Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Month: February 2017

20 uses for old or unwanted perfume

Do you have perfume bottles that serve no other purpose than collecting dust or taking up space? Did you fall out of love with a fragrance mid-way through the bottle and now have the remains to deal with? Too many perfumes, too little time? Fragrance that has gone off?

You could simply toss your juice, but there are better options. Indeed, many ideas on the list below do not have to be reserved just to fragrance that you are keen to use up. Perfume is not ideally applied only to skin, after all.

1) Give it away.

This is the obvious thing to do. Donate or re-gift in any way possible – friends, family, women’s shelters, Good Will, nursing homes, students… There will be someone out there who will appreciate your no-longer-desired perfume more than you do.

2) Spritz on stationary.

Letters, of the romantic variety or not, are all the lovelier when scented. This is another obvious use, yet we sadly do not write like we used to. However, we still use memos, notes, agendas, note paper…

3) Use it when carpet cleaning.

Douse a small cotton ball/pad on the carpet when you want to vacuum. When you suck it up, it will give a faint smell of perfume. You can also douse some baking soda, sprinkle it all over your carpet, and vacuum that up the next day. (the soda will suck up the exchange the bad smells on your carpet in exchange for your perfume. You could also spray clean carpets or rugs directly. And do try it on your bathmat.

4) Spray the bases of clothing drawers.

OR recycle any kind of porous bag by filling it with perfume-doused cotton balls and chucking them in your drawers, and also linen closets, on clothes hangers, etc.

5) Spray curtains.

This is my favourite method. In fact, I do so with perfume I still apply to my person!

6) Spray bedding.

Pillows, sheets, covers – yes. Try the actual mattress when changing the bedding!

7) Spritz toilet paper rolls.

Every trip to the lou will be a pleasant one when the paper rolls off. Appropriate for the bathroom (double doo-ty).

8) Use as an air freshener.

Baking soda or powder is the ultimate deodorizer. People typically up the ante by putting aroma or essential oils into jars of baking power and leave them around the home, but why not use perfume instead?

9) Create a personalize “Poopourri”.

Poopourri is a product that is sprayed into the bowl before one lets loose a chocolate caboose. It creates a film on the water’s surface and when you unload an A-bomb, it is encased with this film, and the odours that typically accompany one’s royal rump roast are trapped away from the world above by the Poopourri coating. Well, no need to purchase this uni-tasker. Make your own!

10) Use it as room spray.

A more direct approach to freshening up the air. Particularly useful in the bathroom.

11) Steam the air with scent.

Putting perfume into boiling water with infuse the air with fragrance when the steam comes off. The smell will infiltrate far and wide in your home. Just know that you probably won’t be able to use the same pot for cooking… Perhaps scenting a humidifier could work for better.

12) Spray lamp shades

The warmth from the heat of the light will help disperse it. However, be careful not to stain the fabric! Use fragrances that are transparent in colour. You can also dab/spray a few drops on the light bulb itself (but not when hot!). The heat will diffuse it. Don’t use an oil based scent for this.

13) Put a scented handkie in the wash.

If you spritz (5+ sprays) a handkerchief with fragrance and then chuck it in half way through the dryer cycle with your clothes, the laundry will be lightly scented as a result. You can also spray the fabric softener sheet. Use that handkerchief afterwards to fulfill other purposes: stick it in a purse, storage containers, drawers, etc.

14) Perfume tissue paper for storage and travel.

Spritz perfume on tissue paper and keep stored clothes and other items smelling nice by putting the perfumed tissues in sleeves, handbags, pant legs, etc. This is great for suitcases, too.

15) Scent up the car.

Yes, you can spray the fabric of car seats and car flooring. How about spraying some old cardboard, business cards, maps, documents, etc. with scent and keeping them in the car’s side pockets? You can awaken old hanging cardboard car fragrance decorations (like the infamous pine tree) by spraying on your perfume (or just make your own from scratch). You can also make use of your car’s ventilation system. There are plenty of gadgets made for this purpose, and you can replenish them with your perfume once depleted. There are many options for coming up with your own, too. If you have a lot of perfume samples you’d like to properly suss out, you can open them slightly and stick them in the car’s aircon fan. This will allow you more time to get to know the perfume without have to spray it on yourself.

