Monday Question: What Sparks Your Interest In A Perfume?

Why do you sample a certain scent?

What makes you decide to try a new (for you) perfume?

Are you attracted by the noteslist?

A review on a blog or a forum?

An advertisement or press release?

What draws you in?

How do you pick your way through the crowded jungle of fragrances out there?

What sparks that initial burst of interest?

My Answer:

I wish I knew for sure what sets off the hunt. I read blogs obviously, but while I may like and/or admire the author, I don’t run out and try everything they write about. But some descriptions of scents strike a chord within me and I MUST smell it.

Often it is the notes list that draws me in, but more often it isn’t that obvious. I might like the bottle (yes, I’m superficial and I stand behind that, but it goes only as far as to the point of actually smelling the scent, when it is bad, the most beautiful bottle is useless and spoiled for me), it may be the name (for example, I tend to be more engaged by a name like Philtre d’Amour than GS01, but in the end, after smelling both, I vastly prefer the latter).

Then there is the category of must-tries, the perfumes I will smell in any case, no matter what the notes list says, or how they look or are called.

Perfumes by noses I admire, or releases in certain lines or brands fall in this category. I will smell a new Hermessence in any case, I will smell a new Duchaufour, or if the inimitable Christopher Chong launches a new Amouage I’m the first in line. If indie perfumers like Mandy Aftel or Maria McElroy create something new, I’m honored to be able to try it.

But when it comes to perfumes I have never heard about, have no connection to the brand in any way, this is where the magic happens. The quest to find the one perfect scent starts here: the anticipation, the uncertainty, the hunt, the hope.

Is it out there, that one perfect creation, the one perfume to touch my very being, the one scent that is simply and oh so complicatedly me? Does it exist (yet)? Do I even want such a thing?

I’m told the reward is in the journey.


About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
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45 Responses to Monday Question: What Sparks Your Interest In A Perfume?

  1. Alexandra says:

    Good morning!
    If a house that I love releases a new perfume, then, I would wish to try it as soon as possible. Otherwise, I would rely on the blog reviews (your contribution here is so generous), listed notes, and opinions of friends. I frequently consult makeupalley, fragrantica, or basenotes, because it’s not only the “experts'” advice I seek, but also common appeal of a fragrance. For instance, if I see that I share common grounds with a reviewer I would scan his/her other reviews to see if there are any gorgeous perfumes I am missing out on.

  2. Undina says:

    Some houses are “must try” – no matter who and what says about the new perfume. For me a list of those houses will include Chanel, Amouage, Ormonde Jayne, Frederick Malle and Jo Malone. Probably some others but not from the top of my head.
    Some bloggers’ recommendations are “must try”. For me it’s you, Dee, Suzanne and Natalie (APB).
    Sometimes everything just comes together – the list of notes, the perfumer, the bottle… And then I buy a sample, try it and hate it 🙂
    I wish I knew how to increase the success rate on my testing (well, at least the one for which I’m paying).

    • Olfactoria says:

      Yeah, me too. 🙂 I could have a whole bottle of something I love, for the money I spent on sample duds…

    • deeHowe says:

      Undina, I still think we should do a “help Undina find her perfect scent” project that we talked about ages ago! It would be fun, like a NST Monday Mail, but with people who know your taste a little better… 🙂

      • Olfactoria says:

        That would be a fun project! I’d be on board!

        • Undina says:

          We’ll do it, I promise! I didn’t forget, I just didn’t want to mix it with my holiday shopping: I had a short-list of those perfumes I definitely liked and wanted to add to my collection so I was in the process of choosing those. But in January I have this one (with maybe some modification – we’ll see) planned.

        • Cheri says:

          Perhaps these suggestions to Undina could help others, too. I have some cherished favorites but with so many new releases and reformulations, I am overwhelmed. I just ordered 10 samples from Luckyscent and with my luck, it will take at least two months to really know which scents I will love, like, or dislike. The whole batch might be scrubbers, or I may find the parfum of my dreams!

          I generally choose by the house and then by the notes. The problem is.frequently the stated notes in many fragrances are blurred together, often resulting in a whole new “note.” In addition, a perfumer’s perception of a note may be drastically different from my perception. .Sometimes I will chose a sample or two that normally doesn’t meet my criteria, just to keep things interesting.

          I love bottles and a pretty one will get my attention. But if the fragrance is bad, forget it!

          Anyway, I love reading how friends can help with the process of finding a “true fragrance love.” 🙂

          • Olfactoria says:

            Adding one or two wild cards to keep things interesting is a great idea!

            I hope Undina goes through with her project. I’m sure it would interest and maybe even help many.

