Saturday Question: How Do You Sample Perfumes New to You?

Undina: Following great tradition started by two wonderful bloggers, Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) and Portia (Australian Perfume Junkies), once a week I or one of the guest writers will keep the lights on in this virtual leaving room, but I hope that you, my friends and readers, will engage in conversation not only with me or the other host, but also with each other.

This week your host is hajusuuri.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #7:

How Do You Sample Perfumes New to You?

With so many perfume launches and buzz about both new and old perfumes, how do you actually get to sample them?

My Answer

For the past several years, including this year, companies have been launching multiple perfumes in one shot. In just the last two weeks, and only relying on Now Smell This (NST) for perfume news, there were launches for 2 (Louis Vuitton), 3 (Memo Paris) and 9 (Givenchy). Interspersed with these multi-national companies with relatively large marketing budgets, there are also many niche and indie brands that tend to rely on social media such as Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, among others. Coupled with new perfumes, there are older perfumes that one may not have caught up with as yet. It is, therefore, not surprising to feel like Sisyphus in trying to keep up with perfume!

I narrow down perfumes I like to try by paying attention to what my favorite bloggers, NST commenters and Instagrammers I follow wear, as long as there’s a description that excites me. With a shorter list, here’s how I get to sample them:

  1. Working in New York City, I have access to higher end department stores, boutiques and niche perfumeries. I breeze through and sniff as many perfumes as possible (via scent strips) and beg for samples. (NB: This is currently not possible to do since all the non-essential stores are closed and I am also working from home in New Jersey.)
  2. Participate in swaps and splits.
  3. If I happen to buy perfumes online, I include a notation as to which other perfumes I would like to sample. Tip: Always add one or two more on the list than the number of samples you are entitled to; more than half of the time, the seller will include extras.
  4. Purchase a niche / indie perfume subscription service. My favorite one is the Scented Subscription Program at Indigo Perfumery. Every month, I get 3 atomizer samples, along with a newsletter with information about 2 of the perfumes and a write up on a perfumery note. There’s also a discount on a full bottle purchase of the featured perfume, as well as a chance to win a full bottle if you guess the mystery sample correctly. Although the monthly samples may not necessarily include the perfumes I am keen to try, every set ends up being a curated set of perfumes worth sampling.
  5. And not for the faint of heart — Buy a large “sample,” sometimes referred to as a hajusuuri-sized sample.

 

Indigo Perfumery Subscriprion Samples

 

How about you? If we get to 100 comments, there will be a prize: a random draw for a $25 gift certificate to (your choice) either Indigo Perfumery or Surrender to Chance (not affiliated with either).

 

How Do You Sample Perfumes New to You?

 

Images: hajusuuri’s Scented subscription program samples, October 2019 – March 2020.

Disclaimer: this blog doesn’t use any affiliated links or benefit from any of the G-d awful ads that some of you might see inserted tastelessly by the WP engine inside the post and/or between comments. Encouraging readers to post more comments does not serve any purpose other then getting pleasure from communicating with people who share same interests.

56 thoughts on “Saturday Question: How Do You Sample Perfumes New to You?

  1. Hi hajusuuri

    It would take a lot for me to pay for a sample these days. My success rate is way too low. I’m lucky to have fabulous friends that will share perfume with me and occasionally I’ll score a sample from a department store. The Malle store in London are generous with samples too. A few indie brands are kind enough to send new releases for possible review which is great.

    Like

  2. Hey Hajusuuri!

    I would not pay for a sample. Nope. No exceptions. Next to nothing interests be. And when it does I will either order a travel (like with Malle) – does that count as a big sample – or go to the store and try it. That is only Chanel, Malle, or Hermès so easy to do here. I live where I can do that and fully understand that the only way a lot of perfumistas can try something is by samples. Just not my bag. Nice to see you here. Take care. ❤️

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      • I talked about it with Tara the other day. In 2002/3 if my memory serves I researched and ordered samples from ALZD twice (I am now friends with them, but knew no one at that time). Every single one sucked. And then again in 2011, I ordered the Vero’s. That was successful! But I just knew that I was going to love them. And no I honestly don’t think I ever paid for samples again. I have asked for samples of the Chanel’s and Hermès in Vienna, and they are always very generous. If I want something badly enough, like with the last Malle, and the IUNX collection? Then I order the travel. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

    • cookiequeen! I do love the 10-15 mL travel sprays and the Frédéric Malles have been particularly perfect…which made me eventually succumb to a full set of them, even knowing that there are some I just.cannot.wear (I am looking at you Lipstick Rose). That said, for me, 30mLs or more count as a hajusuuri-sized sample; however, for extraits, I lower that to whatever counts as full or half-size for that concentration.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello matte! I suppose what is considered mainstream may depend on which department store it is. Some stores have a beauty floor with a good number of niche perfume lines. In the begging for samples department, I find it helpful to bring sample atomizers (in case the SA lies about wanting to do it but don’t have any vials or atomizers on hand) or carrying a shopping bag from a boutique (hello Chanel!).

