Monday Question – How Do You Choose A Perfume?

How do you go about searching for a new scent?

Do you stalk the blogs and online stores?

Do you go for scented expeditions at department stores and specialty shops?

Are you inspired by advertisements?

Do you look for particular notes?

Do you always get samples first or are you prone to impulsively buy a bottle?

How do you select what is right for you?


My Answer:

Today we have a very broad question. I’m interested in how you narrow down your choices, how you select among the sea of fragrances we are exposed to these days?

I mostly get interested in a perfume when I see it announced on a blog somewhere or get a press release from the brand. My interest in piqued when I like what I see (i.e. the bottle, and yes, I do judge a book by its cover, I have to, at least at first) and what I read about the notes. The prettiest bottle with notes of handpicked Himalayan berries, spun silver sugar, purple patchouli and angel’s tears extract cannot entice me to go in for a closer encounter.

Mostly I try to avoid spending money on samples these days, primarily for the reason that I have so many and have spent so much money already, that I try to get my nose to a store and smell the scent for free. But if I am absolutely smitten by the idea of a perfume, I pay for a sample. If I’m not only intrigued, but my fantasies go through with me and I am convinced that this is the one and only, the perfect scent I need to make my life complete, I have been known to blind buy a bottle.

Did I find the one and only, the perfect scent yet?

Unfortunately no, but I do have a goodish amount of clinically depressed bottles I shun and never wear, because they had the temerity to disappoint my exalted vision…

How is it with you?


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98 Responses to Monday Question – How Do You Choose A Perfume?

  1. Undina says:

    You’ve perfectly described how it works for me too with the initial interest. Then Istart waiting for the perfume to get to one of the stores where I can smell it. There are just a couple of brands for which I buy a samples – Amouage and Ormonde Jayne – because I know that I 1) like the brand ; 2) cannot get to try it for free and 3) do not want to wait for a chance to swap a sample once everybody else tested it. With most others I do not mind waiting while keeping my current bottles, decants and some samples happy.

    So far I’ve bought just two unsniffed bottles and though both weren’t disappointments I don’t think I’ll do it again any time soon… Well, unless there are some very special circumstances (like the last one bottle left of some very limited edition 🙂 )

    • Olfactoria says:

      I have some brands where I buy samples too, no matter what, so I totally understand your reasoning with OJ and Amouage. One such brand for me is Vero Profumo.

  2. Sandra says:

    You had me laughing at ‘clinically depressed bottles’. If I lose interest in a bottle, I put it away for a few months and then smell it again. If the love is gone I have plenty of family members eagerly awaiting my cast aways. I buy a bottle after sampling it. Like you, I am buying less samples and getting myself to the stores for a sniff. Too bad for me if the brand is not carried in Vienna. Blind buys are a no-no.

  3. Jordan River says:

    I like your exalted visions. Perfume Buyer’s remorse is hard to bear.
    I ignore all marketing and rely on previous experience with a house or perfumer. I am often surprised how often I buy something from the same perfumer without realizing as I tend not to read notes or reviews until I smell something first as this whole area is very prone to subjectivity and suggestiveness. Happiness can indeed be found in a bottle and it is never long term. The idea of making your life complete with a perfume is very appealing! If only it was also enduring.

  4. Lady Jane Grey says:

    These days I can hardly find a bottle on the market, which hasn’t been announced, reviewed, etc. in advance already – so I go and sniff with a particular interest for the chosen bottle. Yes, bottle design is important, plus the notes (but I learned in the meantime that the one and same note can be cat piss or a scent from heaven – so never say never…). I very rarely buy a FB without testing it first (exception is the often mentioned Coccobello from my beloved Heeley – but I sniffed it last Friday and am now in the state of happy expectation). Recently I’ve often felt completely smashed by the huge amount of new releases, even if I’m taking only niche-scents into consideration. It’s definitely too much for my taste, faaar too much. It causes a dangerous scent Inflation…

  5. annemariec says:

    I don’t go searching for a new perfume – they come searching for me! Every day via the blogs there is something new to read about.

    But with poor access to niche I have to purchase a lot of samples and nearly always have to pay international shipping. This does focus the mind somewhat. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as I get to live with a fragrance and to try it first thing in the morning when I’m fresh, and in different moods and seasons. If I love it I will upsize to a decant or, rarely now, a FB. I know all about buyer’s remorse. I could write the text book! More and more, my collection is decant based.

