Entertaining Statistics: Desert Island Perfumes

From time to time one of my blogger friends covers a topic that prompts more than just a comment, however lengthy one might be tolerated (or even appreciated).

Making lists of desert island scents is a well-known and loved pastime of many perfumistas, so that alone could send me packing boxes writing my own list. But the methodical way Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) approached the project could not have left me indifferent.

Vanessa, a market researcher by trade, considered multiple approaches to coming up with her list. She described those approaches (I’ll be referring to those, so if you haven’t yet, you should read her post to learn the details about each); but then she discarded some of them because of the complexity or data unavailability. Since all of my perfumes and perfume usage are documented in the homegrown database, I thought that I could pull off calculating some of the aspects that she abandoned.

I started with “the burning building speed grab method” (or as I call it – “Grab ‘n’ Run”) and came up with 20 perfumes I would be happy to have on that island if I had to evacuate without much time for packing.

* * *

Then I moved to the “systematic review of ALL perfumes owned” but decided to limit it only by those perfumes, which I own as a full or travel bottle or a large decant. I went through the list choosing carefully, which perfumes to include into the final list. As it always happens to me with these lists, I take it very seriously – as if I will have to actually live with those decisions. It wasn’t easy: I like, wear and want to keep wearing many more than 20 perfumes I chose for my list. But if I really had to choose… So I did – and I’m sticking by that Brute-force Search List (a.k.a. “Don’t Ever Want to Be Without”) and using it as a base for all further comparisons.

First I compared two lists – the Grab ‘n’ Run and Brute-force Search Lists. Surprisingly, even after careful consideration my final list still has 18 perfumes from my spontaneous list. The two substitutions were a close call with the initially selected Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom and Guerlain Chamade (parfum).

* * *

Then I remembered that about five years ago I participated in a similar exercise on Birgit’s blog (Olfactoria’s Travels) and did one of my Entertaining Stats posts based on the results. So I was curious to see how my list of 10 desert island perfumes from that time fared against my recent list. Seven (7 of 10) from the 2012 Desert Island List are still on my current list, and I still enjoy wearing Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, Antonia’s Flowers Tiempe Passate and DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame, even though they got voted off the island, so to speak.

* * *

My variation on Vanessa’s “travel bag ‘nuclear precedent’ method” was a Top 20/12 List: perfumes that I wore the most often in the last 365 days. Sixteen (16) perfumes from my Brute-force Search List were among perfumes I wore the most during the last 12 months. But I kept thinking: how about the last 6+ years that I write this blog? Since I didn’t own all of the perfumes featured on my current list 6 years ago, and they joined my collection at different time, it wouldn’t be either accurate or fair to do a straight-forward aggregation of the times I wore each of them. So I calculated a relative popularity: total number of occasions during the last 6 years when I wore each perfume from my list divided by the number of days from when I wore it for the first time until today. That’s how I got the Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves List. It includes 10 out of 20 perfumes from the etalon list.

The table below shows my Brute-force Search/Don’t Ever Want to be Without List (sorted alphabetically by brand) and how other lists compare to it.

Brute-force Search (A-Z)
Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves
Amouage Lyric + +
Amouage Ubar + + + +
By Kilian Amber Oud + + +
Chanel №19 EDT + + + +
Dior Miss Dior +
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess + +
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady + + +
Giorgio Armani La Femme Bleue + + +
Guerlain Cruel Gardénia + + +
Jo Malone French Lime Blossom +
Jo Malone Sweet Milk + +
Krigler Lieber Gustav 14 + + +
Lancome Climat + + + +
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour + + +
Mona di Orio Vanille Les Nombres d’Or + +
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if + + + +
Puredistance Antonia + + +
Tom Ford Fleur de Chine + + +
Tommi Sooni Eau de Tommi Sooni II
Yosh Ginger Ciao + +
Brute-force Search Grab ‘n Run 2012 Desert Island Top 20/12 Top 20 ‘All-Time’ Faves

* * *

Same as Vanessa, I didn’t even think that I needed to try and represent each of the main fragrance families in my least (I loved her joke on the topic!), but I inspected my existing list with “the fragrance family method” and discovered that the most common type was Oriental Floral (9), followed by Floral Green (3), Floral (2), Oriental Woody (2) and one of each – Floral Fruity, Oriental Vanilla, Chypre Floral and Woody Aromatic. Clearly, I like my florals.

