Monday Question – How Do You Feel About Decants?

By Tara

Do you think decants are the sensible and economical way to own a lot of different perfumes?

Do you own many more decants than full bottles?

How do you decide whether to buy a decant and not a full bottle?

Do you favour splits?

Do you only like to purchase full bottles and avoid decants?

My Answer:

I have about 25 full bottles of perfume but I have only purchased a handful of decants. They are a great way to sample a new perfume but when I find one I really love I want the whole experience. I want to go to the store and have my beautiful bottle packaged for me to take home excitedly. I like to look at it on my bedroom shelf along with the rest of my collection.

Early on in my perfume mania I used to think I wasn’t so shallow; that I was all about the juice and not the bottle. Sadly this has turned out not to be the case. The truth is, I like collecting and owning the bottles. I just don’t get excited about purchasing decants. Plus, unless you are lucky enough to find a split, most decants are sold at a profit. They are so small and anonymous, it would be harder to find the perfume I wanted before work in the morning and 5ml or 10ml feels like such a tiny amount of something I really like.

However, my collection is ever spiralling upwards and I know that I already have many years’ worth of fragrance, so it makes sense to switch to decants. The problem is, I just don’t want to. So I’m very much looking forward to your input!

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59 Responses to Monday Question – How Do You Feel About Decants?

  1. Sandra says:

    Great question Tara! I have never bought a decant. I do not like the idea of not owning the bottle. Half of the beauty is the packaging and the bottle. I probably should start buying decants and splits, but it is more than just the perfume for me. Hopefully my husband won’t read this so that he does not realize that there is a way to save money. 😉

    • Tara says:

      Thanks Sandra, I’m glad I’m not the only one who is a sucker for full bottles!

      Luckily decants are one of those funny things that you don’t know about unless you’ve gone down the perfume rabbit-hole 🙂

  2. What would make sense would be for you to decant some of yours and sell it on! Then you would have more money to buy more lovely bottles…
    I am currently a sample buyer because that’s all my income extends to at the moment (and not many of them either!). If I find a perfume I love I write the name down for the time (?) when I can afford it.
    But if I had the money then yes, the perfumes I love I would want in the original bottles and packaging – and I would hope that the bottle matched it’s contents from my aesthetic point of view.

    • Tara says:

      Thanks for your suggestion Maggie. It’s very easy to go head-long into buying too many full bottles and regretting it later, so you’ll have a solid collection you’ll really love when money allows. As for spending money on samples, I found that swapping is a great alternative to purchssing. Make Up Alley has a good swap scene.

  3. Bellatrix says:

    About decants – all the best. 😀

  4. Olfactoria says:

    It is fun to answer a Monday Question in the comments for once! Thank you so much for hosting this one, Tara!

    My answer is pretty similar to yours, although it vastly differs in the bottle count. 😉
    I love buying a bottle, I love the entire experience, but if a full bottle is out of my budget and I really like the perfume, I try to go for a split, since it is cheaper. I often find myself balking at the idea of buying only 8ml at a premium price, and I have never done it yet. But hosting splits is a great way to get the best of both worlds, although it is a lot of work and quite time intensive too.

    • Tara says:

      B, you know I’ve never participated in a split but I have signed up to Fragrance Fiends. It seems the best option for those really expensive perfumes, plus no one’s making a profit out of it. Hosting makes sense in order to keep the bottle but I can imagine getting myself in a state over doing it. My first split is long over due though.

  5. Undina says:

    I think that a bottle, a box and everything related to the perfume’s presentation plays an important role in my enjoyment of the perfume (even though the scent is the most important factor). If all the brands that I like would offer 10-15 ml bottles (of each perfume, not a set of 6-8), even with a higher price per ml, I would be buying all perfumes only in original packaging. But since they don’t I cannot justify buying as many full bottles as there are perfumes I’d like to wear from time to time. Even if money wasn’t a consideration, I do not need so many bottles, I do not have space for so many bottles, I will never be able to use up so many bottles.

    So far I’ve bought just several “decants for profit” (I just new nothing about splits back then and it was the only way to get something I wanted to try again without comitting to an expensive full bottle. In future I plan to participate in “at cost” splits mostly.

