ScentBird, ScentTrunk and Olfactif – Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

On more than one occasion I tried to dissuade my readers from blind buys – be that full bottles based on somebody else’s reviews or sample sets selected by unknown authorities. But then recently I came across an article in Luxury Daily about Opulent Box, a jewelry subscription program

“While most people shop for jewelry they love, they’re missing out on the surprise factor, and that’s what we’re wanting to achieve with the Opulent Box,”

said CEO Jon Yedwabnik, Opulent Jewelers, the company that for mere 25K per quarter ($100K per year) offers their affluent consumers a surprise box with brand name estate and vintage jewelry.

I suspect that most of my readers do not have a perfume budget that amounts to even one tenth of the quarterly jewelry subscription cost but if you decide to spend $25-$100 to get a surprise factor or want to wear some popular mainstream perfumes without committing to a full bottle, one of these services might be exactly what you need.

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In all years I’ve been running Undina’s Looking Glass the only time I used my “perfume blogger” status to get anything from a brand was 4 years ago when I tried to buy from a new niche line samples they haven’t offered at the time. I didn’t succeed then.

The second time I attempted that recently when I started working on this post. On the ScentBird‘s website I noticed a section For Bloggers. It offered bloggers to get their subscription free. I provided the required information – my blog address, number of subscribers, FB & Twitter accounts – and explained in the note the purpose of my subscription. I think, I even suggested holding a draw for whatever perfume I would receive. I got rejected. I don’t remember the exact polite phrasing (and for some reason I can’t find the letter now), but it was clear that my blog wasn’t big enough for their purposes. I was slightly offended (they kind of offered themselves!) but mostly amused: both services that specialize in much more expensive niche perfumes – Olfactif and ScentTrunk – had previously offered me their subscriptions (I haven’t accepted) while the mass-market-oriented one decided to save ten bucks on me.

Since my blog is my hobby and I make a living from other sources, I paid for ScentTrunk and ScentBird subscriptions (3 and 2 months correspondently, with some %% off of the first month with coupons I found online). I didn’t have to pay for Olfactif since I had a box gifted to me by Jeffrey Dame, when one of his perfumes was featured there. So here’s how these subscriptions stack up against each other.

Features Comparison Table for ScentBird, ScentTrunk and Olfactif

ScentBird ( ScentTrunk ( Olfactif (
What you get
8 ml glass spray decant (you choose your scent from the list). With the first month you get a travel case that can be used later with the following months’ decants 3 x 2 ml plastic spray samples (selected presumably based on your profile), in a box, information cards for each scent, a drawstring bag and testing strips 3 x 2.25 ml glass spray samples (the same set per collection for everybody)
Feminine and masculine. There are more than 60 brands, mostly mainstream but there are a couple of niche brands Unisex, masculine and feminine. About 40 niche and indie brands Unisex (“for women and adventurous men”) and masculine (“traditionally masculine scents”). There are about 35 niche and indie brands
Base cost
$14.95/month including S&H. US only $18/month including S&H. US & Canada. +Tax if you’re in Canada $18/month including S&H. US only
Subscription options
$84/6 months ($14/month); $162/12 months ($13.50/month) $96/6 months ($16.5/month); $180/12 months ($15/month) $51/3 months ($17/month); $96/6 months ($16/month); $180/12 months ($15/month)
Once a month, ships on the 15th regardless of when the subscription starts Once a month; ships within several days after the subscription starts and then every 30 days Once a month, around the 1st. Subscriptions made before 15th of the month get that month’s subscription box
Credit Card only Credit Card and PayPal Credit Card and PayPal
Online; any time before 5th of the month. Subscription can be put on hold for a month By e-mail request, at any time By email request; any time before 15th of the month. Subscription can be put on hold for a month
Not offered Full refund by e-mail request if you’re not satisfied for any reason Not offered
Referral program
Get a friend to subscribe – get one month free (plus a friend gets the second month free) Points offered for recommending to a friend (see Coupons & Discounts) Not offered
Full bottles
Not offered There’s a small collection of full bottles offered for purchase. Online shopping is in its infancy: all you can do is to scroll the page to browse the selection sorted in the descending order by price Bottles for perfumes featured in the subscription are offered. Filter by price, brand, note, season or category.
Coupons & Discounts
Search Internet for a one time discount code Search Internet for a discount code for the subscription. You will also get some points for different actions on the site – placing the order, reviewing perfumes you tried, referring friends, etc. After you collect enough of these points, you can convert them into a $10 or $25 discount for the full bottle purchase from the site $18 credit toward the full-bottle purchase of a featured fragrance every month (even for discounted subscription options). You can also find a 15% off the subscription price coupon online
Customer Service
After I reported the wrong perfume sent to me this month, I got a replacement within three days and they suggested keeping the wrong perfume After I reported the duplicate box sent to me in the second month, I got an immediate refund. Unfortunately, the next box I got only the next month (and with a delay), which slightly defeats the purpose of a monthly subscription N/A (since I didn’t subscribe, I didn’t have any experience with it – please chime in if you did)
What I like
You know exactly what you’re getting and 8 ml is more than enough for most perfumes if you’re not prepared to get a full bottle