  3. civava says:

    Now that I have more experience is easier. I am usually drawn by the notes but I now read some blogs first to get the first impression. I’m eager to try most of the perfumes but that is actually impossible. I easily let out all the celebrity scents, but I must try all classics even though I know in advance, I would hate them (according to notes). The same rule is for vintages. I’m always happy to find something new and unknown. I’m still attracted to bottles and some famous names like Guerlain but I never buy without sniffing. Now that I can order samples it is much easier and cheaper ;-).

  4. Vetiveronica says:

    The word ‘vetiver’ in the name is the usual tip-off.

    ☮ ♡

  5. andrea says:

    Usually anything with Vanilla or Tonka would appeal to me on a list of notes, although I have started to try notes that I had previously discounted, Amber I am looking at you. I will always read up on a perfume before buying a sample, mostly that works for me but sometimes I have a preconceived idea that I will not like something when in actual fact I do like it upon smelling.
    Like you, I try to sample as many as possible of a particular perfume house that I have found to my liking, I started with Serge Lutens then went onto Amouage, Parfumerie Generale and am now looking at others by Le Labo and Frapin.
    I am enjoying the journey to find the perfect one for me, although I do not think it exists other than inside my head and even then I don’t know what it smells of. 🙂

  6. Tara says:

    I definitely get interested in a perfume mostly through blog reviews, almost never through advertising. I do have some “trigger words” which Bottega Veneta alerted most recently. Things like oakmoss, suede, jasmine, plum, chypre etc. I agree that a perfume by a favourite perfumer is another reason to take notice (Annick Menardo for one). Of course any new release by Chanel or Guerlain always gets my attention at first, even if it sadly wanes after testing!

  7. angie Cox says:

    It’s often houses , I’d always want to try a new Malle or Amouage . Perfume blogs can spark an interest or the notes . I always want to try new rose or incense . I guess I am a little bit obsessed too . The biggest surprise is when I was bought Chanel no19 by Jeff ( a mistake in number) . I hated it at first then it grew on me so I wanted to try great green classics like Scherrer11.

  8. deeHowe says:

    “trigger words” is a great way to put it! Certain notes, combined with a particular perfumer or house, tend to direct my sniffing expeditions. But the blogs definitely carry heavy weight in this area. For example, it was ages ago that I first took note of Geisha Noire on Lucky Scent, but it wasn’t until both you and Tarleisio shared your reviews that it actually made it onto the “sniff” list.
    With so many offerings, old and new, having a team of pre-screeners is wonderfully helpful! 😉

    And then sometimes I go from zero interest to clicking “buy it now” if it’s s particularly compelling review; for instance, your review of Vetiver Tonka had me popping over to eBay to purchase samples before I had even read the comments on the post! And it was a winner—I love it!

    When it comes to the perfect scent, or at least my perfect scent, I’ll occasionally look at my cabinet and do the little “could you choose just one?” exercise, and the answer is yes. I could choose just one! But I am so glad that I don’t have to 😉
    (it would be Memoir Woman)

    • Olfactoria says:

      I totally envy your certainty about The One, but then it didn’t come overnight either, you worked your way through a good many scents before arriving at Memoir. 🙂 Maybe I’ll eventually get there, and I think I already have The One in my closet, I just need to reassure myself that I don’t miss anything even better fitting. 😉

  9. Vanessa says:

    The main trigger for me by far is the cumulative impact of multiple favourable reviews on the blogs I follow, which I will also cross check against the note lists to see if it really might be my kind of thing. And like you, I have favourite noses to whose latest creations I am particularly drawn, though I still may not like all their work. Bottles do not exert so much of a pull, and advertising not at all. Occasionally I will pick up a bottle randomly to test in a niche perfumery, but I tend not to risk valuable skin or nose energy on complete unknowns. : – )

    • Olfactoria says:

      Exactly, often I ignore entire walls in a perfumery, because I don’t want to waste time and space on wild cards. I probably miss a lot, but I feel I stay in control of what I smell much more easily that way.

  10. HoneyDawn says:

    The first thing that intrigues is me the name…such as “Casta Diva”. Since _Norma_ is one of my favorite operas, I had to learn more. Then, the story behind the creation of the fragrance, which in this particular case, is so amazing! Finally, the notes and the ingredients. I will usually try anything, even if the ingredients are not my usual orientation (I usually like “clean” or “dark”—think the “Opium” of the 80s/”Chanel 19″ of the 70s, and early “Magie Noire”. Also, classy 50s scents such as “Shocking”…reminds me of my mother. Sweet/florals usally make me wretch, but still, if the name is intriguing and the house is reputable, (I am very old school) I will sample if available, just because…you never know! What I’m loving right now:
    Blood Concept AB and Etat Libre d’ Orange “Big Belly Button” Namaste, indeed!

    The fragrances I wear all the time are: “Holy Water” and “Orientalissimo” from Dominique Dubrana; sometimes alone, somtimes together. His story behind Orientalissimo touched my heart deeply; “Holy Water” speaks for itself, lol. Also love his “Tabac”.