    I’ll give an example when buying a split makes perfect sense for me. Le Labo. I really do not like those bottles. So, combined with the price and longevity of Rose 31 on my skin, 10 ml split is all I’ll need from this perfume for the next several years. And I will be spared looking at that completely unattractive (to me) bottle.

    • Tara says:

      You’re so right Undina. Even if money were no object, it would be wasteful to buy bottles of everything I liked because I’d never get through all that perfume. 10 – 15ml bottles are the Perfumista’s dream but it’s unlikely to happen. Bottles just seem to be getting bigger and bigger. I have to stop buying a bigger size because it’s cheaper ml for ml. I bought a 250ml bottle of Bois d’Argent instead of 125ml because of that, which is truly ridiculou.

      Le Labo is a good example.

  6. Ines says:

    I love decants!
    If they didn’t exist, my collection and the perfumes I was lucky to try in that manner would be significantly less.
    Besides, I rotate me decant according to season and have a good idea which is which in the box I keep them, so it doesn’t take long for me to find any.
    And if by the end they are finished, I still want some, then I know a bottle is coming up. To me they are a much cheaper way of getting to know the perfume world (and economic in terms of both money and space). 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Thanks so much Ines. That is a really good, convincing case for decants, which is what I need! Keeping just a few in seasonal rotation is a really great tip. It’s also a good point that buying a decant doesn’t mean you can never buy the full bottle, it just means that if you do you will be really sure you’ll love it and wear it.

  7. andrea says:

    I have only ever bought / aquired samples to try perfumes before buying them, I then buy the smallest bottle possible of a perfume that I truly love (I just wish every perfume manufacturer would do smaller 30ml or even 50ml bottles) The samples that I don’t love I sell on (not at a profit I might add) I should look into the decants as a way for me to save money but I do love the bottle and packaging and whole buying experience as well as the precious juice.

    • Tara says:

      Sounds like you are in the same position as me, Andrea. I am going to take a leaf out of your book though and go for the smallest size available if I do buy a full bottle, from now on. I felt like I was drowning in samples a while ago so I also sold, swapped or gave a lot of them away.

  8. angie Cox says:

    I don’t have the money for all the fragrances I want so I do buy the odd decant. I find that most companies overcharge an incredible amount for them so have stopped buying them . I do have the luck to have found a company selling sample vials at a very reasonable price . I would like more companies to sell 10ml size fragrances . I wrote to Malle and got a very polite answer that they would think about it. They already sell 3x 10 mls but I’d like the three to be different ones .Maybe the recession will persuade more companies to sell 10 or 20 mls , let’s hope so.

    • Tara says:

      Angie, I’m glad you contacted Frederic Malle about the travel sizes. I think being able to choose three different 10ml scents is an excellent idea. I’m sure this would be a very popular option for a lot of people. It’s good to hear they are at least considering it. Fingers crossed!

    • Miss Chips says:

      Yes please! Crossing fingers and toes for this to happen. It would be so good to buy the Malles this way. They are beautiful, but very expensive and I just can’t really justify fbs.

  9. Queen Cupcake says:

    My take on this is pretty much the same as Ines’. I don’t have room in my house for all the bottles I would like to own, and sample vials are often too small for me to decide if I really love a perfume. Decants of 5 to 10 ml are about right for me in most cases–provided they are labeled correctly! I have a few decants made by well-intentioned perfumistas that have illegible labels.

  10. deeHowe says:

    Lots and lots of decants here! Splits at the beginning of my mania really helped me to arrive at a collection I’m contented with.

    Like Ines and Queen Cupcake, if I had FB’s of all my perfumes, I’d have WAY too many, and, 5-10mL *is* a great way to find out if I’m going to like/wear something enough to warrant a full bottle. There are some bottles that I love, but the reason I like to have the manufacturer bottle isn’t so much aesthetic (though they are nice to look at) as it is practical: I love the freedom of a FB— being able to douse at liberty is my favorite method of application, and since so many of my decants are of more expensive perfumes, I’ve found myself being more careful about how I use them. Which isn’t as much fun!

    And, those splits/decants are easy to swap away for other things if you discover that you don’t end up loving them 😉

    • Tara says:

      dee, that’s so cool that splits enabled you to create a collecton you are really happy with.
      As you point out, decants are a good way to counter Full Bottle Remorse.