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      • You know, I think in 85-90% of cases SAs can “feel” those (potential) customers who can buy those perfumes. I noticed that “ordering” them to make me a sample (“Please, make me a small sample of this one”) works better than asking (“Can I get a sample?”). But to do that, one needs confidence that comes from actually shopping in those places at least from time to time.

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        • You are so right, Undina. Also, if you rattle off what you have of the line you’re looking at (and I would not feel right lying about it), the SA is more likely to try to please.

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  3. I usually get samples of new fragrances at fairs like Esxence or Pitti Fragranze and there’s enough to last for a couple of months of testing and writing for Chemist in the Bottle.
    This year this technique won’t work and I haven’t smelled anything new since February.
    No idea what are the chances that some brands will send samples of their new releases by mail…

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    • Didn’t you have some niche perfume shop close to where you live?

      Are there any local companies that offer subscriptions? Not that I suggest you to use them, just curious.

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      • No Undina! There’s plenty in Warsaw or Cracow but not in Poznań. Missala sometimes sends me samples from Warsaw but their work is limited now too.

        There are no perfume subscriptions in Poland.

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    • Howdy sweetie! That’s too bad about Esxence being cancelled! Have you heard about Pitti? As to brands sending samples, I would think that they would want to quickly get back to normal as soon as feasible and really, these days, companies that sell perfume seem to continue doing so even if all have shuttered their brick & mortar presence.

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      • Hello!
        For now Pitti has not been cancelled but I suppose this depends if by September things have calmed down enough.
        Yes, I think most brands still run their e-shops and home deliveries.

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  4. Early in my perfume journey I tried sample sets from Surrender to Chance and Perfumed Court. I also ordered samples from indie perfumers (DSH, SSS) and various discovery sets. In the last year or so I have slowed way down and this year on a no-buy I have realized that I have enough perfume for all time. I have a couple of bottles on a wish list, but as for sampling I will wait until I can visit a store or swap with someone. I’m done with buying samples (famous last words, right)? But like CQ I am more often than not disappointed. And the no-buy was launched because I was overwhelmed with my possessions. No need to add more stuff to my life. Going to really enjoy what I have.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When you say “overwhelmed with my possessions,” do you mean just perfumes or in general? Whatever the answer is, are you trying to minimize them just by stopping further acquisitions and using (up) what you’ve got, or are you actively purging something?

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    • Hi MMK. So far so good on your no-buy! I don’t have that kind of discipline and have found myself fighting myself even if I only restrict myself a little (that’s a lot of me me me!). I love discovery sets, especially for new to me brands or if I have only tried 1 or 2 out of a more extensive set. I also stretch my $$s by offering to lend sets to other perfumistas as long as they promise to send it to the next person or back to me. In this COVID-age though, sadly, I probably won’t be doing that anymore.

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    • I can relate. I’ve downsized my perfume collection and my possessions in general this year. I’m enjoying what remains much more.

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  5. Like you, Undina, I live in a big city, so if I really want to try something new, I can stop by a department store or Sephora to try one or more fragrances. Our local Sephoras are pretty generous with samples to take home, too. Like MMKinPA, I went through a stage when I sought out sample sets from Surrender to Chance, to educate myself and my nose. I still love a good discovery set! Especially from indie perfumers. I have a Scentbird subscription and I’ve really enjoyed that, as you can choose from niche brands like Amouage in addition to popular designer scents (which I’m not interested in getting from them), and the sprayers are a nice travel size (8 ml). I’d say that my perfume purchasing has also slowed down and narrowed down in recent months, as my collection is now quite large and I need to explore and enjoy what I have. Also, I’ve been more likely in the last year or so to buy a full bottle when I travel (sob! some day I’ll travel again!), and I can visit an independent perfumery whose scents are hard or impossible to find in the US. Can’t wait to resume my “perfume tourism” when that’s feasible!

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    • Unlike hajusuuri (the host of this week’s post) who works in NY, I live close but not in SF and get to those shops just 2-3 times a year at best.

      Interestingly, I never bought sets from any of the decanter sites. A couple of times I went for the Luckyscent’s sample set with the newest perfumes, but otherwise I’m usually tempted by brand’s own sets.

