“Thomas AKA The Candy Perfume Boy takes you on a journey around the fragrance world with ‘The Escentual A-Z of Fragrance’ a fun and fragrant ride that gives you all you need to know – the notes, the brands and the perfumers – to become a true fragrance addict/nerd”
Testing fragrances can often come across as a daunting exercise. Department stores are packed to the brim with bottles upon bottles of scent and teams of sales assistants ready to pounce with their fingers eagerly depressed on those spiritzers. There’s a lot out there, but it doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, testing out new perfumes can be really fun (it’s my favourite thing to do in my opinion, but I am a nerd, so take that with a pinch of salt) and it can open up a whole new world of exciting olfactory treats.
To assist you with scouring the varied terrain of the perfume world, I have compiled five handy tips that are essential when testing out a new perfume. I don’t promise to be able to find you something smelly that you will adore for life, but I can guarantee that, whatever the results, you will enjoy the process wholeheartedly. Just remember, perfume may be serious business, but it is incredibly enjoyable as well.
1. Go Prepared
Walking around the department store shelves aimlessly can result in a fortuitous perfume discovery, but this is rare. The truth is that, to find the perfect scent, or simply the next addition to your wardrobe, you’re going to have to do a bit of work. To help you, I have outlined an essential tool kit for perfume sniffing.
Your essential tool kit will include:
- • Your nose (an absolute must)
- • Your best ‘I’m just browsing, thanks’ face
- • Tester strips (found in store)
- • A pen to write on tester strips
- • A handy reference guide, such as basenotes.com, Perfumes the A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez or thecandyperfumeboy.com (I’ve heard that last blog is particularly good)
My method is to be ready with an idea of what it is you want to sniff before you head out. Use the blogs and books to understand what scents are in the same vein as the ones you already like, or if you’re feeling particularly daring, some that are completely out of your comfort zone and just sound amazing. Head to the store and spray a few things on strips.
Pro tip: use your pen to write the names on the strips so you don’t forget what they are (there is nothing worse than finding something you love and forgetting what it is, trust me, people). If you do this, sales assistants will know that you mean business.
Once you’ve got a good selection of things, five or six, or so. Take a breather. Go outside to clear your nose and come back to the strips over a period of time. Now you can start to narrow down your selection and move on to the all important bit – testing things on skin. You have limited skin space, so ensure that the scents lucky enough to grace your body are the ones that come across as the most intriguing.
2. Try Things on Skin
I cannot emphasise this one enough. Blotters (tester strips) are important, of course. They allow you to narrow down your selection, but skin is a perfumer’s canvas, and the perfume is the paint. A fragrance will smell different on skin as it does on a tester strip, not wildly so, but enough to impact how the scent performs. The difference is akin to the affect of watching a 3D movie with or without the glasses on – on paper the scent is recognisable but its not as defined or as colourful as it is on skin. So, in short, to get the full impression of a scent you must try it on skin. There’s a big difference between sniffing something on a tester strip and living in a cloud of it, so by testing fragrance on the skin you get a good idea of how it gels with you, your nose and your personality.
Fragrances develop with time, and what one smells in the first half an hour may not be what’s left on the skin at the end of the day. When you buy a perfume, you’re effectively inviting that scent to move in with you as a lodger, so it stands to reason that it’s best to ascertain whether this potential addition to your inner sanctum is as lovely as they appear at first, or whether they’re a secret psycho underneath. Nobody wants their bunny boiled at the end of the day, so try a scent on and wear it for a while. Live with it for a day or two and really get to know it from start to finish, and top to bottom.
If you love those wonderful top notes, but things start to grate on you after a while because its base notes are the olfactory equivalent of leaving the loo-seat up, then you need to shut it down and move on, my friend. But, if it’s love all the way through then, well, you’ve found yourself a keeper my friend and you should reach for your wallet immediately. An operative is standing by to take your payment.
4. Don’t Worry About…
People working on commission aren’t necessarily there for you, they’re there for themselves. Of course, there are a great number of wonderful and passionate sales assistants out there who do want you to pick the right perfume for you, but my point is not to be led. Perfume is personal, and it’s you that has to wear something once you’ve bought it, not the sales person, so just make sure that you’re buying the right thing for you and not just making somebody else a quick sale.
…perfume myths, such as being told one ‘mustn’t rub their wrists together’ for fear of ‘crushing the molecules’ and therefore creating significant disturbances in the force
There is no correct way to test perfume. There is however, an ideal way that will provide you with the best results. When spraying on skin, it’s good to go for somewhere easily accessible – forearms, wrists and backs of hands are best. Rubbing your wrists together wont ‘bruise’ the scent, but it may warm up your skin, leaving the scent to evaporate quicker. My advice? Spritz more so rubbing is redundant.
…a tempting gift with purchase
Hey, I love free stuff as much as the next guy, but when you buy a perfume you do it because you love the scent, not because you want a snazzy beach bag. Let that lovely gift be an added bonus to your purchase, not the main reason behind it.
5. Make a Decision
If you’ve followed all of the above you should be sitting pretty on a handy shortlist of scent. You are now in the position to make a decision. At this stage, I only have one piece of advice: don’t rush things. See if you can blag a sample and give it a couple of wears. Alternatively, if you feel so smitten with your new fragrant love, feel free to ignore me and just go for it – sometimes when it’s right, you just know. Either way, you should now have a new fragrant friend for your wardrobe. I hope you have a long and fruitful relationship, until you find the next one, of course.