Every quarter, for the small sum of five pounds, I receive a Discovery Box from the Fragrance Shop Discovery Club. Sometimes there are fragrances I’ve already tried and sometimes there are lovely surprises. Either way, I’ve been a member since December 2013 and I always will be.
This month’s box contains six samples, as well as a five-pound voucher off a full bottle of any of your favourites from the box. So far, my clear favourite is Elizabeth Arden White Tea.
Here’s what’s in the box
Elizabeth Arden White Tea
As you know Elizabeth Arden Green Tea has been a classic since it came out in 1999. Green Tea was created by none other than His Majesty Francis Kurkdjian, and it has genius simplicity written all over it. There have been many flankers, and I’ve liked all of them. When I saw White Tea was now A Thing, I worried that they may have “over-flanked” themselves, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Elizabeth Arden White Tea is light, airy and floaty and smells like a pure white room in a dream home. There’s clean white musks and sea notes and light notes of white tea. This is like a spa in a bottle. This will be on my dressing table very soon.
Jimmy Choo L’Eau
This is in a similar vein to DKNY below, but is slightly sweeter and delicately tiptoes onto the very edges of the gourmand spectrum. I wrote about this last month and you can read my review here. It’s pretty and light and floral, and I predict it’ll be a big hit this summer.
DKNY Be Tempted Eau so Blush
DKNY Be Tempted Eau So Blush is a light and feminine scent that has a fruity floral opening and big peony notes in the middle- and peony is going to be big this year. The base is woody and fruity with apricots and musk. This is a perfect daytime scent and ideal for work. It almost demands to be worn with a pretty frock.
Marc Jacobs Decadence
Marc Jacobs Decadence comes in such a fantastic bottle that when I first saw it, I almost didn’t care what it smelled like, I just wanted that bottle. Luckily, it smells pretty good with its saffron and plums and a vetiver and musk base. If you like Marc Jacobs Daisy, don’t buy this blind as they’re very different. Decadence is fabulous for the evening whilst Daisy is lighter and better as a daytime fragrance.
This one certainly lives up to its name. “Wow” was the first word I said when I sniffed it. It opens with sharp lime and aromatic cardoman, and settles as a slightly gourmand, warm vanilla, via peppery geranium and dry grassy vetiver. Despite not having any leathery notes, this reminded me of Dior Fahrenheit, only Joop!Wow! is sharper and with more citrus. I loved it. I sprayed it on me, my husband and my ten-year-old son. Unanimous thumbs up! We all smell great.
I was surprised when I saw this as I thought “Hmm, Invictus is pretty intense anyway, what could they possibly do to make it bigger?”The answer, my friends, is that they turned up the volume and tweaked some knobs until it knocked out every canary within a fifty mile radius. Invictus Intense is similar to the original, but cranked up to the power of ten. The salt notes are very prominent. It’s dry and masculine and not pretty. It reminded me a lot of Paco Rabanne One Million Intense. If this sounds like your cup of tea, please use sparingly. For all our sakes.
The Discovery Club is easy to join with no long term red tape. Just join to get your box and cancel if you want to. But I bet you won’t! I’ve been getting these boxes for four years and the flat box they come in fits through the letterbox so it won’t end up in the Post Office depot if you’re out.
In 2015 I wrote a post entitled “How to Get Perfume Samples”. I felt it was necessary since these days, it’s easier to get unicorn droppings and hens’ teeth than perfume samples from Beauty Counters. My original article has proved very popular, but the Fragrant Firmament spins fast on its axis. My original article, written in 2015, needs updating for 2017.
A lot can happen in two years within the industry. Beloved favourites can be discontinued, new starts ups can arrive with a bang, and old lions can go out with a whimper.
Sample services serve two purposes: They avoid you making costly blind buys and they help you fall in love with stuff you might not have come across. Whilst I love to seek out samples of stuff I’ve heard of and never tried, I also love it when the choice is made for me. It takes me out of my comfort zone. This is one of the reasons why I am such a fan of discovery boxes, and the Perfume Society in particular. Their boxes are loosely themed and have really changed my mind about no end of scents I wouldn’t have otherwise sought out.
The other advantage is one I mentioned pre-Christmas, but which applies at any time of the year. When buying for others, why not offer them a choice? A mixture of samples and gift voucher is my idea of the perfect gift (It’s my birthday next month. I wonder if my husband is reading this?).
