Back in October, I made the conscious decision that I was going to devote January of 2021 going through my samples/decants/minis, and sharing the experiences on my instagram via “Mini Impressions,” or in mini reviews (I’ve collated every day in a highlight here). Inspired by a thread on the old Sephora message boards titled something like “31 Days of Samples,” that I had participated in in January of 2016, the idea was to go through one’s out of control hoard of samples and try new scents. The exercise was meant to help declutter one’s samples assuming you’d toss (or pass on) what you didn’t like. It also served to discover new scents and even new (to you) Houses. I participated in it for a stretch of time, though not the whole month, and I remember finding a couple of loves, and a few strong dislikes (Jasmin et Cigarette comes to mind).
Obviously, it had been a while, so I decided after hoarding samples for years, and tallying that I had close to a 6 month supply of untried decants, samples, and minis, it was time to experiment in January 2021!
What “ground rules” did I set for myself?
- Try a new decant/sample/mini every day – honestly, this is alot of pressure. It isn’t meant to be, but I felt that way initially. My work days are really busy, what if I wouldn’t have time to sniff and jot down notes? What if I would forget to smell? Oh wait, what if my allergies acted up and I couldn’t smell at all?
- Whenever possible – double fist it – That’s right, most days, I tried 2 fragrances. 1 on each wrist. I didn’t want to run out of material in case I did end up losing my sense of smell due to allergies (or worse, Covid). I generally would spray one fragrance on one wrist first and focus on it for a few hours, and then spray a second scent on the other wrist.
- If you miss a day, that’s ok, but try not to miss more than 3 – Sometimes your nose needs a break. Whether that means not spraying any perfumes that day or spraying something you know you love after potentially spending a few days already smelling scrubbers. Ultimately, I did try at least 1 new fragrance every day. There were a couple of days I would use a wrist to retry a fragrance. There was also a 3 day span that one of my wrists was occupied by the pile of sh*t that was Santal Royal and it just wouldn’t die.
- Try not to research too far in advance – looking high level into notes was one thing, since sometimes I was in a mood for a certain *type* of fragrance or note, but I knew if I looked too far into a fragrance, it could cloud my impressions.
- Take a pic & share my thoughts – I knew that this part was going to challenge my photography as well. I’m not a pro – I’m just tooling around on my phone and editing to the best of my ability. But photographing sample/decant bottles is *hard*! And at times, it felt impossible – looking at you teeny tiny vials from Lucky Scent! But, I suppose that was part of the “fun.”
What new discoveries did I make?
I found that I knowingly went out of my comfort zone 18 times out of 31 fragrances that I shared. 13 times because I tried a new to me brand (+1 a brand i previously only had a negative experiences with – looking at you Jo Malone), and 4 additional times consciously picking notes I knew had a strong chance of being “challenging,” and some were both. There were other times that I *unknowingly* found myself outside of my comfort zone because of notes I hadn’t been aware of or simply how the fragrance manifested on me.
I have firmed up a few things…
- Animalics are not for me. They work in certain compositions for me (I think, after this last week, I’m not so sure), but if they dominate, they will ruin a fragrance. And they *do not* scrub off. If anything, they just get angrier. I’m fairly tired of smelling like cat pee, with a touch of PTSD, and I’m not sure that the next time I do this I will be observing rule #4 (at least, maybe not 100% of the time).
- Lemon and Bergamot are a Hard Pass. They turn on me. They become extremely bitter and overpower the rest of the notes of whatever composition I try. I don’t think I’ve tried any lime fragrances, but I suspect that lime would behave similarly.
- I can enjoy notes of Orange. The exception to my rules about citrus – orange notes work beautifully on my skin in the fragrances I have tried so far. Except if they are mixed with other citruses. Or musk.
- I love a good Gourmand. More than ever, I find myself drawn to well-executed, not too sweet gourmands. I have always liked gourmands, but preferred darker, complex scents that leaned into leather and tobacco. Prior to this summer, my collection sat at about 20% gourmands, and to date that % has increased to 35% with a few more on my wishlist. I don’t know if it’s my diet and I am instead satisfying sugar cravings through scent – but I know that I enjoy smelling like A Whiff of Wafflecone, or a Ginger Biscuit, or good old Absinthe!
- Trading samples/decants with friends is a great way to try new things – 10 of the fragrances I tried were the result of swaps with friends! And 8 of the 10 were new to me Houses – definitely a great way to try new things.
- Trying new Houses is fun! I didn’t love everything I tried, not by a long shot. Even if I didn’t like what I tried from a new to me House, I could still appreciate the quality or the idea, and still want to explore the Houses further. For example, I *hated* Momento from MiN New York, but I very much appreciated the journey and would very much like to try a different type of offering from the House.
- Honesty is a good thing – not that I’m not honest when I post on my instagram or share full reviews here, but I tend to only share things I like. I’ve been really really enjoying the dialog with people about scents that are less than “love.”
- I want to do this again. And I want to make it a thing – next year, I’ll talk about #MiniImpressionsJanuary in advance so others can join in. It is always more fun that way!
What did I love? What didn’t I love?