16) Spray in bath steam.

When preparing a bath, spritz perfume into the steam coming off at the tap. Spray into the air right before a hot shower, too. You would essentially be creating an aromatherapy chamber.  Light florals,  citrus, and fresh, crisp scents are recommended rather than overbearing scents here.

17) Go DYI.

Fragrance sets including creams, shower gels, or creams in addition to a bottle of scent are very popular. If you like these companion products, you probably find that the perfume outlasts the scented creams. Save money and layer your scent the DYI way by adding perfume to scent free creams and gels. You can also re-purpose fragrance to make powder or solid perfume to use as gifts.

18) Scent your fans.

If you live in Asia you may use handheld fans in the summer (uchiwa or sensu here in Japan). Try spraying these with your perfume. When wiping dust off ceiling or standing electric fans, spritz perfume onto the tissue or cloth you are using when cleaning the blades. It will gently fragrance the air when in use. Speaking of blades, try this as well if you have plastic or wooden blinds instead of curtains.

19) Scent the garbage.

There are probably more effective things to use to deodorize, but I admit I’ve sprayed perfume on top of my garbage before closing the lid. I have yet to use it in my shoes, but it might prove a good option for some cheesy feet owners.

20) Reduce purchasing.

No, this is not directly a way to deal with unwanted perfume, but it is a way to dictate your future fragrance situation. If you have find yourself with old or unwanted perfume before, perhaps it’s time to become a more selective consumer. This can be hard for scent hoarders, particularly those with loose budgets… But life is actually a whole lot easier when it is simple and there are fewer choices.  At the very least, buy smaller bottles. You may not get that dresser bottle look you are after, and per volume it is usually more expensive, but you can collect more actual perfume variety that you will actually be able to use. This means less waste and reduced chances of finding yourself with a half-full bottle of juice you no longer like. If having beautiful bottles is your thing, then limit the quantity to only those you absolutely adour. Check out my perfume de-clutter post for more information.

And that’s it! Have you thought of any other ways to use old/unwanted perfume? Share in a comment.

Designer, niche, artisan, indie, bespoke… Say what?

Perfume is usually categorized into types based on smell, and there are several ways to categorize those smells. Michael Edwards, for example, has defined 4 groups – florals, woody, fresh, and oriental – and he has subdivided into 14 categories. There is another way to categorize fragrances, though, and that is by the fragrance house type, which is said to dictate the quality, cost, and pricing of a perfume. But not always. And the lines between these distinctions are unclear.


Designer fragrances are created by reputable perfumers or perfume institutions who have been commissioned to create the scent. They are the mainstream brands and are often part of larger fashion houses, crystal makers, or even furniture or luxury hotel companies.  They are the fragrances you will most commonly find in department stores, stores owned by the brand itself, and duty free shops in airports. Designer fragrances permit the average person access to a world of luxury that is otherwise not affordable. I’d splash out on a bottle of Chanel perfume, for example, but I’d need to save up 500 times that for a Chanel bag. Note that alongside designer fragrances, it is easy to find cheaper drugstore fragrances and increasingly higher-end brands (which often translates into “niche”) as well.  I think designer fragrances do have good recipes, but they will use cheaper ingredients and will definitely follow whatever is trending in the mass market


Niche is a word that is thrown around often to designate anything that is not mainstream. The term originally applied to fragrances not found in or different from those of department stores, but that is no longer the case. Indeed, since the niche market has exploded, so-called niche fragrances are as ubiquitous as the Sephora outlets (Ulta, Bluemercury, and other such beauty retailers) in which they are now housed. I believe L’ Artisan Parfumeur was one of if not the first house to be designated as niche, and it’s interesting to me that the brand name contains the term “artisan” and is also much more widely available now. The term niche is ceasing to become meaningful as a descriptor. Still, niche production does tend to be on a much smaller scale, and niche perfume presence in mainstream retail stores is not pervasive by any stretch.


The term indie is often ascribed to brands that are niche but smaller and independently owned. However, these days even many indie companies are fairly large. I feel the term is a clever marketing buzzword that seems to be applied to brands with a very zany, whimsical, alternative feel. A brand I feel represents the indie genre well is Imaginary Authors.


