It’s difficult to sample multiple scents at once and truly experience the separate notes, because our sense of smell suffers from what is called olfactory fatigue. This is why we need to sniff on coffee to clear our nasal passages before inhaling a different delight in the store. To complicate matters, commercial perfumes have become so chemically complex that our noses might end up being overwhelmed. Also, some perfume lovers simply may not have the time or means to get to stores to sample all the available scents out there. It’s no wonder that scent subscription services have sprung up to meet the needs of would-be consumers.
If you are interested in exploring new scents, I feel there are five main reasons you should subscribe, regardless of the company(ies) you end up choosing:
1) to save time and money
Subscription services will likely always be cheaper than if you were to buy each item separately, which is part of their inherent appeal. Suppliers are willing to sell their product to the subscription service provider at reduced fees so that they get their name out to you, the final customer. Savings are usually passed onto you, and often along with rebate coupons to encourage an initial purchase right from their store. The whole process of finding a vendor or retailer that sells stuff you might like can be highly time-consuming, although sometimes fun. If you work 60+ hours per week as I do, however, and would rather do things like nurture a website in the little free time you have, a subscription service takes out all the time-consuming hassle. You know you’re not going to run out of your scent while you were too preoccupied with other matters, too, which is yet another bonus.
2) to enjoy the element of surprise
In several subscription box services, you get to choose exactly what you want, which appeals to many people, but for the most part, subscription box selections are a surprise. There is definitely a level of excitement surrounding the delivery of mystery scent to one’s door every month. Andy Nulman, author of “Pow! Right Between the Eyes,” says that some surprises may anger, disgust, scare or shock people — but that’s a good thing, and people are willing to pay for it. Well, this certainly explains why subscription services (aside from printed media!) are a growth industry. Grown adults are essentially all like kids in Disneyland a lot of the time, and even small surprises delight us. A wee box of I-don’t-know-what’s arriving regularly will send the most staid of us back into kid-at-Christmas-time mode. My monthly mystery scent subscriptions certainly delight me, and have admittedly evoked the clapping of hands, and the embarrassing utterance of the series of words, “goodie goodie goooooodie!!!”
3) to enjoy new knowledge
There is arguably no better way to learn about perfumes that to have a few samples delivered to your home on a regular basis. Many scent services come with brochures, pamphlets or cards explaining the creator (nose), company, ingredients, descriptions, and inspiration behind each fragrance. You will also learn something about yourself in the process – what you like that you always thought you wouldn’t and what you don’t like but had assumed you would. After gaining that “knowledge of self,” you can confidently purchase larger bottles from the original vendor, not having to worry that you’re misspending your fragrance budget. After just a few months you’ll have been exposed to many brands and scents and will know more about perfume and your own preferences than you ever thought you would. You also will not be influenced by the packaging when evaluating new fragrances. They usually come in simple vials, after all!
4) to easily re-gift and share
This may or may not be an obvious reason to get a fragrance subscription, but sharing with spouses, significant others, family, and friends is wonderful! Fragrance samples make for great birthday or seasonal presents or simple “thank you’s.” Come to think of it, whole subscription services themselves make for wonderful gifts. There are unlimited reasons for gifting to the people in your life, and what better way to bring a smile to a fellow fume head than to pass on some liquid delight?
5) to explore scents you might not know or be able to access otherwise
Especially with niche perfumes, it’s not like your small town department store will carry them all. Some subscription services capitalize on this and endeavor to allow you to get your nose on hard-to-find fragrances. Being able to sample scents through a subscription service means that you’ll be able to fully experience pricier fragrances that you’d normally be weary of investing in without trying.
As many of these subscription services are only offering sample sized portions, many of you may have been wondering, “Why would I pay money for samples when companies give out such samples for free?” I sincerely hope that what I wrote above addresses that question for you!
Below I outline a few scent subscription services that I have discovered, a few to which I have been subscribed, a few to which I am currently subscribed, and others which interest me. Some contain affiliate links.
Get deluxe sample sizes, plus free shipping at the Mugler specialist store in the US for an entire year. The whole subscription is 50 USD, and it is delivered quarterly. If you are an Angel-only addict, you can get “Angel Room Service.” I had a subscription with these guys a few years back, and I have to admit that most of the stuff I got was wee trinkets and a few products I never use (like nail polish and creams). Overall, I wouldn’t say it was worth the price, unless you are a huge Mugler fan (I am, actually, but would have preferred to just get the perfumes). One thing I remember enjoying about the subscription was getting a sample set of Mugler’s Les Exceptions, which I very much enjoyed. They only ship to the US, or at least that was the case when I used the service.
With this Chicago-based company that I plan to join, you get 3 niche, 2.25 ml vials of unique fragrances curated around a theme. If you purchase a full bottle of a scent from the sample selection in the same month, the subscription box price gets credited against the cost of the fragrance. Sadly, as I won’t be getting my scents until months later (Canadian family members will pick up in the US – when they are able – and then send to me in Japan), this won’t work for me, but that’s the way the prune wrinkles! The 18 USD monthly selection is beautifully packaged and what most appeals to me about this service is the brands they have available – lots of high-end niche delights that I am very much looking forward to sampling.
