3, 2012 at 5:54am Reply

  • Amer: Very hard advice for me to keep. Sometimes I see bottles so nice that I pray that I’ll like the content so I can have a reason to buy it. I give more chances to win me over to perfumes in great packaging and more chances to dissapoint me to bottles with ugly bottles. Perhaps at some point I will be wise enough to follow my own advice April 3, 2012 at 6:01am Reply

  • dervishspin: Adding to what Unseencenser said about J for Joy: Spread your joy in your hobby around. Write about it, talk about it, express it, be encouraging to others. Live in the moment of your scent and revel in it out loud. Joy is a happy contagion. You never know when your joy in perfume will catch someone else in it’s tendrils. It was Unseencenser who did that for me. April 3, 2012 at 8:53am Reply

  • Victoria: It’s still a good advice to keep in mind. A beautiful packaging can sway me initially into making a purchase, but sometimes it can be very deceptive. April 3, 2012 at 11:56am Reply

  • Victoria: Annemarie, thank you very much. Do you have any of personal favorites for websites that have sample offers? I was going to include Luckyscent, Aedes. Any others? April 3, 2012 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Mary Beth: Victoria, I think it depends on how far you want to take this addiction. I have dregs of several versions of #5 and Jicky for comparison against newer versions. I also keep small samples or decants of scents highlighting a certain note – iris, rose, sandalwood, etc.
    The other sack is darker – the ones everyone is gaga over, but that I can’t make work. It’s so much easier one wallet to have a sample to check one more time before shelling out for a decant. (Yes, oudh, we’re talking about you!) April 3, 2012 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: This makes a lot of sense and is very helpful. I’ve added your comment to “K is for Keep All of Your Samples.” Always good to keep that in mind. Before I started doing that, I’ve repurchased samples more times than I want to admit. April 3, 2012 at 1:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree, it is best to read any review (The Guide or any other) and then go and smell the perfume for yourself. This is what LT and TS suggest in the introduction of their Guide as well. April 3, 2012 at 1:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: Fantastic advice. I love your comment about joy. And your idea of GoogleDocs is great. April 3, 2012 at 1:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love it! :) April 3, 2012 at 1:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, great, helpful ideas. And your last point bears repeating, because our own tastes and opinions are most crucial. April 3, 2012 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: A good one! And such an important piece of advice to keep in mind. A perfume is more than just the sum of its parts. April 3, 2012 at 1:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: And now you can do the same thing! :)
    Added your comment to Unseencenser’s. April 3, 2012 at 1:26pm Reply

  • minette: B – is for the box. you’ll want to keep it, to store your perfume in, especially as your perfume collection grows. The box will help protect it from heat and light, two enemies of perfume.

    N – is for notes. Teach yourself to distinguish individual notes by smelling every essential oil, absolute and tincture you can get your paws on. Actually, make it a point to smell everything!

    S – is for smelling. Train yourself to become aware of and smell everything in your environment. Sniff the air like a wolf or a cat – ask yourself what is on the wind. Jean-Michel Duriez told me he sometimes gets caught holding odd objects to his nose for a deep sniff, but he doesn’t care. Be like Jean-Michel. It’s fun and insructive. April 3, 2012 at 2:45pm Reply

  • minette: Y – is for yourself. Trust yourself to know what is right for you. Don’t buy a perfume because it smells great on someone else, or becaue your boyfriend likes it on another woman (especially not becaue of that!). only you know what makes your heart flutter and helps you feel more confident. wear that.

    S – is also for skin. Always try a perfume on your own skin before you decide to buy it. Wait at least an hour for it to reveal itself. More time is better. Some suggest waiting until you’ve tried something several times, but I tend to fall in love pretty quickly (or not), so I sometimes break that rule.

