I Want to Find a New Perfume that Smells Like…

How do I Find a New Perfume? … is one of the most common questions I hear over and over, phrased in a thousand different ways.  It can vary from – “I used to wear Giorgio, but it smells like Mule Balls now, can you help me find something to replace it?” to “I want to find my signature scent, but I have no idea where to start!  Help me, Obi-fume Kenobi!”

Sadly, the answer is there is no one answer because there are so many ways to find a new perfume. Think of it as a giant perfume Venn Diagram – here, let me break out my Musk Venn Diagram to illustrate.

 fFind a New Perfume - musk perfumes venn diagram

This was how I illustrated where musk perfumes fell and where they intersect.  I suggest when you are searching for a new perfume, you have to start constructing a similar thing.  Find where the things you like intersect, what they have in common.  But I digress a little. Let’s start at the beginning.

First, for those of you long-time Posse readers who have been down this path, I know you know all this stuff, but I am hoping you will chime in with your own experiences and tips and encouragement for people who are new. We have thousands of new readers a month that stumble on our blog though a happy Google Accident, and I want to help them save some time and costly mistakes.

Tips to Find a New Perfume

Perfume samples are a must.  Disclaimer, I do own part of a perfume sample business, but I’ll point you to cheap ways to sample as well.  I wound up in that business because I made the above costly mistakes already and completely believe in perfume sampling as the only real way to figure out what you love.  You can sample by either  getting free samples from stores, swapping for samples or buying samples at various places.  

March put up a post some time back about where to get perfume samples, which you can find by following the link.  I won’t get into swapping in detail because that is a different subject and a lot longer post.You can sample by getting free perfume samples at a retail shop.  Sephora and Nordstrom are your best bets there as far as mainstream perfumes.  If you are going into niche, you can ask for free samples with a purchase or buy the samples at retail perfume stores like Luckyscent, MiN New Yorkand many others.  Many niche and indie perfume companies sell samples of their perfumes as well.  You can also buy perfume samples at an internet site like mine.

Start somewhere, anywhere. This step involves how your mind works in making your personal perfume Venn Diagram.  Do you like to sort things by Brand?  Do you want to start by sniffing a note you know you love?  Do you not know what a note is?  Do you prefer perfume classification instead – like chypre, floral, oriental, fougere? Did your head just spin around 360 degrees when you read that last sentence?  The Right Place to Start is the place that makes sense to you or is an area that you understand.  Don’t try venturing down the perfume classification area if you don’t understand it and don’t really want to know what perfumes are fougeres or chypres or orientals or care what it is that makes them those things.  If you are a random sampler that likes flitting from one perfume sample to another perfume sample, the next step becomes even more important.

Keep Careful Notes.  This is one of the more important things you need to do. If you are an Excel spreadsheet person, get one started, and make columns for the name of the perfume sample, when you got it, where you got it, classification or prominent note or other feature that makes it distinctive, what you think of it, a rating on a scale of 1-10,  when you tested it, whether you liked it enough to buy a decant or bottle of it, swapped it or not, used it up, and where you stored the damn thing (some small prevention against misplacing perfume samples).  These notes will help you sort through the loves and likes and chronicle your journey and how your tastes will likely change by more exposure to different kinds of scents.   This also keeps you from buying the same perfume sample more than once. Take it from a person who has done this more times than I care to count.

This spreadsheet with those columns will keep track of things you want to swap, the perfume samples you already have swapped so you don’t wind up swapping for them again, just to bang your head on the table when you get it, sniff it and realize you already tried the wretched thing and can’t believe you have it back, and it will track the things you liked well enough to get a little larger amount of, as well as those that you have bought more than one decant.  Buying more than one decant of a perfume is a good indicator that it’s one you like well enough to keep on hand, and you may want to step up for a full bottle or go in for a larger portion on a bottle split (again, splits not covered in this post, it goes with swapping).    You’ll also track where you keep it, which is the biggest problem for the Tribble Sample problem. These things expand like Rabbits, and before you know it you are buying baskets and containers just to hold samples.  If you know where you put them, it will save you a bit of time when you’re hunting for it.