Ease of cancellation (though they cleverly offer to put the subscription on hold when you’re cancelling)

Packaging that is both cute and functional. Rusty gave the highest approval to the testing strips (see the picture below)

They try hard to be nice to customers and to engage them

During the sign-up you go through some type of personalization where you get express your preferences of some aspects of perfumes – “fresh”, “floral”, “woody”, “oriental.” These are supposed to be taken into the account while preparing your monthly box. It didn’t work in my case (I got twice exactly the same box – even though after getting the first one I changed the profile) but I think it’s a good direction and hope they’ll improve with time

You can buy additional samples (the same 2.25 ml size) for any of the perfumes they sell as well as the previous collections (unless sold out) and perfume books

If you think of starting the subscription, you have until the 15th of the month to decide if you want to do it that month and get the samples offered

Very well-written and informative FAQ section

What I do not like
It’s an unusually deferred gratification: you pay (or at least decide that you’ll be continuing the subscription) by the 5th of the month and your order arrives around 19th. And it’s even worse if you subscribe in the end of the month: it takes almost a month to get your first order Perfumes that I got in the first two boxes were all on the cheaper/cheapest side of the offerings, with which the site teases (not even mentioning Amouage samples used as main images all over the main page). With my final box they’ve redeemed themselves though: all three samples were “top shelf.” But I would have preferred a better mix for each of the boxes

My negative review for one of the perfumes is still awaiting an approval (for the last 2.5 months) while the positive one had no problem being approved

Beautiful but extremely wasteful packaging
~ ~ ~

Rusty plays with Scent Trunk's test strips


Personally, despite the rejection from their marketing people, I found ScentBird‘s service the most useful: I got two decants I wanted (GHAG‘s Miss Charming and Montale‘s Intense Cafe) much cheaper than I could find them elsewhere (not counting split groups but they don’t always have what you want). But then it’s not really a subscription, is it? Still, if you see something you like in their online store, it might be a good value for the money. Also I think it might be a good gift (the offer is 3 months for $44) for a “civilian” (© Tara) friend.

As to the actual subscription services, I still think that you’ll be better off testing perfumes in stores (if possible), exchanging samples with other perfume enthusiasts or buying them from brands’ sites or in split groups. But if you live too far away from the stores that carry high-end mainstream or niche perfumes and you’re not too big on communicating with others to arrange exchanges or splits, I have a couple of recommendations on how to decide whether you want to play with one of the services and with which one.

If you’ve tried and/or do not want to try 50% or more of perfumes, full bottles of which a service offers in their online store, do not subscribe.

Since ScentTrunk sends “customized” boxes without disclosing who gets what, there’s a good chance that you’ll get three of the perfumes that are already in their store at the moment you’re checking it out before signing. So just look at what they offer and think how many of those you haven’t tried yet or tried and wouldn’t mind using for $3/ml.

Olfactif, on the other hand, offers for sale perfumes from their previous collections, so you do not know what you’ll get next but can try predicting the future performance by calculating the ratio of the perfumes you tried and disliked to all perfumes you tried from their collection. The smaller the result, the better chances that going forward they’ll keep selecting something that is closer to your tastes.