Here’s a roundup of sample services that are currently out there just waiting for us to knock on their door. This is a UK Guide by the way, so if I miss your favourite out, it’s just geography, not favouritism.
The Perfume Society.
Yes I’m a fan. No, they don’t pay me to say so and yes I have almost every one of the Discovery Boxes. In fact, I’m just waiting for the Heaven Scent one, due any day! You can buy them here. They usually contain around nine excellent, often hard-to-get samples and maybe a treat or two as well. They are my Number One favourite treat.
A new entry at Number Two. I’m very impressed with the diversity here and find the prices reasonable. I’m rolling my sleeves up and writing a long list. Here’s a link to their website.
There are two branches of this divine boutique perfumery in London, but the good news is that you don’t have to live in London to benefit from their sample service. The bad news is that its very, very hard to choose. Here’s the link.
Nobody can accuse Sarah McCartney of not being inclusive. 4160 Tuesdays means reasonably priced high quality artisan scents that cover every genre except “boring”. The 4160 Tuesdays website even has themed suggestions of sample sets in case you don’t know where to begin. My favourite is “Frocks and Hats.”
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Club.
Every quarter since 2013 I have received a box of samples from The Fragrance Shop. These usually include new releases and new flankers, but often they pop a classic or a well-beloved favourite in. The boxes usually include between 6 to 9 samples and a booklet of money off vouchers if you find one you want in full bottle size. Boxes are just £5 a quarter, and they make great gifts too. You can join in the fun here.
Papillon Perfumery is the creation of Nose Liz Moores, perfumer extraordinaire (I’ve met her- she is small and beautiful) There are four scents in the Papillon range and you can sample of all four from here. There isn’t a single one I wouldn’t recommend, and a fifth scent is on its way later this year.
Another one I’ve not come across before, but I’m very impressed with their range and might be making an order soon. The huge range varies from Tom Ford, Chanel Exclusifs, Tauer and Roja to name but a few. I’ll let you know what I think if I can ever make my mind up! You can check the site out for yourselves here.
Pell Wall Perfumes
In the beautiful county of Shropshire, Chris Bartlett creates exquisite scents under the name of Pell Wall Perfumes. Sample sets and mini bottles are available at reasonable prices and you may well find a lifelong favourite among this imaginative range. I particularly like Pretty in Pink and Deep Purple. Check out the website here.
eBay has a vast range of samples from various sellers. I have never been let down or sold fakes on eBay- they are very strict about that. I have had some great bargains this way and even if you end up not liking the samples you order, they make great swapping currency.
Find Your Tribe
Join a group of like-minded fume heads: Sites such as Fragrantica and Base Notes have led to many firm friendships, as well as samples swapping. Alternatively, join a Facebook group such as Fragcom or Perfumeland For Fluffheads.
Have I missed any out? Have you had great sample service in the UK? Or have you discovered a favourite through random sample sniffage? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you.
Galop D’Hermès is the much-anticipated latest launch from Hermès. There are two things about it which excite me. Firstly, it is perfume i.e not eau de parfum or eau de toilette, but actual perfume. Secondly, it was made by Christine Nagel, who is nothing less than legendary.
I will begin by saying that if leather is not your thing, then you may wish to sit this one out. Galop D’Hermès is all about the leather. However, it’s not just leather, because that’s been done. Galop D’Hermès is more about a power struggle between a feminine side and a masculine side. As it turns out, neither wins and both are victorious.
In the opening there is leather straight away. Top notes are listed as being quince and saffron. Quince might be an unusual choice, and indeed, it only makes a brief cameo, but somehow it stops the dry, spicy saffron getting too sober. The middle phase heads straight into leather and Turkish rose territory and pretty much stays put. This is what gives Galop it’s USP. The rose and leather are so seamlessly blended that you cannot decide whether the saddle is made of roses or whether the rose has leather petals.
The leather, it must be said, is terrific. It’s unmistakably horsey, as the name would suggest, but it has a softness that comes from the unfinished inside of a belt: the rougher, unpolished side. This isn’t Sloaney Hermes, this is real, battered leather and being of perfume concentration, this is what you leave in your wake and on your pillow the next day.
If you like the sound of this, then you will love Galop D’Hermès.
You can buy Galop D’Hermès from John Lewis. Brace yourself. It’s not cheap. Alternatively, you can do as I did, and buy a Precious Perfumes Discovery Box from The Perfume Society which has a generous perfume strength sample.