  6. poodle says:

    The blogs put a lot of perfumes on my radar and my experience is pretty similar to yours, right down to the blind buy. I put my depressed bottles up for adoption in the swaps.

  7. lucasai says:

    How do you go about searching for a new scent?
    I usually check out the perfume blogs that deliver the news on new perfumes, like Now Smell This, or Fragrantica.

    Do you stalk the blogs and online stores?
    Of course I do, a perfumista wouldn’t be a perfumista without reading many blogs. I check out Quality Missala (oldest niche perfume boutique in Poland) every day to see if something new has appeared in the “new arrivals” sections.

    Do you go for scented expeditions at department stores and specialty shops?
    Not really. Here where I live we have only one small Douglas (with a very limited offer) in the shopping gallery but I don’t find things that interest me there. When I’m in a bigger city or Warsaw I love to visit all the perfume shops, especially niche, but also Bath&Body Works, The Body Shop.

    Are you inspired by advertisements?
    That depends. Usually not. I would never buy a perfume only because I liked the advertisement or press materials. They might make me more interested to try the perfume, but never to buy it immediately.

    Do you look for particular notes?
    If something has neroli, grapefruit, lemon, orange, lavender or iris, or if something is a citrus or chypre then my perfume bell rings the alarm to try

    Do you always get samples first or are you prone to impulsively buy a bottle?
    ALWAYS SAMPLE FIRST! That’s one of my rules. With my limited student budget I can’t afford to buy a bottle of perfume I wouldn’t love and wouldn’t use. So I swap to get a sample, I buy it when there’s no other option, when swapping to get it fails.

    How do you select what is right for you?
    I usually need 3-4 wearings to decide whether I like the perfume and need a bottle or not. There were also a couple of cases like Rose Anonyme or Acqua Decima when just one sniff resulted in buying a bottle.

  8. Dearest O
    So far as new perfumes are concerned The Dandy is an inveterate browser.
    Unless something has popped up on a blog I read regularly my first encounter with it is likely to be in store.
    I will test on a mouillette first, then another time on a wrist or further up the arm and only if something like amour is ensuing will I return a third time and douse. Then I decide wheteher or not to buy.
    Mostly though this year, ever since I started writing myself, it’s my readers who have been choosing what I wear and 100 or more perfumes up, they have generally been expert guides!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  9. Safran says:

    Oops, I feel caught in the act with these questions! I always say, that I don’t collect fragrances, I simply wear them. But when it comes to trying, I am a hunter. Anything new, that sounds halfway interesting, I have to track down and sample. Mostly, I order samples and give them away in swaps or with decant parcels. Of course, I try to smell scents in a shop first as well, but the opportunities are very limited where I live. Or should I say, my patience is limited? And I love to sample scents with no distractions at home. I wouldn’t call it stalking, but I read perfume blogs everyday and also check daily the homepages of the usual suspects for new scents. I never even had the idea to find THE one and only scent. Es lebe die Vielfalt! (sorry, don’t know how to say that in english)


    • Olfactoria says:

      Variatio delectat – that’s latin, but is probably understood by English speakers. 🙂
      I absolutely agree, despite my silly hopes for the ultimate perfume, in the end I always long for variation too.

  10. Azar says:

    Yes, I check out the blogs first and then see if I can cop a sniff of the celebrity or designer frag I’m interested in at a local store. For vintage I rely on my memory or purchase a decant. Since I have been burned too many times on full bottle blind buys I now make a practice of buying the niche and indie samples I’m interested in before I purchase a bottle. How do I determine which samples to order? Mostly by reading the reviewers right here and on other sites.

    Like all of you I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fragrances. In almost 50 years of collecting I have yet to find the one and only perfect scent and that’s OK. If I ever did find my “one and only” I would no longer have a reason to try new things or read all these reviews. My quest would be over and how dull would that be?

    • Olfactoria says:

      Right, how dull would that be… we don’t really want to be happy for ever and ever with one perfect perfume (because we secretly know that such a thing does not exist).