Find the Common Theme.  If you are looking for The One, the Holy Grail, and you don’t want a fragrance wardrobe for seasons or mood or occasion or… well, okay, I can’t understand this at all, but no judgment.  Keep looking on your spreadsheet for things you rated highly, then look at the brand, the note, the classification, any other distinctive pieces of it to try to find the point on the Venn Diagram it might intersect.  It could be citrus fragrances from Annick Goutal.  You may not really care that much about citrus fragrances or love them universally, but the way Goutal deals with them may make your heart beat faster.  Whatever the intersection, you know then to head off in that direction for a while to see if that’s true – is it the brand you like or the way they treat that note or maybe something else in the line will be The One.

Keep an Open Mind. This is probably the hardest part. It is easy to dismiss something entirely based on one or two perfumes. You could smell a musk perfume, hate it and cross off all musk perfumes.  It may be that, or it could be you didn’t like heavy musk or white musk. Maybe it’s roses, you smelled a couple of Rosines and thought they smelled like Aunt June, and the thought of smelling like Aunt June is not acceptable.  But you might smell Le Labo’s Rose or Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit and have one or both take your breath away. But you won’t know that if you strike entire notes or classifications from your “to try” list.  Sometimes it is painful to try things you are sure you will hate, but trust me on this – the times when you will find something to love in that painful mess will be worth it.

The other piece to keeping an open mind is to throw out your idea of gender-specific scents. I think men smell amazing in gardenia, tuberose and roses.  Who said those are feminine notes anyway? What smells good to you is what smells good. Your masculinity is not defined by your smell, nor is your femininity.  I wear about as many “masculine” fragrances as I do feminine.  If your taste runs to the traditional masculine scents, then by all means, go with that for yourself.  But I do have to tell you, a guy that knows what he likes smelling on someone else is incredibly appealing.

Thy Mind, it Will Be Changed.  Once you play around in perfume for 6-12 months, go back to your perfume spreadsheet, resniff some of the things you tried early on that you really didn’t care for or thought were way too intense,.  I promise you, some of them will now smell great or at least very different on the Hate-it Scale.  We are conditioned in the United States especially, via all the “fresh” scents in our laundry detergent, shampoos, deodorant, jock itch powder and tampons to believe that good smells one way – clean.  The more you explore perfume, your nose will adjust and start liking some of those non-clean-smelling perfumes, the ones that smell just a wee bit like buttcrack or post-coital sheets.  When I first tried Serge Lutens Musc Koublai Khan, I was horrified at the open, it was nasty armpit, and it eventually turned into a great skin scent. Now when I smell MKK, I think it’s cuddly cute and can’t imagine how I was ever horrified by how it smells on the open.

99 Bottles of Perfume on the Wall.  Well, you started this thinking you were hunting for ONE perfume, but now you have a list of 20-30 things you really, really love and would wear regularly. Hey, welcome to my world, punkin!  Seriously, you will get no judgment here for being a Scent Slut.  Just go with it, think of it as Promiscuous Perfuming where nobody gets hurt as long as you aren’t spending money earmarked for rent like you had a Crack Habit.  You may find a few things and be happy and wear them for the rest or your life, or you may be back here in summer wondering why all the stuff you just fell in love with smells like Mule Balls in the heat.

The most important thing of all – Have fun.  Setting out to find a new perfume isn’t real life, it is perfume play. I think discovering what you like through your sense of smell is an amazing journey inside of yourself, through your past, and maybe into your future.  Take your time, explore it all, revel in how smelling something amazing or revolting makes you feel, what it triggers.  I swear, before you know it, you will be sniffing the most revolting things, laughing if it can really make your nose squinch up.  

Okay, we are going to do two drawings today. BTW, the winners of the last two posts will get announced later on Tuesday, so watch for that if you wanted to enter.  If you are fairly new to perfume, just tell me that in the comments to be entered in a drawing for a Perfume Posse Perfume 101 sample set. If you’ve been around a while and would like to pass on a tip, I’ll enter you in a drawing for a sample of the latest Iunx from paris, the L’Arbre.  So tell me what about this meth perfume habit is the worst if you’ve been at it a while or what you’re getting stuck on if you’re new.



  • Christina says:

    I’m LOST! I had the flu back in December, and lost my senses of smell and taste. I want to wear a fragrance of Jasmine, but can’t test them. I remember the smell was so yummy, but I don’t know any of the brands. Can I get some suggestions? ( I want it to smell as close to pure Jasmine, as possible.) Thanks!

  • I’m not sure if the article will help me define and find what I’m searching for, but surely I enjoyed reading it! 🙂

  • Keri says:

    I started with this crack habit when The Guide came out. After many samples and purchases, I too still feel like a novice.

