How to Make Perfume Hobby Affordable and More Fun

I sometimes receive comments from people who want to learn more about scents, but are afraid that this hobby is too expensive for them. How could you try all of the fragrances you read about without ending up broke? As with most interests, a perfume hobby can be as expensive or as budget conscious as you want. When I was a student living on a meager stipend, spending even $20 on something non-essential required  major planning. Today, given my family responsibilities, I need to think twice before every perfume purchase, so I’m still very budget conscious.

But the truth is that the joy of discovering perfume is not in amassing dozens of bottles on your dressing table; it’s in smelling and experiencing the pleasure of scents. For this you need not spend a cent.  If you are trying to manage your perfume hobby, let me share a few tips that have helped me learn about scents, understand my perfume tastes and keep within budget.

1. Smell, Smell, Smell

Here is the reason I think that a perfume hobby is probably the most affordable activity–to enjoy scents, you don’t need to buy anything. If you want to sample Chanel No 5, you simply walk into the store and spray it on. Some stores will even give you free samples. Sephora and Nordstrom are particularly renowned for their generous sample programs.

When you smell something for the first time, don’t think about the scent in terms of “like” or “don’t like,” but instead focus on what it evokes for you. Sometimes smelling something that’s not exactly “you” will tell you more about your tastes than staying within your comfort zone. Plus, spraying a perfume on a blotter is a low commitment–you can always throw the blotter away if you don’t like the scent.

2. But Don’t Rush Into Buying

This is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned–when starting your perfume wardrobe you shouldn’t rush into buying. Give yourself a chance to learn about your tastes, because a spontaneous purchase today might turn into something you don’t care about tomorrow. Our tastes change dramatically the more we smell.

I know from personal experience that hearing someone wax poetic about the beauty of a particular perfume makes it hard to resist placing an order. Instead, smell the perfume at one of your local stores. If you see a reviewer talking about an expensive niche perfume, don’t hesitate to ask them to recommend something similar that’s available at the local mall. Nothing is completely new in perfumery. Yes, I might rave about Ann Gérard Cuir de Nacre, but you can try Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum and Hermès Kelly Calèche (available at most department stores) to experience a similar iris-leather interplay in action.

3. Hone Your Nose on Classics

I don’t think that anybody needs to have perfume classics in their wardrobe or that you should even like them. But as you dip your toe into the perfume hobby, smell the classics to learn about perfumes that are considered great. The classics available today are often reformulated. Even so, they were created at a time when perfume budgets were large, so even with the reformulations, the quality is often impressive. Though Chanel has reformulated Chanel No 19, it remains a costly formula, and I know of only a few perfumes on the market that cost as much as No 19 to produce.

Even if your local mall is depressing in terms of perfume offerings, I bet that it has Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Chanel and Dior.  Smell Estée Lauder Youth Dew and even as you find it too thick and heavy, notice how its drydown has a warm, chocolate-like sweetness. Or try Dior’s Eau Sauvage, one of the best fresh citrus scents available today.

Don’t feel obligated to love the classics. Revisit them from time to time to see if you find new facets to enjoy, but if you don’t end up in love with Guerlain’s Mitsouko, there are plenty of other perfumes to discover. For instance, I don’t much care for the grand dame Joy (Jean Patou), but if I want to know what an excellent jasmine smells like, Joy is my top choice.

4. Smell Classics Before Diving Headlong into Niche

Niche perfumes, as opposed to the scents available at department stores, are fascinating. I still remember how exciting it was to discover Annick Goutal, L’Artisan, Serge Lutens and Frédéric Malle. Often, they are a refreshing change from the fruity-floral and gourmand patchouli scents crowding the perfume counters. But in the past ten years, this category has exploded so much that this label doesn’t often promise anything unusual. The only certainty is the high price tag.

Another reason you should smell classics is that many pricey niche perfumes are really nothing but dressed up classical ideas. Bond No 9 Scent of Peace = Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. Tom Ford Private Blend Bois Rouge = Guerlain Habit Rouge. Amouage Gold = Madame Rochas. It doesn’t mean that you should prefer Habit Rouge to Bois Rouge, but smelling classics gives you a more informed way of making your choices.

5. Smell Things Around You

If you are motivated to learn more about scents, smell aromatic things around you–herbs, teas, coffees, chocolate, olive oil, mangoes piled up at the grocery store.  Many perfumers come from a family of fragrance professionals, mostly because they are taught to use their nose at an early age. You may not have an arsenal of essential oils and perfumery materials, but if you can just sniff fruits or spices as you shop, you will not only hone your nose like a professional, you will end up with better produce on your table.

Open your spice cabinet and sniff cinnamon, allspice or vanilla extract. You need not order an expensive sample of Lorenzo Villoresi Piper Nigrum if you have black pepper in your kitchen. Crush the peppercorns and smell the bright top notes. Notice how they smell citrusy and cool. Then sniff them 10 minutes later to notice the woody-smoky nuances.  The scent of spices is as complex as that of any perfume, and most of your favorite fragrances probably use a spice  or two in their formulas.

6. Buy Samples Instead of Full Bottles

If you want to try a perfume or if you’ve discovered a scent that catches your attention, buy samples.  Stores like, Aedes, First-in-Fragrance, SuendhaftThe Posh Peasant, and Surrender to Chance offer a variety of sample programs.  For the price of a couple of movie tickets you can have a selection of several perfumes to enjoy for days, if not weeks.

7. Swap for Samples

Find like-minded people on blogs and forums and swap for samples or split bottles. It’s such a great way to try new perfumes, expand your wardrobe, and, best of all, to meet other perfume lovers. Forums like Basenotes and Makeupalley have swapping options. I’ve received emails from a few of you asking to have a swap option here at Bois de Jasmin, but while I’m still mulling it over, you can swap at NST and Perfume Posse.

8. No Spontaneous Purchases

This tip is tied to #2, but it’s worth repeating. Spontaneous purchases are the most dangerous ones if you are on a budget; often you end up with a bottle of something that’s nice, but not quite what you wanted.  My rule on buying a full bottle is simple–if after two months of wearing my sample on and off, I’m still excited by the scent, I buy a bottle. Otherwise, I keep on sampling. Sometimes I wait even longer. Since I already have a bottle of Serge Lutens Borneo 1834, I gave myself a year to decide if I really needed a bottle of Chanel Coromandel (a similar chocolate-patchouli idea). After a year I was still just as in love with it, so now it sits proudly on my dresser.

Unless you’re into collecting perfume, it makes no sense to buy too much. You can’t wear all of your fragrances often enough if your wardrobe is too large, and perfume doesn’t last forever. On the other hand, the more chances you give yourself to use your nose, the better your scent memory gets and the more you will enjoy simple things around you–a sweet whiff of bonfire smoke that signifies the coming of autumn, the sour tang of maple buds in the spring, the yeasty warmth of bakery exhaust in the middle of a busy city street.  I think that such little discoveries are the best consequences of being perfume obsessed.

What are your tips on keeping within budget? How do you maintain your perfume hobby?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Lucas: Great article and amazing tips on how to try the highest number of perfume without going bankrupt.

    I’m a student now and I also find myself to be extremely budget conscious.

    My way to discover is to take part in bottle splits organized at Polish Perfume Split Board. When something sounds appealing I can sign in for 5 or 10ml of the fragrance (that usually costs less than 15€) or if I just want to try I can join the split for a big 2,5ml sample. It’s so affordable and those 5ml goes a long way, really.

    When I find a scent so appealing that I want to own more of it I organize bottle splits on my own. In this case I always buy the biggest possible size (that lowers the cost per single mililiter) decide how much I want to keep (usually between 30-50mls) and the other mililiters go to other perfume enthusiasts.