* * *

“The scents for all seasons method” also inspired me to look at my list: 7 of 20 I can wear all year long; others came in different combinations of the seasons when I usually wear those perfumes, so it all boils down to 10 perfumes for the Winter rotation, 15 for Spring, 15 for Summer and 13 for Autumn.

* * *

Since I have special categories for my perfumes, I ran “the scents for all occasions method” test on my Brute-force Search List and confirmed that the two main categories – Office Wear and Special Occasion – were well covered: of the 20 I can wear 14 to the office and 12 to any dress-up party. I even have 2 in that list that I consider my Tropical Vacation perfumes.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess and Shoes

I don’t think “the covering all my favourite notes method” would work as a selection method (and I’m not talking about choosing an unknown scent based on the pyramid) since having a note in the list doesn’t necessarily mean that I could smell that note in that perfume. But it was interesting to see if my favorite notes were well represented in the list. So I came up with what I think is a list of the notes, to which I’m partial in perfumes, and then checked it against perfumes on my Brute-force Search List.

Favorite notes: linden, amber, lavender, iris, black currant, rose, mimosa, lily of the valley, narcissus, galbanum, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver.

Almost all (19) perfumes on the list had at least one of the notes mentioned, which isn’t a complete surprise since rose and sandalwood are very ubiquitous notes (I count each of these in 12 perfumes). Amber and vetiver were spotted in 8 perfumes, iris – in 5, galbanum – in 4, cedar, LOTV & Narcissus – in 3 each, and the remaining 4 notes were covered by 1 perfume. If to judge strictly by notes, Chanel No. 19 is the closest to my ideal: it has 8 of the 13 notes I deemed favorite. Lancôme Climat takes the second place with 6 notes. And the third one for 5 notes goes to Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Amour. And if you are curious as to which one perfume from my list didn’t have a single of my favorite notes – it’s Jo Malone Sweet Milk – go figure!

* * *

Even though I could relatively easy check “the ‘inclusive’ perfume house / perfumer approach,” I decided against it: it makes absolutely no sense to represent some abstract “known,” “famous,” or “established” perfume house in one’s personal preferences list; but to arrive at my personal list of favorite brands or perfumers I would have to use a list… of my favorite perfumes, which would just create a circular reference.

* * *

Whenever somebody on my Reading List rates perfume or even just expresses liking/disliking it, I pay attention. But I mostly do it just to figure out whose tastes are closer to mine to rely upon their future opinions to navigate the plenitude of future releases. So while I did look up ratings on Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) site, I did it only because it was one of Vanessa’s methods. I got 3 ***, 5 **** and 4 *****. No ratings for 8 of my favorites. And I don’t really care either way.

* * *

I think I wouldn’t be able to use “the scents I had happy times in method”: my all-time/long time favorites were with me through all possible times, so they are time-tested. With the newer additions to my wardrobe and my MO to wear a different perfume every day and rarely returning to the same one more often than once a month, it’s almost impossible to build that association between any particular perfume and the level of [un]happiness. Which is probably for the best: I can classify all of my favorites as my “happy times” perfumes.

Happy Times

* * *

The final approach – The Field Test – is my own method, which I plan to run in April. I intend to wear each of the perfumes on my Don’t Ever Want to Be Without List and see if “in practice” I feel about them the same I felt “in theory” while working on the list.

If you’d like to join me, do your own list (of 10 – 15 – 20 – your choice) your most favorite perfumes and wear each one them at least once before the end on April – and we’ll compare notes in May.

Images: my own

Know-How: Brands with Perfumista Size Bottles

For years I keep repeating that more brands should release their perfumes in perfumista size bottles – 10-15 ml. Of course, for somebody who has a signature scent or alternates 2-3 perfumes in their day-to-day life, 50 ml, 100 ml or even 200 ml bottles might make more sense both economically and logically. But for anybody who has been “into perfume” for at least several years, not too many perfumes warrant the vats, in which most perfumes nowadays are sold.

