Scent Sample Sunday

Scent Sample Sunday

Having plunged into perfumes a little over two years ago, I now have dozens of samples of fragrances that I haven’t yet explored beyond the initial spritz at a store, let alone written about them. So I’m going to try to clear some of that backlog by posting short comments on at least one scent sample every Sunday, and posting longer reviews or essays on a Fragrance Friday once a month. Let’s see how it goes!

To get started, here is a great article about how to get perfume samples, from the website lovetoknow.com: Places to Find Free Perfume Samples. Many of the leading perfume bloggers have also posted at least once about getting, using, and storing perfume samples.

My favorite ways to get perfume samples: 1) from department or specialty stores; 2) choosing one or more as a gift with purchase; 3) buying discovery sets from a single brand, or ordering a group of related samples from a service like Surrender to Chance. I have even found some great sample lots on ebay, though I rarely look for samples there. A Scentbird subscription is another great way to try new fragrances, although the monthly travel sprays are much larger than the usual “sample.”

Shout-out to the stores that have been particularly generous with samples and where I try to direct my business when buying fragrance (or other items) in person: Sephora, Nordstrom (where they put out ready-made samples, even of Tom Ford, on the counter with a note that says “Take one, it’s yours!”), Neiman Marcus, among department stores. My local Nordstrom even puts out empty spray vials so you can make your own samples from their testers! Saks has been a bit more stingy, but if you find a nice sales associate and communicate that you are serious about fragrance and may actually buy something, you can get some very nice ones, like the By Kilian samples I was given last weekend, after a failed trip to buy Guerlain’s Terracotta. I’ve also had good luck at some, but not all, Jo Malone counters in various department stores, and purchases have followed! (I don’t actually understand why these stores don’t give out manufacturers’ samples more freely, as they are provided to them by the manufacturers for the express purpose of encouraging people to try their fragrances, and maybe buy them).

Among independent or freestanding perfumeries: Les Senteurs, in both of its London locations, have been generous both with samples and with information. Their staff are clearly knowledgeable and passionate about fragrance, and their stores are lovely. Go visit if you can! I may be asking my husband to stop by to pick up the new Papillon Perfumes Dryad for me on his next trip to London, as one of their sales associates spent quite some time with me two years ago describing Liz Moores and her work (and yes, gave me a couple of samples); and last fall’s visit to their Belgravia location was equally pleasant.

Niche perfumery Les Senteurs in London, Belgravia. Knightsbridge

Les Senteurs niche perfumery; photo: http://therealknightsbridge.com/les-senteur/

In London’s Burlington Arcade, the Penhaligon’s boutique staff kindly offered several samples, both of their newest, high-priced line and of my beloved, late lamented Ostara. The sales associate also insisted that I take a sample of Blasted Heath, the more masculine companion fragrance to another of my favorites, Blasted Bloom.

Penhaligon's perfumery in London, Burlington Arcade

Penhaligon’s

The Perfumery, in the old Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, of Barcelona, is a charming store not to be missed, often staffed by one of its owners, who is happy to share his knowledge, passion, and samples with purchase. The fragrances carried there are very unusual, although I recognized brands like Aedes de Venustas, Making Of, and J.F. Schwarzlose. I bought a full bottle of the gorgeous Orquidea Negra, by the perfumer Daniel Josier, as a souvenir of our trip, and also brought home some lovely samples of ZiryabKaleidoscope, and Santa Eulalia.

The niche store The Perfumery Barcelona, in the Barri Gotic.

The Perfumery Barcelona; photo: https://manface.co.uk/perfumery-barcelona/

A local perfumeria near our hotel, the source of a heavily discounted bottle of Serge Lutens’ Chypre Rouge, also gave me manufacturers’ samples of L’Orpheline and Bapteme du Feu. I had not expected to find so much Serge Lutens in a little neighborhood store filled with celebrity and designer scents!