I have exciting news about this quarter’s Fragrance Shop Discovery Club Box. Not only is it a great selection of samples, but I have one to give away AND my very own discount code so that you can get one free when you subscribe. I feel properly famous now. I’ll probably be in Celebrity Big Brother next. (Day One. Samantha heads straight for the kettle. The other housemates have labelled her “boring.”)
You may have correctly surmised by now that I am a huge fan of discovery boxes. Many a time have I stumbled across a fragrance that wasn’t even on my radar or my “Must Try” list and many a time has that fragrance ended up being a favourite. Discovery Boxes turn your head and whisper “I know you don’t think you’ll like this one, but have you actually tried it?” It’s also a great way to try new releases and new flankers without traipsing round endless shops wondering what your coat sleeves smell of after trying ten scents in one morning. (Guilty).
This month, the Fragrance Shop sent me a Discovery Club Box to see what I thought. I have been a proud subscriber since the scheme began, so now I have two. As I often tell my sons “It’s not fair to have two when your brother’s got none.” I am therefore giving one of them away. The contents are a mix of established classics and new launches. There’s three for him and four for her, but that’s just labels. In my opinion, anyone can wear anything. There’s also a Fragrance Shop booklet containing discount vouchers on a full bottle of each scent sample in the box. Ill be reviewing some of them shortly so watch this space.
What’s in the Box?
Samples are between 1.5ml and 2ml. Here’s what’s in it:
Simply tell me which of the above scents you would most like to try, and you could win the whole Discovery Box. You can comment below on the blog, or on Twitter, or on Facebook. Entries are picked via Randompicker. org and entries closes on July 26th at midnight GMT. Please note that this is a UK only giveaway due to postage regulations.
There’s MORE! Exclusive Discount Code to my readers
But that’s not all. The lovely team at The Fragrance Shop has very kindly issued me with my very own discount code. If you want to join the Discovery Club, simply sign up online and use discount code SCENTDAY to get your first one free! Boxes are sent quarterly and cost £5.00 including postage. This offer is available until 31st August. The offer applies to UK residents only due to postal regulations.
I was recently sent a sample of Amorosa by Ruth Mastenbroek by the lovely Nick Gilbert. (Check out his blog). What he doesn’t know about scent ain’t worth knowing. He thought I might find Amorosa interesting and he was right.
Ruth Mastenbroek is a niche perfumer, with over twenty five years’ experience in perfume. She has a small but beautifully formed collection of scent that you can find out more about here on her website. Ruth has a degree in chemistry and has worked for Jo Malone, Kenneth Turner and Jigsaw over her lengthy career. She has also been President of The British Society of Perfumers. I think we can say that Ruth is unequivocally a safe pair of hands when it comes to perfume.
I will start by saying that I like Amorosa very much, but I will also say that I didn’t take to it at first. I was wearing airy hesperides the day I got this in the post, which may have been a contrast too far.
This floral bucks the trend by being rich and woody straight away. It opens with a light flourish, but the rich amber, vetiver and patchouli can’t wait their turn. I therefore get an interesting juxtaposition of feminine white flowers,( namely: tuberose, tiare and jasmine) with prickly, dark edges. The galbanum provides a cologne like touch of leafy greenery. I thought I could smell lavender in this, and it does indeed have something of the fougere in there, but it may be the violet leaf. The watermelon is another interesting find in so far as you wouldn’t normally discover it in such a rich fragrance alongside patchouli and creamy tuberose, but it really works.
Amorosa is like nothing else I have ever smelled, and that’s not damning with faint praise, it’s more a round of applause for Mastenbroek’s audacity. This is a scent that kept me guessing. When all’s done though, and the basenotes are there (for a long time incidentally), I am left with a fabulous rich white floral, lightened by watermelon that doesn’t smell watery or cucumbery as it so often can. The base is heavy, but balanced, and those heady white petals never take their leave.
The more I wear this, the more I like it, and I am jolly grateful to Nick for thinking of me. It wasn’t on my radar, but I’m so glad he tapped me on the shoulder and turned my head in the direction of beautiful, complex Amorosa. I look forward to getting to know Ruth Mastenbroek’s work more closely after this impressive first encounter.
Blind Buys have taught me a lesson many times and it’s often a lesson I choose to ignore. So many times have I seen a bargain perfume, read some reviews of it, looked up the notes and decided to buy it, only to be disappointed. You can always sell your disappointments on eBay but you rarely get the same price back that you paid for it.
