Starter perfumes: Welcome to the wonderful world of fragrance

What’s the best way to give someone a nice introduction to fragrance? Not too much as to be overwhelming, but a good taste so they can get an idea of what they like. There are intro samplers at STC but those might be a bit more advanced than what I need. And I’d rather not do one of those Sephora sampler packs that you buy and then apply the cost to your purchase, because I’d rather not be limited to one store. I’m looking to do a hand-picked batch of starter perfumes.

A dear friend of mine, who has been an angel to me in so many ways, always comments on my fragrance addiction and has hinted that she might like to dip her toe into the perfumed water. She has a starter perfumes 2late July birthday, so I’d like to put together a goodie pack for her in the next few weeks and let her play awhile with those. Then I can get her more of what she loved for her birthday.

I think she likes florals, so I’m considering a few different scents there. I’ve already got a bit of L’Artisan’s La Chasse Aux Papillons, Guerlain’s Lys Soleia and Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar put back for her. So I probably could use a few more easy-to-love scents, perhaps including a gentle rose. And maybe even venturing a bit into other genres (gourmands, aquatics, classy fruity scents, maybe even a light wood and/or amber or two) just to give her a touch of variety, and for comparison’s sake.

We’ll leave the divas for later, as well as the super-hard-to-find numbers. I’d like them to be scents that are not too hard to obtain, especially if her husband is looking to give her one later on. Also, I’m passing on the uber-spendy ones, as I think she might faint if she knew what Amouages and Malles go for. Heck, when I look at the price tags for some of those, I feel a bit lightheaded myself!

I have a few more starter perfumes up my sleeve, but any suggestions you folks have would be very welcome. I know you all will think of some gems that I’ve overlooked. Thanks so much!!

65 Comments
Maureen June 5, 2013

I like Chanel #19 Poudre for spring and summer and for those really hot days, I like O de Lancome and EL Pure White Linen Light Breeze. I will be trying samples of some of these great suggestions .

Jamie June 4, 2013

I got interested in perfume a couple of months ago and one of the challenges I'm having is figuring out what it is I'm smelling. You might want to consider noting with the sample, the strongest notes in that sample so she knows what she's smelling and then that can help her find other fragrances with that note. I would say, definitely include a nice jasmine, orange blossom, and a neroli. But also consider a chypre, an aldehyde, something gourmand, something green and herbal... So she gets to experience the full spectrum of fragrance construction as well as notes.

ojaddicte June 4, 2013

Here's another Ellena scent suggestion, L'eau Parfumee au The Vert. Easy to wear, and perfect for summer. Maybe some of the Pacifica's might work? They are quite inexpensive and a great intro to perfume. What a lovely and thoughtful gift you're assembling!

Nemo June 4, 2013

I will second (or third??) Hermes Jour d'Hermes. It is definitely one of my favorite florals! As for roses, perhaps Stella and/or Hermessences Rose Ikebana would be nice. I love the warm simplicity of Stella, and one of my friends who is just getting started in perfumes has developed an addiction for Rose Ikebana. In general, I think the lightness of Jean-Claude Ellena's perfumes are perfect for beginners (as well as for pretty much everyone else!).

Jennifer Counts June 3, 2013

I've been thinking about this kind of thing too, in relation to my sister-in-law. She's probably one of the only people who know about my 'fume-fiend-hood, and for quite a while I didn't know she was interested in scent at all, as she has allergy issues. But she's been seeing a doctor about it, and she told me recently when we were in a Sephora that she's started wearing Chanel Chance. So I've been mightily tempted to drag her down the rabbit hole with me. :D For your friend, I'd say Chanel Chance might be a good one, since that was my SIL's starting point. I also second Mary's mention of Jour d'Hermes. L'Occitane's feminine scents are generally pretty light and would be good for starters, as well as Jo Malone's. Balenciaga Paris Eau Rose might be a good starter violet.

