Saturday Question: Have You Ever Bought Perfumes in a Duty Free Store?

It often comes up in perfume-related threads that we saw, smelled or tried something at a duty-free shop in an airport. But does it ever go beyond testing?

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #127:

Have You Ever Bought Perfumes in a Duty Free Store?

If yes, what were those? Was it a planned or spontaneous purchase?

A bonus question: is there anything else that you buy from those stores when you get a chance? Do you have any recommendations? Are there any countries/airports that have better duty-free shops than others?

My Answer

I don’t travel abroad too often, so the opportunities to shop duty-free are few and far between. I have never bought any perfume for myself, but once I bought two perfumes for my friend (not as a gift, he asked to buy it for his wife – it was something by Nina Ricci). And one time I asked a friend to buy me Chanel No 19 extrait in Heathrow on his way back from a business trip.

Speaking of Chanel. In my opinion, duty-free stores are the best place to buy Chanel perfumes – at least if you live in the US. The reason is simple: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chanel having a sale or participating in a store’s sale. And at a duty-free store, while being slightly less expensive than elsewhere, it’s guaranteed to be authentic, which is very important when it comes to buying this one of the mostly counterfeited brands.

Guerlain Chamade and Chanel No 19

How about you?


Have You Ever Bought Perfumes in a Duty Free Store?


30 thoughts on “Saturday Question: Have You Ever Bought Perfumes in a Duty Free Store?

  1. Great question, Undina! I have bought for myself Poison Girl Unexpected rollerball; very unusual for me because I hate rollerballs but somehow this smelled really good. I found out later on that the consistency is different, thicker and so not suitable for emptying into an atomizer. I have also bought a 3-pack Chanel No.5 EDP. I don’t recall which duty free I got them from.

    Of course we also have ShopFrance Suzan and anything purchased by her is technically duty-free although she did say that if she got taxed upon U.S. arrival, she will pass it along.

    Best duty free store: nothing can beat Heathrow. If you arrive early enough, you can even take shuttles to other terminals.

    Chanel – I’ve gotten discounts if you buy it as part of a gift card event, with some exceptions. Ask me how I know 🤣.


    • I want to add:
      – you have to know your discounted prices. Too often, the savings in taxes are < your discount site savings
      – I wouldn’t buy a memento perfume at a duty-free shop
      – “Mainstream” perfumes are what I would purchase at duty-free
      – I don’t think this will work at duty-free but if you’re at a local boutique, always ask for a discount. Most of the time, they will accommodate. Even a 10% discount is still 10%.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I need to get on Susan’s mailing list: I lost it when I switched my email address.
      I’m thinking about getting some cosmetics if I see any new releases that I’m interested in and know that they might not be around by the time of the next sale or gift card event.


  2. Before falling down the rabbit hole seriously I often bought perfume at the Duty Free, I wore it during my holidays and it kept wearing it after as a kind of scented souvenir. Then I stopped, I only used the Duty Free shops at bigger airports to sniff perfumes that I do not have ‘life’ acces to where I live. Then I had an impulse buy at the Duty Free last June, and I haven’t regretted it. Nerolia Vetiver from the Aqua Allegoria line. Just a nice easy going hot weather scent.


    • AA is another example of good Duty Free buys, especially those that are limited editions or popular new scents: they might not be available by the time there’s a sale.


  3. I haven’t traveled much internationally since I started caring about perfume – our first real trip after my rabbit hole was to London and Paris; I spent all my money in actual perfume boutiques! My recollection of browsing duty free was that it was pretty standard offerings, after visiting Ormonde Jayne, Nicolaï, Goutal, and Jovoy the duty free was a little boring!


    • I agree: after visiting specialized stores, even the best DF is “nothing to write home about.” Though, I think, Jo Malone’s prices at Heathrow airport are unbeatable – if you want to get something from this brand.


  4. I rarely even bother to shop in duty free as the ones I visit are not that good. Also, they are all mainstream designer brands and I’m more interested in niche. I do remember buying Bulgari Patchouli a year ago though, as it was not something I ever had access to in local shops and I liked it.


  5. I haven’t traveled internationally recently either, but when I do, I usually pick up something by Chanel or Hermes. I wanted to buy everything in the duty free shops in the Paris airport. LOL!


  6. I don’t buy fragrance in duty-free often, but I did this past May on our way home from Milan and Barcelona. I had 50 euros in cash left, and they had Prada La Femme on sale for 49. I tried it, liked it, and I thought it would make a nice souvenir of our trip to Milan. My DH bought me Red Roses by Jo Malone in duty-free, in 2015 when he was getting me home after I broke my shoulder in London. I must have looked very pathetic in the airport wheelchair, and he knows how much I love roses. Yes, he’s an extremely nice man!


  7. Best Duty Free shops I’ve visited are Paris Charles de Gaulle, Heathrow & Munich. Small regional airports tend to have little of interest. Saying that Las Palma airport in Gran Canaria’s does carry some Tom Ford Private Collection.
    Do I buy fragrance at airports? Yes if there is something I really want. My most recent airport purchase was Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere when it was rereleased as an airport distribution only limited edition.


  8. Duty free shops used to be one of my favorite places to sniff new perfumes, and several years ago I started making it a goal to find a souvenir perfume from different cities I visited. When I was in Paris in 2014, I smelled a smoky rose wafting from people on the streets, and searched for that in duty free, but did not find it. A few years later, I discovered Givenchy Reve d’Escapade in the duty free in Santiago, Chile, which was love at first sniff and turned out to be an airport-only special, as I found out when I finished my bottle and tried to find another one.

    Adding to the votes for London Heathrow here: I first encountered Penhaligon’s in a dedicated section there, and then explored another “Best of British” section where I discovered Paul Smith fragrances. All of these experiences may have paved the way to developing a full-blown perfume obsession; now, I don’t think I get as excited in duty-free shops, but I’ll still browse to see what’s new.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t traveled internationally for 3 years. For all I know, those stores might not even carry perfume testers any longer :) I’ll check when I get a chance.


  9. Hi Undina and crew,
    I know in the past I’ve bought for myself but currently can’t think of one purchase.
    Jin, on the other hand, I can remember. Our first trip to South Korea Bottega Veneta EdP 75ml was for sale at US$35. He knew how much I loved the fragrance and asked me to buy the bottle for him so he can smell of something I love. Should have bought 10 bottles. He goes through them so fast.
    Then on our last trip it was Jin’s birthday in the air on our flight home. As we walked past CHANEL he tried on the Crystal Eau Verte and I watched him internally swoon. As he was grabbing food I jogged back and bought the bottle. It was an excellent in air surprise for him at midnight.
    Portia xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s such a sweet story! Thank you for sharing, it made me smile.

      I don’t travel internationally too often (even before pandemic), so my visits to DF were rare, and I didn’t even know they might have a sale. Interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have bought several over the years but I can’t remember what my last one was. I only purchase if it is a significant saving. I love to have a sniff of a few things (came unstuck a couple of times and had to scrub frantically). My last airport trip earlier this year was a total bust as our taxi to get us to airport turned up an hour and a half late, which meant that we had to dash straight to the gate.


  11. In my “civilian” days this was one of the ways I ever bought perfume, to wit Estee Lauder Intuition in Spain somewhere when it first came out, also Mugler’s Angel at Tegel Airport in Berlin in 1992. Not only do I not have the bottle anymore, even the airport has gone, haha.


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