Sure, big bottles are great for splits; and decants are nice for getting to wear something without committing your heart or money to a full bottle. But even the best decant – with well-made labels and a good sprayer – is still not as good as a real bottle. And I suspect that, as a rule, it has a shorter shelf life, even if you use parafilm or electrical tape to prevent evaporation: the act of spraying perfume from the original bottle into a smaller receptacle introduces additional oxidation to the juice, which cannot be healthy (should we add a blueberry or two?).

For all these reasons for anything more than 3-5 ml I would rather pay extra price per ml but get a travel bottle from the brand – if the brand has that option.

Surprisingly, when it comes to niche brands, those that offer smaller sizes are still rather an exception than a rule. So I decided to put together a list of the brands that offer smaller (perfumista size) bottles of their perfumes. I won’t include links since those change but it’s easy to find them through a search engine.

Perfumista Size Bottles

The following brands have single bottles for all or most of their perfumes (bottle size is given in parentheses):

  • April Aromatics (15 ml)
  • Frederic Malle (10 ml)
  • Hiram Green (10 ml)
  • Histoires de Parfums (15 ml)
  • Le Labo (15 ml)
  • Sonoma Scent Studio (4 ml & 17 ml)
  • Jul et Mad (5 ml & 20 ml)
  • Cognoscenti (5 ml)
  • Dame Perfumery (5 ml)
  • DSH Perfumes (multiple sizes)
  • EnVoyage Perfumes (15 ml)
  • 4160 Tuesdays (9 ml)
  • Roja Dove (7.5 ml)
  • The Different Company (10 ml)
  • Puredistance (17.5ml)

Several brands have smaller sizes just for some of their perfumes:

  • Atelier Cologne (12 different perfumes in 7.5 ml at Sephora)
  • Juliette Has A Gun (4 different perfumes in 7.5 ml at Sephora)
  • Ineke (15 ml, Floral Curiosities line only)

More brands recently have introduced the “travel” option – probably as a response to the air travel regulations. Unfortunately, those come in sets either of single perfume or of pre-selected (or all) perfumes from the brand. Single perfume sets are easier for friendly splits. Mixed sets defeat the purpose: how often does someone like all the perfumes in the set? I also found two brands that offer customizable mixed travel sets.

Perfumista Size Bottles

Single perfume sets:

  • Neela Vermeire Creations (2 x 15 ml)
  • Ormonde Jayne (4 x 10 ml)
  • Amouage (3 x 10 ml)
  • By Kilian (4 x 7.5 ml)
  • Byredo (3 x 12 ml)
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian (3 x 10 ml)
  • Aedes de Venustas (3 x 7.5 ml)

Perfumista Size Bottles

Customizable mixed sets:

  • Hermès (4 x 15 ml sets for both their regular line and Hermessence)
  • Tauer Perfumes (3 x 15 ml)

Perfumista Size Bottles

Pre-set mixed perfumes sets:

  • Viktoria Minya (5 x 15 ml)
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian (8 x 10 ml)
  • Miller Harris (3 x 14 ml and 2 x 7.5 ml)
  • Aedes de Venustas (3 x 7.5 ml)

If you know any other brands that offer small bottles in one of these categories, please share in comments. And if you agree that more brands should have perfumista size bottles, keep repeating that whenever you publish a review on your blog or comment on perfume reviews and discussions on blogs, forums, FB or Twitter. Somebody might be reading…

Rusty and NVC Pichola

Updates from comments:

  • Maria Candida Gentile (7 ml and 15 ml single bottles)
  • Zoologist (11 ml single bottles)
  • Parfums MDCI (5 x 10 ml customizable set)
  • Memo (3 x 10 ml same perfume set)
  • Imaginary Authors (14 ml single bottles)
  • Maison Anonyme (10 ml single bottles)
  • Olympic Orchids (5 ml and 15 ml single bottles)
  • Soivohle (10 ml single bottles)
  • Ormonde Jayne (10 ml single bottles if you call)
  • Profvmvm Roma (18 ml single bottles for some of their scents)

Images: my own

Dab, Spray or Roll-on?