People disagree on the usage of niche and indie, but the term artisan engenders even more debate. Artisan brands create artisan-made products, meaning handmade and in-house as opposed to factory-produced. Artisan is therefore a  subset of indie. But here again, many companies have their perfumes batched and bottled in labs rather than doing it by hand, removing them from the strict definition of artisan. And the artisan label is not a guarantee of quality, as some people might suggest. They do tend, however, to be creative, original, and very personal (to the creator, at least). The lack of mass production means that the quantity may be limited and the products hard to get one’s hands on. Costs for artisan brands are higher. This is due to the need for increased labor and more expensive ingredients and packaging ( since they must be purchased in smaller quantities).


For those who have both the money and the desire for supreme originality, bespoke is now considered the preferred method. To some consumers, a bespoke perfume is the ultimate luxury fragrance. Bespoke perfume takes the world of personalisation to an entirely new level. According to Joanne Lam, “The process offers individuals a chance to not only convert emotions and memories into a unique scent, but also to create new emotions and memories to be associated with the fragrance.” Perfumer at Jean Patou, Thomas Fontaine, said it could cost someone $30,000 to $50,000 to create a personal scent. Famous perfumers that charge such a premium include the likes of Roja Dove, Francis Kurkdjian, Mathilde Laurent (of Cartier), Lyn Harris (of Miller Harris), Blaise Mautin, and Mandy Aftel (of Aftelier Perfumes). Because of the time and effort involved, these perfumers tend not to take on many clients seeking bespoke services. The waiting list can be years long. There are several companies who offer bespoke services as part of their brand, or even as their main service, and not all of them charge pinnacle-of-luxury prices. DYI bespoke fragrance workshops have also become popular, but I wouldn’t expect to create a masterpiece after one experience. It could be a lot of fun, though. Find a list of bespoke services and DYI companies at the bottom of my links page.


This is my own category, though I’m certain others use it, too. Drugstore is a term used by the makeup and skincare social media community to describe not necessarily cheap quality products, but those with cheaper prices that are commonly sold in “drugstore” retailers. Maybeline, Revlon, Bourgois, L’Oréal, CoverGirl, E.L.F. etc. are all drugstore makeup brands, and they are sold in Target, Walgreens, Wal Mart, Rite Aid, Sams Club, Shopper’s Drug Mart, etc. These lie in contrast to designer makeup, like Dior, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Chanel, Estée Lauder, Burberry, YSL, etc., which are sold in department stores and stores run by the brand. Mostly obviously then, perfume sold at drugstores is drugstore perfume. Note, however, that many a designer perfume is also sold at major drugstores, especially perfumes that have been around for a decade or more and are still popular. For the most part, though, drugstore perfume consists of non-designer fare, perhaps some beauty brand perfume (see below), older designer releases, and the “lesser” designer brands and celebrity perfumes. They are sold at very accessible price points.

Beauty Brand

When I use the term beauty brand perfume, I refer to perfumes that are sold, sometimes exclusively, at the global beauty brand branches of the chain that owns them. L’Occitane, the Body Shop, Yves Rocher, Aveda, Bath and Body Works, Lush, Origins, Jurlique, Kiehl’s, and Philosophy come to my mind. I believe that the quality and pricing is similar to those of drugstore perfumes (perhaps a tad higher), but you might find some real gems (Eau des Beaux and from l’Occitane comes to mind, and Kiehl’s musk is classic). I don’t know if anyone else other than me has defined this category or finds it useful.

For things like the FIFI award categories, perfumery classification terminology is important. But ultimately these categories do not matter to consumers, who buy what they like and/or can afford. Sadly, there are status-related and emotional factors that also drive consumer behavior. Someone may not adore their custom-made bespoke scent as much as they say they do; they are more in love with the idea of owning a bespoke fragrance and what they perceive that does for their social status and/or the way they feel as a result.