    R – is for other people’s rules. Listen to what others have to say, take the best ideas, and then make up your own rules, using what works for YOU as your guide. So what if no one else is doing it the same way? You are unique. Your perfume habit will reflect it. April 3, 2012 at 2:52pm Reply

  • unseencenser: Perhaps that should be C for Contagion? ;-) April 3, 2012 at 4:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: :) That’s it! Passion is always contagious. April 3, 2012 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sometimes I know right away if something is going to love or not. Others, it takes longer. But yes, I can’t imagine buying a perfume without testing it on skin. Blotter is such a poor substitute. April 3, 2012 at 4:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: I’ve added your comment on boxes to the other we have already. It’s something worth stressing. I regret tossing boxes for the Guerlain fragrances I bought in the 1990s. April 3, 2012 at 5:14pm Reply

  • Annemarie: Hello Victoria, I like the samples programmes of brands like Divine, Etat Libre d’Orange, Histoires de Parfums, Juliette has a gun, LesNez, Memo, Mona di Orio, Olfactive Studio, Parfum d’Empire, Parfums de Rosine and Tauer Perfumes. E.g. Parfum d’Empire offers 13 samples of their whole collection for 16 euros, Histoires des Parfums has 6 samples for 10 euros plus refund if you buy a full bottle, Olfactive Studio offers 3 samples for 4 euros and Mona di Orio sells 7 ml samples/decants for just 8 euro. Since I live in Europe myself, I’m not sure about shipping to non-European countries.
    (Sorry, nesting comments doesn’t seem to work.) April 4, 2012 at 4:23am Reply

  • Amer: “bottles with ugly bottles”??? Was I drunk when I wrote that? April 4, 2012 at 6:15am Reply

  • Victoria: LOL! No worries, I got what you were trying to say. April 4, 2012 at 10:39am Reply

  • Victoria: Great ideas! I added these to your Visit comment, and I added a couple of my own recommendations.

    Perhaps, others who live in the US can add their favorites as well. April 4, 2012 at 10:42am Reply

  • minette: hi, victoria! your comment made me think of another great reason to hang onto your boxes – some day, some of our fragrances will be collectibles, and the boxes could add to their value. April 4, 2012 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: That's a great point! I recently spotted a complete presentation for Nahema parfum at an antique shop that retailed for a couple of hundred dollars! The bottle was empty. April 4, 2012 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Undina: L is for Label samples/decants you make carefully. Make sure labels are readable and protected from the moisture. It is heartbreaking to have a sample of a perfume you like and not know what it is. April 5, 2012 at 12:17am Reply

  • Victoria: Such a good advice! I didn't always follow it myself–I would just scribble something on the label in a rush, and I always regretted it. Especially if it is a sample kept for reference. I now have a small bag of samples I cannot place. April 5, 2012 at 12:33am Reply

  • Cynthia Coker: C is for copycat. NEVER copy a friend’s signature scent. Be your own person. Take the journey to find your own. April 5, 2012 at 10:51am Reply

  • Undina: Just out of curiosity: why are you keeping them? April 6, 2012 at 2:32am Reply

  • Victoria: I tossed them already. When I was doing my spring cleaning, I separated out the unlabeled samples. Some I was able to name, others I ended up throwing away. April 6, 2012 at 9:24am Reply

  • Elizabeth Ann: When you fall in love with a scent enough to buy an FB, if you possibly can, get two. Even classic beauties like Caron’s Rose get reformated or discontinued. April 10, 2012 at 12:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: Elizabeth Ann, ah, I know, reformulations and discontinuations are so painful. I’ve added your tip under R is for Reformulations. April 10, 2012 at 4:48pm Reply

  • Dianna: T is Travel size bottles – always get them when you can. They are great for traveling, trying a smell out and simply if you get tired of fragrances and do not wish to end up with the almost full bottles of unwanted scent. April 22, 2012 at 9:42pm Reply

  • Basem Khawaja: can you please add me to your e-mail list Thank you

    Basem F. Khawaja R.Ph. June 2, 2012 at 3:50pm Reply

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