      However, I also love to douse myself liberally with perfume and full bottles are best for that. How am I supposed to take a Katie Puckrik-style “whore’s bath” in a 5ml decant??!!

  11. Zazie says:

    When I started my perfume-adventure, I had the feeling that being based in Europe in general and Italy in particular prevented me form acquiring decants/samples and joining splits. I hated it.
    But, with some perspective, it probably was a piece of good look: I would have wasted a lot of money for a poor experience: I didn’t know enough, I didn’t even know my own tastes well enough! I was forced to be patient and that was good – but just because I can test most niche stuff within a 5 minute walk. Otherwise how many regretted blind-buys would I have made? Too many to count, that’s for sure sure.
    Now that I’ve learned a things or two about what I like (and how much of it I like), I would really appreciate being able to split a few fragrances – you know, those you don’t feel like going FB but would hate not to have around on the odd day.
    Amaranthine, the overpriced mona di orio vanille, a couple of SL…
    Of course, when I love a fragrance, no decant is enough: not only I go full bottle, but I might even search for (and buy) different concentrations, and different millésimes (a 2007 Shalimar? Pleeeeeease!!!)…
    Like you, I like to have my nice bottles around: some are so beautiful that they do add their beauty to the experience of the fragrance. A Guerlain extrait, a Serge Lutens bell jar are a pleasure to look at and to hold. But only if the juice inside is worth it, otherwise I feel (doubly) cheated. By the price and by the packaging. 😉

    • Tara says:

      Nice to see you here, Zazie. Living in the UK I was quite envious of those in the US who could so easily swap via MUA. International postage put me off. Thank goodness you are within 5mins walk of niche though, that must have made all the difference. I’m sure you can still take part in splits though, do check out Fragrance Fiends (I’m not affiliated). There are the obvious answer for super spendy perfumes like Mona di Orio’s.

      Totally agree about the different concentrations when it comes to Guerlains and bottles don’t get much better than those beautiful SL bell jars.

  12. vanessa says:

    Lots and lots of decants here too! Just had a quick tot up and I make it about 110 (give or take a dozen) vs 70 plus full bottles. I have bought about 5% of those decants in splits and from TPC (though their prices have rocketed lately so I shan’t be using them for that again), and the rest I have swapped for or been given by kind people, some of whom may be hosting this thread/blog!

    Now if I had my time over, I would own waaaaay fewer FBs (probably about your level, Tara, of 25-30) and supplement this with about 50 decants of 5-10ml each. And just sit back and enjoy them. I do believe that there are scents I love so much that a FB is a must have, and others that are only 10ml-worthy, not least if you factor in your ability to ever use them up.

    • Tara says:

      Wow, Vannessa, 110 decants! I wonder how much wear they get. Many thanks for totting them up. I find it fascinating.

      Thankts also for the advice as to what you’d do if you had your time over. That’s really useful. I’ve been thinking that c.25 bottles is a wearable amount, long-term. Now I am trying very hard to resist full bottle purchases. I’m currently trying very hard to resist Sweet Redemption. I know I should get a decant/split but, – darn it! – I want a full bottle (or travel set at least)!

  13. Lucy C says:

    Put me in the I Love Decants corner. Although, as deeHowe notes, one is much more careful applying an expensive scent that one has only a 5ml decant of, and it truly isn’t as much fun as being able to spray at will. I have about 20 full bottles and maybe 10 decants. Many of the full bottles are yesterday’s treasures that are a now bargain. This morning I’m wearing Diva, which was my sexy va-va-voom scent in the 80s and seemed very expensive then. My current huge bottle cost $35 on Amazon with free shipping. I do believe this makes me love it more.

    There are quite a few fragrances that I like a lot, but not enough to spend more than $150 for a bottle. That’s my magic number, regardless of the size of the full bottle, even if I will wear it three times a week. Swapping and splitting seem like a lot of work.

    Finally, perfume is all about the desire for me. I know that I could never have enough, and even if I could easily afford all the $600 bottles I wanted I would still desire more new, novel scents. It’s a little like cocaine that way.

    • Tara says:

      You make a good point about desire, Lucy. Seeking somethng new can be very addictive in perfume as well as in other things. As Olfactoria once asked “How much is too much?” with the answer being “just one more”! I have to make a conscious decision about my collection because no number of bottles will be enough, even if I’ll never use it all.