Mary June 3, 2013

Does your friend have any idea how fortunate she is to have you?! what an adventure she's about to embark on. Ditto Jo Malone Orange Blossom and Hiris. Both are gorgeous and easy to wear. Chanel Chance Eau Tendre always gets a compliment or two, and Hermes Jour d'Hermes is so lovely and transparent.

thegoddessrena June 3, 2013

I'll add a vote for Infusion D' Iris as well as suggest Songes. Truthfully though' I'd suggest hanging out in person (if she lives near enough) and goingsniffing together or letting her shop your collection--nothing like having a trusted guide right there

Beth June 3, 2013

Rose is a tough one for me, some are very bad on my skin. Surprisingly, Cartier Baiser Vole has worked, but then so has the really dark JHAG Citizen Queen. I've been sampling the L'Occitane Grasse collection this week and these strike me as very light, sheer almost and fleeting on me... they turn into skin scents fairly quickly. My sister is just stepping into scent, and this is one perception I'm finding is important to her. Anything with any sillage comes off loud to her.

Jan Last June 3, 2013

How about Cartier Baiser Vole, Guerlain Le Petit Robe Noir, and don't forget the Demeters, their Gingerale has scented my sheets at night for a wonderful sleep experience. The two Marina De Bourbons are pretty well made and in budget. Some of The Scent of Departure, such as DOHO, affordable and, most definitely wearable.

poodle June 3, 2013

Tocca has a lot of pretty florals. Estée Lauder scents are easy to find and reasonably priced. In addition to the ones already mentioned she might like White Linen, Knowing, or maybe even Bronze Goddess as a summer scent. How about Chloe? Or Love, Chloe? Fracas?

Austenfan June 3, 2013

I think L'Artisan is a great place to start exploring niche. Goutal might be of interest too, as they have a lot of florals in their line. Le Chèvrefeuille, La Violette, Le Jasmin, Eau du Ciel, for light florals. Un Matin d'Orage for a modern floral. Grand Amour, Quel Amour and Heure Exquise for a bit more oomph. I don't know how easy the Nicolaïs are to get hold of in the USA. She has some wonderful fragrances in her line and they are not too demanding. Weekend, Odalisque and Le Temps cover the "Greens" while Sacrebleu, Number One and Juste un Rêve are good examples of floral orientals. Eau d'Eté is a great summer scent and very easy to like. In the mainstream a lot of what I would include has been suggested already: Prada Candy and Infusion d'Iris, Chanel Cristalle, No.19 + Poudré and maybe Coco Mlle. Bottega Veneta, Lauder's Pleasures, Pure White Linen, Sensuous and PC Tuberose Gardenia might me interesting and I'll never tire of pointing out how good Prescriptives Calyx is. Yves Saint Laurent: Cinéma, I'm afraid I cannot recommend the juice that is currently sold as Paris but your friend might actually like it. ( I adore the original, you see) Cartier: Baiser Volé

solanace June 3, 2013

Hi Ann, It's such a lovely thing to draw others to our perfumed paralell dimension! I've been doing the same with my sister in law. She really enjoyed Thé pour un été, Chanel Cristalle and Bel Respiro and the Hermes jardin series. I know the Malles are (more than) a bit expensive, but perhaps a little Angeliques sous la pluie among other, more accessible options? It is so unique, and was my sister in law's favorite, she even visited the Malle homepage! I love many suggestions here, will try a few myself!

Lisa D June 3, 2013

Ann: I'd echo the Prada Candy, which I found ridiculously wearable, and some of the Tocca line, which I've found really pretty, more interesting than your average department store frag, with lovely packaging. Are you giving her samples, decants, minis, or some other form?

Portia June 3, 2013

Hello Lovely Ann, What a wonderful way to thank your friend. I am loving everyones suggestions, you have so much great choice here. Can I add my Huzzah for the afore mentioned Marc Jacobs Woman, new Paris by YSL, Mure & Musc but go for the Extreme and Elie Saab. Also maybe the Marvielles (?) range from Hermes, some of the new Robert Piguet are lovely especially Petit Fracas and Bois Noir, I also find the Etro fragrances easy wear and their new Rajasthan very wearable. Nobody has mentioned the CHANEL exclusives or the DIOR Couturiers, very reasonably priced and fabulous ranges. Good luck. I hope your friend is blown away. Portia xxx

shaney June 3, 2013

OK, you may *HATE* this suggestion, but I'm giving it anyways! I love the smell of roses, but in fragrance, I often find them to be too powdery, too musty, too heady, too soapy...so I was pleasantly surprised to try DKNY Pure A Drop of Rose. It's a very clean and fresh and green rose scent that I think your newbie might appreciate (and easy on the wallet). For an incense, I would try L'aP Passage d'Enfer since it's lightened with lily. Also, Dior Dune was a friendly woody evening summer scent that I discovered early on in my addiction :)

leathermountain June 3, 2013

Apres L'Ondee was my first love. If you're in the US and would like a decant for your friend, let me know.