As I was writing about Guerlain Chamade extrait, I realized that as much as I love the bottle it comes in, I never use perfume directly from it: I transfer a couple of milliliters at a time into a small sample bottle and spray it. That made me thinking about how I normally use perfumes and the reasoning behind that.

Dabbing is good for applying a discreet amount of perfume without creating a serious projection. It is also a more sensual and “lady-like” ritual – a stereotype created by decades of ads and perfume-featuring movie scenes; though in recent years the industry was working hard on changing that.

A couple of years ago Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) shared her feelings about applying a special perfume:

The application alone feels terribly luxurious and sophisticated. It is almost an anointment, the ritual of application is very important here. It is certainly not a spritz and go thing. Applying Amytis needs time, respect and love for what you are doing and you are rewarded with the feeling of having done something special, of being part of age-old rites and not least of all – you smell divine.

It was a powerful image and I remembered it better than I remembered the name of that perfume (I had to look through the list of reviews to find it). Reading it makes you want if not to go for that super-exclusive perfume with a 24K gold-plated applicator, then to have at least a similar ritual with one of your own perfumes.

The disadvantage of that approach is that a stopper transfers oils and skin particles into the perfume, which leads to it getting clouded and going off faster than with a spray application. I think that using a stopper (or, for tiny bottles, your own finger, which is even more intimate) made sense for perfumes that were meant to be used up and replaced with a new flacon within a short period of time. But with a collection of perfumes…

Guerlain Chamade and Chanel No 19

Spraying is good for applying perfumes that you like when you are not afraid to overdo it. It also keeps both your fingers perfume-free and perfumes fresh(er). But it’s harder to control the amount, especially for bottles that you do not use too often and do not remember how their sprayers work: more than once I managed to gas co-workers in a small meeting room with just a couple of sprays – completely unexpected for me. And it feels not as glamorous as applying perfume from a splash bottle – unless, of course, you have one of those old-fashion bulb atomizers, though after I read in one of the Fragrantica’s threads about those atomizers being blamed for perfume evaporation, I keep mine safely tucked away in the dark closet. Separately from perfumes. But, in general, spraying is my preferred application method for perfume wearing.

Guerlain Cruel Gardenia

Using roll-on bottles is also good for the “portion control” and minimizing the projection, but, in addition to the same “contamination” issue as with the dab applicator, it seems even less romantic and more functional than spraying. I use those for air traveling but usually I do not consider roll-on perfumes for my collection.

Pacifica FrenchLilac and Arquiste No 57

Solid perfumes are one more option that didn’t even make it into the title since I do not own a single solid perfume, and I completely forgot about that choice until I was half through the post. Since other than Diptyque and Teo Cabanel’s, I don’t remember any other real brands that make solid perfumes, and I rarely use indie perfumes, this form isn’t much of a choice for me anyway, but even if there were more offerings, I don’t think I’d gone for those and mostly for the same reason: I do not like touching my perfumes.

What about you? What application method do you prefer when you wear perfumes and why?

 

Images: my own

[N]SFW Perfumes

Flying on a plane, attending a symphony concert or visiting people in hospital – in all these circumstances we know the space limitations and are trying not to arrive in a nuclear cloud of a killer perfume. But all these situations happen once in a while so it’s easier to be mindful of the surroundings. When it comes to wearing perfumes to the office it gets trickier: we spend there a huge part of our life and we spend it mostly with the same people.

Many years ago I had a co-worker R. who really liked Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Halo. I liked it too and even bought a small bottle of it, but I never wore it to work because everybody knew it was R.’s perfume: you could tell she was in the office on the second floor once you opened an entrance door on the first floor. As I said, I liked the scent but I was happy that we worked in separate offices. Since she was a senior person (both age- and position-wise) nobody dared to tell her she was going overboard with application. I don’t know if she was done with the bottle or somebody finally decided to speak up, but her next perfume wasn’t as loud. But for me it was a lesson well learned and for many years, long before my perfumista times, I classified all of the perfumes I wore or tried as safe-for-work or not-safe-for-work. DKNY Women, Calvin Klein Truth, Cacharel Noa fleur and later several Jo Malone‘s bottles were my SFW perfumes back then.

