Saturday Question: What Do You Consider A Decant?

There are almost no doubts when it comes to full bottles. I say “almost” because I could never figure out how to classify 10-15 ml bottles of pure parfums. But other than that, it’s clear. Travel bottles are also self-explanatory. But what about decants?

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #102:

What Do You Consider A Decant?

Clearly, any amount of perfume transferred from the original brand’s bottle into a generic vessel is a decant by definition. But on your personal scale, where does the demarcation line go between a sample and a decant?

My Answer

When I tried to answer my own question, I realized that my logic isn’t that straightforward. In my perfume database, everything under 2 ml I classify as a small sample; 2 ml+ is marked as a large sample; 5ml and up is a small decant; and everything 10 ml and above is a large decant.

But when talking to others, I consider 2.5 ml and below as a sample, and everything larger is a decant (terminology-wise, I always try to talk in ml).

Is it important? Not on its own, though from my experience I learned that when dealing with others, it might be useful to establish a common ground. I remember how many years ago I was swapping perfumes with another perfumista. It wasn’t a formal swap but rather a friendly exchange of perfumes one of us had and another wanted to try. So, we didn’t do any usual dance people do for a formal swap. We just discussed what we would exchange, the word “dacant” was used during email communications, and then packages went to their destinations. It was one of the first few perfume exchanges I’d done ever. So, I carefully decanted and packed several 4-5 ml spray bottles with perfumes we discussed and was eagerly awaiting for the package with treasures for me. Back then, my collection was much smaller, and I was regularly wearing perfumes from samples/decants. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I unpacked 4 or 5 half-full 1 ml dabbers. In my swapping pal’s defense, she was coming from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab World where, as I know, it was customary to exchange 0.2-0.3 ml (since those were oils sold in small bottles to start with).

Since then, I always talk milliliters, even though now if I exchange anything with anyone, it’s with people to whom I don’t mind sending samples/decants without getting anything in return, so terminology is immaterial. Ironically, these days I prefer getting 0.7-1 ml samples for most perfumes I want to try and rarely 2.5-3 ml decants of those that I consider buying but want to wear a couple of times first.

What Do You Consider A Decant?


32 thoughts on “Saturday Question: What Do You Consider A Decant?

  1. This is a great question Undina!! I think in my mind 3 ml and larger a decant. But also in my mind I always view those 1 ml dabbers as samples so not sure how to classify anything in the 2 ml range.


  2. Since many samples come in 2ml, I have always considered 3+ to be a decant. There are some perfumes for which 2 ml is used up within a couple of wearings (hajusuuri level spraying) so three gets you a little more usage. I sense that the smallest decant sprayers evaporate more quickly, but perhaps that’s an illusion, when you have 10 ml it’s not going to be as obvious. (Could also just be the quality of the ones I happen to have.)


    • I wrap everything that is not an official sample in parafilm, so it slows down the evaporation. But decants are not ideal for keeping perfumes, I agree. That’s why I prefer small samples, after trying which I can decide whether I want more – and get a bottle if I do.


  3. Manufacturers samples, either spray or dabber up to 2ml I regard as samples. Any size over 2ml and up to 5ml taken from a larger bottle is a small decant. Anything over 5 I consider a large decant. Oh boy, I have lots of decants. Am mostly living off them as my perfumes are packed for moving, except for the three bottles I left out, and errr the two that I recently purchased. Now how did that happen? 😳


      • Well, I took the stance of one everyday bright and green so Chanel 19, one everyday warm and cuddly, Adam Levine, and one BWF for going out or for a winter pick-me-up, JPG Fragile. I saw a couple of great deals in the last week that I couldn’t ignore so I’m now the proud owner of Angel Fragrance of Leather and an edt of Yvresse, was interested to compare how it stands up against vintage Champagne. I’m wearing that today and hubby sniffed earlier and announced that he smelled something soapy. It’s a lot fruitier than Champagne and is quite diffusive. Puts me in mind of a Bellini in fact.


        • I like your full bottle choices…you covered all the bases. And I won’t fault you for your new acquisitions…I say get two more..then you will have seven bottles…one for each day if the week lol


    • I have a lot of decants: in addition to those that I buy or get from friends, I decant perfumes from my larger bottles to use either when traveling or to re-apply during the day (when not at home).


  4. Manufacturers samples, either spray or dabber up to 2ml I regard as samples. Any size over 2ml and up to 5ml taken from a larger bottle is a small decant. Anything over 5 I consider a large decant. Oh boy, I have lots of decants. Am mostly living off them as my perfumes are packed for moving, except for the three bottles I left out, and errr the two that I recently purchased. Now how did that happen? 😳

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like your first definition. small/large samples, and small/large decant. But yes, for ease I would say 5+ is a decant. Sometimes those semi-informal (not friends) swaps can be more difficult to navigate. You want to be generous, but not give away stuff you love, if it ends up unused/unloved (I tried that with a generous amount of vintage extract once -that hurt). I hope you haven’t experienced that again.


    • While I do not mind sharing decants with friends if they liked and want to wear perfume that I liked enough to buy (I have more than enough perfumes for a long-long time), I don’t do any more large samples of my favorite perfumes for people who will be just trying them: it will most likely die in the “No” pile after the first or second testing.


  6. My first reaction was 3ml and up would be decants but you made me think. I decided for me, 3ml would not last long, so I’m going with 5mls for the minimum decant. A good question, Undina!


  7. Hmm, I’ve never thought much about this, but I think I’m falling in line with others here. Up to 2 ml is a sample; 3-9 ml is a decant; 10-15 ml is a travel spray? And extrait is on a scale of its own.


  8. Wow. What a discrepancy. I haven’t given it much thought, as I haven’t made my own decants or ever swapped with anyone, but I’ve gotten used to manufacturer’s samples coming in spray vials and Luckyscent samples coming in tiny dabber vials, which I kind of consider decants even though that doesn’t make sense. Guess I’ll have to speak in mLs too, when it comes down to it!


  9. I first have to alter my definition of “sample”. OK – done!

    5mL+ is a decant if the perfume is from a larger original bottle no matter how much over 5mL. On the other hand, anything 5mL – 20mL from a manufacturer is a travel spray.

    To complicate things, attars are a different category altogether. I would never say I have a decant of an attar. I would almost always call them samples.


  10. Hi Undina and crew,
    I really only need 1ml in a spray to know if a perfume and I are going to be matched.
    To write about a perfume I need 2/3ml in a spray so I can wear it fully at least three times before I write.
    Anything over that I call a decant.
    Portia xx


    • For me even 1 ml dab is enough to figure out if I like perfume. I want/need a little more to decide whether I want to get a bottle. But since I don’t like most of perfumes I try enough to want to buy them, it’s a safe bet for me to try a tiny sample. And once in a while I seek 2-3 ml more to decide on a bottle. But since those are perfumes that I liked, I don’t feel guilty asking my friends for those: I won’t waste them :)


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