    • Jan Last says:

      The important thing to remember, this is FUN! I am still at the stage where I think a sample has certain notes and my perception is waaaayyy out in left field. My husband has gotten used to me talking to my samples and in certain cases, using the Ghaaaackkk word and running back to the shower. I love things where the notes aren’t my favorites, but they are put together so beautifully you can’t resist them. Have a good time and don’t spend the house payment, lol.

  • Spickens says:

    Would anyone be interested in sharing their spreadsheet? Or at least a picture of how it’s set up?

    • Jan Last says:

      Sure! Shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to share my spreadsheet. I am jdeangeo at aol dot com

  • Irina says:

    I’m rather new to this hobby-would like to graduate but it will take me a while
    the new postal restrictions are a serious drawback, as I live neither in US nor in Europe ( I can’t get so many, interesting things, and, lately, can’t even try my luck in many draws, as they’re US residents, only))
    would love to be included in the 101 samples set draw, please

  • Flora says:

    I would say something witty and erudite but I am laughing way too hard at your Musk Venn Diagram. 😀

  • Monica K. says:

    I have always loved perfume from way back in my high school days wearing (gasp) Obsession! I was an 80’s gal, but wore so many different ones in my early years: Ivoire, Coco, White Linen, Knowing, Opium…Over the past few years, I have usually had 1-2 bottles on my dresser. Never more than that. I recently re-discovered my love of perfume and am in this stage of gorging on samples, reviews from several blogs, writing an Excel spreadsheet, lemming niche & hard to find scents. My husband is like “what is going on here?!!” 🙂 Can you say obsession?? Anyway, I am truly enjoying the ride, and have made a few new FB purchases of frags that I have repeated gotten samples of over the past year or so. The hardest thing has been stopping my itchy trigger finger on the Barney’s website!!! I just recently blind bought LAP’s Seville, and am waiting for it to arrive. I would love the Perfume Posse Perfume 101 sample set. I’m sure it has a number of frags that are on my TRY/Buy Sample list! Thanks for doing the giveaway!

  • Liz K says:

    Not precisely a newbie but there sure are a ton of things I haven’t sampled and would love to be entered in the perfume 101 sample drawing. I have to agree that re-smelling is essential. I can not tell you how many times I warily circled some of my samples that I have grown to love. I even re-sniff the true scrubbers occasionally just in case. My problem is that I have such a long list of scents I like and want a FB of, but then I blow the perfume budget on more samples. Vicious cycle this perfume stuff.

  • Isabelle says:

    This post gives extremely good advice, and I thank you for taking the time to explain all this to newbies like me ! I fell in the rabbit hole last december. For reasons I don’t actually remember, after years of not wearing much perfume at all, I decided I needed a new Signature Scent… I decided to be scientific about it and sample as long and as much as needed to eliminate the pitfalls I knew then :
    1) longevity inferior to 4-5 hours
    2) whatever that note is that turns acid and unpleasant after ten minutes on my skin (thought it was rose at the time, now I’m pretty sure it’s something else)
    3) anything too fruity / sugary for my nose (quite a lot, as you can probably imagine)
    Luckily I quickly stumbled on several blogs which emphasized the need to sample, and luckily again I live not very far from a Sephora which carries quite a lot of things (Serge Lutens, for example) and has very understanding Sale Assistants.
    In the last months I sniffed whatever I could, whenever I could… nearly broke my bank account with four full bottles I enjoy enormously (SL Féminité du Bois, Diptyque Tam Dao, Olfactive Studio Autoportrait, Roger&Gallet Bois d’Orange… can you find a common a theme here?), and several miniatures (I cherish AG Heure Exquise and will probably buy a FB when I can afford it). Signature Scent will probably never happen and that’s more than OK with me ! I’m too busing sniffing anything I can to care anyway.
    The 101 sampler set would be nice, but as I live in France the cost of shipping is not negligible : feel free not to enter me in the draw.

  • Jamie says:

    I am a total newbie and would love to enter the drawing for the 101 samples! I recently got engaged and as a non-perfume person I am searching for the perfect wedding scent. My biggest challenge is trying to to figure out what I’m smelling. I recognize roses, lilacs, and lavender. But how do I know what an osmanthus or hawthorn smell like? Or harder yet, what does sandalwood or musk smell like exactly? Also, I can identify scents as sweet or sharp, but I can’t always identify what makes it sweet or sharp. How do I get a more discerning nose? Any tips would be welcome! Thank you!