    It’s really good for your budget but it’s also spreading a perfume love when you share with others. October 22, 2012 at 7:54am Reply

    • Barbara: Hello, Lucas! I like your perfume budget tips too. I need to find more perfume friends and start splitting bottles. October 22, 2012 at 8:04am Reply

      • Lucas: Hi Barbara! I use the Polish Perfume Split Board because it’s native to Poland so I ship the decants within my country but there’s a group at Facebook called Facebook Fragrance Friends, they split many perfume bottles and log of guys agree to send decants abroad. October 22, 2012 at 9:24am Reply

        • Jack Sullivan: I have never seen the interest of Facebook so far (for myself, I mean: the people who care for me know how to get in touch with me, whenever they choose to do so; and if they choose not to, it’s fine too).
          But mmh, the perspective of participating to perfume splits and swaps…. this really makes me think! October 22, 2012 at 1:12pm Reply

          • Lucas: Jack, you can always join Facebook just for this one purpose only. Or search deeply through the websites and you might get lucky to find something similar to my Polish Perfume Split Board. October 22, 2012 at 1:44pm Reply

            • Jack Sullivan: Well, as long as I can join under an alias, I just might do it, Lucas… I live in France and would not mind shipping overseas or splitting full bottles if I could find people ready to do the same! October 23, 2012 at 3:01am Reply

              • Lucas: Poland is close to France so I personally wouldn’t have any problems sending a perfume decant to you. October 23, 2012 at 1:45pm Reply

                • Jack Sullivan: Same here, Lucas! By the way, I’m on Facebook now so start thinking about a list of perfumes you would like to get from/share with me 😉 October 24, 2012 at 3:39am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s such a great plan, Lucas! I’m not into collecting perfume bottles, so I don’t mind having decants. The only thing is that I have to make sure that they are sealed well. I’ve noticed that a few of my decants have evaporated, because of a poor seal. October 22, 2012 at 9:56am Reply

      • Lucas: My thought on perfume bottles is that I want to own a bottle only of those perfume that I love, those that I “only” like can be in decants. People at Polish Perfume Split Board mastered sealing to perfection. We all use parafilm, rubber tape and a lot of bubble wrap. So far I had no leaks, no glass breaks. October 22, 2012 at 1:46pm Reply

        • Jack Sullivan: Being a lab rat too, I can get all sorts of tubes, disposable pipettes and wraps. Having mastered the art of bringing back liquid samples in my checked-in luggage will come in handy 🙂
          (oh boy, making plans already, and I’m not registered on FB yet!…) October 23, 2012 at 3:12am Reply

        • Giselle: can I join too?! this is so great! I live in the Netherlands 🙂 September 7, 2015 at 2:58pm Reply

  • Barbara: What an awesome article! I’m totally with you on Number 2. I wish I wouldn’t have purchased a huge bottle of Casmir before I discovered that I don’t like strong foody vanilla. October 22, 2012 at 8:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Barbara, I hear you, and I speak from my own experience here. This goes into my collection of “things I wish I knew before.” I’m surprised how much my tastes have changed once I started smelling more, so some perfumes I thought I liked, I didn’t end up enjoying even a month later. October 22, 2012 at 9:55am Reply

  • Anna Minis: Even as a child I was always smelling at everything; my parents were often laughing seeing me sniffing. So it is not surprising that I am fond of perfumes. I buy in order to smell, and I buy full bottles (have a good adress in the grey market). I smell a lot in the shops before buying. Buying samples would be wiser–but (don’t laugh) I never pay anything online. I simply don’t dare it. I never buy more than I can afford, and I enjoy my collection very much. I wear almost every perfume, they go around. My perfumes last for years, I have a little dark and cool room for them. Niche perfumes is another story. Fortunately, ”Skins” in Amsterdam is generous with samples. Perhaps all this is not so interesting for others, but I rememember your reaction on buying too much when I complained a little on the cost of Sous le Vent! So I want to justify myself more or less(sorry!). October 22, 2012 at 8:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like a sensible plan! Everyone has their own limitations and needs, and it’s not like there are any rules on how many bottles are too many or too few.

      (by the way, I went back and looked at my comment to you about Sous le Vent, and I definitely wasn’t reacting to anything you said, only shared what I need to do to manage my budget. So, please don’t apologize. As I said to you before it sounds like your plan is very good.) October 22, 2012 at 9:53am Reply

    • Annie: Anna,
      Don’t apologize . . . it sounds like you have a great method that works well for you, which may be useful to others! October 22, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

  • Marika: I’m a perfume newbie, and this post is exactly what I need. I’m so overwhelmed. Where do I start, what I smell, what is essential for me to try? We have Chanel, Lauder and all the usual suspects, maybe I start there.

    I love your photos too. What are those pink berries in the 3rd photo from the top? October 22, 2012 at 8:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Marika, I’m so glad to hear that it was helpful. I started out my perfume journey when I lived in a town with very limited perfume shopping, so I just smelled Chanels, Lauders, Lancomes. It was so enjoyable and a good learning experience too.

      The pink berries are the pink peppercorns. They smell citrusy and violet-like, very good crushed with some salt and sprinkled on seafood. October 22, 2012 at 10:11am Reply

  • Jenna: I’m pleased to see Coriandre in one of your photos. Is that a old or a modern bottle? It used to be my favourite but I’m scared that it might have been reformulated. October 22, 2012 at 8:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m afraid I don’t know the new version, Jenna, but Robin over at NST commented that it was changed. This mini must be about 15 years old at this point! It still smells very good though. The modern perfumes turn quicker than these great vintages. October 22, 2012 at 10:08am Reply

  • Natasha: I love your photos, V!

    I stay within my budget by making a plan. Usually I try not to buy more than 5 bottles a year. I know that it sounds very little, but I don’t have much storage space and my collection already includes 32 bottles.

    I like your philosophy of smelling for the sake of smelling. Can’t wait to get home and crush me some peppercorns. 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 9:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Natasha! 5 bottles a year sounds like a great plan. My current average is 1-2 for my personal perfume wardrobe, which I try to keep small. Otherwise, choosing a scent to wear becomes too hard. 🙂

      Freshly crushed peppercorns smell so wonderful. The top note is similar to what you find in incense, so no wonder pepper and incense work so well together in perfumes. October 22, 2012 at 10:07am Reply

      • Natasha: What is that cute little thing holding the blotters? Where would one buy something like this? October 22, 2012 at 10:18am Reply

        • Victoria: That’s just a little blotter holder. I usually use the note holders that you get from Staples, but this one is best for traveling because it’s small. I must have gotten it at work. October 22, 2012 at 11:51am Reply

      • Nancy Jackelen: I would love to know where to find the following fragrances TWIN or close duplication: (all are not produced any longer; I adore the fragrance )Chanel 22(owner body cream and perfume ), Escada(the original ), JeRevien by Worth(loved the body cream and cologne)..Tiane’ by Nettie Rosenstein…

        I have researched to no avail …I save perfume empty perfume bottles and wondering unique way to display?