If you are not familiar with most of the perfumes in both stores, go with the service that offers more brands that are new to you: if you’re making a leap of faith, at least you’ll get exposed to something completely new.

Have you ever tried any subscription services (not necessarily perfume-related)?


Images: my own

How many perfumistas does it take to …

… persuade me to go for a perfume? At least four.

I remember reading somewhere the announcement of the upcoming release of Rajasthan by Etro and either the author or somebody in comments was extremely excited about the bottle and was almost prepared to go for a blind buy. I shrugged: not only I didn’t know the brand (I’m not into fashion much) but I couldn’t see the bottle attraction either. One.

Then I read a rather negative review from Kevin (Now Smell This) and promptly forgot about Rajasthan: since I didn’t expect anything from it in the first place I wasn’t even disappointed. Two.

Last year Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) and I went to Barneys where I saw Rajasthan bottle for the first time. Something in the bottle spoke to me, I thought it was beautiful. I tried the perfume on skin and liked it. Natalie politely agreed that it was nice. I asked for a sample and got about a ml – everything that was left in the tester. I even tried to get them to sell me an empty bottle. I knew it wouldn’t happen: from what I’d heard, all perfume departments have strict policies about empty bottles. But it was a fun conversation with an offer to meet with the SA at dumpsters after hours. Three.

The sample lasted me for a couple of tests that confirmed that I liked Rujasthan. But it wasn’t enough to make a decision – so I waited.

Several months ago during Suzanne’s (Eiderdown Press) visit I tried Rujasthan at Barneys again. I still liked it. Suzanne politely agreed that it was nice. By that time I already loved the bottle but not enough to pay full price for the perfume. Four.

Three weeks later a perfect test bottle of Rajasthan was mine for half the price (eBay is very useful sometimes). Usually I do not buy testers: if I get a bottle, I want it to come with a box to store it in. But in this case it didn’t matter since the bottle isn’t transparent.

Etro Rajasthan

Etro has created a very pleasant day-wear perfume that represents neither scents of India nor even westerners’ stereotypes for them. Notes (via Fragrantica) include: lemon, pink pepper, portulaca, mimosa, rose, black currant leaves, black locust, amber, labdanum and white musk.

I’m not too good with dissecting perfumes so there are many notes, not detecting which wouldn’t surprise me much. But lemon is such a ubiquitous scent – how can it be that I don’t recognize it when I smell this perfume? Etro’s site in a poetic description of Rajasthan qualifies this note further – “winter lemon.” As I tried to find any explanation of what was that mysterious variety of lemon and how it was different from a regular lemon (I failed), I came across earlier announcements of the upcoming Rajasthan release and they all, as well as some reviews from that time, mentioned “winter lemon flower” note. I assume it was either a part of the official press release or something found in translation. It would explain the absence of the recognizable citrus smell – but then why did Etro remove it? And if lemon is not there, how could others detect it in the composition? My nose must be off.

What I can smell is a sweet (but not too much – for my nose) and powdery light amber scent with enough spices to keep it from being perfectly polite. I cannot smell rose – or any other flower – though I can imagine that the sweetness I smell is coming from mimosa (or its rendition). Rajasthan loses projection within three hours mark but stays as a skin scent for over 10 hours (white musk, I assume). I do not love it but I enjoy wearing it from time to time. And did I mention how much I like the bottle? But only after it joined my collection I realized that I’ve liked that color scheme long before I saw Rajasthan bottle: look at the picture of one of my favorite necklaces I wore for the last five years.

Chico Necklace

Image: my own.

Mission: Impossible Iris

She is tall and slender, with very feminine forms, humanoid face and unmistakably alien head with tentacle-like protrusions. She walks a little strange, balancing from side to side. With her light blue skin, navy lips and black nails there’s nothing human in her appearance. She looks cold, emotionless and reserved. She’s a monster. But then she starts singing and everything changes: she warms up, becomes alive and you just can’t stop watching her facial expressions and moves of her hands while she performs the composition in [almost*] humanly impossible ranges. She seems really beautiful and almost human.