  • Poodle says:

    Sniff, sniff, and sniff again. Always try a scent more than once. Weather, hormones, mood, practically anything can alter how a scent smells to you on a certain day. I’ve had samples I thought were scrubbers that I now love.
    Never toss the samples you hate. Someone out there loves the exact same thing that you can’t get off your wrist fast enough. I have happily passed along scents I could not stand to people who were tickled pink to get them. Oftentimes you can trade them for something you might like better too.
    Also read the blogs. You’ll get familiar with people and see whose tastes line up with yours. I’ve actually done some blind buys based on certain peoples reviews and gotten lucky but honestly, don’t blind buy. Sample first. Do as I say, not as I do.

  • Merlin says:

    A few years back, 2009 or 2010 I started wondering – what is this sense that we are supposed to have called smell. I am not anosmic; its just something I never paid any attention to. Also I get severe hayfever and quite a lot of respiratory infections so my sense of smell is a bit blunted – either from symptoms or medication. Anyway, it occurred to me that smell could be a whole dimension that I was missing out on. So, for the first time, in my early 30s, I began sniffing. And, somewhere around the same time I came upon a book called ‘Perfume: the Guide’. This was a total turning point for me. I could look up a perfume name – read a concise and often witty review of it and then smell it for myself at a fragrance counter.

    I later learnt that the book is quite controversial. Of course most people disagree with at least some of the reviews, but some also think that several of the reviews are biased by personal relations with the perfumer or brand. I have no opinion about this – for me it was a book that was entirely necessary for my early explorations.

    As for my tip: I will repeat what others have said. Even if something doesn’t move you very much it may be worth trying again later. The one perfume that is indispensable to me (Chergui) was neither here nor there to me a few years back. Then a shop gave me FOUR samples of it, late 2012 and that got me totally hooked. I now depend on the stuff for any emotional stability! Sorry for such a long essay:)

  • Joaquim says:

    Like a year is “fairly new to perfume”? 😀
    I love the musk venn diagram, never tried Femme tes Jeaux and l’Air de Rien! I think that one important tip is to find as many perfume blogs as possible in order to expand your vision, read news, reviews etc, and sample before buy, always, doesn’t matter how good sounds the note list or the review!

    Thank you for the draw

  • JanLast says:

    The over-organized here. My fall down the scent rabbit hole began with reading a few books about perfume. The Posse came up in several, and the rest is history. I bought samples, EBayed myself into oblivion, smelled, smelled and smelled some more. Today, I keep a detailed spread sheet, then I put my samples into Ziplocks, labled by house. Then they are alphbetized in those plastic baskets from the dollar store, then stored under a black cloth to keep them fresh. I keep vintage FB’s and minis in a dark cool room in a case so I can look at them, most are beautiful. Now I play Fairy as often as possible and love swapping scents. My biggest problem is liking too many things I smell. I try to be selective, then Slumberhouse Grev or Anne Pliska sneaks up and attacks me. I keep new FB’s and minis under a black cloth at my dressing table. Come to think of it, you are probably the only person I know who has smelled mule balls. I’m adding that to my list, lol. And, your company gets a large part of my scent dollar because it offers quick test and maybe I’ll try this a few times sizes.

  • Red says:

    To be honest, sampling is an amazing and exciting linear or olfactory journey. You would be surprised to find out one day that you have reached 100 different sample perfumes from 1ml to 10ml. So addicting. Truly a fun and an adventurous experience wearing various unique perfumes where most you will find wonderful and a few, not for your taste.

    Then what is more challenging is how to store these samples along with your full bottles. Some say fridge it with above the normal room temp. Some say keep it in a dark area where no heat nor extreme cold would hit them. Some says never let them be exposed to light and sunlight. All advises were very helpful.

    But one thing that you need to consider in sampling is the “quality” of vials and sprayers. You may have stored them perfectly away from precautions but surprise, many of your samples evaporated, sprayers don’t work anymore, or defective upon arrival and worst, at a certain time after they arrived, your samples smelled horrible already. This is the sad reality in investing on samples. So see to it that once you buy a sample, use it soonest. You never know if the sprayers/vials coming from boutique as freebies or online sample stores are using quality ones “consistently”, which I doubt from my own experience. Hope these pointers would help the newbies.