Rusty and Cacharel Noa Fleur

During the descent down the rabbit hole, for a while I used most of the time I was awake for testing perfumes. And since testing meant putting on my skin something, with which I was unfamiliar, for both my and my co-workers’ sake I applied them very sparingly (besides, have you seen those Luckyscent’s samples?!). So even though many of the perfumes I tested during that period weren’t particularly SFW-type, with a careful application they didn’t bother anybody much (bar a couple of accidents with a crushed vial and mistaken identity).

But after testing 356 perfumes in one year, I realized that I wasn’t wearing my favorite perfumes from the rapidly growing collection. So gradually I switched to wearing to work perfumes I love and testing in evenings or during weekends. And that’s when I discovered that not wearing Angel or Fracas (other than maybe in homeopathic dozes) wasn’t enough: I had to take into account personal dislikes of people with whom I was sharing space daily for 8-9 hours.

Trying to be a good person, I asked all my office-mates to let me know if any of my perfumes would bother them: with the size of my perfume wardrobe I could afford not to wear some of them, right? Over time I learned that one of my co-workers disliked Tom Ford Amber Absolute (“too kitchen spicy”) and Jo Malone‘s Sweet Milk. I had to let him go: who dislikes Sweet Milk?!! (Ok, just kidding, there were multiple disciplinary infractions.) Another co-worker said that Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient was too strong and “smelled as in Men’s department at Macy’s.” Though I was sad when she left (not because of my perfumes choice!), I was glad I could wear my Encens Mythique d’Orient again.

Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient

Several years ago during our short perfume sniffing walk with Birgit and Sandra (Olfactoria’s Travels) in Vienna in one of the shops Birgit attracted my attention to the brand. Her comment was along the line that she didn’t like it in particular but it was one of the brands that weren’t widely available elsewhere. Prompted by her an SA handed me a test strip with perfume – Chic Shaik No 30 by Designer Shaik.

We visited four shops that day and tried numerous perfumes but that single paper strip came with me back to the U.S. via Paris. Birgit was right: three years ago Shaik wasn’t easy to find in the U.S. But I still managed to get a tiny vial of Chic Shaik No 30 from one of the decanter sites and later tracked and bought a bottle.

Chic Shaik No 30 by Designer Shaik

When I unpacked my purchase, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Pictures cannot properly convey how bizarre everything about this perfume’s packaging was – from a flimsy box à la Ghirardelli-chocolate-packet with that awful bow to the horrendous bottle adornments; with “FROM THE PRINCE IN YOUR LIFE” etched into an unexpectedly good quality coffin-like leather case as an apogee of this disaster. I’m not familiar with Middle Eastern aesthetics so I might be off with my impressions but I do not understand this etsy-worth chic for expensive perfume.

Packaging and name aside (people, you have to be Chanel for the numbering to work and even Amouage got most of us confused with their Roman numerals!), I like Chic Shaik No 30. It combines two of my favorite characteristics: it’s both floral and amber perfume. The brand’s site doesn’t provide any useful information so I’m going with Fragrantica’s notes: bergamot, cardamom, passion fruit, rose, jasmine, patchouli, vanilla, ambergris and tonka bean. As usual, my nose isn’t sensitive enough to recognize most of them but I enjoy the composition.

Chic Shaik No 30 by Designer Shaik

I thought that with a light application Chic Shaik No 30 was a perfectly SFW perfume. But a co-worker with whom I used to share the office took a strong dislike to it. Surprisingly, she pinpointed exactly what bothered her about if: she said it smelled like a souk. She didn’t protest any of my other perfumes, so I had to respect her pet peeve.

I wore Chic Shaik No 30 on my first day at the new job. So far no complaints but only time will tell.

Did you come across any perfume that you considered SFW but got complaints, unfavorable comments or some form of non-verbal disapproval from a co-worker?