        Thank you and look forward to hearing back …how to stay in touch with this site?? Grateful (visited Grasse France and almost lost it for being in my element )…love fragrance! March 31, 2020 at 4:30pm Reply

  • Leah: Excellent recommendations. Whenever I visit a store, I make it a point to leave the house scentless so that I can wear a perfume from the store’s selection commitment free for a day. I agree that it is of the utmost importance to try before you buy, especially if you are not yet confident in your tastes. I have many jars full of Nordstrom samples alone, they are top notch in that respect. I also find that developing a relationship with a particular SA is key. I always buy from the same people and they are often very generous with samples as a result. I keep a running list of what I want to own and that also keeps me focused. As far as the classics go, perhaps if enough of us band together, they will be un-reformulated! October 22, 2012 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I think that blind buys are so tricky, but if I trust a reviewer, they can work. For instance, The Perfume Guide is responsible for more blind buys than I care to admit, but all of them turned out to work for me. October 22, 2012 at 10:05am Reply

      • cyndee: I do not know what The Perfume Guide is. Is it a site or a book? Since finding you I have purchased a group of samples and am loving opening them up and trying different fragrances. I now know why so many write about L’heur Blue. I enjoyed having it on all day long. October 22, 2012 at 10:44am Reply

      • Leah: Oh, how thoughtless of me! One may absolutely come to trust a reviewer, as evidenced by all of your followers! I read several blogs but there are very few that I know I will agree with. I know I am safe here, and tend to have very similar likes and dislikes. October 22, 2012 at 11:12am Reply

        • Victoria: Leah, oh, not at all! I know exactly what you mean, because it took me a while to figure out what blind purchase would be safe and which one wouldn’t be. None of us like exactly the same thing, but it’s fun to see who ends up as my perfume twin or the opposite. For instance, based on reading Jillie’s comments, I can tell that we have similar tastes. October 22, 2012 at 11:50am Reply

  • smellslikeroses: Fun post! I try to live by #7 and #8, but *blushing* I just bought a bottle of Prada Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger. Unplanned but I fell in love. 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 9:45am Reply

    • Victoria: It happens! Love is beyond reason. 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 10:02am Reply

  • Patt: Great article, Victoria! I especially relate to #6. I’ve called a moratorium on full bottles, and am only buying large decants of my favorites (usually 8 ml.). As Lucas said above, these decants can last quite a long time. If and when I drain it, then I consider buying a full bottle. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. I bought a FB of the lovely Seville a l’Aube shortly after sampling a tiny vial and haven’t regretted it for a moment 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 9:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Patt! I agree with you and Lucas, a decant can last for a surprisingly long time. If you rotate among several perfumes, you don’t drain them too quickly.

      Seville a l’Aube is gorgeous. I’m considering to make an exception for it as well. 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 10:01am Reply

  • pomusthafa: fantastic article. now i wanted to know how to blend or mix to make woody oriental perfumes
    thanku October 22, 2012 at 9:53am Reply

    • Victoria: That would require a book, not a post! You can start by blending vanilla, sandalwood, amber, rose and some citrus to give a fresh top note. October 22, 2012 at 9:58am Reply

  • Jan Last: Excellent topic! I went totally overboard on a few bottles of fall themed scents, then reigned myself in. I purchased sets of minis in Chanel, Dior and Bvlgari so I have a reference as I read the posts here. Then you mentioned Luckyscents and I was able to get a “wardrobe” of testers for very little money. I tried EBay, and in one case, for 9.00 invested in a “lot” of perfumes, I ended up with an EDP of Joy, in good shape and a fdew others. The other “lot” I purchased was trash, you win some, you lose some. My next big purchase will be Serge Lutens Mandarin Mandarin, but I can wait. October 22, 2012 at 10:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Jan, congratulations! $9 for Joy EDP in good shape is a fantastic deal. Ebay can be hit or miss, but it’s a great place to go hunting for minis. I used to buy minis from the discount perfume stores in New York, and most of them were in good form. Makes it easy to have a little reference library of scents on hands and stay within budget. October 22, 2012 at 10:14am Reply

  • Jillie: Really informative and useful advice, V, thank you!

    When I met my husband (a loooong time ago) he would never even have thought of wearing a fragrance. But under my teaching, he has developed a really good nose and now has nearly as many bottles as I do.

    It really is a case of training your nose to smell isn’t it? Not just actual perfumes, but everything in life. As you say, the mangoes in the market, the smell of bread baking, the grass being cut; even the ink and paper of a magazine or the fog seeping through the house (we’ve got a lot of that at the moment, and it has smelt different each day). The more you make a conscious effort to sniff, the more you learn! October 22, 2012 at 10:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Our husbands sound very similar in terms of their perfume exposure pre- and post-marriage. 🙂 Mine can identify a few scents really well, even better than me. He can pick out orange blossom and cardamom even if they are hardly present.

      Right now there is such a nice nutty scent of fallen leaves in the air. Makes me want to have something like this in a perfume bottle. October 22, 2012 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: This afternoon I found the november issue of ”Red” with Victoria’s article, amongst other things on this subject. A pleasure to read, compliments on this article, Victoria! October 22, 2012 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Anna! I’m so happy that you’ve enjoyed it. 🙂 The topic of enjoying perfume is so vast really and it’s really fun to write about. October 22, 2012 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Charlotte: Love this post! My perfume addiction were Slowly lurking up on me , to finally blow up in My face 2012 , resulting in my bad economy getting worse, but brought with it positive things aswell, since I had to quit smoking to afford it 🙂
    With the bonus that my sense of smell is better then ever! October 22, 2012 at 11:31am Reply

    • Victoria: Hurray! Quitting smoking to afford perfume is the best possible upshot of a fragrance hobby. I’m so happy for you.

      Did your perfume tastes change or did your sense of smell simply get more acute? October 22, 2012 at 12:08pm Reply

      • Charlotte: I image some fumes are more flowery Than I remembered them, but i dont Know if thats My mind playing tricks on me, since Ive never spent so much time picking Out notes like I do now.. But over all in everyday life I definetly pock upp smells easier, for good and bad ! October 22, 2012 at 3:26pm Reply

        • Charlotte: Would actually make sense since Im now craving denser spicier stuff. October 22, 2012 at 3:30pm Reply

          • Victoria: I also crave spicier, denser perfumes in the fall. I’m wearing Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu right now, and usually I find it too much. But on a cool, crisp day, it’s just right.

            Either way, sounds like your perfume hobby led to some great and healthy new habits. 🙂 October 23, 2012 at 5:21am Reply

  • Nina Z: My additional suggestion is that you tell your friends and relatives that you are interested in old and unloved bottles of perfume they may have. You’ll be surprised at what people may give you. You may end up with a vintage treasure or discontinued perfume you never heard of (someone gave me KL, which I’d never heard of, but which I turned out to love) or a mainstream fragrance you don’t like but which you can use for swapping. October 22, 2012 at 11:59am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a great suggestion! Thank you for adding it, Nina. The bottle of Beautiful in the photo above came from a friend who got it as an unwanted gift. I was very happy to take it off her hands. October 22, 2012 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Lyng: Great advice, Victoria 🙂

    After a year and a half of intensive smelling my ‘to buy-list’ is considerably shorter than my ‘bottles I’d like to pass on-list’. I love trying new perfumes but I guess I have developed a firm idea about my taste by now. I’ve also learned that certain notes don’t suit me – incense turns sour – and that there are notes I’m just not that fond of – roses tend to bore me, cinnamon belong in cakes – which makes it easier to navigate. Mini bottles are a great way to explore older scents – and some have prevented me from purchasing full bottles of perfume I eventually would have tired of. October 22, 2012 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Lyng! “Cinnamon belong in cakes” made me smile, because that’s what my little cousin said when she smelled Serge Lutens Rousse (cinnamon heavy) on me. 🙂

      Anyway, aren’t mini bottles fantastic? As long as you get them inexpensively, they are a great way to learn classics. Sometimes Ebay sellers offer lots of several minis for pennies. October 22, 2012 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Delilah: I realise this is a very old post now but I have been eagerly reading a couple of pages of this wonderful website each night since I came across it and just read your comment “cinnamon belongs in cakes” – I used to adore the smell of cinnamon but recently started working somewhere where the sanitary bins in the toilets (for discarding of used “feminine hygiene products”) are strongly and heavily scented with cinnamon, presumably to mask any unpleasant odours escaping…unfortunately this means that at present my mind is associating cinnamon with “that time of month” and has put me right off cinnamon scents and flavours for the moment. I hope my brain breaks this connection, as actually I do like cinnamon….