  11. dgambas says:

    Blogs and reviews usually motivate me to try some fragrance in perfumery. I like to inspect the whole shop, to see new fragrances, but I try and sniff only the particular one. Sometimes I just like to go to perfumery without any influence. Hobby matters! Common television commercials and advertisements don’t affect me. As a total amateur in this field, I prefer to enjoy in perfumes I’ve already discovered, I don’t constantly look for something new. Perhaps only as information regarding my hobby.
    I love to order a few samples or decants when I have strong feeling like they would be for me.
    I’ve been lucky with this approach so far. If nothing else, these fragrances have been enough nice to spend samples with a pleasure.
    There are many perfumes that I have not tried yet because they are not available in our shops. They are on my list for sampling. First of all, some of natural perfumes.
    However, there is only one brand that I would be ready to buy without any previous sampling, sniffing, trying… I assume that many perfume lovers have their “magical” favorite brand based on earlier experience.

  12. Suzanne says:

    Blog reviews are what interests me in a perfume, except in the rare case where I’m visiting a big city and am at a boutique sniffing. I fell in love with, and purchased, MDCI Chypre Palatin at Jovoy before ever seeing it reviewed anywhere. I’ll purchase samples if I’m really moved by blog reviews, but I’m at the stage now where I’m not acquiring much and, when I fall in love with a perfume that’s new to me, it’s usually because I received a sample in a package from a friend. As for blind buys, I’m tempted from time to time, but I learned my lesson years ago and never buy blind anymore. 🙂

  13. Tara says:

    I find about new perfumes from you and favourite blogs. It will then depend on if sounds like my “thing” and the brand. With some brands, like Guerlain and the upscale lines from Chanel and Dior, I will try each new release regardless. Like you though, I am trying very hard not to buy anymore samples. I have resisted for a couple of years now but I think I’m going to have to make an exception for Hedonist soon. Blind buys aren’t a good idea of course but both my purchase os Dita Von Teese and Nuxe have been very successful and affordable blind buys.

    I doubt I will ever find the perfect scent but even if I did, I really can’t imagine wearing day in and day out. Choosing a different sotd is just too big a part of the fun for me.

  14. Tora says:

    I live in a town with zero access to niche, although I do have a Nieman’s and a Saks to find the Big Houses latest wares. I read about 8 perfume blogs daily while having my coffee. I keep a note pad close by and jot down any perfumes that strike a chord of interest. If I feel drawn, I will order a 1ml sample. If I love it, then the 3ml decant is next. 98% of the time, the larger sample will be tucked away, to be played with later and shared with friends. In the last 6 months I have found 3 full bottle worthy. Histoire de Parfum’s 1725, Durbano’s Heliotrope, and Psychedelique by Jovoy. Oops I lied. I also bought Kurkdjian’s Cologne and Absolute Pour le Soir. I hope to move into the less excited phase where I can ignore all the tolling bells I hear when I read all the lovely blogs. But I am stil a wet behind the ears eager newbie, swooning regularly over my latest samples.

  15. I always keep a running list of fragrances that I read about on various blogs that interest me. Then there’s the jitter-inducing Scent Letter from Luckyscent; I only imagine it’s laced with something that makes me want to Buy. Perfume. Samples. Now.

    Once I open up the wallet, I normally binge. WIth little discretion. I make it a point to buy things that I don’t normally fancy. Just to give everything a fair shot. I don’t care for tuberose and most anything vetiver based just turns off-putting on my skin. But I could stumble upon a tuberose that I love or a vetiver that works.

    I’ve bought about 10 full bottles blind, and not one has turned out to be a grave mistake!

  16. haefennasiel says:

    I basically stay away from over-eager sales people who attack with me with scent strips. Once, a sales person tried to coax me into buying Selena Gomez’s “perfume” (yes, the quotation marks are deliberate). I responded by simply glaring at him with my patented “do-I-look-like-a-Selena-Gomez-fan-to-you?!” look.

  17. fleurdelys says:

    Since I’m now a few years into my perfumista-hood, I have a better idea of my likes and dislikes than I did at the start of my trip down the rabbit hole. So when I read a list of notes, I will have a general idea of whether or not the fragrance would appeal to me and is worth trying. Then, I will try it out in a store, and if it seems promising, I’ll acquire a sample. I like to give it a fair amount of skin time before purchasing, to see if I can live with it. If it passes that test (and I more than like it, I love it!), then I’ll consider a full bottle.

  18. Hi dear!
    My process is more or less like this: I crave a certain note, I research (google) exhaustively most fragrances that feature said note prominently, I decide which of those fragrances would appeal to me the most, I search for those fragrances in blogs written by people whose tastes I share or understand.
    I also know there are brands that work on me better than others. Neela Vermeire Creations, Vero Profumo and Amouage are safe (though costly) bets for me to purchase unsniffed. I think I am now adding Maria Candida Gentile to that list.