    • Red says:

      But with thousands of perfumes in the market, I’m still on a long way travel in my olfactory journey. To join this samples draw would be awesome. Count me n please.

  • I am currently trying to crack the code of amber… Ambre Russe, too baroque femme fatale. Opus VI, amazing but too expensive. L’Air du Marocain, heaven but too short lived. Ambre Noir, quite lovely but not actually dark enough. Ambre Sultan, incredible opening followed by generic hippie oil. Somehow I know I love ambers but still have yet to find an amber I like, funny isn’t it? Same thing going on in the dirty musks land- I know I adore it, there’s something there in all the samples I’ve tried in this category that I crave yet I still haven’t found anything FB worthy. -sigh- I’m still pretty new to sample mania, a 101 kit may well open my eyes to a category off my radar. Many thanks!

  • Musette says:

    MULE BALLS! Who wouldn’t want a perfume that smelled like Mule Balls? 😀

  • Beth says:

    Sounds like a similar story, I started out looking for my holy grail of scent. Since I’m from an area with really only designer scents available, I had never been exposed to niche. Even things like Serge Lutens, ByKilian, Frederic Malle, none of these are available. I’ve done a lot of sampling, but I mostly jump from scent to scent. I’m stuck on the notes. I have a hard time distinguishing note from note and haven’t really done any work figuring out if I like certain notes and not others.

    The other hard thing that you get sucked into when you get one foot into the fragrant world is hearing about scents being reformulated and how amazing vintage was by comparison. This leads down the rabbit hole of buying vintage scent off ebay before it’s gone and you can NEVER SMELL IT AGAIN! This little gem has pressed me into purchasing things that I’m not sure I love, but I think maybe I will, and I better act fast! I’ve decided to let go of that, and give up the Indiana Jones style hunt.

    I would love to enter the 101 sample, especially since my sister is JUST starting on this journey. She was convinced she hated perfume, but after getting exposed to niche scents now curses my name. I kept telling her she didn’t hate perfume, she just hated BAD perfume. Now she believes me. 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    I’ve had a mostly on and sometimes off relationship with cigarettes since I was 13. A little over 2 years ago, I quit for the 8th and final time. At the same time, I stumbled into purchasing the perfume posse 101 sampler set. Finally, a very important and sustainable reason to not smoke…to be able to smell! I’ve told myself that if I ever take even one puff of the wicked stick again, I must immediately get rid of my frag stash. So, even though the past year has been full of stress (hospitals, cancer, surgeries and near death experiences of my partner, writing and defending my thesis, all while trying to parent two teenagers), instead of reaching for a pack, I put my wrist to my nose.

    My obsession may lead to a career I’m very passionate about. I interviewed with a professor that co-founded a fragrance and flavor research lab. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day than sitting with my nose in a little mask, sniffing separated aromatic compounds coming off a gas chromatography olfactometer!

  • Elia says:

    My start came from falling for a discontinued scent. Gucci Nobile. I started by looking for an affordable substitute, both looking for something resembling Nobile or something new to fall for. Never thought it would end up being a bit of an addiction. I sifted through designer fairly quickly; disliked most of them to start with. Fast progression but niche interest is costly :).
    I never thought to take notes. My memory is good, so I have mental notes running about my head, but I might adopt that strategy. I also revisit scents often. Especially when you end up reading about a sample you have stored, or spot a comparison, and so on.
    Currently I kinda go note hunting. Vanilla was my first note exploration. Adopted really, as it is a note my sister wanted to explore.
    But in general I’m interested in anything and everything. With most things unavailable to sniff in a local store, things sound good on paper.
    I’m very selective in what I actually like, so that keeps me in check. But my advice to a beginner would be to read and read and read through other peoples views and reviews and experiences, while always keeping a filter up to reflect your own tastes and a reminder that most people go into hyperbole when talking about perfumes, they’re rarely as good as they sounded on paper.
    Another tip is to expose yourself to things not normally available to you whenever you travel. Do some research before you travel. I still kick myself about missing a boutique I’d earmarked on one of my travels.

  • meg says:

    I’m quite new to this (only dove in a couple of months ago) and would like to be entered into the 101 drawing. Thanks for the opportunity!

    I’ve always loved smelling things (basically anything, from shampoo to carpet deodorizer to incense), but I’m just now trying to do nasal deconstruction on well-made (and otherwise) fragrances and having a blast with it. I’m currently building up a “to smell list” with various notes that I’m fairly ignorant of and am trying to track enough representative examples down that I can start to figure them out.