      On a (sort of) related note (and not sure if anyone will ever read this now) do other women find there are certain perfumes they can or cannot wear at certain times of their cycle? November 12, 2013 at 6:26pm Reply

      • Victoria: Glad that you like it here! 🙂
        Yes, it sometimes happens to me that some perfumes don’t work. Since most women’s sense of smell is much more acute at certain periods of their cycles, you just might be more sensitive to strong scents. November 13, 2013 at 12:15pm Reply

  • rosarita: This is a wonderful post, so full of helpful information, and the comments are great! I don’t have much to contribute to what’s already been said, but will add that discontinued perfumes that are readily available online but no longer found in dept. stores are often a goldmine of hidden gems. Researching fragrance at Basenotes, Fragrantica and blogs like this one is a good way to start. Many samples of scents that aren’t *popular* any longer but less expensive and more available than niche (and sometimes better) can be found at,, ebay and esp. through swapping. I own few bottles but many decants and samples and most of these came through swapping and sharing on makeupalley. I’m a fan of minis, too; nice amount of scent and the pretty bottle besides. Finally, I have found that tinted screw top vials (I use 8ml) have worked best in terms of perfume preservation and ease of application when swapping, but I prefer to dab rather than spray most of the time. Sorry this is so long, I guess I had more to say than I thought! October 22, 2012 at 12:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, please don’t apologize! There are so many helpful tips here. Thank you for your thoughts.

      I also prefer tinted vials for my decants or samples. They definitely keep longer! October 22, 2012 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Dionne: This is an excellent list, Victoria. For a long time my own finances were pretty tight, which meant I “rappelled” down the rabbit hole. Even now I’m careful, and I enjoy the nickname that Tara gave to my approach: Slow perfume.

    For a long time my sampling budget was $30 a month, and my perfume bottles were bought for Christmas, my birthday and Mother’s Day. And even though that sounds slow, I can attest that after a while, it still adds up, you just have to have patience (difficult, I know).

    What I like most about this list are the recommendations like “smell Madame Rochas to understand Amouage Gold.” I wish there were more lists like this, as I find it really helpful. Not necessarily smell-alikes, but just things that are similar. October 22, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Dionne, sometimes pacing yourself is even better, because you take time to live with a perfume and wear your sample longer. And your example proves how much you can smell on that budget and how complete of a collection you can have.

      And thank you for an idea. I will keep it in mind. October 22, 2012 at 2:43pm Reply

  • George: Probably the best tip I would give anyone is that a lot of perfumes smell very similar, and you don’t really need to own every oriental/iris based scent/cologne/white floral/vetiver, and you’ll probably be best spending the money on the one you really like best, having sampled as many as you can. So identifying fragrance groups from a blog such as yours and then having well-written reviews to read that enable you make an informed choice is probably the best way for someone to research the subject so that they spend as little as possible but still end up with a good, varied and enjoyable collection. October 22, 2012 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: The choices can be so overwhelming, and I agree with you, sooner or later you discover how many perfumes smell similar. If one is trying to keep within a limited budget, smelling a lot at first and then making a purchasing decision is so much better than buying several things at once. If I had my way back when I started out my perfume journey, I would end up with 5 bottles of identical tuberose perfumes! 🙂

      It’s so much fun to read all of the comments here, because there are so great ideas on managing budget and keeping a varied collection. October 22, 2012 at 2:41pm Reply

      • bluegardenia: That’s exactly what happened to me! I have full bottles of tuberose soliflores from practically every niche house, plus the mainstreams like Fragile and Blonde. There’s no way I could spray this much tuberose in a lifetime. But in a way it’s good because I can wear a different scent every day and people always think I smell like me! October 27, 2012 at 4:31am Reply

  • Apollonia: I appreciate this post, Victoria, and the photos are beautiful! I especially love seeing the gorgeous blue Angel bottle. It never occurred to me (until I read here) that it repulses some people because I just adore the aroma of Angel! Maybe an idea for a future post could be, “Blind Fragrance Buys and How They Turned Out” because thanks to Bois de Jasmin I have purchased quite a few full bottles of perfume before sniffing! I’ll bet others have, too! Ciao! October 22, 2012 at 1:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: That would be fun! I don’t wear Angel as often these days, although now that I’ve pulled that cute mini, I might be tempted. But I tell you, whenever I do wear it, I get compliments on it from strangers in the street (at least, I did back in NYC!) 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 2:30pm Reply

      • bluegardenia: Ha! Oh boy. I thank God on a daily basis that the streets of new york aren’t filled with women wearing Angel like they were in 90s. That scent still makes me nauseous 🙂 October 27, 2012 at 4:28am Reply

  • Claudia: I looked at your 5 star recommendations last spring before starting to order decants from The Perfumed Court. It was a great starting point! I look forward to this blog every morning! October 22, 2012 at 1:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Claudia! I hope that some of those purchases were successful. 🙂 October 22, 2012 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Merlynn Diana Edelstein: Great topic, and helpful article too! I have to put in though that even if some perfumes have similar notes i can still LOVE one and dislike the other. For instance I like Bottega Veneta, but dislike Kelly Caleche. I haven’t tried (don’t have access to) Cuir de Nacre but I love Cuir Ottoman (which is also an iris/leather). Its very difficult to tell by way of notes what perfume I would like and what I wouldn’t, with the exception of white florals like tuberose which I do usually dislike. Also I’m surprised that The Guide has been an infallible guide for you: I bought Vanillia because it was on sale, and it seemed sort-of-nice, and it got a good rating in the guide. Now I find it metallic and much too sweet. Also, like others I would question the rating of Tommy Girl and more definitely Secretions Exquisite. That being said – that book pretty much gave rise to my entire obsession; it was just so entertaining and got me all desperate to smell the different scents. October 22, 2012 at 1:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad that you brought up the notes, because it’s true, they are not reliable references. In my example though, even if you don’t like Kelly Caleche in the end, it remains a good example of how iris and leather work together. The other elements in the composition would set the tone overall. For instance, I love Bottega Veneta, but Kelly Caleche leaves me indifferent. It dries down too cold and aloof for my tastes, whereas BV is soft and velvety.

      As for the Perfume Guide, it isn’t an infallible reference in a sense that I agree with every single ranking. But those blind buys I made based on reviews that caught my attention turned out be to be great. Maybe, I was just lucky. October 22, 2012 at 2:28pm Reply

      • Merlynn Diana Edelstein: I doubt it was just luck! When one has a LOT more experience (than I have) one is probably able to conjure up a reasonably accurate idea of the scent from a description. Also you already had some idea of what kind of scent was liable to appeal to you. I, on the other hand, could be very much swayed by a positive description such that a scent I would ordinarily not much like could, for a brief spell (pun intended) become suddenly attractive!

        Your analysis pretty much sums up what it is that I found off-putting with Kelly Caleche. And yet, I do like certain cool and aloof perfumes, like infusion d’ Iris EDP. So its not the cool-aloofness per se, In K Cleche, but something about the tone, or particular quality that that cool-aloofness takes. It all becomes so frustratingly complex! October 22, 2012 at 4:53pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re right, the perfumery is complex and the same notes depending on how you balance them can give you a completely different effect. For instance, you can create rose or lily of the valley or jasmine out of the same materials! But while it may be complex and frustrating, it’s also what makes perfume so engrossing and fascinating.

          Btw, I like Infusion d’Iris too. It feels warmer and softer to me than Kelly Caleche. It has indoles, vanilla, musk to tone and wrap the cool notes, whereas Kelly Caleche really feels cold and sharp throughout. I admire KC, but I really can’t get myself to wear it. October 23, 2012 at 5:29am Reply

          • Merlynn Diana Edelstein: Its funny: Kelley Caleche smells just like someone I would never be able to like; and I don’t know quite how to put that in more objective terms! The same goes for Chloe Love! And then, while like Chloe Love, Baiseur Vole is meant to be a veil like delicate frag, I adore B.V. It would just be impossible for me to ever buy blind; and just as well cos I make enough mistakes not-blind! October 23, 2012 at 11:06am Reply

  • rosiegreen: This is a great post. I wish I had followed some of your recommendations when I first started out in perfume, though a few of my blind buys came in handy as presents for my nieces.

    I also like the section where you recommend smelling the classics. I would love to see what ‘smell alikes’ you might recommend.