mim June 3, 2013

Huh, when I was a newbie I went straight for the vanilla/amber/patchouli side of things and matured into florals... I love L'Artisan and Jo Malone for their sheerness--most can be nuanced but approachable and pleasant in summer. Suggestions: The Pour Une Ete--I hated jasmine until this scent changed my mind Safran Troublant-- kinda gentle candied rose, kinda creamy vanillic saffrony goodness Jo Malone Red Roses, Nutmeg and Ginger, Orange Blossom, French Lime Blossom, probably others... also Atelier Vanilla Insensee (which is at sephora in a travel size) is a lovely lighter vanilla and Caron Pour Homme is a simple lavender/vanilla blend which I find fresh, comforting, and never overwhelming in elevators. Hermes Hiris and TDC Bergamote too Love--instant for me-- but have no idea as to category: ELdO Fils de Dieu, Tauer L'air du Desert Marocain, Ormonde Jayne Woman.

Sherri June 3, 2013

I think you are on the right track with La Chasse. Mure et Musc would be great, too! Prada Candy is easy to love for most, and easily available. VC&A Orchidee Vanille is another I've found works great for non-perfumistas. It's expensive though (there is a seller who regularly sells it on ebay for $119.99). How about a great vanilla: i Profumi Firenze Vanilla Madagascar, Lann Ael, Vanilla Absolument, Vanille Exquise, etc.?

maggiecat June 3, 2013

Tocca's Colette is a lovely, light-but-not-too-simple fragrance with incense, juniper, sandalwood, and vanilla. It's very easy to wear and not expensive.

eldarwen22 June 3, 2013

For someone who is beginning to sniff around or has expressed a growing interest in perfume, I would do a mix of classics and some dirt cheap scents like Habanita. I wouldn't go for the Victoria's Secret offerings nor the Bath and Body Works stuff. Estee Lauder Pleasures is a great starter.

hajusuuri June 3, 2013

I would start her with an Ineke Discovery Set, in addition to your picks...it seems to have something for everyone and the actual FBs are not spendy if she falls in love with one or more.

Eliza June 2, 2013

Bottega veneta original (not legere), and Prada l'eau ambree probably won't disappoint...

anatu13 June 2, 2013

Floral, good starter, and for a birthday at the height of summer? I'd highly recommend Ormonde Jaye Frangipani (lime and frangipani), especially if the husband is ok ordering on the internet instead of picking up at a store. For a light wood, Diptyque Tam Dao or Philosykos (I prefer Tam Dao). For a citrus, Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine. Fruity non-citrus: Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay. And for more florals, Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier (another summer favorite of mine), Fleurs d'Oranger, and A la Nuit (though the latter two probably count as divas).

Janet in California June 2, 2013

Mark Jacobs original fragrance is lovely and very easy to wear, and find. I need a new bottle of it since my daughter to mine home with her!

FeralJasmine June 2, 2013

I'd consider including Estée Lauder Beautiful. It's a gentle multi floral, not expensive, smoothly balanced, readily available, pretty and likeable, and not frighteningly pervasive. In the same category, YSL's reissued Paris is a pretty rose, and she is no diva. Time enough for vintage Opium later on.

linda June 2, 2013

guerlain's vol de nuit is a real gem. also, people seem to love elie saab when i wear it.

beverly schneider June 2, 2013

I think that Prada Milano Infusion D'Iris is lovely. (Although it doesn't last too long on me). It's ma very light, almost grassy scent, with some other stuff thrown in (I don't have a perfume vocabulary, and don't know how the notes play out, if they do at all.) But I do really love this scent. First I apply the body cream, and then I practically have to bathe in the EDT and still rarely anyone (including me) can smell it on me. Sometimes, some people do comment on it (always favorably) and I am always shocked to learn they could actually smell it! I also love Heritage by Guerlain, and even though it is made for men, people always compliment on me when I wear it. And it is really my go-to fragrance. I also have been flirting with Sisley's Eau du Soir. What do you think of it? Bev