      I did ScentBird subscription twice when I saw something I wanted to get, but the only blind buy was one of Amouage that I ended up hating and passed it on to someone else. The rest perfumes that I got I previously tried and wanted to have just a little to wear for a while but didn’t want to go for a bottle.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I am so with you on being able to travel again. I don’t usually end up with a perfume souvenir as Intend not to research what is only available at my destination nor perfume shops as I am pretty much the only one passionate about perfumes!

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  6. I could almost run a cut and paste of some of the comments I’ve read already. I used to buy samples of houses, discovery sets and of perfume ‘types’ ie, ambers, or rose etc but that was quite a long time ago. I still take full advantage of samples offered with purchases of bottles and push things to the max as advised by hajusuuri. I don’t feel bad about this in the slightest as I know and I’m pretty sure the vendor I’m purchasing from must know that this practise is often where the lemming for the next purchase is born.
    These days it seems the desire to try a perfume new to me comes almost exclusively from recommendations from fellow enthusiasts. Especially those I followed for a time and have a sense of. I am NEVER swayed by ads for perfume, or even blurbs and descriptions of new releases from perfume houses that I have enjoyed very much previously.
    I seem to build a bit of a lemming list in my head over time, it’s pretty informal, not usually written down and usually less than 5. Once I’ve got a few in mind I’ll try dept store/ Sephora if I can, or samples with purchase, or try to coincide with a perfume tourism trip. Once a year I seem to resort to purchasing a small package from someone like luckyscent of scents I can’t track down otherwise. Once in a while I seem to explore another indie line and will buy a discovery set and have some fun trying those out. I very often find one or two perfumes from a line that I really enjoy and want a bottle of. However, it’s a practise that I find myself doing less and less as the discovery sets seem to cost more and more. Quite a bummer if I’ve spent the equivalent of a full bottle on a house’s discovery set and found nothing I would even want more than a sample of.

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    • Hello SonomaVelvet! Not sponsored of course and I would only recommend what I myself have tried…the Indigo Scented Sample Subscription is a nice surprise for each month. As of this writing, it’s $12 for 1 month or $60 for 6 months and the cost includes shipping. It’s U.S. only so I don’t know if you can leverage.

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  7. I usually blind buy the perfume. I do sample things but usually what is shared with me by others randomly. Once in a while I order from Surrender to Chance or Lucky Scent but that is maybe once per year with five or six things. Friends send me sniffs and I send them sniffs, too.

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    • Why do you blind buy? Is it because you don’t have access to places where you can try those perfumes, or are you that good in predicting whether you’ll like it just from reading notes and reviews? And what do you do with those perfumes that you end up not liking?

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    • Hi Gina, how do you decide which perfume to blind buy (which terminology I don’t use anymore 🤣)? Not counting Portia and Donatella Versace, you have the most number of perfumes I’ve known in the blogosphere!

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  8. Hey there Hajusuuri,
    Online Decant Stores are my favourite way. A small fortune has gone from me to them. I love that they have the newest things and I can get them delivered and not have to wait till I’m in Paris.
    Also, when I buy fragrance bottles the companies are always super generous with samples. Often I will find a new love amongst these and then turn around and purchase a FB.
    I was part of a split group but once it started to take more than a couple of months I opted out. Very rarely friends will send me, or bring over something new that I MUST own.
    Portia xx

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    • Hello Portia, Yes, if they know you (and who wouldn’t know you with your big personality) and you buy, they are apt to be more generous. I’ll go back to perusing the decant sites (actually, site, because I will only use STC) once this whole COVID thing is over.

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  9. Since I do not use samples to wear perfumes, unless I’m in the final stage of deciding whether I want to buy it (which happens with, probably, one in twenty tests), and I write on my blog about what I tested approximately at the same ratio of tested/written-up perfumes, I prefer to test perfumes at a store and ask for samples for those that smell like candidates for my collection or my blog post. Unfortunately, conveniently accessible stores around carry just a subset of what’s available on their sites or even in the city.

    I do some friendly exchanges with other perfumistas and friends, but it happens once in a while, so I cannot count on it as on the access to new perfumes.

    Since recently I’ve been either busy or sick or both :), and because getting to the city for testing takes times, efforts and an expensive parking, which makes the exercise not that free any longer, and there are perfumes that I wouldn’t be able to test even there, in the last 6 months I made several samples-only purchases from online stores.

