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Buying unsniffed

I don’t know what causes other people to want to sniff something new. I tend to want to sniff something lots of other people already report loving, which is reported to contain notes I know I like (vanilla, lily of the valley) or that I am currently exploring (violet, heliotrope).

If I strongly suspect I will like something I usually buy a sample, from if it’s a recent fragrance, or from The Perfumed Court if it’s vintage or hard to find. Sometimes, though, I’ll just go on eBay and see what the stuff is going for. If it’s something relatively common and relatively cheap, such that investing in a $15 bottle just doesn’t seem that much bigger than the $4 sample and I’m REALLY SURE I’m gonna like it, I’ll just buy it.

I’ve had some enormous wins this way.

There’s my beloved Donna Karan Gold, dumped on the discounters two Christmases ago and available almost by the quart for just a few bucks. My first bottle of vintage Diorissimo, another lily fragrance but the complete opposite of Gold, green and light and yet ladylike and evocative of a world in which ladies wore stockings. And Marc Jacobs Rain, a fresh aquatic rose with “clean” musks that’s nothing revolutionary but also hard for me to get tired of.

I won’t say it’s always been the smartest idea, though. I now have a bottle of the EDT formulation of Nuit de Noel, teaching me that I don’t much love Caron fragrances and if I did it wouldn’t be in the EDT formulation.

I don’t know why I do it, but I think it’s at least partly the excitement of gambling. I’m not much of a gambler but I don’t mind the thrill of chance if I’m pretty sure the odds will fall in my favor. If it’s a perfumer or a line I know I like, and/or the notes sound right up my alley, how wrong can you go? Well, quite wrong, as I discovered recently when I bought a “tea” fragrance that ended up being mostly smoky and musky – not at all what I think of when I think of a tea scent. But it’s also interesting to see how far something diverges from what I expect from just a notes description. Sometimes imagining something and getting something like what you imagined is thrilling; sometimes getting something completely different from what you expected is even more interesting. And sometimes I have no expectations at all – I just know that according to the peeps online, something is going to be good, and I look forward to that experience.

After all, owning some bottles I don’t actually want is the mark of a real perfumista. It gives me trading material the next time Perfume Posse hosts an online swap! I have very few, fewer than most, if the swapping action is anything to go by. I think I choose wisely. But sometimes I love to just spin the wheel and hope.

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