  • Joao Ribeiro says:

    You are so right about roses and tuberose on men!
    I changed my mind,, now I will try gardenia 🙂
    Thank you for your care with beginners, very helpful! And after 100 samples, I still feel as an absolute beginner!

  • E.Lime says:

    I am not sure what qualifies as fairly new anymore, but I got really interested in scents in August. Since then, I have bought three FBs and I have a little cache of samples. I have been really enjoying swapping and smelling different things. Where I am stuck is, I’m trying to figure out if it is certain notes that I don’t like (I know one is cedar, one is amber) that seem to limit my “hits” and increase my “misses,” or if I just happen to be a picky son-of-a-gun (in my Grampy’s parlance). I would appreciate being entered into the 101 drawing.

  • MadVito says:

    I originally purchased my first samples in search of the Holy Grail which was discontinued by the time I spritzed through my first bottle. My sister bought me a copy of “Coming To My Senses” whereupon I started my downward slide into Scent Sluttiness. I still struggle with going hog wild buying samples faster than I can smell them! I have found some favs though but hey there is always room for more! My sis & I have a Scentcation schedule in May-can’t wait!

  • Maureen says:

    I am fairly new to this perfume habit. My late husband usually bought me Chanel, and I love it, but now enjoy sampling. I thought I hated gardenia and tuberose, but have found I like them mixed with other notes. I would love to try the sampler. Thanks.

  • Nita says:

    After falling in love with perfume several years ago, I was horrified when a dermatologist’s skin patch test revealed that my mysterious new skin rash was caused by “fragrance mix.” Determined to continue enjoying & exploring the world of fragrance, I now spray it on my clothing. I would love to be entered in the drawing for the new l’arbre by Inux. Thank you for a wonderful article and for the drawing!

  • Connie says:

    I’m still fairly new to perfume, and one of the things I have enjoyed most is having a smelling buddy; my mom got into fragrance at about the same time I did. Needless to say, I’d love to be entered in the 101 drawing.
    I’ve learned in the past few months to smell everything I can, participate in swaps, not buy full bottles unless I am sure I love the perfume, and, if I don’t like a note, to just give it time… I’ll probably grow into it.

  • Lots of great advice for newbies here- I wish I had had this guide when I started down the road a few years back! Buying samples first instead of blind buying based on notes is very very wise, and something I do now… it can save money- because not all perfumes have good resale or swap value. Keeping track of samples- with comments/impressions and ratings for each is also one of my current habits, and I find it really helps with scent-memory-recall, as well as just to keep the herd corralled. As for keeping an open mind- definitely; for instance, at one time I would have said that I disliked orris and tonka in a perfume, but I’ve dicovered that if these elements are used in just.the.right.way (teensy amounts) that I enjoy them immensely! And along this whole, at-times-frenetic journey, I’ve discovered notes that I never knew existed before, that aren’t used widely in mass-appeal frags, and that I love and identify with and thank the-stars-above every day for niche-designers who use them.

    A single signature fragrance? Hah! 🙂

    Btw, nice post. 🙂

  • Magdalena says:

    I’m fairly new to perfume – and I’m learning a lot from Perfume Posse posts. 🙂 I’d love to enter the 101 sample set drawing, of course.

    I more or less have a list of the notes I like, but these are umm, blind picks to some extent. Often when I read the guides to particular notes, I find there are so many visages to each one of them, that I get the feeling I don’t know it that much after all. 🙂 I don’t have much money to spend on samples, so before I order one I make sure I like everything about the potential perfume to buy: the name, the packaging, the notes… I sure miss out a lot, I guess, but that’s my method so far.