      It’s great that you still love those bottles which are “yesterday’s treasures” – maybe even more so. It’s also interesting that you have come up with a monetary limit per bottle, I haven’t come up with a fixed magic number yet, but maybe I should.

  14. lady jane grey says:

    I owe an awful lot of samples – but they’re of 1,5 ml, and just help me to test the juice few times and decide, if it’s worth a full bottle. Unfortunately (or luckily ?) it resulted in another awful lot of full bottles sofar – tendence growing (which often makes me frustrated, since I can’t see the chance to ever use them up…). Sofar I only have one decant – courtesy of my friend, a non-perfumista, who was desperate to owe so much of LeLabo’s Poivre so I was “nice” enough to rescue her… And these days I’m just waiting for the 2nd decant of my life to arrive – because the original juice is so expensive that I simply cannot afford it. However, I’m very very sad not to owe that lovely elegant bottle with the name on it in elegant arabic letters. Because sadly enough I like the bottles as well, and the boxes. And the sometimes painful decision, weather I want to owe the full bottle is part of my hobby or passion, or whatever do I call it…
    But one never knows, I might change one day, sometimes later.

  15. Alice C says:

    I love decants, splits, samples; I love ’em all! I would go broke trying all the scents I want to try if I limited myself to full bottles. 😉

  16. Julie says:

    I love decants! I have way more decants than bottles. Two major reasons: cost and size. It is the only way I can afford to have some of the higher end perfumes that I like but can’t afford a bottle of and I don’t need 50 or 100 ml of anything since I’ve got so much perfume now. Combine that with me being a light spritzer anyway, and my husband’s aversion to perfume (he gets migraines and they are often triggered by scent so I pretty much only wear scent at work – my lucky colleagues!), means I will never come close to using up what I’ve got.

    Almost all of my decants are from splits, so there isn’t any mark-up, but it is easy to go crazy and buy them unsniffed since they aren’t that much more than a sample in many cases. So I end up buying way more than I should, which defeats the whole cost factor! It is difficult picking and choosing amongst all the decants since they are mostly in identical bottles.

    • Tara says:

      Lots of good reasons to go down the decants route, Julie. I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s migraines but glad you get to wear your perfumes at work.

      I never thought about the temptation to buy lots of decants because they are comparatively cheap. Who knows, I might get carried away once I start!

      • Julie says:

        I got absolutely carried away when I first joined the group. I bought just about anything that I was vaguely interested in whether I had tried it before or not. It’s only $10 or $15! And who knows when it will be split again – no time for a sample! Anyway, I am now vowing no more unsniffed splits. We’ll see how long that lasts.

        Also, I hate dabbing from vials and so I enjoy having a decant to spray. And it does give you more of a chance to decide if something if full bottle worthy than a sample!

        • Tara says:

          Totally agree about dab vials, they are not the best way to test perfume but they are usually the most economical option. A decant can be a good half-way house before taking the full bottle plunge.

          Hope you manage to stick to the “no more unsniffed splits” vow, I think that’s probably a wise move – good luck!

  17. tarleisio says:

    I have (vintage) champagne tastes on a root-beer budget, and if not for decants, generous perfumista friends or TPC, I’d be a dead-in-the-water blogger…They keep me going until I can afford the Real Deal, but so far, the Real Deal has amounted to one bell jar last year and one coming bottle this year. I love beautiful bottles – and bell jars! – as much as anyone, but the truth is…they would only matter to me…and it’s the juice that counts! (No one to brag to for miles and miles!) So until such time as I can afford the full-on, deluxe bottle experience, I’m quite happy with decants! They make it possible for me to try something beyond the 1.5 ml sample – and that’s not always anywhere enough! – and if I still love it at the end of the decant, then I know I’m on to a winner! Which boils down to…

    What I do buy in whole bottles is something I will truly love and cherish – and use! 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Hi tarleisio. Yes, I think we should really be very grateful for decants. They do open up our perfume options considerably. I admire you holding out for the Real Deal, whether budget motivated or not. You must really treasure and enjoy those rare full bottle purchases.

      Now, vintage champagne tastes are very classy but also super expensive – too bad you have such great taste!

