sampling perfumes

In other (though still fragrance-related) news, I made an order from The Perfumed Court about a month ago. It’s a US-based website that sells perfume decants in varying sizes, and the range of perfumes offered is dazzlingly (and intimidatingly) wide. The rationale is that you get to try a perfume before committing to a full-sized bottle. This is especially useful for people who live where perfume counters are not easily accessible. Although there are perfume counters aplenty around here, I thought it was a great idea. I mean, let’s be real – perfume is an expensive interest; here in Singapore, a bottle of perfume generally costs between $80 and $200. I’m not the sort of person who’s really interested in a signature scent – why confine yourself to one? I like variety, and I like to pick perfumes to match my mood, the weather and the occasion. I also like sampling different perfumes, just for the fun of it. There aren’t many stores carrying niche lines around here, and I’m embarrassed to keep going back to the same place to test scents and leaving without buying anything.

So, I placed an order for about 15 different perfume samples, mostly 1ml decants. My order was shipped in three different packages. The first thing I noticed when they arrived is that they were really small. I mean, look at the picture below. Those are seven of the samples, beside my little finger. And I’m told I have really short fingers.


I’m not complaining about The Perfumed Court or anything like that. Far from it. The service was good, they sent out my packages very soon after I placed my order, and the samples arrived well-labelled and without any spillage. And I understood when I placed the orders that the samples would be 1ml, so it’s not like they misrepresented the size or anything. But I feel like on an analysis of the costs involved, and depending on your reasons for ordering samples, it may not be worth it.

Costs-wise, the decants are not expensively priced, in my opinion. The ones I chose are mostly US$3-4 for 1ml. That works out to about S$5-6 per ml, which doesn’t sound too bad. Considering that for a niche or luxury house perfume, a 100ml bottle can go for about S$200 for 100ml, 1ml works out to be S$2. I guess the remainder of the price paid goes towards the decanting supplies, the sample vials and the work going into the decanting, managing the site, etc.

However, it all adds up. International shipping was US$7.95, so for 14 x 1ml samples and 1 x 2.5ml sample, I ended up paying a total of S$97. This can get me a 30ml bottle of Jo Malone or a 75ml bottle of something like D&G’s L’Imperatrice or DKNY Be Delicious. With samples. The last time I bought perfume, I paid about S$170 for a 100ml bottle of the divine Serge Lutens’ Jeux de Peau, a 5ml mini bottle of Serge Lutens’ Nuit de Cellophane, a 1 ml sample of Serge Lutens’ Bas de Soie, two 1.75ml samples of Annick Goutal’s Le Chevrefeuille and two 1.75 samples of Annick Goutal’s Petite Cherie. Of course, I was in fact only paying for the Jeux de Peau, but to me samples are part of the deal. And quite a deal it was, in my opinion. I’m not going to go into a minute comparison of the exact volumes of perfume, but given that with my purchase I got just a slightly smaller amount of samples (though with less variety) plus a full bottle of perfume, the additional S$70 is well worth it.

Would I order samples again? Probably. The great thing about sites like The Perfumed Court is that they seem to carry nearly every perfume that you can think of. In contrast, when getting samples through a purchase you’re necessarily limited by the perfumes that are stocked there. Although Escentials (where I bought my Jeux de Peau) carries niche perfumes, it stocks mainly “mainstream” niche perfumes (as contradictory as that sounds). Also, sample websites are great when everyone is talking about a fragrance and you have to have a whiff of it but can’t find it anywhere in your country. Lastly, even if a fragrance is available at a counter somewhere near you, if you’re like me, you just want a piece of it – not necessarily for the satisfaction of owning it but for being able to smell it anytime, to compare it with other scents in your collection, to dab a little on your wrist when you’re in the mood for that particular perfume…

I think my perfume obsession is just getting started.


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