    • Olfactoria says:

      How did you like Casta Diva in the end??? I love that name as well, but I didn’t like the perfume. Too much of a diva for me after all… well, it should not have surprised me, they are not exactly hiding that aspect. 😉

      I love how “old school” and the houses of EldO and Blood Concept are mentioned in one sentence, you might be more adventurous than you think! 🙂

      • HoneyDawn says:

        Hi! Re: Casta Diva: It smelled to me–on me–like the spray bathroom air freshener my mom used in the 60s– it came from the grocery store(!!) 😦 😦

        Glad to know you’re not a fan as well. It must smell good on somebody out there. I was disappointed but glad I had to opportunity to sample it

        You are very observant about my juxtaposition of OS and my current interesting scents. Thank you for pointing this out to me. You see, I learn something from your site every time! ~Blessings~

  11. Elisa says:

    If I see a handful of very positive reviews, AND the scent includes notes that I tend to like, I’ll try to sniff — but only if I don’t have to go way out of my way to find a tester or sample. Oddly enough, if something gets too MANY good reviews, I sort of lose interest and assume it’s partly hype. 🙂

    By the way, the sample bag you sent arrived this weekend. THANK YOU for all the beautiful new things to try! All but two are brand-new to me, and the two I’ve tried (Carnal Flower and 24 Faubourg) are ones that I’m thrilled to have more of!

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’m the same: something that is reviewed and unconditionally loved by everyone, loses its sparkle for me very quickly.

      I’m so glad you got everything unbroken and so many samples are new to you! Enjoy! 😀

  12. Tarleisio says:

    It’s a combination of cursed curiosity, certain names and houses, and what level of intrigue my favorite bloggers manage to evoke! 😉 Back in the late Palaeocene era (a mere year ago, if anyone can believe it and I know I can’t!), I’d be mightily intrigued by all the words of these wonders I had yet to to try.

    These days, it’s…curiosity (if someone whose opinion I respect likes it, that’s a definite trigger!), houses – anything …DSH, Aftelier, Aroma M, Amouage, Andy Tauer or Serge Lutens, I will happily drop everything to try.

    Notes…yes, they trigger the lemming, too, but I also know they’re only a general idea of what to expect, and in some cases, a complete misnomer.

    Nothing – not words, not expectations, not even anticipation could have prepared me for the olfactory shocks I’ve received this year, and heaven help me, the shocks keep on coming! 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      Intrigue evoked by fellow bloggers – yes, that can be a pernicious thing. I know a certain someone who spins tales to ensnare and bewitch you, you can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape the Alembicated Genie…

  13. Like you and others have said, it’s a combination of things. Most of the time it’s the houses (I will run as fast as I can to smell anything MUGLER)/noses/genres I like but sometimes it can simply be something that just sounds right up my street or has been raved about on the blogs I follow (Mona di Orio’s Oud for example).

  14. I have a list of houses I like, so I am more likely to test fragrances from a house I have a good history with. The notes list is also nice to see so I know what kind of fragrance it is. I am more likely to be interested in a fragrance that is a classic or is described as in that style. Those are the main things I can think of as I write.

  15. lady jane grey says:

    Well, notes are important to me, although I learned early in my perfume days that the very same notes can create a miracle parfume – but also a complete meh. So I never say neveranymore after just reading the notes.
    Advertizements/press releases can be really annoyingly stupid sometimes and I wonder I stil sample the very parfume after reading them… But yes, there are few bloggers out there I have quite a confidence in and I sample when the comment is “provoking” (yes, yes, I’m looking at you, Birgit !!!).
    And I’m just like you with the “noses” if I hear about something new, created by Mr.Duchafour than it’s going straight into the sample shopping basket.

  16. Sugandaraja says:

    It’s hard for me to describe it, as it’s an aimless, emotion-driven meandering through an art form. I’ll describe a typical spell of discovery:

    “I think I need to explore more tuberose scents. What haven’t I tried? I think I’ll ask Basenotes. Oh, Amoureuse sounds good. Amoureuse is good, seems I like cardamon, too. What has cardamon? I think I’ll do a note-search on TPC and get a few samples. Oh, Espirit du Tigre is great, what else does Heeley do? Oh, Cuir Pleine Fleur sounds good. I’ll check out some reviews. Oh, this blog mentions Onda – never heard of it…”

    In the past four years of perfumista-ing, it’s pretty much gone that way. I’m not very completist at heart, and haven’t even tried all the perfumes from some of my favorite houses, but I’ve cut a broad if shallow swath through dozens of eras, perfume houses, and styles.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I love your answer! It describes my path through Perfumeland exactly, with the exception that I try to stay with a house I’m interested in, to get to know the entire line. But inevitably something else catches my fancy and I’m off again. We are ever-travelling folks, we perfume people. 🙂

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