Given fragrance’s intrinsic relationship with our sense of smell, it might seem odd to even contemplate buying a bottle of eau de toilette without having a sniff first. But in the same way that we now buy clothes without trying them on, an increasing number of us are buying our fragrances online without ever having sampled them.

And it’s easy to see why: there’s a host of fantastic money-saving deals to be had onlineand buying from a website is both quick and convenient. What’s more, if you live miles from the nearest department store or chemist, buying your fragrance online may be your only option.

“Obviously it’s always going to be better to smell a fragrance before buying it and, if you can order a sample, I’d always recommend you do so, but if you can’t, buying online can still be successful,” says James Craven, Perfume Archivist at Specialist Perfumery Les Senteurs.“You just need to work holistically, gathering as much information and using the clues given by the [fragrance] names, packaging and descriptions before placing that final order.”

Shopping online, Craven says, is an art that needs to be “cultivated, practised and honed”. So here’s a little masterclass on buying fragrance ‘blind’.

Do fragrance Your Research

According to GE Capital Retail Bank, a whopping 81 per cent of us research a product online before purchasing it. And buying a fragrance is no different from buying a plasma screen TV or a set of golf clubs: it’s simply a case of arming yourself with as much information as possible before ultimately clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button.

“To make things easier, begin by making a note of what you’ve worn in the past and take inspiration from that,” says Emma Leslie, Editor of “Use online fragrance resources such as and to find out which notes (like sandalwood, pink pepper and amber) feature in your favourite fragrances, and use that information when you’re researching your next scent.”

As with anything you can buy online, it’s always worth checking out what real people are saying about your potential purchase too. “There are some great fragrance blogs and websites out there that offer honest reviews,” says Chris Beastall of online grooming emporium Niven & Joshua. Worth a look are Persolaise, The Candy Perfume Boy, and Now Smell This.

Ignore The Price

“A high price doesn’t necessarily mean the fragrance will be good; and not all inexpensive fragrances are bad either,” says Craven.

Know Your Names

“The name is often useful in identifying a fragrance’s character,” says Craven. “Words like ‘intense’, ‘extreme’, ‘dark’, ‘night’, ‘passion’, ‘fraiche’ and ‘water’ all convey some sense of a scent’s mood and intensity.”

Fragrances like Boss Bottled Night, Nuit d’Issey and Bvlgari Man Black, for example, are going to be rich and warm and are designed to be worn for the evening, whereas Versace Man Eau Fraîche and Davidoff Cool Water are light and fresh and better suited to daytime.


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