    Also, to Merlynn- Vanilia is discontinued so you may be able to find a good home for it. October 22, 2012 at 3:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Rosie, my unloved perfumes always find a great home, so it’s not a big loss in the end, but it’s so easy to go overboard. 🙂

      As for smell-alikes, you have Jacomo Silence = Chanel No 19, Versace Blonde = Fracas. There are many more, I just need to think about it a little. October 23, 2012 at 5:52am Reply

  • Rose D: There are plenty of (reliable) e-tailers that have big discounts on designer and niche lines. That is how I ended up with 4 Armani Privé and a gorgeous Eau d´Hadrien gift set.

    Buying refills is another way of lowering the price of niche fragrances; as long as you do not mind owning a simpler-looking bottle.

    I am also a fan of the classics, some of which are of an excellent quality and much more affordable than new launches (I have found great deals for Youth Dew, Diva, Rumba, Je Reviens, Rochas Femme, Bal a Versailles….)

    The best part is: being thrifty here makes it possible for me to keep my beloved Chanel collection! October 22, 2012 at 3:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Refills is a great way to go! For instance, some Angel bottles (larger sizes) can be refilled, which is fantastic. October 23, 2012 at 5:53am Reply

  • Civava: Great article and good advice. I wish I had read somthing like this when I was newbie in perfumeland.
    I prefer buying samples just because I realized during testing so many different perfumes, that my tase became demanding. Very rarely I find something worth buying a full bottle. And even then I wait for some time and let my enthusiasm cool down. I did buy some perfumes blindly but so far this was not such a great idea. October 22, 2012 at 3:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve rushed into buying on some occasions, and later I realized what a mistake that was, because suddenly I had a bunch of bottles but nothing that felt right. Yes, taking it easy and wearing the sample or two is so much better. This helps you figure out if you’re really in love or just infatuated. And it saves lots of money and energy too. 🙂 October 23, 2012 at 5:56am Reply

  • fleurdelys: “..the joy of discovering perfume is not in amassing dozens of bottles on your dressing table…” Wait a minute, it’s NOT?!?!?

    LOL, just kidding. However, even with the best will in the world, it’s hard not to end up with quite a few bottles once we slip down into the perfume rabbit hole. Fortunately, I’ve acquired several bottles through Perfume Posse’s Swapmania, for only the price of postage. Another great opportunity to try fragrances is through drawings. Many generous bloggers have frequent drawings; you may end up with anything from a sample-size vial to a full bottle for free. So keep reading the blogs! October 22, 2012 at 4:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 And then if you have to move, you realize that it’s a huge headache. And perfume takes up a lot of space. I’ve given some of my vintages to the Osmotheque at one point, keeping just a little sample behind for reference. It makes me feel better that they might have a better use there, rather than sitting in my closet. October 23, 2012 at 5:59am Reply

  • Eleni: Thanks for a great article, especially for someone new to the world of perfume, like me! Some of the points I had worked out already, but it never occurred to me that I go past the “like/dislike” and look for (or maybe smell?) what the perfume evokes. I will try to do that from now on. October 22, 2012 at 4:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome, Eleni! I mention thinking about something other than “like/dislike”, because early on we just don’t know our tastes enough. It’s better just to smell with an open mind and think of images rather than smells. I used to think that I disliked patchouli, and now you will find so many perfumes with patchouli in my regular wardrobe–Chanel Coromandel, Lutens Borneo 1834, L’Artisan Patchouli Patch. I don’t like patchouli when it’s too sugary, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t like this note at all. October 23, 2012 at 6:02am Reply

  • Andy: Great article—you can bet I agree on number 5! I may get strange looks or comments (no matter how discreet I make sure to be) due to my tendency to smell all kinds of things around me, but it’s worth it. I used to think that one needed to be be born with a “good nose” to have the skill to be a perfumer, but increasingly it seems to me that we all have such ability, and that the key lies in honing one’s sense of smell properly. It never ceases to amaze me how much I can learn from my nose—without spending a cent! October 22, 2012 at 4:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Andy, thank you! Yes, smelling all the time is what the perfumers do to put it very simply. And even those perfumers who don’t come from the perfumery backgrounds have used their nose one way or another. For instance, Loc Dong’s grandfather was a traditional herbalist, and Dong helped him measure out herbs and make infusions. Sophia Grojsman was enlisted by her mother to be her taster from a very young age. It’s true that your strongest scent memories are shaped when you’re young, but anyone can improve their sense of smell and their memory. And they say that smelling holds Alzheimer’s disease at bay. October 23, 2012 at 6:08am Reply

  • Austenfan: You know this post is 4 years late!
    No, seriously thanks for summing up some strategies to keep the “bottlegreed” at bay.
    Funnily enough my blind buys have all been really successful, excepting my bottle of Le Dix, which I don’t like.
    As my collection is expanding I find that my buys are slowing down, and becoming better matched. Having sniffed more, you know what will work a lot better.
    Unfortunately I don’t really like testing perfume from samples, I don’t know why. I will order them though because for me it is often the only option to smell the rarer brands. October 22, 2012 at 4:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t like dabbing from a sample vial either, especially if I review something and want to make sure that I describe the sillage and tenacity correctly (a dab vs spray can make a huge difference.) So, I have tiny spray vials on hand for transferring my samples. If I wear something for pleasure, it’s less relevant, but I still prefer spraying. October 23, 2012 at 6:09am Reply

      • Austenfan: Would you know of a seller in Europe selling spray vials and the like? I know of American ones but the shipping cost is quite important plus one usually has to pay import duties. Thanks! October 23, 2012 at 3:48pm Reply

        • Victoria: I will ask Denyse, because I know that she orders them from a store in either France or Austria. October 24, 2012 at 6:41am Reply

          • Austenfan: Thank you, that would be a great help! October 24, 2012 at 3:41pm Reply

            • Victoria: So, Denyse mentioned that she buys decanting bottles from Oskar Karla in Vienna. October 26, 2012 at 5:02am Reply

              • Austenfan: Thank you!!! I don’t know where to find emoticons but I am really very grateful for this. October 26, 2012 at 2:36pm Reply

  • Debbie: I don’t have any great tips on staying within a tight budget with scents (having just bought two bottles of the soon-to-be-retired TF Amber Absolute) but it’s more a way of justifying the spend. When you think how much money people typically spend on a hobby, be it sports, cars, art, for example, I don’t feel too bad about spending on something I’m passionate about. A vintage bottle of wine is enjoyable for as long as it takes to drink it but a perfume can still be enjoyed 20 years after purchase along with all the emotions and memories it stirs up.

    I also quite enjoy the Russian roulette thrill of a blind purchase, especially with all the great discounting sites around. And if it comes to the worst you can always use up scents you don’t love as room and laundry fresheners. October 22, 2012 at 4:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a good point, Debbie. One shouldn’t feel guilty about their passion, whatever hobby we are talking about. October 23, 2012 at 6:12am Reply

  • Esperanza: Loved your article, Victoria and advice not to buy a perfume too quickly. Which classics would you consider musts to scent if someone is starting to get acquainted with perfume ? October 22, 2012 at 5:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: I have a series of article here about different fragrances that are references for particular types of scents. It’s organized by fragrance types (florals, orientals, etc.) October 23, 2012 at 6:15am Reply

      • Esperanza: Thank you, Victoria, due to your article I am focusing more on decants and samples.