Diva Plavalaguna

Impossible Iris is a great name for a perfume. How does one live up to such a name? Ramon Monegal found a perfect solution: his Iris Impossible isn’t about iris. Of course, iris is present but not only it is not in its expected and well-recognized earthy-root-y facet but it is also so well blended with other notes (according to Fragrantica – mimosa, raspberry, Ylang-ylang, jasmine and Virginian cedar) that regular people (the ones without a super-nose or a list of notes) wouldn’t be able to identify what they smell. Reviewers are all over the place describing which notes they smell the most prominently in this perfume. I declare my inability to pick out any of them – even though I think I know how those notes are supposed to smell.

Impossible Iris starts strange and a little aloof (especially if worn in the colder weather). It smells… the word “artificial” has a negative connotation, which isn’t my intent, but I don’t know how to describe this perfume better. It smells not natural – similar to how Mugler‘s Angel smells not natural (though I’m not trying to compare scents themselves). I do not recognize the scent of any of the listed elements but the composition smells good. As time goes by, Impossible Iris warms up, loses its otherworldliness and becomes more familiar and approachable. It sings on skin and it is beautiful.

Ramon Monegal Impossible Iris

Impossible Iris for me is that Diva Plavalaguna of the Perfumeland. I got the first sample because I liked the name. When I applied the perfume for the first time, it wasn’t what I expected or wanted it to be. But it was weird and interesting. And captivating. And I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrist – all the way through a couple of samples to a bottle in my collection.

I don’t know what it is with me, iris perfumes and aliens: it’s the second time I drew that type of association (the previous time it was Alien wears Prada Infusion d’Iris). If you haven’t seen it yet (or don’t remember it well), watch the clip and tell me if you see what I see:


Images: Diva Plavalaguna – from the video; perfume – my own

* IMDB trivia on this movie mentions that the singer, Inva Mula, commented to the composer that “some of the notes written were not humanly possible to achieve because the human voice cannot change notes that fast” so she performed those notes in isolation – one by one, and they were edited into the aria. Since then there were at least several claims by different singers of performing the same composition live. You can easily find their clips online but I don’t know either if those are really unedited recordings or if they actually are doing it exactly to the original (my abilities are not good enough to hear that).

My First Creed: Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie


For a very long time I haven’t approached Creed. There were several reasons for that.

First, when I didn’t know anything about the brand, its line-up in Neiman Marcus looked so unapproachable that I would keep passing the Creed’s counter long after NM itself stopped being intimidating (though it’s still to expensive for me to shop there).

Later, when I already knew about Creed, in my mind it was closely connected to the testosterone overdose coming from the certain forum and some Facebook groups: all those batch numbers and bottles parts’ details were just making me nauseous and didn’t inspire the exploration.

I was bored. There was absolutely nothing new for me to sniff at the local Neiman Marcus. Because of my previous success with gardenia perfumes – Guerlain Cruel Gardenia and Ineke Hothouse Flower – I was mildly curious about the new Creed’s Fleurs de Gardenia. They didn’t have it yet but it was too late: I “left myself open” and Creed’s SA, who looked like she also was quite bored, decided it was her chance.

For the next fifteen minutes she was enticing me with different scents on paper strips, names and notes. I decided not to fight back and compliantly stood there nodding. I must have fulfilled my part of the SA-potential client dance so she easily agreed to make a sample of the perfume that I liked the most – Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie.

Creed Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie

I wonder how Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie smelled 160 (one hundred and sixty!) years ago when, according to the official legend, it was created by Henry Creed II for the wife of Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie? I suspect it had been reformulated multiple times even before its public release in 1989 and definitely more than once since. But I’ve never smelled any of previous Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie reincarnations so no regrets here.

Official list of notes includes bergamot, Bulgarian rose, ambergris, Italian jasmine, vanilla and sandalwood. For a while I didn’t smell jasmine in Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie – until I tried it in parallel with Dior‘s Grand Bal. Now I can clearly detect it. But still for me this perfume isn’t about jasmine. This perfume is jasmine wrapped into and creamy sandalwood with just a hint of vanilla. I can’t detect rose but I’m not too good with that note when it’s not in a leading role. Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie is very smooth and well-blended. It has a good projection so it’s not one of those perfumes in which you can bathe. It stays on my skin for about 8 hours during which it doesn’t change much to my nose (though I’m positive that at least a couple of my readers would be able to parse out more distinct stages). I like this perfume very much.