    I’ll think about the IP subscription, though my tastes are strange, so I’m hesitant to allow someone else to choose what I’m paying for. Besides, having suspicious mind, I always expect that the choice of what to send depends mostly on economical and marketing reasons rather than anything perfume- or ther quality-related aspects. But we’ll see. Their regular sampling program sounds good thank you for bringing it up to my attention.

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    • Ha! With the IP subscription, I think I can just pass them along to you and then you can return them…the atomizer samples have at least 1.5mLs each and can be tested by several people. And as to driving into the city and parking, that would be too much hassle for me too. I fear that the days of being able to independently spritz to sample are over and the strike through for #1 may be permanent unless a vaccine is found to be effective for COVID-19.

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      • We can probably do the reverse thing: you test your subscription and pass to me (2-3 months worth at a time, and once your subscription is up, I’ll subscribe for the next 6 and we’ll do it in the other direction :)

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  10. I don’t spend money on samples. Most of them I usually receive from very generous perfumistas, who continuously share them with me. Most of my decants or full bottle purchases are blind buys. These days I don’t find anything really interesting from samples that I try that may lead to a purchase, like in the past. Money saved, which I really love!

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    • I understand about decants (sometimes it’s not much more expensive to get 5 ml in a friendly split than to buy 1-2 ml from a decanter site; and you always can either swap or pass it on to a friend). But why blind buys of bottles? Are you that good in predicting what you’ll like?

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      • 99% of my blind buys have been very successful. Based on my taste and lots of reading about a scent before purchasing, I can easily feel if a blind buy will work for me.

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        • Impressive! I’ll play the mental game next time before trying any samples: I’ll try to predict by notes and reviews whether I think I’ll like them.
          Usually, it’s not easy to do since I try not to read reviews prior to testing anything – not to get influenced. But if Lucas or hajusuury like any perfume, it’s about 90% chances that I’ll like it too. But still, even when I like something, I do not necessarily want to have a bottle of it.

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    • Hi pfl67, I try not to pay for samples either but to the extent not feasible to try in-store, which is especially true of indie perfume houses, I usually either get a discovery set or buy a hajusuuri-sized sample.

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  11. Good question. It’s impossible keeping up with the flood of new releases. I use a combo of the following:
    1) Recommendations by trusted bloggers.
    2) The massive marketing machines of big brands, as I enjoy both designer and niche.
    3) Regular visits to fragrance counters at my local shopping centre. There’s always something new and older I might have missed.
    4) Lists of must-smells.

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    • All but #3 explain the decision making as to what to test, not the “means.” Do you buy samples (or “large samples” hajussuri-style)? Get them from other perfumistas? Do brands send you samples? Some other avenues?

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  12. I don’t have access to good brick n mortar shops without travelling to a city so buying samples, discovery sets and decants is the only way I get to try stuff. I don’t generally even look at manufacturers’ bumph as it’s usually a load of twaddle. Rather, it’s all you people on the blogs talking about something that makes me prick up my ears and go off and investigate further. Mostly I buy from trusted sellers on eBay. Or directly from manufacturer sites for discovery sets. I have a pretty good hit rate but I’m not overly bothered if they don’t work for me.

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    • I don’t think I bought any samples from eBay in the last 10 years. I did several large batch purchases in the beginning of my journey down the rabbit hole, then eBay changed their policies, and for a while decants/samples sales weren’t allowed. And they by the time they came back, I mostly stopped buying samples.

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  13. I’m behind this week. I had not answered last week’s Saturday question! I do not live in a big city so all I can sample in stores are mainstream scents. We do have a Sephora but I can’t go there now. I order samples from Luckyscent, often getting their seasonal sample packs of the newest fragrances and I also order decants and samples from Surrender to Chance. I have a number of decants of fragrances that are just too pricey for me to afford an entire bottle so I enjoy the little decants.
    I also do a fair amount of online ordering from Nordstrom so I get samples with my makeup and skin care orders often. If there is something I just can’t find to sample, I will buy samples from eBay as a last resort. People generally overcharge from samples on eBay I find, so I try to find other options first.
    I do enjoy discovery sets. My favorites are Ormonde Jayne discovery sets, with generous size samples. The Petits Fours sample offerings on the Ormonde Jayne website are a good value as well.

    Like

    • OJ’s set is my favorite as well! And, surprisingly, I liked 6 perfumes for me and one for my vSO – so, probably it’s one of the biggest successes (as discovery sets go).

      Like

  14. Just swaps and gifts from kind fellow fumeheads now – you know who you are! Back in the day though I had a monthly standing order to The Perfumed Court and Luckyscent ;), did trades on MUA all the time, and constantly surfed eBay looking for my next fix.

    Liked by 1 person

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