Pia Long of Volatile Fiction, in addressing types of perfumers,  claims that distinctions represent a semantic nightmare:

“Indie perfumer, self-taught; indie perfumer, not-really-a-perfumer; indie perfumer, ex-industry…

If a self-taught indie perfumer says “I’m a perfumer” to a functional fragrance industry perfumer; they’ll be met with a blank stare. If an industry perfumer says “I’m a perfumer” to a member of the general public, it might evoke romantic scenes of sniffing roses and vanilla pods all day long, when the daily reality for that perfumer could be figuring out a cheap but still attractive scent which doesn’t fall apart in a new type of detergent product.”

What do you think about the way perfumes are categorized in terms of house? Are you swayed in any way by such categorization?

Procuring perfume samples

Well, if you’re like me, you probably want to get your nose on absolutely everything there is out there, but unless your pockets are extremely deep, that will unlikely happen, especially when you consider that the market throws out hundreds of new fragrances every year!

The best way to try a scent, short of going to a department or specialty store every day to try on that one scent to get familiar with it, is to procure a sample. Free is best, of course, and if you live near a store like Sephora or Nordstrom, that is indeed possible, but limiting if you’re into less commercial delights. Other brick and mortar stores in your area, such as Bloomingdales or Neiman Marcus, might occasionally have a carded sample upon request, but it’s generally not policy. I’ve never seen anything for free here in fancy Tokyo department stores, sadly.

In my opinion, you do need time to get to know a fragrance well enough to properly decide if it is something you want to invest in, and a typical sample size is sometimes not big enough to get the job done, but you can always get more than one. A sample size vial (between .03oz – .08oz (average 1.5 ml) of fragrance) is enough for one day, or two days at a stretch, depending on the scent’s longevity. Luckily, there are lots of online options to whet your nose’s appetite. A decant is when fragrance is sprayed, poured, or pipette-ed from its original larger bottle into a smaller bottle or vial. Few online retailers practice this, and interestingly the practice has been banned on eBay. I guess there is an issue of quality control and/or trust?

Many brands bypass the bottle concept altogether and offer samples in paper packets, though I find this potentially messy, and obviously only good for a one shot. The same goes for fashion magazine samples – the old “open, rub, and sniff” concept. Both of these sampling concepts are limited to fashion fragrances. If you already know you want a full bottle of something, head over to the online retailers page to explore some options, but in the meantime I’ve compiled these sites for your sampling pleasure. You have my apologies in advance if you find faulty or outdated links. There’s a lot to keep up with, so kindly let me know if a link doesn’t work!

Subscription services

With the popularity of subscription services rising in recent years, it was bound to happen with scent. With a fragrance subscription service (see my post on the topic), you get to sample scents from a wide range of companies without any hassle, and therefore is my favorite method of procuring trial size vials of perfume. The main subscription services offering sample sizes that are currently active are Scent Trunk (I used for a while) Olfactif (niche) and Perfumes for a Buck (designer). A New York company called Scent Bird offered larger 8 ml sizes, which would appeal to those who want more time to get to know a perfume.

Websites specializing in sample sizes and decants

Just like larger retailers, several of these offer shopping incentives, such as reward programs, coupon cards, reduced shipping, and seasonal specials.

  • Aedes (7 samples for $15, 7 free with order of larger item)
  • Decant Shop (US, niche decants, good shipping deals for North America)
  • Fragrance Vials (US, individually priced)
  • My Perfume Samples (US, designer scent decants, miniatures and sets available, individually priced)
  • Scent Samples (UK, decants of designer and some niche scents, gift sets, wedding and party favors)
  • Scent Split (US, hand-decanted niche samples, free international shipping over US$150)
  • Surrender to Chance (US, individually priced)
  • The Perfume Society (US, curated exploration boxes, publications, subscriptions for discounts)
  • The Perfumed Court (US, niche decants, individually priced, incremental discounts, rewards)
  • The Posh Peasant (US, decants and sampler sets, individually priced)


Online fragrance boutiques offering samples

These stores generally send carded samples when in stock, and if not, you may get a decanted sample vial. A few of those listed below actually specialize in making their own wee decants. Many stores may ask that you provide one or two alternates in case they don’t have your requested fragrance(s). I’ve included the country in which the retailers are based, but most below will provide international shipping.

General cosmetics and beauty boutiques offering samples

This list represents the bigger beauty brand companies whose focus is more general. Perfume samples are to be had!

