A couple of decades ago I used to visit a perfume counter, get sprayed with either the fragrance I came for or whatever the store was pushing that day, sniff my wrists a couple of times, and sometimes make a decision right there if I couldn't convince the SA to part with a sample. On those occasion I was lucky enough to obtain a sample I'd wear it for the next day or three, and if I drained it and was still yearning for more, it meant I needed the full bottle. Obviously, things have changed and I don't mean just the size of my perfume collection. The number of perfume releases and interesting brands has been increasing exponentially since the early 2000s. Then I started this blog and eventually found myself publishing about 16 perfume reviews every month. This means a lot of sampling and testing. Lots and lots and lots of sampling. It also means that I've picked up some good habits and learned a thing or two in the process. Here are six tips for testing a fragrance before making a purchase:
1. Try to get more than a 1ml sample. It's important to me as a blogger to do that before forming a semi-educated opinion whenever possible, but it's just as essential if you're about to spend over $100 (I'm being modest here. We all know some highly covetables at double, triple or six times that price).
2. Some samples come as tiny sprayers, but many brands are still only giving away dab-on samples. When you spray, the fragrance is distributed more evenly and covers a larger surface, so the impression it gives can be very different. If possible, decant some of the juice into a sprayer to try it that way. Also try dabbing if the fragrance you spray seem to strong or too volatile. It might change the way you think of it.
3. Only testing a fragrance when staying indoors can skew the impression. Some perfumes feel different (for better as well as for worse) when you smell them in the open air. Go outside. See how it smells when the air has some movement. I didn't fall so completely and hopelessly in love with Dans tes Bras until after I wore it for several days of walking around the city wearing it.
4. It's not very likely that you'll get to test a perfume in several extreme weather conditions. But you do want to know how you're going to smell when the heat is on and the sweat is pouring. I'm not telling you to go and fumigate your fellow gym goers with Angel, but try to do a quick workout at home, go for a brisk walk or just carry your laundry up and down the stairs enough times to work up a sweat. Does the perfume still work?
5. The dainty dab on the wrist in the morning is nice, but not enough to show you what the fragrance can do. Spray other body parts and try it at least once in the evening or right before bed. See if the mood changes, if the perfume is more suitable for work or for dancing the night away. Does it help you relax? Is it energizing? Do you need another hot date scent?
6. Let's assume you've done all of the above and you're still smitten. But just how smitten? How big is your collection? Are you going to wear the new perfume every day? every week? Do you need the biggest bottle available? Will a 1oz suffice? Also consider getting a large decant (5-10ml. There are several decanting services on the web- The Posh Peasant, Surrender To Chance, The Perfumes Court, and several others on eBay) before going all the way. After draining about 5ml of anything, even Secretion Magnifique, I'd say it's really time for a bottle.
Do you have sampling tips? Please share them!
Image: Model Amber Anderson by photographer Simon Burstall for Elle France, November 2011.