In the frugal month of January, which is usually grey and makes Christmas look sad and outdated within days, something nice in the post always cheers me up. A set of samples to work through can help you make a considered decision about your next perfume buy, whilst being a very pleasant way to spend an evening indoors as the wind and rain lash outside.
Samples are the best way to live with a scent for a few days and below is a round up of the best. They also make great gifts for people when you don’t know what they like, and more importantly- when they don’t know what they like either! When you come across samples that you don’t like, hang on to them as they are great for swapping (see point 12 below)
So here are my twelve best places to get samples. I’ve done the homework so you don’t have to. These are all UK.
The Perfume Society Beauty Box– when you subscribe to the Perfume Society for £25 a year you receive a Discovery Box, free of charge, full of scented goodies. After that you can buy a Discovery Box for the discounted price of only £10. A great way to learn about scent new and old.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Boite a Parfums– you can get these online and each pretty tin contains ten 2ml splash samples of L’Artisan Parfumeur fragrances.
Papillon Perfumes– To experience what critics are talking about right now, you can order a sample set of all four Papillon scents for just £15 plus £3 shipping . Critically acclaimed and beloved of perfume fans and bloggers alike, the Papillon collection could lead to you buying a full bottle. A little goes a long way. Heed my warning. You will fall in love.
4160 Tuesdays: There are all sorts of ways to sample these unique scents from handbag sized bottles to a full set of samples. Prices start from just £6 for a generous 4ml splash bottle. I’m a big fan. Here’s the link to the 4160 Tuesdays website.
Pell Wall Perfumes-A Shropshire based UK independent perfumery which is the brainchild of Nose Chris Bartlett. There are some great variations here: £5 for 5 x 1ml samples including postage (four of your choice and one “lucky dip”), or 9 generous 10ml bottles for £49. Here’s the link.
Les Senteurs– The biggest range of niche samples I know of in the UK – they have just about everything I can think of and many more I had never heard of or tried. Here’s the website– but be careful- you can get quite lost in it. Heaven!
Cath Collins: A “cottage” perfumery which makes great zesty scents inspired by flowers from Cath’s own garden. Three EDT samples for £5.25 inc shipping or £7.00 for four, including shipping. Full sized bottles are reasonably priced at £29.50 for 30ml. Here’s the link to the website.
Jo Loves: Try the Fragrance Discovery Gift Experience which gives you a sample set and the option of a full bottle of your favourite. All fabulous quality and mouth wateringly good. Here’s the website link.
EBay: you’d be amazed what people sell. Try for bulk packs of samples such as Thierry Mugler Angel– sometimes cheaper than buying the smallest bottle and handy for your handbag.
Swapping Swap with other perfume lovers on Fragrantica, basenotes and Facebook groups. Join up, join in and get involved. Perfume lovers are generous souls and love to spread the joy and share. This is where all those samples you don’t care for come in handy and can be used as swapping currency.
Frugal Fragrance, Scents on a Shoestring, Perfume for Paupers: phrase it how you will. The truth is that these days the cost of living is high and luxuries are the first to go. Choosing my perfume for the day is a few minutes I treasure. I certainly have plenty of choice but only around four bottles on my dressing table cost more than thirty quid (and were mostly gifts).
I am often asked how I can afford to sample a new perfume every day and I always answer almost apologetically: I have very few expensive full bottles and sometimes a review is prompted by a few free squirts at my local beauty counter. The rest are inexpensive bottles, samples or purse sprays. If I had had to spend a lot of money to do this it wouldn’t have been possible.
Granted, I have two advantages: a very generous friend without whom this blog would be shorter and harder to write. I know how lucky I am. The second advantage is that as a blogger, I often get sent free sample sizes to trial. However, apart from that, I truly believe that it is possible to smell good without breaking the bank.
On the High Street
There are several ways in which to enjoy perfume on the cheap. Firstly, I no longer dismiss cheap perfume the way I used to long ago. Rummage long enough in the High Street fare, and you will find gems that cost well under a tenner, and even a few for under a fiver. In my local Bodycare shop, I have bought 100ml of Cabochard for £8.99 and a bottle of Jovan White Musk for Women for £6.19. Then there is the bargain Queen of them all: Coty’s L’Aimant– and I am neither the first nor the last to find similarities between L’Aimant and Chanel No 5. Created in 1927, L’Aimant has a retro feel that reminds my esteemed fellow blogger The Perfumed Dandy, of an Agatha Christie heroine. A small bottle can cost just over a fiver and is widely available.