Survey sites

This is one of those sites where you get pressie for doing a survey, although I’m not sure which comes first. This one seems legitimate (don’t trust my word, though). Watch out for so-called freebie websites that promise something for nothing – that nothing may turn out to be a whole lot of spam and a whole lot of hassle!

eBay & Amazon

Though I admit I don’t use it often, I’ve had good luck on eBay, and this is considering that many retailers will not ship to my country of residence. I imagine this is a great option particularly for those who are US-based, although there are many who would prefer to purchase through a “proper” store, not feeling safe in their retail experience. Sure enough, scams and the like have occurred and do still exist, but they are rare. I think it’s a shame decanting is no longer allowed. Amazon is also a good source for niche scents, especially since individuals can now sell through this mega store.


Mercari is now the place I go to in Japan. It’s the major competitor for direct second-hand sales from individual to individual, and it has expanded outside Japan to the UK and the US, with plans for more. I’ve gotten a lot of great deals in Japan through this service, but that might be because according to the Wall Street Journal  Japan is 90% less likely to encounter fraud issues.

Houses that respond to requests

Although the websites of these brands have no obvious sample policy, they will offer samples, but only if you sound like you intend to buy when you call or email them. Frederic Malle Phone the NY store, and they will send you three samples of your choice for a handling fee of 20 USD. Serge Lutens If you email, write, or phone them, they will send you a Petit Livre des Salons (a pamphlet of their wax samples) and possibly a spray sample of a current scent. Robert Piguet If you email them, they will send you any samples of your choice for $3 each + $15 shipping. HermesSend them a thoughtful email, and they may send you any sample you ask for, though this may depend on the representative with whom you speak.

Brands or houses selling sample sizes directly from their site

This makes good business scents (ha!) for brands who often do not have big marketing expense accounts and as a result the huge potential market of consumers. Yet many of the perfume houses below also have a tendency to use more expensive materials, and add to this their relatively higher overhead, you can understand why the end product ends up being a bigger investment for the consumer. They may also produce more unique scents that are not for every nose. Selling samples is a great way to tease would-be customers into falling in love and coming back for a bigger bottle. It has worked for me! This list is long, growing, but far from complete. A lot of these ship internationally, but there are also probably a lot that don’t.

Sample swap & split groups

From what I can gather from perfumista online activity, many people actively participate in swapping decants of their own stock with others via a variety of venues, the ones I know of being the forum-based Basenotes and Makeup Alley – the largest online swapping platform. You can also try Facebook Fragrance Friends, which has thousands of members. There are benefits to this activity in addition to the obvious, such as community building and sharing. Check out the post from Now Smell This on swapping for more “how-to” information. I don’t and probably will never participate in this kind of activity, and here is why:

  1. First and foremost, for me it’s the shipping costs (also why I rarely purchase from eBay or Amazon, as mentioned). Living in a country where there is not an active perfume community (in my language, to boot), voids the endeavor, as I can likely get samples more cheaply from sources listed above.
  2. It takes time and energy to find the swaps you’re looking for and get connections going, and personally I’d rather be blogging.
  3. I don’t anticipate that the quantity of people dying to have whatever I’m willing to part with (which incidentally is not that much compared to many fume heads out there) is not that large, or people may not have anything I want (though that is less likely).
  4. I think it would be ultimately very difficult to ascertain what, exactly, is a fair swap! Research (=time) is needed. See #2.
  5. Sadly, there is also the quality control issue, as mentioned with eBay.
  6. It is actually illegal to send alcohol-based perfumes by mail, although it is very obvious that both individuals and companies indeed do this. Companies (like Strawberry Net) seemed to have found loopholes for dealing with this, but individuals can get caught. I was! I sent a Christmas package home one year containing some perfume and it came back to me a few days later. The mail carrier actually came to my door with the package, and watched me take out the perfume. Yes, I did label “perfume” on the package, as international packages sent to Canada have very strict laws requiring senders to do so. I could have purposefully “forgotten” to write the full contents of the parcel, but I have had packages opened by Canadian customs before. I wouldn’t want to risk confiscation, which I have also experienced, albeit at airport customs.

Do you know of any other means of procuring samples? Anything I forgot to list? Share in a comment!

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