It’s getting ridiculous. There’s no way to keep up with all the new perfume hitting the market. I’ve heard different numbers, but certainly well over a thousand fragrances will launch this year. As someone who reviews perfume, I feel a responsibility to keep somewhat up to date with major releases, at least. Yet even I’ve thrown in the towel. Whole perfume lines spring up and fold before I even get around to trying them.
None of us can stem the tide, so how do we ride it successfully? How do we figure out which perfumes are worth sampling and which can be passed over?
I’d love to hear how you decide what, in this ocean of new perfume, you try. Here’s what I do:
Prioritize new releases from the houses I know I like. Easy. Most anything new from Serge Lutens, Guerlain (with exceptions), Frédéric Malle, Hermès, Ormonde Jayne, L’Artisan Parfumeur (although releasing a bunch of Mon Numéro fragrances at once wasn’t nice), Amouage, Tauer Perfumes, Annick Goutal, and a few other lines gets attention.
By the same token, I instantly dismiss most flankers and celebrity perfumes. Why would I waste time finding the latest juice from Antonio Banderas?1 Similarly, if a celebrity announces in her press materials that she normally doesn’t like perfume, but she likes this one anyway, she won’t be seeing any of my money.
Sadly, I often end up overlooking some of the niche houses I suspect I’d really like. For example, readers rave about Sonoma Scent Studio all the time. At least once a month I tell myself I’m going to order some samples, but I never do. After all, there's so much else I haven't smelled, where do I even start?
Pay attention to the opinions of other perfume lovers. Read perfume blogs long enough, and you start to get to know those among the writers and commenters who share your taste. If I notice one of my scent twins giving the thumbs up to something, I make a note of it. Most of you I only know by your NST handles, but I have an idea of what your perfume collections contain, so I’ve dreamed up “scent portraits” that let me gauge by your enthusiasm what I should try.
Depend on the kindness of strangers. I don’t swap a lot, but when I do one of the things I enjoy most is getting to try whatever bonus samples are tossed in. Those wicked little samples have led me down a few heartbreaking paths (vintage Amouage Ubar — summer in a bottle, way difficult to track down) and a few easier to satisfy (that would be you, Parfums de Nicolaï Eau Exotique).
Plus, since I write here, a few samples come my way that might not to come to other people. You might think being a perfume blogger means being suffocated in swag. I can’t speak for other perfume writers, but in my case it is definitely not so. The vast majority of perfume samples I get by virtue of writing about perfume are re-routes from Robin who has asked if I want to review something. For instance, last week’s review of the new Mona di Orio Les Nombres d’Or was based on samples Robin diverted to me. (Now Smell This’s sample policy is here.)
Am I missing some good fragrances? Undoubtedly, but I don’t know what else to do. I know there are some drugstore gems I’ve passed over, or terrific department store offerings I’ve overlooked, because in the morass of new releases it’s harder than ever for one to stand out. Most of all, I hope you all will keep sharing the names of your newest discoveries. Ultimately, word of mouth trumps all the magazine ads and press releases the perfume industry throws out there.
How do you figure out what’s worth smelling out there?
1. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll undoubtedly fall head over heels for Antonio Banderas Swarthy B-Lister or whatever his latest is called.