 

Images: my own

Scented Gift Ideas 2015

I always wanted to do a post about winter holidays gifts (for my family and close friends it’s more about the New Year gifts than those for Christmas). But usually I was doing my shopping in B&M stores, so whichever interesting items I would find there I usually couldn’t recommend to my readers. This year in general and November-December in particular were so hectic for me that most of my holiday shopping was and still is happening online. So I decided to share with you my scented gift ideas.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post in any form and it doesn’t contain affiliate links.

***

While choosing perfume for somebody else is a very tricky task, some brands make it easier for both the giver and the recipient. So I’ll start with the brand that had changed my attitude towards gifting people with perfumes.

Ineke offers two discovery sets – Scent Library and Deluxe Sample Collection – both are beautifully presented and, at the price of $25 including S&H and $15 coupon towards the full bottle purchase, are perfect stocking stuffers. And if you’ve previously bought one of these and are thinking about a bottle, now is great time to go for it to take advantage of the free shipping until December 25th.

Rusty and Ineke Scent Library

Atelier Cologne, the brand that I really appreciate, offers a good variety of stocking stuffers and gifts, starting from $18 (I’m still contemplating trying one of their soaps) plus free US & Hong Kong delivery until December 25th and free personalization for travel sprays. And if you’re serious about giving somebody special a gift of perfume, I think that their latest offering – a gift card (minimum $70) that includes 12 samples – is a great idea.

Atelier Cologne Gift Card

Concluding the perfume-giving part of this post, I want to mention that Dame Perfumery‘s 5 ml trial size of Black Flower Mexican Vanilla for $10 including S&H is an absolute steal! Other perfumes are also available from that link.

For those who would still rather not venture into gifting perfumes, there are other options:

Perfumed Lace Garden bracelet or Alahine scented ceramic tile from Teo Cabanel. None of them will break the bank. And for those who’s looking for something more indulgent, there’s always By Killian with his scented jewelry collections (these are new ones) and Frederic Malle’s rubber incense.

Teo Cabanel Lace Garden Bracelet

I’ve recently discovered Beautyspin online store and I want to share it with you. You’ll have to overlook the percentage they promise you’re saving or the referenced “retail price” – those are pure fictional numbers. But their prices are very good (and sometimes you can find an additional discount code).

Check out these perfect stocking stuffers: Myrrhe Ardente, Encens Flamboyant and Musc Nomade shower gels ($3.35$5.19) by Annick Goutal or Bottega Veneta Pour Homme shower gel ($29).

Annick Goutal Shower Gels

After Rusty showed to me what I should do with the beautiful Amouage Dia soap, I decided that it would be a great holiday gift and bought Memoir and Epic perfumed soaps from Beautyspin ($24 each). Now I’m trying to persuade myself that those are great holiday gifts for somebody else since I still haven’t opened my Dia soap.

Rusty and Amouage Soaps

The person for whom you’re shopping for gifts is not into perfume-y scents? How about a fresh cut pine or coffee smell? Try these firestarters ($10 each):

Firestarters

And finally, if you want to steer clear of imposing any scent choice on your giftees, you might consider Blue Q You Smell Delicious socks ($9.99).

You Smell Delicious Socks

 

Will you be giving any scented gifts this year?

 

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

Name
ScentBird (https://www.scentbird.com) ScentTrunk (https://scenttrunk.com/) Olfactif (http://www.olfactif.com)
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)
Collections
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)
Delivery
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
Payment
Credit Card only Credit Card and PayPal Credit Card and PayPal
Cancellation
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
Returns/Refunds
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

Conclusion

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

Thinking outside the Box

Several years ago I read a post on Olfactarama blog about bottles collectors*. The following paragraph made me thinking:

Even as a young girl I hoped to someday have a vanity, on which there would be a mirrored tray, full of fine perfumes in their beautiful bottles. The bottles atop my cabinet now — Agent Provacateur comes to mind, in its pink ceramic egg crowned by a plain metal spray nozzle — aren’t the most appealing ones. Those are stashed safely in the dark interior.