  • thegoddessrena says:

    A few years ago I decided I needed a signature scent, sniffedwhat was available and ended up with Bois d’Iris from the Different Co (I had to go to NY to get it). When it was running out, Isearched to find where I could buy it in Boston. I found this blog and now smell this. I started buying samples/decants but I was mostly content with the few perfumes I had. Then, after surgically induced menopause, I realized that things smelled different, so I started sniffing heavily again and I did the Mon Mail on Now Smell This. I took it very seriously, tried 63 of the 65 suggestions and have now turned into a total sniffaholic, trolling around NYC looking for new things to smell. I am really loving the Perfume Fairy posts (I’m a typicalbroke grad student) since this allows me to have samples in my possession without spending too much money and I’d highl recommend the Mon Mail as a way of educating yourself–you get the collective wisdom of dozens of fumeheads. I now own dozens of bottles of perfume (I bought a couple of vintage lots off ebay–containing all sorts of things that I wouldn’t even have considered if I hadn’t already turned into a sniffaholic). My to-buy list now contains over 30 items and I have perfume samples in my bag at all times in case I have a scent emergency ( both completely unthinkable a few years ago) 🙂

  • Spickens says:

    Two months ago, I got a new dresser and found a little glass cabinet to put on top of it. And then had nothing to go in the little glass cabinet. And then I thought to myself, “Hey self! Remember about 3 years ago when you momentarily went crazy and bought a lot of 50 perfume samples off the E-BAY even when you didn’t wear perfume and hadn’t bought a bottle of perfume in 15 years? And remember how pretty those looked in that cute box? Those would look great in a crystal bowl in this cute little glass cabinet!” So I dug them out of a box I hadn’t unpacked since I moved into a new house 2 years ago. And as I was putting them in the pretty crystal bowl, I started smelling them. And LO and BEHOLD…I LOVED SOME!!! And hated others. But the ones I liked, I REALLY liked. It spurred an obsession. Since then, I have been smelling perfume like never before. I all of a sudden notice it on other people! I can smell it the second I walk into stores! It’s like I never really smelled it before (mental block??). I’ve read three books (the a-z guide, the 100 classics, and the Emperor of Scent). Watched umteen youtube videos, and I’m slowly digging in to yours and other blogs. I have actually purchased travel size bottles (I’m not ready to commit yet) (Womanity and Lola so far( I know I know, so mainstream)), but I am just scratching the surface of trying to discover what I like and don’t like. I think I don’t like Gardenia, I think I love Amber, but I certainly have not sampled enough for that to be definite. So yes, please enter me in any drawings for samples! I am having a blast learning about all this and reading/ sampling all I can!

    • Musette says:

      No apologies for mainstream! We’re not nichewhores on here – in fact, we often take great delight in finding cheap and fabulous mainstream scents. Just ask the legions who fell in love with Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy – it’s really pretty!

      And..if you missed any of them, the best posts for individual Notes can be found in the links under our logo , where it says ‘Best Perfumes (Note)’


  • rosarita says:

    Such good advice. When I first stumbled down the rabbit hole, there were maybe 5 perfume blogs available and now there are so many. I’ve learned the most from following the Posse, Now Smell This, Bois d’Jasmin and lately Cafleurebon. Basenotes and Fragrantica are also sites with lots of useful perfume information. Since I live in an area with very little perfume shopping available, reading about perfume online has been critical in learning and honing my taste. Don’t read every review and decide that you can’t live until you’ve smelled it; write the name down in your little book or on your spreadsheet and remember to TAKE YOUR TIME. That’s what I wish I would have learned earlier, that it’s not necessary or feasible to smell everything at once. And try to stop yourself from getting carried away and buying bottles online without smelling them first; it’s easy to do, we’ve all done it and while sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t.

  • Roslyn says:

    These tips are great. I’m a relative beginner but already have so many samples and keep wanting to try more. I’m already finding that my taste is changing somewhat. I do find that most perfumes don’t last a long time on me, which is annoying! It’s becoming more problematic for me to buy samples now because shipping prices to Australia (where I live) have gone up, which makes the whole thing too expensive! So I have to be more selective about what the samples I try. But I can’t get enough and would love to be in the draw!

  • eldarwen22 says:

    At this point of my perfume stage, I have to hide my most recent perfume purchases when I bring in the mail. It’s always the same argument at home of the don’t you have enough? Can’t you be satisfied with what you have? Not really. I’m mostly satisfied with what I have right now but something I hate now, I may fall in love with later and want a bottle. Always go for brand or note samplers. If any are classics, maybe try out the vintage.

    • Patty says:

      Great advice. I think I swapped away several samples of the same thing because I’d keep thinking I *should* love it, but didn’t. I know some people say you should just give up, but I don’t like giving up when it doesn’t make sense why I don’t like it!