Rusty and Creed Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie

My vSO also likes Jasmin Impératrice Eugénie. I know that not because he gave it to me as a New Year gift (I had a hand in it) but because he complimented me on three separate occasions (which doesn’t happen too often) without knowing what I was wearing (which does happen a lot).

Do you have a favorite Creed perfume?


Images: my own

“H” for Hothouse Flower by Ineke


Say “rose”, “peony”, “jasmine”, “lily-of-the-valley” or even “tulip” – and I immediately imagine both a flower and its scent. I hear “gardenia” and I draw a blank: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in nature and I can’t imagine how it smells. I saw gardenia petals at the Bouquets to Art exhibition (pictures two and tree in the post) but that was the closest I’ve ever come to the real thing.

Probably because I have no preconception of gardenia I like many gardenia-centered perfumes – Cruel Gardenia by Guerlain, Gardenia by Jo Loves and White Flowers by Yosh. These perfumes do not smell similar to me so I’m still not sure how close to a gardenia flower these are.

Hothouse Flower by Ineke

For the first time I smelled new gardenia soliflore perfume Hothouse Flower by Ineke in July of this year at the First Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco. It smelled nice but I was so overwhelmed by everything I tried this day that I knew I wouldn’t be making it any justice. It was the end of the day and they were out of samples but Ineke Ruhland was very kind to make one for me. Since then I kept testing it.

Hothouse Flower notes include Earl Grey tea, green foliage, cypress, absinthe, gardenia, galbanum, fig, frankincense, guaiac wood, musk and corn silk.

Hothouse Flower smells green. But it’s not No 19 or Silences type of green. It’s more like a green apple green. It’s floral but not sweet – at least to my nose. It’s fresh but not ozonic. Hothouse Flower stays on my skin for at least five hours gradually fading out but not changing much. Despite of that it doesn’t seem overly simple.

I’ve mentioned it before: Ineke has a great sample set. For $25 (shipping included) you’ll get the first seven perfumes of the line. Plus once Hothouse Flower is released in September they will send you a sample of it. Plus you can redeem the price of the set against a full bottle purchase later. But wait, there’s more! If you call in the next… Ok, just kidding. It’s not a commercial post, I just feel really excited about this release. I think I’ll need a bottle of Hothouse Flower.

Ineke Delux Sample Collection

Images: my own

Coco Noir… Light by Chanel


For many years Chanel and I weren’t getting along. I knew the brand had iconic perfumes. I knew it was well-loved and famous. I kept trying No. 5 and other perfumes again and again still wondering after each attempt what I couldn’t smell that others could.

A couple of years ago on my way home from a pleasant trip to Sonoma wineries I stopped by a perfume counter at Nordstrom (I’ve never been to that store before or after) where I met a sales associate who was really passionate about Chanel perfumes. I didn’t try any other brands that day but I left the store in an even better mood and with five Chanel samples. And that was how it started.

Chanel Coco

That Christmas  I bought my very first bottle of Chanel perfume. It was Coco. Since then I enriched my collection with numerous bottles and decants from Chanel including some Exclusifs. Some of them went much higher in my personal hierarchy. But Coco holds that special place by being the First one.

Coco by Chanel – created in 1984 by Jacques Polge; lists of notes are slightly different depending on the site, I’ll go with NST: jasmine, peach, frangipani, mimosa, orange blossom, cascarilla, rose, clove buds, angelica, labdanum, sandalwood, tonka bean, leather and opopanax.

If you want real reviews here is Angela’s (now smell this) and here is the most recent by Suzanna (Bois de Jasmin).

Three days ago I casually asked my friendly SA if she knew when they would be getting the new Coco Noir perfume and she very secretively handed me two samples saying that they weren’t supposed to show them yet, but for me… (She’s always good with me and I try to give her as much of my business as I can).

I do not trust my nose too much and I trust my ability to describe scents even less (not trying to be modest – just stating the fact) so these are just my impressions from testing Coco Noir in parallel with the original Coco.