  19. janeykate says:

    I love reading perfume reviews! The written word is so powerful! That said, I’ve ordered things based on a review, only to find that, actually, the perfume smells nothing like the description 🙂 I love flower scents, now if only I could find the perfect floral perfume, that smells exactly like my english garden on a summers day, I would be in heaven! Too many floral scents have base notes that I don’t like. I want floral, pure, and simple!
    love, Jane x
    PS love L’eau D’issey, and Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Fragile’, sadly down to my last tiny bit of this and can’t get it any more 😦

    • Olfactoria says:

      It’s too bad about Fragile. 😦 The bottle is spectacular! (Have you tried ebay? There should be a few bottles floating around…)

      You are right the written word is powerful, but I’ve experienced the same divergence of review and perfume as you have often enough. Well, there is no such thing as objectivity in perfume writing… 😉

    • Annina says:

      I found a cheap bottle of Fragile edt on eBay. I love that one! Interestingly, if you can’t find it, Juicy Couture and Burberry London are incredibly similar – almost exactly to my nose.

  20. chamekke says:

    I read perfume blogs and forums religiously. Because I live in a small town, local options are limited so I rely on reviews to determine which samples I buy online. Most of my purchases are the result of careful sniffing of samples.

    Once a year or so, I put on my pith helmet and hit the nearest big city for a proper scented expedition. I use the word advisedly because I really do feel like a big game hunter and the preparations are intense! We’re talking (1) maps of the watering holes where prey is likely to be found, (2) wishlists of the most desirable beasts, (3) shortlists of the ones I absolutely must bag if I’m lucky enough to find them in stock. I also try to come away with as much small game (= samples) as possible.

    In general, I test a frag by sniffing it from the bottle, then putting some on a mouillette. I wait for it to try, then sniff again. If it’s still attractive, I may put some on a body part. Then I wait for the drydown. That’s the only way to be sure I’ll be happy with the sillage, longevity, and development of the scent. If it’s still heavenly on the drydown, I’ll seriously consider buying.

    Rational questions: is it very like a scent I’ve already got? Can I reasonably afford it? Might I be satisfied with a decant?

    Irrational questions: if I go back home without it, will I hate myself forever?

  21. shellyw says:

    (I may have said this on another site, but) I do a car test. I try a sample on in the store and then drive in a small, enclosed, warm car home. If I still like it after that it goes on my list. Heat and the time driving home are a sort of pressure cooker for my opinions.

    I definitely trust review and comments on site like this, NST or Chemist much more than any press materials. I think I can follow repeat blogger’s reviews and get a reference point of their thoughts in relation to my own. Then, when I read them I have more information of where they are coming from. Press releases are from anonymous PR person in a windowless office in my mind.

  22. happyface313 says:

    I don’t chose – it choses me. I smell something and then it hits me.
    Or not, as most of the time. I stick to my fragrances for a long, long time 🙂
    Have a very HAPPY week 🙂

  23. Hi Birgit, since I am still exploring older fragrances, I read your blog and a few others to get ideas about new fragrances to try. Equipped with this information, I head to online stores to find samples of those whose notes sound like something I would enjoy. From these samples I decide which few are full bottle worthy.

  24. ringthing says:

    Reading all the answers is fascinating! Like others, I learn of perfumes through blog reviews and announcements. There are certain perfumers I’m more interested in than others, and brands. There is no perfume shopping anywhere near me; on a rare visit to a city, I smell everything I can get my hands on! I’m a big fan of decants and swapping and I only buy samples/decants when something really catches me. No blind bottle buys, ever.

  25. Annina says:

    I read several blogs and find inspiration within those words – too much!! I also have been guilty of buying several samples based on Mr Turin’s and Ms Sanchez’s Guide, and a few other books.

    Reading – blogs and books – inspire what I sample. I spend way too much on samples, as I may only find one or two I really like in every 10-12 samples. But it is fun to see what all of the fuss over something is about! I don’t have access to stores that sell niche perfumes, so I have to rely on samples. I’m pretty much stuck with more main-stream and what I call “second-tier” fragrances – the fancier brands that have a little less of a following than, say, the latest Gucci or Ralph Lauren.