I haven’t checked either of these guys out yet… I’ll update this page when I do.
Each month with Scent Bird you receive an 8 ml purse spray filled with the perfume of your choice, with over 450 designer and niche scents to choose from, but the stress seemingly more on designer fragrances. About the size of a rollerball stick, 8 ml is enough perfume to apply two sprays twice daily for 30 days, though we all know that some perfumes might require (or desire) a few more squirts. Every month after that you get a vial with your refill that slides into the convenient and chic travel spray case that you get when you first sign up (it comes in red or black). Along with the fragrance you receive each month, New York-based Scent Bird, run by Mariya Nurislamova, Sergey Gusev, Andrei Rebrov, and Rachel ten Brink, also includes a card describing the “perfume of the month” for the next month. The great thing about this program is that you not only get to choose what fragrances you would like to try, but also you can choose your lineup. The pricing varies: USD $14.95/monthly, $14.50/month with a 3-month plan, $14/month with a 6 month plan, or $13.50/month with a year plan. Again, shipping is only to the US.
We don’t wear the same clothes every day, so why wear the same scent? With Scent Trunk, you get a variety of fragrances, niche and indie choices included. They customize each box to your unique tastes, as you fill out a profile allowing the Scent Trunk team (William Yin, Scott Grant, Richard Smale, and Jolisa Masucol) know what you like, then they find unique fragrances to suit you. They really go out of their way to do this, hand curating every box. Each subscription box contains 3 samples of 1.5 to 3 ml of fragrance, together enough to keep you scented for a month. A men’s box is also available, and they ship free to Canada, too. This company does indeed carry some gorgeous, high-end niche brands (mixed in with some fun cheapies, like Demeter). The subscription is sells for 96 USD for six months, and 180 USD for a year, and they make it easy for you to gift a subscription. I joined this service a while back (see review here), but note that their model appears to have changed (now looking a bit more like Scent Bird and Scent Box). If you are interested in joining, see if code 8306 still works to get $7.20 of gift credit when you sign up.
Scent box is a subscription service for designer fragrances. It is very similar to Scent Bird in that you get one 8 ml spray perfume (they claim that gets you 4 sprays a day for 31 days) from your choice of fragrances. The packaging concept is also very similar. They have a selection of over 650 designer perfumes and 80 brands from which to choose, at USD $13.95 per month, which slightly cheaper than Scent Bird. However, once you hit the subscribe button on their website, you’ll find that they charge USD $18.95 for the option to select from their higher end inventory in addition to the general one. The general category is actually 500 perfumes, and the higher end subscription consists of 150 additional ones. You get a discounted price in a subscription if you order 2 perfumes per month. So, Scent Box or Scent Bird? I would compare what they have on offer to see what perfumes are to your liking. If everything you want is in the cheapest often on Scent Box, that might be the better choice if you want to save a dollar. But if you want more niche variety, I believe Scent Bird wins. Note that this company, too, only ships to the US, though last I checked they wrote that they plan to expand.
This company has a scent of the month club carrying its own label of perfume, which is made with an organic cane alcohol and a combination of essential oils and organic fragrance oils. Each box contains a perfume spray and a travel size lotion in the same scent. The portion sizes are not precisely quantified on the website, but the bottling sure is pretty. If you sign up for 12 months you get 2 months free (15 USD/ month; 160 USD/ year).
This large perfume retailer (under Scentomatic Ltd.) in the UK will allow you to choose from unisex, for her, or for him 12- month subscription packages. The service offers Bloom’s best examples of woody, floral, citrusy, fresh, tasty, classic and modern formulas, as well as special picks for the holidays. You get 5 x 1.6 ml samples a month, 1 x 1.6 ml sample of a recent launch, and subscribers get a unique promocode permitting them 10% OFF full sized bottles corresponding to the current sample selection. The samples come with descriptions and in the mail you’ll also get updates regarding what is new at Bloom. They ship to the UK and EU, but can ship elsewhere for prices starting at £20 via DHL.
This is likely your cheapest option if you want to sample mainstream fragrances. With membership you can select ANY 5 samples each month for USD 12.99. New members automatically select 5 more samples for only $1.00 extra, and this company appears to ship internationally. I would imagine for that price that they use samples packaged directly from the company. I did not find any obvious details about how long you have to be subscribed, though I am certain it is in the fine print somewhere.
Cancelled (too bad!):
- Aromatic Blackbox
- Bergamot (I was subscribed for 6 months before they folded and enjoyed the service, similar to the old Scent Trunk model.)
As you have noticed, to successfully subscribe to most of the services above, you’ll be better off with a particular mailing address. For many people living outside the United States or UK, the associated costs and inconvenience of setting up a forwarding service or something to that effect may make these subscriptions a lot less attractive.
Have you tried any of these subscriptions? Are there any others you know of that I haven’t listed? Please comment below.