Back in the 70s, drugstore classics were everywhere and everyone wore them. They have lost popularity now but are worth revisiting. Their lack of popularity means they are cheap too, so it’s a win-win situation if you like bargain chypres and aldehydes. I have purchased Panache for just £4.99 on Fragrance Direct- and the longevity is around 12 hours, making this classic aldehyde excellent value. I have also managed to purloin (I love that word) a bottle of retro favourite Tweed from my local chemist for £4.99. Recently a little bottle of Chique arrived in the post for just £3.99 and it is full of Citrus and Oakmoss. (see my rave review).
In Praise of Purse Sprays
Then there are the purse sprays. I have a bouquet of these on my dressing table, none costing over a fiver. Marks and Spencer does an excellent range of perfume and almost all of them are available in 10ml and 25ml sizes, starting at £4, making these affordable treats. I also find that very often there is a sales brochure in my Avon catalogue and I have in the past bought a purse spray of Little Red Dress for just £3.99. Avon are doing these more regularly now and you can get them for just £3. I recently picked up a 10ml bottle of Next Just Pink for just £2 in my local Next Clearance store, and it’s become a firm favourite.
Go Niche and Bijoux
If you have a lot of perfumes and samples, a small amount can last nearly a year if you rotate it with other scents. It is possible to have sample sizes of great niche scents for special occasions that would normally be prohibitive when bought in full size bottles. However, there’s no reason why anyone should be left out, regardless of budget.
Determined and lengthy browsing on Amazon has helped me find Coty Chanson D’Eau– a citrussy hesperide at only £6.99 for 50ml including a shower gel. Even I was sceptical at that price, but pleasantly surprised at this lovely green cologne on receipt of it. Another recent Coty find was Coty Aspen for Menat £8.29 a delightful Lavender/Pine combo that smells like Creed Green Irish Tweed . Don’t rule out Old Spice either- it was originally meant for women and smells like a lighter version of Dana Tabu).
Yves Rocher is a minefield of bargains, but sadly my nearest branch is in France. Their online service for the UK is excellent however. I just bought 2 bottles for the price of one: Clea and Yria. They were blind buys, but I looked them up on Fragrantica, liked the reviews and went ahead. I was not disappointed and now own two bottles for the total price of £15. They usually let you choose three free samples and a free gift too.
One of my favourite sites is Allbeauty.com, formerly CheapSmells.com. They have a huge variety of genuine big names, but can sell cheap since they are without the High Street overheads. Prices are very low and there is a vast selection of perfume under £10. Postage is free when you spend over £15 but it does take about week. They don’t pay me to say how great they are, but their delivery guy could find my house without sat nav.
Being a blogger I have the advantage of having been sent some free samples from very generous companies, and I am lucky to have a good friend in my chum Lisa, whose generosity in letting me loose on two big boxes of phials, knows no bounds.
Samples are getting harder to cadge over the counter: believe, me I’ve turned on the charm! But there are other methods.
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box (see photo) is a good way to bolster my sample collection. At only £5 a quarter, I receive a box of mixed samples and vouchers for money off full sized bottles. My absolute favourite Discovery Box comes from The Perfume Society, which provides around ten samples, smelling notes, sniffing strips, and a couple of scented goodies that vary from facial serum, to hand cream or shower gel.
Look Beneath the Glitz
Don’t rule out tacky looking celeb scents either: Who cares what it says on the label? If you like it, go ahead. Two of my favourites are Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights (very Vegas!), bought for £8.95 which smells of Papyrus and Patchouli ( and very similar to Prada EDP), and JLo Deseo, which looks like wet jewel and smells eau so fraiche!
Ebay is an excellent source of cheap fragrance trawling, especially after big events such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day when people sell their disappointments. Some buyers are afraid of being sold a dud, but I can honestly say everything I have bought has been authentic and eBay are pretty strict about fake stuff, so it’s a good place to shop around.
Swaps, Decants and Splits
If you get stuck into the talk boards on Basenotes, Fragrantica, Facebook Fragrance Groups or even Mumsnet Style and Beauty threads, you can not only find friendly like minded fellows, but can usually swap decants, full bottles, or even go in on an expensive niche bottle by just buying, say a quarter if a full bottle with some fellow fragheads. Perfume lovers are generous souls and genuinely want to spread the joy.
How about you?
What’s the best bargain you’ve ever scooped? Have you found a hidden gem? Do share so we can share your joy, follow in your footsteps or just sit here being all jealous. Perfume is such a treat, I truly wish it for everyone.