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People generally buy fragrances after they have smelled them at the beauty counter in a store, or gotten a sample. But what about blind buying? That is buying a fragrance without smelling it first. You may be at your local discount store and see an interesting perfume and buy it, because, what’s $20? But what if the stakes were higher, and that perfume was $200? There are an increasing number of new fragrance brands in the market, and you can’t always smell them in a store, or obtain a sample. So how do you blind-buy with confidence?
Be Familiar with the Notes You Like
Lavender, patchouli, vetiver, grapefruit, rose, musk, saffron, ginger, sage— the list goes on and on. There are a number of notes that can be included in perfumes. Some of these notes are easier to become familiar with than others. You can pick up a lemon easily and determine if you like the smell. Ambergris, or whale vomit, may be a little harder (don’t knock it until you try it— it smells amazing!).
With some of the notes that are harder to access, you may want to research some of your favorite fragrances to see if there are similar notes in them. If you notice most of your favorite perfumes contain amber, it’s safe to say that you like amber.
Then there is the flip side; there may a note that you are sure you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean you should completely discount it. You should consider the combination of notes. A perfume with rose combined with jasmine, iris, and magnolia may be way too floral and feminine for your liking, but combine that rose with vanilla and sandalwood and you may have the perfect combination of earthiness with the slight pick-me-up of delicate rose.
You should also consider where the notes are in a fragrance. Perfumes are composed of top, middle/heart, and base notes. Top notes are the ones you smell at the opening of the fragrance, when you first smell it. They are generally light and only last about 15 minutes. That’s why your scent may smell different later in the day than it did when you first sprayed it.
Middle notes are the heart of the fragrance, they are what you smell when the top notes start to dissipate. They complement the base notes, which may not smell good on their own.
The base notes mingle with the heart notes and leave a lasting impression. They are the foundation of the fragrance and are often rich and heavy. Therefore, you may not want to buy a fragrance if you only like the top notes, as they will disappear when the fragrance “dries down”. Alternatively, you may not want to discount a fragrance if you are not in love with a top note or two.
Opinions are like... you know, and everybody’s got one— so goes the saying. Therefore, some reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. You should look for reviews that include the reviewer’s preferences and background. If the person’s proverbial palate is so refined and unique that nothing would meet his standard, this may not be ideal. If a person just says that she loves it, clearly, that is not enough to make a decision upon. It is helpful when a reviewer compares it to another perfume that you know, or tells you which notes are the most prominent.
You can often find reviews on the retailer’s website, but also look at reviews on YouTube and on fragrance forums. When reading reviews, use your judgement since everyone is different and has different tastes.
Consider Flankers for Scents You Like
Flankers are new scents that share similarities with an existing perfume. Think of them as a re-edition of a fragrance, or a new member of the family. For example, Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio inspired the flankers Acqua Di Gio Profumo, Acqua Di Gio Essenza, and Acqua Di Gio Absolu. Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume has the flankers Daisy Eau So Fresh, Daisy Spring, Daisy Love, and Daisy Dream. You get the idea. Since they are often the re-release of a popular fragrance with a slight modification, flankers are usually good candidates for blind buys.
Marc Jacobs Daisy & Flankers
Consider Sillage, Projection, and Longevity (SPL)
Sillage refers to the scent trail that you leave behind after you walk by. Do you want people to smell your scent even after you leave a room? Projection refers to how far a fragrance travels from your skin, which changes over the longevity of the perfume. How strong do you want your scent to be? Longevity refers to how long the fragrance lasts on the skin. You need to consider how often you wish to reapply.
Sometimes the manufacturer will provide information on the sillage or projection, or you may be able to get the information from a review. If you are going for high sillage, you may want to consider fragrances with notes such as patchouli, caramel, vanilla, berries, and melon.
Now You Are an Expert!
You’ve got the basics of the blind buy, so find out which notes you fancy, start reading those reviews, consider flankers, and determine your SPL preferences.