Coco Noir is definitely Coco’s close relative – a younger sister maybe? She thinks she is all grown up and should be taken seriously; she tries really hard to be like her older sister who is effortlessly elegant and confident. But even through her thoroughly applied smokey eyes, dramatic lipstick and cynical gaze one can still see the freshness of the youth and innocence. But enough of the metaphor. In my opinion, the only “noir” part of this recent Coco flanker is the bottle – and what a beautiful bottle it is! I’m glad it isn’t dark blue or I wouldn’t have been able to resist.

Coco Noir by Chanel – created in 2012 by Jacques Polge; the notes include bergamot, grapefruit, orange, jasmine, rose, geranium, patchouli, tonka bean, vanilla, sandalwood, incense and white musk.

Coco Noir smells fresher then Coco; it is brighter because of a more prominent citrus note and it doesn’t last as long as the original version. Coco Noir is “younger” than Coco in modern perfumery sense as well – it’s fruitier and sweeter in the opening. A younger sister who prefers fruit punch on a sunny day to a glass of cognac next to a burning fireplace. If anything, Coco Noir is lighter than original Coco. But they couldn’t have used that beautiful bottle for Coco Light – right?

I do not think Coco’s fans will prefer Coco Noir and it’s not distinct enough to either justify the second bottle for a fan (unless you really want that bottle) or make a friend out of those who really disliked Coco. But if the original perfume was just a little too much for you Coco Noir might be an answer.

Victoria (Bois de Jasmin) today published a real review of Coco Noir.

Chanel Coco Noir

If you’d like a chance to win a sample of Coco Noir you have until 23:59 PST on Saturday, August 4th. You do not need to do anything, just mention in your comment if you want to be in the draw. The only condition: you have previously commented on this blog at least once (I’ll know, no need mentioning that).


Images: my own.

Will you go to the Ball?


What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Ball”? For me it’s Cinderella and her Glass Slipper (though in the version from my childhood it was a Crystal Shoe, which sounded even more romantic), the first ball of Natasha Rostova from War and Peace and a strange game we would play as kids.

The host would start with a rhyme (loosely translated):

Lady of the Manor has sent you some money.
She has instructed: you buy what you want;
Don’t wear black or white during your jaunt;
“Yes/No”’re off-limit and even when funny
Don’t dare laugh or smile,
Don’t twitch at all!

Will you go to the Ball?

From this point participants will answer different questions about the imaginary ball, their attire, means of transportation and so on and so forth – until one of them slips the forbidden exclamation or adjective. You would think that this game is like Tic-tac-toe: once you know the algorithm it should end up in a tie every time. But no: kids’ minds are very inventive and persistent. “Are we there yet?”

With all that in the background, could I not be predisposed to like Grand Bal from Dior’s La Collection Privée?

Grand Bal by Dior – created in 2012 by Francois Demachy, notes include bergamot, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang-ylang, musk and sandalwood. I really-really-really wanted to try it. I contacted a friendly SA from a Dior’s boutique and he was kind enough to send me some samples of Grand Bal.

The first attempt wasn’t successful: the package had arrived with two completely smashed vials. Rusty had inspected the content of the envelope and found it interesting for playing with (I didn’t allow him to proceed with that) but useable only as a room freshener (I kept it for a couple of days in that role).

Rusty and Broken Vials of Dior's Grand Ball

The second time was a charm and I got a chance to wear Grand Bal on the skin. It’s a lot of jasmine. When I tested Jasmin Rouge by Tom Ford I thought I didn’t like jasmine as a dominant note in perfumes. But unlike Jasmin Rouge and Sarrasins by Serge Lutens that both come out unclean on my skin Grand Bal smells very clean, uncomplicated and easy flowing. It reminds me of this Waltz of the Flowers scene from the animated film from my childhood:



I know that there are notes other than jasmine in Grand Bal but for my nose jasmine dominates the composition allowing all other components to play an entourage on its appearance at the ball. And only when I smell it in parallel with other jasmine-intense perfumes I detect orange blossom and realize how different all those jasmine perfumes are. It’s hardly an original thought but it hit me. Probably because on previous occasions of testing those perfumes I just thought habitually: “It’s a lot of jasmine…”

Will I go to the ball for a bottle? Yes No I don’t know yet. I will try wearing the remaining portion of my Grand Bal sample “for real” (sprayed multiple times and not only on my wrist) and then decide.


Image: my own