  • Steve Tsotras says:

    Great article. I have picked up a lot of the things mentioned here along the way, though I’m still relatively new to the world of fragrances. Sampling is definitely key, and not just once. Ideally, like to sample a fragrance 3 times to see how it responds each time. And if possible, go back to it later on, a few months later. Just yesterday I tried a fragrance I hated only 2 months ago, and I absolutely loved it this time around. My nose has become more nuanced, and I pick up notes more readily, and see how they interact with one another. The only problem that remains is longevity somewhat, and projection in a big way. Even well known projection beasts such as Tobacco Vanille, where some say two sprays can fill a room for days, on my skin 4 sprays becomes a skin scent after an hour. Still experimenting with different lotions and such, but it is a bit of an issue.

    • Patty says:

      yeah, I think if new people hang out on BN or the blogs, they eventually suss out the basics of economical perfume stuff – well, economical isn’t a great word as I think about the fortune I’ve spent on scent over the last 8 years! – but at least how to make the dollars go further.

    • Merlin says:

      Hi Steve, I have a similar problem and so far the best solution I have found is to apply petroleum jelly (vaseline) under the fragrance. This forms a barrier and stops the perfume disappearing into the skin. Some say pure shea butter also works, but I haven’t tried it. For me moisturisers didn’t help preserve the scent very much.

  • Kandice says:

    What a great post! I’m fairly new to this whole thing and really appreciated the tips. Perhaps the best piece of advice for me is not to write off a note just because you don’t like a fragrance. I’ve tried one lovely leather scent (Ann Gerard’s Cuir de Nacre) but it just wasn’t me so I was ready to give up on the whole group . I guess I’ll try a few more before I write them all off although I have to admit leather scents scare me a little 🙂 I’d love to be entered in either draw. Thanks for all the help!

    • Patty says:

      Exactly! Even when you know a note doesn’t work for you generally, I usually find a perfume or two that’s a winner for me because of the combination of notes. Not a leather lover either, which is why Musette did the leather comprehensive post, but I loves me some Dzing!

  • mridula says:

    hi, I am swapping with my March perfume fairy. I asked and she is granting my wish for perfumes with the rose note. So I asked if there wasn’t something I could send her way, and there was, and so we are swapping. I think swapping is an amazing experience as so many people are so overwhelmingly generous. I have tried to be similarly generous – not so much by giving to the person I get from – I am a newbie and don’t have a lot that is interesting to others yet – but by giving to whoever is out there who expresses interest. It is a kind of a building of perfume karma. When someone admires a perfume I am wearing – usually someone who has never heard of niche – I promptly hand over some of what is being admired.

    Having said all that I do wish someone would help me find a perfume with a daphne note. My daphne smells so lemony and creamy in the late evening. Add to that is the scent of the cedar in whose shade she blooms. Someone… help.

    • Patty says:

      Oh, wonderful! I’m not sure if you know, but we do a spring and fall swapmania, and it will be about time for swapmania next month, I believe!

      Swapping is a great way to try more things. People usually do a combination – buy samples, buy decants, buy bottles, and then the ones getting no play or they don’t want to keep all of go for swap! All you really need is a good bottle or two of something people like or even a decant, and you can usually make samples and get a lot of good swapping done off of that. I quickly found decants and samples,, and it just made so many more perfumes accessible in small amounts, which is usually a ll I want. I could and have lived on samples for weeks!

      Daphne, I know of only one, and it’s discontinued. Napa Valley Cielo. It’s not perfectly right, but it’s as close as I’ve smelled. I love my daphnes, so I’ve been on the hunt for this forever and can’t seem to get it.

  • spiker says:

    Hmmm…. I think I’m still in the beginner stage, just starting to get my bearings, and having a lot of fun with it. Obviously, I’d love to go into the drawing for the perfume 101 sample set.

    • Patty says:

      Absolutely! Beginner stage is really fun, it’s all new, you’re exploring some fun things for the first time. I miss that stage, but I’m okay now that I’ve come back around past jaded into being happy with perfume again, even when I’m irritated at one or two releases that I wished were better than they were.

  • Tiara says:

    I would have loved to have found something like this when I began exploring perfume. Lots of good advice here! I had no idea what I doing, where I should go, etc. I gave away samples I thought “weren’t me” only to re-buy some of them later. I was searching for my Holy Grail which I know now is impossible for me. Way too many loves to narrow it down to just 1 or 2.

    • Patty says:

      Yeah, me too! My sample habit was out of control for about a year when I first started, and I wound up giving away and swapping away some treasures that I had no idea were treasures and I’d do anything to get back! 🙂