As I was reading that passage, I realized that from an early age my idea of storing perfumes was somewhere in the dark – a cupboard, a dresser or a cabinet. A mirrored tray hadn’t been a part of our culture: usually there was not enough space in the bedroom to have that tray and nothing to put on it. Since perfumes were rare and expensive women tended to store them in the original packaging. Opening a box, getting a bottle out and sparingly applying a perfume – all these were parts of a ritual.

After moving to the U.S., for years, while coming across perfume bottles in my friends’ bathrooms and on their dressers, I would wince. I never offered any unsolicited advice but it felt like a sacrilege to leave unprotected perfume out in the open. But over time I came up with a rationale why it was an acceptable MO: with those 2-3 bottles that my friends owned they were much more likely to run out of perfume than have perfume running out on them (through evaporation or turning bad).

While I think it is fine for “civilians” to store and use their perfumes as they pleased – be it even on a windowsill or in a glove compartment – I still get distressed every time somebody demonstrates pictures of their poorly protected collections in perfume-related FB groups. I do not comment but I feel bad about those bottles. And I do not buy partial bottles without a box any more.

My Perfume Storage

The picture above shows how my collection is stored. In the walk-in closet, away from direct light, covered by a curtain from a blackout fabric (the cat-Christmas-themed towel on top is for decorative purposes only) and in their original boxes. And, as I recently commented on Vanessa’s post on a similar topic (Through the keyhole…a peek at some of my friends’ perfume collections…), in summer for those couple of days when it gets especially hot I turn AC on during the day to keep my perfumes safe. It’s interesting because Rusty doesn’t mind hot weather and it’s much cooler in the room where he spends most of his time while we’re away working.

After this substantial preamble I want to admit that for a while now I’ve been thinking how unfair it was that I get to see those beautiful bottles that I have in my collection so rarely and how great it would be to have some of them out on my dresser. After all, many of the bottles are beautiful and unusual – unlike most boxes, I must say.

As much as I would love to see my collection more often, there is no way I could put perfumes I love “in the harm’s way.” First I decided I would buy several perfumes just to use bottles. I didn’t want to spend too much on this project but I thought of a couple of brands that were perfect candidates: I liked the bottles and didn’t like those perfumes. First I bought Van Cleef & ArpelsFeerie EdT. Feerie EdP (a beautiful dark-blue bottle) was next on my list and I even found it for an extremely good price… It was too good to be true: the seller was confused and sent me the second bottle of EdT, which I returned. Then I was too busy to keep looking for it. The second brand I wanted to use for the purpose of displaying was Salvador Dali. But even though many of their perfumes are sold at discounters online, I don’t remember when I saw any of the bottles last so I was afraid that by now they might look really cheap. So I kept postponing the purchase hoping to come across them one day somewhere. And I had the same problem with a mirrored tray: while there were many online offerings, I just couldn’t buy any of them without actually looking at them: there are so many cheap-looking objects produced nowadays.

Perfume Bottles on my Dresser

In the end I decided – at least for now – to use what I already have:

  • Instead of a tray I put on my dresser a decorative plate “J’adore Parfum – I Love Perfume” that I got as a gift with purchase.
  • Mentioned above bottle of Feerie EdT
  • Two empty bottles: Annick Goutal‘s Petite Cherie (I used up this one but couldn’t throw it because I like these colored AG’s bottles) and Salvador Dali’s Laguna (20 years ago I got it from my friend after she finished it: I liked the bottle but not enough to splurge on the perfume)
  • Two partial bottles (perfume gone bad): Les Parfums de Rosine‘s Roseberry and Yves Rocher‘s Nature (it’s one of my old favorites so I have another bottle with good perfume but I like this leaf design and kept this bottle for no good reason – probably for this project
  • Vintage mini-bottle of Chamade by Guerlain that I bought at a thrift store (perfume is marginally usable but I prefer a modern version).

I like my arrangement. It looks nice on my dresser and I think for now I scratched that itch. But those Dali bottles and Feeri EdP…

Do you buy unboxed bottles? Do you have any bottles on display?

Images: my own

* I cannot give you a link to that post because there’s something funky going on with that blog, it has some strange redirect happening and I suspect malware.