  18. Miss Chips says:

    Decants to me are a part of the small-sizes arsenal that has saved me from bankruptcy and drowning in waves of perfume. I am greedy to smell EVERYTHING and really like being able to try scents in smaller volumes than a full bottle, although I must confess that my money usually goes toward samples of a ml or two, or actual minis – these are usually better value than decants, especially if you keep your eye on eBay. The decants I do own are scents that are difficult to find/ hideously expensive to purchase in another form. It is a really nice ritual to rummage through them and find friends old and new. To date 3 samples have translated into full bottle purchases, although various impulses and foot-shopping mean I have about 15 FBs in total. And how I do love my full, proper bottles. I am drawn to them every day when I am choosing something to wear, there is just something supremely satisfying about removing the cap, sniffing it’s inside, and spraying a lovely sheer mist on the decolletage. Hmmm. I suppose practicality dictates one doesn’t need more perfume than one can use or can afford, and decants, samples, minis and full bottles all have a place for me.

    • Tara says:

      Miss Chips, you’re right; decants, samples, minis and full bottles all have their merits and their place in a collection. I guess I’m just having a problem getting the proportions right!

      Very much enjoyed reading about your collection and rituals, so thanks.

  19. annemariec says:

    Like others here, for reasons of cost and storage I try to stick to decants. For me, that is most sensible path and I feel I can justify my perfume collecting that way.

    A dilemma arises when I see a fragrance I want going at a bargain rate for a FB. I have just succumbed to the lure of the FB and ordered Nike de Saint Phalle going at $18.50 for 30 mls. The cost per ml at a discounter would be way higher. But it will be another bottle for me to store, and I’m not sure if I will get through it all. Still, Niki comes in a lovely box and bottle. It’s a nice problem to have!

    I do also allow myself a FB if I absolutely love the fragrance have have tested it thoroughly, know I will wear often, and – most important – it is a fragrance that needs to be applied lavishly. On that basis, I will never go for a FB of, say, Lauder’s Private Collection. A few drops last hours, so I stick to minis bought off eBay.

    • Tara says:

      You know annemarie, sometimes I feel anxious about how sensible my collection and other days (like today) I feel a bit militant! I think to myself, I’m not getting into debt, I’m not responsible for anyone other than myself and plenty of people collect things that are not in the least bit practical. So what if I own more perfume than I will ever use? My collection brings me joy and that’s justification in itself.

      So please don’t feel conflicted about that Nike de Saint Phalle purchase, it sounds lovely and you’re worth it!

      • annemariec says:

        Oh that is so nice to hear. Many thanks. Yes, I’m looking forward to this FB very much. Yes, I am all for the joy of impractical things.

        Still, I do have two children, and I am constantly on at them about saving, and being careful, so I do try and practice what I preach … !

        • Tara says:

          Yes, children do have a tendancy to impact on the way we live our lives, just a little 🙂

          Enjoy the full bottle of Nike de Saint Phalle when it arrives and apply with abandon!

  20. civava says:

    I’m just like you. When I like something I like the whole picture. When it comes to perfume I’m possessive. I like to look to the bottles I own and I enjoy taking it in my hands and spraying myself. But on the other hand there are some perfumes I would like to have but can’t really afford to buy full bottle. Therefore I would be happy to buy a decant but I can’t find to buy it in Europe. So if anyone has some info on that I would be really glad to hear. Another reason is that in a lifetime I won’t be able to use all the perfumes I already own. Fortunately, more I know about perfume more picky I am and I really don’t buy a perfume I don’t like a lot.

  21. Joining late, but in favor of decants – to a degree. If my wallet allowed for full bottles, I’d do it. I think they’re pretty and improve the experience for me. However, I’m on a very tight budget, so while I’m waiting for money for my high-priority bottles that I Simply Must Have, I sometimes buy another sample or a small decant to tide me over. If I have a decant, it’s likely you will eventually see a bottle. 🙂 I want to chime in on wishing lines had more travel-sized or small options. Yes, please!

    • Tara says:

      Hi Jen, thanks for joining our little discussion.

      You’d think perfume companies would want to capitalise on the decants market out there and sell smaller sizes themselves, but perhaps it’s just not worth their while. Even though I do currently have the budget to buy more full bottles I’m just worried it’s wasteful considering all the mls I have already. However I agree, they do greatly improve the whole experience.

      Hope you get one of those “Simply Must Have” bottles soon!

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