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April 02, 2012

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


M is for Migraine. Some perfumes trigger them--Gogol

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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



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