    If a perfume strikes me right away, I will will use up the sample. If I use up the sample, I will sometimes get another, or a larger decant. Though too often, I will just buy a bottle then, and flog myself for spending (I have little restraint in the spending). I almost never buy blindly – the Eau Soleil is an exception, and luckily that turned out well!

    I really hope to focus on buying more large decants, and not so many bottles so that I spend less. But I know myself in that I need the whole experience of using the perfume from it’s real bottle if I really love it.

    I’m a sucker for iris/orris, ambrette, aldehydes, narcissus, neroli, gardenia, and galbanum.
    I used to be a huge tuberose fan, but not quite as much now.

    Advertising doesn’t influence me – that I’m consciously aware of!

    • Olfactoria says:

      I totally understand you, a bottle is a bottle and a decant will never come close to the experience.
      I’m really glad Eau Soleil worked out so well for you, I feel the weight of responsibility. 😉

  26. Vanessa says:

    I have a very similar approach to you and Undina, and will buy samples if I am unlikely to acquire them otherwise. Am currently pursuing samples for me and Lucy R of an Acqua di Genova scent I sniffed in Sidmouth where I failed to ask for a sample in store. Doh! No blind buys for me anymore, and my own coterie of clinically depressed bottles were mostly briefly loved. It’s the brevity that has made the depression kick in. 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      That is a fascinating perfume (the Lucy scent I mean), I look forward to hearing more about it on your blog.
      So true, a torrid affair and subsequently being ignored leads those poor bottles straight into the dark lands of depression… 😉

  27. Tatiana says:

    Your answer just about sums up how I go about finding new perfumes, except for receiving press releases directly from the perfume houses. I would be completely sunk if I was sent PR materials. I too try not to buy samples, but sometimes, things I’d like to try just aren’t available in my area and a sample is less expensive than a blind buy. The DH thinks I already have too many neglected and clinically depressed bottles sitting in the corners of my closet, so I’m trying to narrow it down. Uhm, I’m not having much luck with that. Oh well. Too be honest, I’m glad you’re taking a break from writing reviews, as your reviews have spurred many lemmings. Ambre Nuit and L’Ambre des Merveilles are just two. Hope you’re having a relaxing summer.

  28. Eva S says:

    I stalk blogs and online stores 🙂 Then when something catches my interest (favorite house or perfumer or the like) I buy samples, since the stores here only have very mainstream stuff. My new maxim is “buy in haste, repent at leisure” and I try to avoid blind buys, or the more common problem of buying after only a quick sniff in the store. I don’t have the space for any more clinically depressed bottles!

  29. kate curry says:

    I choose my fragrances in all the ways you listed. I am ravenous!

  30. I’m lucky, er spoiled probably since I pass Osswald, MiN, Aedes, Atelier Cologne, Le Labo, and Santa Maria Novella almost daily coming home from wherever. I try not to abuse it though and drop in only if I have heard of something that I want to smell, or if I am seriously considering purchasing something. If I’m considering, they will usually make me a sample. I don’t mind buying samples either, but I haven’t for a long time. If it’s a crazy expensive bottle, I might buy a decant and if I drain that, then I know it’s fb worthy.

  31. I read several blogs (including this one) daily, and that’s usually how I find out about new stuff and find things I want to try. I like to browsing around the shops. I live in a large city, so my access to niche stuff is decent, though probably nowhere near what one could get in New York. I like to go sniffing around at Saks and Neiman Marcus every once in a while, and I like to go to the two shops that sell niche lines, but I try not to do it too much since I don’t usually buy. I also like browsing around antique shops to see if I can find any interesting vintage stuff. I mostly find minis, though once I scored a half-full vintage bottle of Shalimar.

    And as for notes I look for, it kind of depends. I look for specific notes if there is a specific type of scent I’m interested in exploring at the moment (for example, if I’m on a gardenia kick or I’m really interested in iris). I avoid blind buying, unless it’s something that catches my interest at TJ Maxx and it’s $8 or something. Then I won’t worry about it too much, though I’ll probably look for reviews on my phone in the store and look it up on Fragrantica before buying it. 🙂 But unless it’s really cheap I sample first. I buy samples from Luckyscent and Surrender to Chance, mostly for things I can’t get where I live. If I use up a sample of something and find myself still thinking about it and not getting distracted by the next new shiny thing, then I’ll think about a bottle.. eventually.. when I feel like I can spend the money. 🙂

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