        Will read your link ! October 23, 2012 at 6:27pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 It will pay off in the long run. I used to buy full bottles too quickly, and you know, out of those early buys, I’ve ended up swapping nearly all of them away. Wish I would have purchased samples instead. October 24, 2012 at 6:42am Reply

  • Maureen: It’s so interesting that you posted this today. Just this afternoon I was thinking about fragrance boards/blogs and those of us who are ‘involved’ with fragrance (because, at least for me, it is a romance of sorts). I was trying to separate whether fragrance was about ‘consuming’ or ‘enjoying’. I think there are times when I get too caught up in ‘the next full bottle purchase’, or the ‘next new fragrance’, and I forget to enjoy the art and nuance and beauty of fragrance for it’s own sake. In fact, I was thinking about Bois De Jasmin and thinking that you, Victoria, remind me–because you are express so clearly the emotional impact that fragrances of all kinds (including spices, smoke, lemons etc.) have on your world–that the enjoying is the part that matters, not the ‘acquiring’. I have gotten much, much better over the years about sampling and deciding and then purchasing, but I still spend more than my budget really allows.

    Today’s post has been very, very helpful. In particular, #8. You sample for two months–that’s fantastic! I think I always feel I must ‘decide’ within a week or two. I am always afraid something wonderful will ‘slip away’ if I wait too long.

    I’m rarely so candid, particularly on a public forum, but today I will be and I will say ‘thanks’ for all the tips, and for truly *loving* fragrance and sharing it with all of us the way you do! October 22, 2012 at 6:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Maureen! I recently moved and during the first few month I didn’t have any of my perfumes with me other than a few favorite decants and some samples. I didn’t miss my collection at all (other than when I really needed to smell something for work!) I don’t feel naked with a scent either, and I happily go for days during a vacation without any perfume. That can be good for the nose too.

      Don’t worry about something slipping away, especially if it’s a new launch perfume! Sometimes you realize upon some reflection that you can happily live without a perfume you thought you wanted. 🙂 And instead, you discover something even better. October 23, 2012 at 6:20am Reply

  • solanace: I’m another fan of decants. They are such a great way of wearing top notch perfumes without compromising one’s budget. And I think the general idea is so democratic, being able to buy Frederic Malle and Amouage from my home, in a popular neighborhood in a developing country, where there is no Lauder or even Lancome at the mall! October 22, 2012 at 6:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: Decants are great–you can have a varied collection and keep solvent. 🙂 And they are great for traveling. October 23, 2012 at 6:22am Reply

      • Patt: Yes, you can fit a lot of small decants into that quart-sized ziplock bag! October 23, 2012 at 11:52am Reply

  • Ariadne: Indie Scents is a GREAT sample site and they ship globally.
    I agree eBay and fragrance are other inexpensive ways to collect and learn.
    I am not new to perfume but new to experiencing it in a new and different way. My method now is to smell, read, smell, read, etc.
    I do buy Bulgari perfumes, smell “unseen” though, in the discount stores. I have never been disappointed in Bulgari. October 22, 2012 at 7:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that once you know your tastes better, your blind buys become more spot-on. And I like your method. 🙂 October 23, 2012 at 6:23am Reply

  • Suzy Q: Thank you for a terrific post. I wish I’d read it when I started this perfume journey four years ago. This will be a must-read for all newbies. October 22, 2012 at 8:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Suzy, I’m glad that it’s helpful! 🙂 October 23, 2012 at 6:24am Reply

  • kuri: Well said! That’s advice that I need to remember when I’m tempted to buy a full bottle.

    And you’re so right about the everyday scents; I’m really enjoying the sweet osmanthus flowering in Japan now – a gorgeous fragrance! My walk home is filled with it. October 23, 2012 at 2:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, that’s such a beautiful scent! I would trade a bottle of Serge Lutens for being able to experience blooming osmanthus in the air on my walk home. October 23, 2012 at 6:25am Reply

  • Ferris: I sample a lot via lucky scent, fragrancenet and /or visiting my local department store. I love smelling so many wonderful and not so pleasant things. It is a pure joy. I try my sample on and if I love it, it might end up on my dresser; otherwise it is a perfume purchase fatale that I have avoided at the lowest possible cost. It takes me a while to warm up to a fragrance with multiple wearings and different seasons/ weather to see if its the right one for me. That’s how I came to love two great ones from Bond No 9, New York Oud and Wall Street. It took about 9 months for me to come around on these two. Now, I can’t be without them October 23, 2012 at 4:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Your comment about wearing a perfume in different seasons is a great one. For instance, some of my favorites like Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu, which I mentioned earlier, works so much better in the cooler months or on a cool summer evening. In the heat, it’s too thick and heavy, but on a cool day, it’s perfect. October 23, 2012 at 6:27am Reply

  • Bellatrix: Great tips! October 23, 2012 at 1:04pm Reply

  • k8pierro: What a timely post, for just tonight I was cataloging my recently acquired vintage purchases and thinking “yeesh!” when I tallied the price. Some were fragrances beloved since childhood that I wanted to possess as close to their remembered glory as I could get, but others were blind purchases based on both extensive research and hunches. Most I will wear and share, but there are some I could have lived without. Do I regret it? Not exactly, although I do recall wishing I had found Surrender to Chance and the Perfumed Court before eBay. I agree that samples and sampling in person are the way to go, and certainly the way I will go when I am ready to delve more seriously into niche fragrances.

    Victoria, I commend your wonderful blog and beautiful writing. I know I can trust your reviews, for you are one of the only people I know besides me who can appreciate Nuit de Noel, a difficult perfume for a 21st century nose. I admire the range of your taste, infused as it is with both a knowledge of perfumery and a heartfelt love for all things fragrant. Bravo! October 23, 2012 at 11:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much!
      Sometimes limitations make one more creative. I really think that if I had access to all of the niche perfumes I wanted, I would not have been pushed to explore Macy’s more and then I would have missed out on discovering other interesting perfumes. I can live without L’Artisan Premier Figuier, but I can’t say the same about Estee Lauder Private Collection (one of my favorites from EL).

      Sounds like you already had a good start on sampling. Even with the best intentions, one
      can’t help falling for some scents that aren’t quite it in the end. Well, there is always Ebay or swapping. October 24, 2012 at 6:52am Reply

  • Jennifer: I definitely go for the sample strategy. I would definitely prefer spray samples, but I’ll take what I can get. Though on my last sample binge at LuckyScent, I could’ve bought a full bottle of something with the amount I spent just on samples. But then I would’ve only had one thing rather than lots of new scents to try. I have a few small decants from The Perfumed Court on the way too (the clearance section sucked me in..ha). I rarely make blind purchases, but it can happen. I blind-bought Laura Tonatto Plaisir because it was on clearance and was pretty well reviewed. I’m not swooning over it, but I do like it, and it does scratch a particular vanilla itch every once in a while. But a decant probably would’ve done just fine, even if the bottle was half price. I think I will probably stick with buying decants or minis for the most part unless I just absolutely, totally love something (or if a full bottle can be had for a good price). October 24, 2012 at 2:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I recently had to toss a couple of perfumes that have turned, so yes, I’m with you. Unless I love something, I only get a decant. October 24, 2012 at 6:57am Reply

      • bluegardenia: Oh this terrifies me. A couple years ago I had to buy 10 full bottles of my favorite perfume when it was discontinued, and I’m constantly afraid they will turn. Do you have any tips to preserve them for as long as possible? I’ll be heartbroken in a few years if I open a bottle and it’s gone bad 🙁 October 27, 2012 at 4:12am Reply

    • Emily: I also prefer spray samples (bless Sephora and Nordstrom for providing them!) I’ve been totally mistaken when dabbing scents and later spraying (see: vast swaths of Guerlain), so I invest in tiny empty spray bottles (and pipettes to fill them) for when I can only shell out for a non-spray (or when commercial samples are packaged without sprays). I keep a bit in the original tube for later reference, because I’m a nerd that way.

      I’ve also started experimenting with cleaning some of the used ones by filling them with rubbing alcohol and spraying them dry to clear the works, then again with distilled water. That part’s a bit risky, of course…. October 24, 2012 at 5:27pm Reply

  • Ann-Sofie: Thanks for this post! Amazingly excellent. I hope you write a book someday. I will buy it. October 25, 2012 at 6:06am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Ann-Sofie! October 26, 2012 at 5:03am Reply

  • Stacey: This is such a great post for those starting out, or even those like me, who just need a reminder to keep things in check. It’s very timely that I see the post today since this past week I did some rearranging of my perfume shelf (yes, that is what I do in my downtime every few months) and was thinking of just how many bottles I own that I could really do with just making a decant and selling/swapping the bottle. I’m also planning a cross-country move in the next 4 months so the need to pare down is very big right now.