A note about samples: once you have a more educated olfactory palate, you can likely understand much about a fragrance from just one small sample, and that is by far the most affordable way to go. My nose isn’t that well educated yet. I often need to try a fragrance more frequently, in larger amounts than the usual 1-2 ml sample, to learn the fragrance and its notes, its development. Each one I try is a lesson. One current solution is to look for small travel sizes of various fragrances, in a wide range of types, notes and prices, for as reasonable a price as I can find. Some manufacturers sell sets of their fragrances in sizes from 5-15 ml, which is ideal for me. I’ve been able to try several from Miller Harris, Annick Goutal, Penhaligon’s, Byredo and others that way. Among cheaper brands, good for learning though not longevity, Yves Rocher also has very reasonably priced miniatures and frequent online sales.

Set of three Miller Harris fragrances, Fleurs

Miller Harris “Fleur” set; photo from http://www.millerharris.com

Scentbird is another good option for me, because I can choose from among their offerings for the fixed monthly subscription price, and recent choices have included scents from Amouage, Arquiste, Histoires de Parfums and other high-end brands. If I want serendipity, I can explore local discounters like T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s and see what they’ve got for, say, under $15. Case in point: a 1.6 oz bottle of TokyoMilk Dark No. 28 Excess, for $7.99. It has notes like amber, patchouli and oak that I’m curious about but don’t want to spend a lot on before I know more about how they strike me. I can happily spritz away with this one without guilt, and maybe even cajole my daughters into trying it! Honestly, at this stage, I’ll try anything, because I am enjoying the learning curve. I don’t have to fall in love with each one or even like it much to appreciate the lesson it offers.

Featured image from: makeup.lovetoknow.com

Fragrance Friday: Jo Loves

Fragrance Friday: Jo Loves

On my recent trip to London, one of my daughters was nice enough to accompany me to several perfumeries I had wanted to visit. The first was the Jo Loves boutique in Belgravia. It is on the charming Elizabeth Street, near Les Senteurs (another stop) and Phillip Treacy’s hat boutique, in a beautiful part of London which was fun to see in itself.

Jo Loves is the line of niche fragrances launched five years ago by Jo Malone, whose first, eponymous line of fragrances was acquired in 1999 by Estee Lauder. In a recent New York Times article, she spoke about her just-published autobiography:

“What I want this book to be about is the reinvention of yourself, that nothing is wasted in our life, that every single thing that happens in our life can come out for the good to build you.”

I love some of the Jo Malone scents: first and foremost, Lily of the Valley and Ivy, and also Red Roses, and Tudor Rose and Amber, so I was excited to try some of the Jo Loves line, which is not yet easily available in the U.S. The boutique is well worth a visit. It is sparkling clean and bright, with its signature colors of bright white and red everywhere. The sales assistant was lovely and helpful.

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Jo Loves

My daughter and I tried several of the twelve fragrances in the line. Her favorite was White Roses and Lemon Leaves, which I also liked very much. I liked Fresh Sweet Peas but found it a bit faint. I enjoyed trying the novel Red Truffle 21 and Pink Vetiver. On this short acquaintance, my favorite was probably No. 42 The Flower Shop.

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Jo Loves

But why pick a favorite based on such a brief encounter? I bought the Fragrance Discovery Set, which comes with twelve mini-sprays, one of each fragrance, and a gift certificate good for one 50 ml bottle of my choice, shipping to the U.S. included. So I will play with them at my leisure, and pick one as a keeper. Maybe I’ll even share with my daughter …

We had a great time at Jo Loves and hope to return some day!

Jo Loves fragrance boutique on Elizabeth Street in London

Jo Loves

Our next stop was Les Senteurs, the specialist perfumery up the street at 71 Elizabeth Street. It is London’s oldest independent perfumery, founded in 1984, and it carries many of the world’s best niche perfumes, from Amouage to Vermeire. More on that in another blog post!

Featured image: http://www.joloves.com. Other images my own.

Fragrance Friday: Perfume Tourism in London

I was lucky enough to spend a recent long weekend in London and spent one whole day visiting perfumeries! Many of them were in the charming Burlington Arcade. And yes, I came home with samples, discovery sets and a gift certificate. All the store personnel were friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable. I’ll be back! My slideshow is below:

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