I decidedly found 12 fragrances I absolutely loved, 9 of which I would like to secure a bottle in the very very near future (if I have not already). I found 2 strong likes and 3 fragrances that I liked fine, but would not purchase a full bottle. Perhaps a mini?
There were 5 scents that fell in the “Meh” category – others do it better. There were 3 dislikes, and 6 absolute HATES. Here is where each fragrance fell below:
Loves, if not outright obsessions
- El Attarine from Serge Lutens (Buy here)
- Sycomore from Chanel Exclusifs (Buy here)
- Myrrh & Tonka from Jo Malone (Buy here)
- Arso from Profumum Roma (Buy here)
- Midnight in Paris EdP from Van Cleef & Arpels (no longer available!)
- Sarrasins from Serge Lutens (Buy here)
- A Whiff of Wafflecone from Imaginary Authors (Buy here)
- Ginger Biscuit from Jo Malone (no longer available! You may be able to score it around the Holidays)
- Kwik Silver from Kontrol Perfume (Buy here)
- Mr. Bojnokopff’s Purple Hat from Fort & Manle (Buy here)
- Rouge Trafalgar from Maison Christian Dior (Buy here)
- Eau Duelle EdP from Diptyque (Buy here)
- Krush from Kontrol Perfume (Buy here)
- Moonlight Serenade from Gucci’s Alchemist Garden – beautiful, but literally Perfumed Water, lasting 1-2 hours (Buy here)
- Rouge Smoking by BDK Parfums (Buy here)
- No 02 Le Long Fond from Maison Louis Marie (Buy here)
- Gold Fresh Couture from Moschino – This was a pleasant, refreshing surprise. I would not kick it out of bed at the right price! (Buy here)
- Vetiver from Maison Christian Dior – this one needs some revisiting (no longer available!)
- Cracheuse de Flammes from Serge Lutens (Buy here)
- Straight to Heaven / White Cristal from By Kilian (Buy here)
- Gris Dior from Maison Christian Dior (Buy here)
- Bija from Kontrol Perfume – there just wasn’t anything to smell on my skin (Buy here)
- Cape Heartache from Imaginary Author (Buy here)
- Bois d’Ascese from Naomi Goodsir (Buy here)
- Ambra from Acqua di Parma (Buy here)
- Granville from Maison Christian Dior (you’ll have to go to Granville, France, to buy this one in person)
- Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle (Buy here)
- Momento from MiN New York (Buy here)
- Santal Royal from Guerlain (Buy here, at your own risk)
- L’Orpheline from Serge Lutens (Buy here)
- Wood Jasmin from BDK Perfumes – Really not sure what happened here, I don’t see any indication of animalic notes. (Buy here)
Layering Fragrances Can be like Alchemy
When I decided to “double fist” samples, it didn’t occur to me that I was going to discover new layering combinations, and that that could mean strong “Like” Fragrances become firm “Loves” or full on Obsessions.
There were 4 combos I came across that I found were divine and 1 absolutely lethal!
- Myrrh & Tonka from Jo Malone + Arso from Profumum Roma – I shared this combo on Day 10 as the “Double Trouble” edition of #MiniImpressionsJanuary. There’s something about Myrrh and Tonka playing off of the super subtle hint of gourmand in Arso. Together it reminds me of my favorite tea – Fireside Chai, a combination of Chai and Lapsang Souchong. Don’t misunderstand, Arso is not a gourmand…but there is a single note in the composition that allows for this, and I am grateful for it.
- Ginger Biscuit from Jo Malone (ah there’s a pattern here) + Rouge Trafalgar – talk about festive. The spicy ginger cookie on one wrist, and fir balsam and juicy red fruits on the other. It was like Christmas all over again.
- El Attarine from Serge Lutens and Norne from Slumberhouse – Norne was not a part of #MiniImpressionsJanuary, but I was retesting it on one wrist while wearing El Attarine on the other, and that also felt incredibly festive. Citrus, likely orange or *potentially* grapefruit + a smoky Christmas tree. Another incredibly festive combination that makes me think of clementines in your Christmas stocking.
- Ambre Sultan from Serge Lutens + Straight to Heaven / White Cristal from By Killian – Ambre Sultan is another one that i didn’t include in #MiniImpressionsJanuary (I have bigger plans for it), but I tested it at the same time As Straight to Heaven / White Cristal. And while Straight to Heaven ended up on my Meh list, its kind of magical with Ambre Sultan.
Spray at Your Own Risk
- Santal Royal from Guerlain + Jazz Club from MMM Replica – 3 days after I had sprayed Santal Royal, I thought it had finally, FINALLY died. That my wrist was clear, that it was safe. And then I sprayed Jazz Club on it. Jazz Club resurrected Santal Royal like my wrist had some kind of demonic possession. The combination sent me back to drunk college nights making friends with girls in the ladies room at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar. Just don’t do it.
If you’ve been following along, I hope that you enjoyed #MiniImpressionsJanuary – I do plan to continue Mini Impressions in some capacity, but not so much on a daily basis. And likely with more focus and a bit more research. I’m a bit tired of the Russian Roulette of animalics and citrus forward fragrances.
In February, lookout for a focus on coffee & gourmands. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.