    When I started out seriously getting into and collecting perfume about 6 years ago, I went buying crazy. I desperately wanted to swap, but it took me some time to acquire perfumes that were niche or high end enough to get people to swap their good stuff with me. I also attribute it to being in my early 20s and not having as much discipline. Also, I was finding so many good deals on Ebay for partial bottles for $20-25 of well-reviewed scents, that it seemed silly to pass those up. I am grateful for the scents I’ve found that way, but it has also led to needless spending and an overwhelming collection. Anyway, that is the biggest thing I wish I had realized-just to take it slow and not feel the need to have and smell everything at once! October 25, 2012 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: I know how it feels in the beginning when you really want to smell everything at once and to buy it all, but it is also possible to burn out (and overspend!) Taking it slow when it comes to buying is better.
      And I agree with you on swapping. It’s not at the top of my list for that reason. You have to have a decent collection to begin with. I think that the best outcome of swapping though is meeting different people. October 26, 2012 at 5:01am Reply

  • Sarah Patton: Hello, just spent an enjoyable hour browsing through your posts! It had been a while… I recently moved to Europe (Geneva) from the U.S. And I really miss my samples/decants from The Perfumed Court and other places. Were you able to identify any European sources for decants for the above reader? I followed one link in your original post but site was all in German. I speak French! But no German. I would be grateful for any tips for ordering perfume online here in Europe. Thank you! October 25, 2012 at 1:24pm Reply

    • Ann-Sofie: Hi Sarah,
      You can still order samples from US – I live in Sweden and bought samples several times from SurrenderToChance. There is also a reliable German webshop, First in Fragrance, where you can order samples as well as FB (their website is bilangual in German and English). Their samples are quite small and a bit expensive, but they have a lot of niche perfumes. But all in all, the shipping cost will be higher of course, but as far as I know, you could continue ordering samples and decants from the same stores you are used to – they ship worldwide. October 26, 2012 at 3:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Sarah, as a recent expat myself, I can relate. 🙂 I still buy samples from Luckyscent, and the shipping is only a dollar or two more than what I paid in the US. Does your computer has an automatic google translation feature built in? That should be useful to translate that German website.
      Surrender to Chance also has reasonable shipping rates, and the packages arrive quickly.

      Denyse mentioned that she buys decanting bottles from Oskar Karla in Vienna, but those are just empty bottles that you would want to fill with perfumes of your choice. October 26, 2012 at 4:55am Reply

  • hajusuuri: Unless I missed it in the comments, another tip to stay within budget but have access to new perfumes is to participate in the random draws / giveaways that many perfume blogs offer. Of course it is possible that one may not win at all, but if you don’t try, there is zero chance of winning! October 25, 2012 at 10:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a great tip, thank you! for mentioning it. Definitely worthwhile to participate! October 26, 2012 at 5:03am Reply

  • bluegardenia: I love this post, and I’m not even on a budget! I don’t spend much money in general and as a result I tend to have extra to spend on perfume when I want it – but what you are saying about spices and fruits, I’ve found so true. Smelling ripe strawberries and fresh basil and black pepper crushed up, these are pleasures in life as great as any bottle of chemicals whipped up by a huge lab (not that I have anything against chemicals and labs).
    Thank you for articulating this important and often unspoken perspective! October 27, 2012 at 4:07am Reply

  • ange: i’m a newbie. well, i consider myself. most perfumes from the pass were gifts or stuff i won. of late, i’ve been craving for a really good scent. chocolate to be exact! the shelves here are just filled with sickly sweet florals and it’s driving me nuts! i have been going through a lot of the posts here and marking down all the perfumes you gave 5 stars Victoria, and i’m hoping to get my hands on samples soon to start exploring!!! however, i’m in malaysia and most online sites tend to not send packages overseas but i’ve found some that do. one thing though, the more i read, and the more i smell has successfully confused me!!! and it’s giving me a headache!!! 😛
    but i really love your blog! just wanted to say thank u!!! November 2, 2012 at 4:08am Reply

  • Allspice: Frangrance and me, we go waaay back … since when, as a girl, I could smell my mother’s fragrance on the stairwell half an hour after she had left the house, or returned. She was convinced I was borrowing her fragrance, but in fact it took me one time of smelling a fragrance to remember it. Of course those were the days of few, big and memorable fragrances. Nowadays I am not so accurate, considering the plethora of fragrances. For some types, such as the barbe a papa gourmands, I’d rather forget …

    The nutty smell of autumn is my second favorite after the smell of the sea. I am still yearning after the light, fragrant ginger veil of Lancome’s Miracle, the year it was launched. Warmer autumn days make me reach for light and sunny spicy fragrances. Ginger, mandarin, kumquat, quince (would LOVE a quince) plum, baked apples, vanilla. Keep the musc and the oud for winter. Sadly, I know few such creations. Miracle – the old formula – was great. I’d like a lighter, less sweet Dolce Vita. Right now I’m wearing L’Instant Magic which works magic on me. November 7, 2012 at 4:48pm Reply

  • Kimberly Kennedy: How I now can have the most expensive fragrances, for only a few dollars. I am a complete Perfumeaholic. I will never be able to use all my perfume. What I now do is I purchase little empty roll on bottles from Ebay, I also have bought clear Jojoba oil. I add the perfume samples I buy to the Jojoba oil, which absorbs the scent (tripleing the amount of perfume). Yes I still have to shake the bottle before applying, because the perfume and oil will seperate, but now I can have whatever I want without going broke. I bought the most beautiful 3 and 5 ml bottles online. And they look so pretty filled with all my scents. I can’t always afford luckyscent…So I buy little niche lots on Ebay, and get more for my money, along with extras I may not have even considered trying. I ended up trying Ambre Russe, and a Ginestet perfume and love that even though I can not afford a bottles and bottles of 100.00 plus perfume, I can make a custom little one for myself for only a few dollars. December 13, 2012 at 2:04am Reply

  • Amanda: The store TRAVEL SCENTS on Ebay has hundreds of designer fragrance samples in their store.

    They offer $1.95 flat rate shipping on all orders, so it’s a pretty good deal. January 29, 2013 at 5:41pm Reply

  • Bob: Please note the typo with your link: “Afforable”

    Great blog, I’ve recommended it to several perfume junkies. February 2, 2013 at 9:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for spotting it, Bob! I appreciate it.

      Glad that you liked the post! February 3, 2013 at 2:28am Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: Nice post!
    You don’t love “Joy”?! Blasphemy! Burn the witch 😀
    (Really? I mean, spraying an early 90s Joy EDT three time in the inner of my T-shirt is one of my favorite perfumery joy. The “moldy watter of a rose bouquet forgotten in a vase” goes away, and your body warmth lifts up the iris jasmine and rose thoughout the day. For me it’s a no-brainer, no logic just pleasure.) (so I repeat : early 90 EDT. No extrait (animal, not the same league), no recent issue, no EDP (more ambregris-like)).

    I bought 80% of my collection on ebay. Though the 30% fail is not recommended to the beginner, they all a are well! My perfume passion cost me what smoking cigarette would. At the difference that my bottles adds up (I don’t use much, it’s kind of a book collection in a closet), while the tabac addict empties its boxes and has nothing in the ends. January 20, 2015 at 2:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: Good for you! It’s very tough to quit smoking, and not only you’ve kicked a bad habit, you can also enjoy all of the scents and tastes much better! January 21, 2015 at 8:11am Reply

  • Marianna: Can anyone recommend a good split board in the US? Thanks in advance July 4, 2015 at 2:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Most of the boards mentioned are in the US–Makeupalley, Basenotes, for instance. Just find the US swappers there. July 5, 2015 at 5:00am Reply

  • dorothyblu: I am older,way back before the Net;and I bought small or larger bottles of perfume(or dusting powder and make up) thru “little catalogs by snail-mail.” there used to be such a good one,I paid low prices for established,or new,scents.It no longer exists.I remember wearing one by Paco Rabanne,to a party,someone said,”nice perfume” and I replied,”made in France”(which it was) and she laughed, like that was unusual.I had it good,and didn’t know it. Sigh.The catalogs and perfumes vanished.But,I went to the “alternative-art-hippie life,” and PERFUMED OILS were popular, springing up.A whole store was ,in San Francisco, an alternative perfumed oil source.THAT got very popular! and more economical,and last-lasting then alcohol. Now perfumed oils are everywhere, and pretty economical. I love floral scents, but my fave perfume is “Maja” by Myurgia,Spain. I love it,but expensive. I’ve always loved scents. Which is why I am here; do any of you buy perfumed oils? The floral scents can be lovely.They are online. I have a weakness for roses.–and perfumed oils can hold fragrance better than alcohol.

    The “scent industry” has gotten very different now. People go to scent-product-factories, buy all the ingredients, and make their own line of perfumed bath products, even candles. At least several are on Etsy. While that’s not what you are lookiing for,I just told all this to give everyone information. Sorry for excess. But I LOVE SCENT, it used to be a big hobby. It’s more expensive,harder to get.thanks! I am in America,paciific northwest. very far from Poland and France. 🙂 October 29, 2015 at 2:44am Reply

  • dorothyblu: Oh, I did buy “flower water”,in bottles,in Eugene,Oregon, couple years ago. They said iit was the WATER off the flowers,that was left over, when the flowers were processed for their OILS. I had never heard of that.It was inexpensive,and very nice. Has any one ever heard of that? Anyone find “flower WATER” sold to the public? I forgot exactly which store, Oregon has lots of little wierd shops around(they don’t all stay, the turnover is high); scented SOAP is very popular here, nice handmade stuff. Its become popular business. (ok, its not really perfume.)But many smaller businesses are making scent, also.:) October 29, 2015 at 2:59am Reply

  • Phero Joe: I have to admit I am a little stingy with my scents too 🙂 Sometimes I will regret buying a cologne a few days later, when I don’t feel it is as good as I thought it was. Luckily I have a trusted few that I will always keep in my arsenal, so going to the store to get a few samples every now and then is much more affordable than risking it and not liking something.

    I do however, have to keep driving further and further so I don’t burn out my sources for getting too much free stuff 🙂

    – Phero Joe December 6, 2015 at 11:26am Reply

  • angeliki: Great article, I have visited it many times in the past, but I wanted to share a bit now! I really do think that slow buying is key. Test and sample and test some more before committing to a full bottle. If only someone had told me this at the beginning of my perfume journey! Anyway, I found out on my own, and now I make sure every single thing I buy is something I love. Too many bottles (more than 10, really) overwhelm me, so it’s relatively easy to forgo temptation!
    On another note, smelling everything around you is, IMO, really the way to go. And it once made my husband exclaim: “For God’s sakes, stop smelling everything, I feel like I’m walking the dog!”. April 9, 2016 at 1:05am Reply

    • Victoria: LOL! Your husband has a great sense of humor. You should encourage him to follow your lead. 🙂

      Which are your favorite perfumes at the moment? April 9, 2016 at 3:25pm Reply

      • Ellina: Dear Victoria, I have been madly in love with Infusion d’iris the last couple of years. It feels like it was made for me, it just feels so natural when I wear it! For a change, I really like Chanel 19 poudre, Balmain Ivoire and CK one. And Coco Mademoiselle is a guilty pleasure! For something darker I love Alaia Paris- beautiful leather and musk.
        I am also waiting for White Linen, from a swap. And at some point, next winter I would love to have some Bvlgari Black and Hermes Eau de gentiane blanche. April 10, 2016 at 12:58am Reply

        • Victoria: It does seem like all of your favorite make a very coherent, well-edited wardrobe. You have all of the bases covered. Have you tried Jacomo Silences? Somehow, I think you might you enjoy it. April 11, 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Old Herbaceous: These are all great ideas! I have a fallback when I make a blind buy — two teenaged daughters. They enjoy hand-me-down bottles if I decide a fragrance isn’t really for me or I just get tired of it. When they were little girls, I used to get them lots of mini bottles of nail polish as stocking stuffers from Santa. Now they get minis or small bottles of fragrance. And yes, they do know Santa is really me! April 9, 2016 at 8:24am Reply

  • Larkin: One thing I wish I had known when I started out, was that everything comes around on eBay, or in the different Facebook perfume groups, sooner or later, for much less than retail. Partial bottles can be a great way to go!!

    For me, if I don’t drain a sample, it’s not full bottle worthy. If I drain a sample and have a joyful reaction whenever I wear it, then it is FBW. Paying attention to my emotions is key!

    Purchasing a decant is a great way to test whether or not you love something. I just got 10ml of Guerlain Lys Soleia, which is nice, and I like it, but I don’t LOVE it. I’m using the 10ml, but after it’s gone, I won’t be purchasing the FB.

    I 100% agree about having an curated collection that doesn’t repeat similar notes and styles. For instance, the Lys Soleia is nice, but I already have TF Orchid Soleil, and the effect is so similar that I don’t need both. And I LOVE the TF, only like the Guerlain.

    The new Bruno Fazzolari Ummagumma is lovely, but I have a perfume with such similar frankincense (Solstice Scents Scrying Smoke), that I’m not purchasing the Fazzolari. Plus, I don’t like the chocolate in the Fazzolari. May 5, 2018 at 3:58am Reply

  • P M: This is an old post but I wanted to add to the discussion. I’m relatively new to fragrance and the question ‘how much is too much?’ was one that preoccupied me for a while. While I love and admire large fragrance collections, the consumerist aspect of it worries me. So I’ve decided to stick to a rotation of 10 fragrances. I buy 10ml decants, because my opinion changes a lot and I need to wear a scent for a while to understand it. Then I wear them to the end, whether I like them or not (unless it’s something I can’t stand). What tends to happen is that even initially disliked scents often grow on me, yet in 6 months I haven’t found one that I love enough to sacrifice a ‘testing’ decant slot for a full bottle. I know it’s out there somewhere…:) June 1, 2020 at 11:00am Reply

    • Victoria: You’ve taken the best approach. Buying too much and too soon or even ordering too many samples is counterproductive. One needs time to smell each perfume, to live with it, to experience it at different times, situations, moods. So, setting a limit is a good idea. June 1, 2020 at 1:55pm Reply

  • Marsha: Victoria: The much maligned EL Youth Dew is actually one of my favorite perfumes. The best way to handle it is just do not bathe in it. Just apply a tiny bit, say spray some on a cotton ball and control how much you apply. I spray Youth Dew on cotton balls and use them as sachets in musty furniture drawers and my purse. One time at a check out, I opened my purse and the soft smell of Youth Dew came wafting out and the clerk said “what smells so good?” June 14, 2021 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: So true! In small quantities, it’s magical. June 14, 2021 at 1:38pm Reply

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Latest Comments

  • Maggiecat in Recommend Me a Perfume: May 2024: Seconding the Fragonard perfume museum and stores. Very nice scents at reasonable prices. May 27, 2024 at 4:18pm

  • Karina_NL in Recommend Me a Perfume: May 2024: …and I suggest not to miss Goutal’s (prev. Annick Goutal) stores. Enjoy Paris! May 27, 2024 at 3:03pm

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  • Aurora in Recommend Me a Perfume: May 2024: Hi Andrew: Seconding Jovoy, you’ll find several interesting brands there and adding le musée du parfum Fragonard. Also enter the discount parfumerie Marionnaud, there are several boutiques. May 27, 2024 at 2:40pm

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