scent shopping in the digital age


Though it’s impossible to replace the real live experience of sniffing out scents in a boutique, digital tools can make that process more fun, and perhaps even more efficient. There have been so many new developments in olfactive e-commerce, most obviously, robust sampling programs offered by individual brands or fragrance boutiques. Check out an old list of some brand-specific sampling programs. Here ‘s a breakdown of what we’ve seen so far.

Most Promising

Nose – boutique and website based in Paris
Monday – Saturday: 10:30AM to 7:30PM
20 rue Bachaumont, 75002
M° Sentier or Etienne Marcel

Nose stands out because of their wide range of niche fragrance brands and discovery tool. The site and shop use a diagnostic that analyzes fragrances you already wear to identify your favorite scent families and suggest similar scents. Unfortunately, at the moment, the tool only allows for up to 5 scents to analyze. For someone with a larger scent library, it’s not as helpful as it could be.

Luckyscent – scent bar and online boutique
7405 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90036
Monday-Saturday 11-7
Sunday 12-5

Luckyscent has by far the widest range of niche fragrance brands and are constantly introducing new products. Their scent descriptions are thorough and they have lots of reviews, although, over the years, I’ve noticed many of them disappearing. Perhaps this is part of shifting stock. That’s one trouble here. Luck Scent has great stock, but you can’t smell everything in store with the limited space in their tiny boutique. They send great email updates and have a fun sampling program. For $3-5 per scent, you can select and buy samples to be shipped to you. At Scent Bar, you can peruse solo, with friends, or get expert help from the staff.

The Fragrance Lab at Selfridges

Part of Selfridges’ Beauty Project, until June 27, 2014, the lab offers a unique ipad diagnostic and exploration experience that includes a bottle of perfume for £65. Selfridges perfume collection is focused more on commercial than niche fragrances. When you buy a ticket, you are fitted with the perfect original scent for you. For the fun of conversing with lab coats in a fog-filled room, until and 50ml bottle of a signature smell, it seems worth it. Buy a ticket here

Jury’s Still Out

Over the past few years, other notable boutiques have joined the perfume party, such as Bergamot, Pinrose, and Scentsa. Several apps have also appeared but need considerable more development to be truly user-friendly.

Iperfumer is an app that simply does not work. What’s more, their perfume database is predictably limited to the fragrances they create.

Perfumance looks really good right off the bat, but they have a strange database of a couple of scents per brand. For example, Frédéric Malle, Byredo, and Heeley are represented by a few seemingly random scents in the larger collection.

Sephora has an in-store app, Scentsa, but alas, is also focused on commercial fragrance.

Pinrose follows a subscription sales model with their own original collection. The program enables shopper to learn about their own unique fragrances through a synesthetic tool – seeing or tasting smells – to explore the best fragrance for her or her.

Bergamot is another company that follows a subscription model, sending you 3 different scents each month to discover. It’s a great concept, focused on niche fragrances. It’s perfect for those getting into niche fragrance for the first time. More experienced fragrance hunters will likely want to see the collection expand dramatically.

Scentbird takes inspiration from the success of Warby Parker. You get fragrances in the actual bottle, try for a few days, and keep it if you like it, return it if you don’t. Neat concept, and a fun, personality-cased discovery method. At present, the company’s offering is limited to commercial fragrances.

caramel flower

If you lust after rich, heady botanicals, check out Velvet and Sweet Pea’s latest fragrance, fleur de caramel with notes of red mandarin, butterfly lily, cognac, Tahitian vanilla, and frangipani. This luxurious fragrance won the bronze medal at the recent Artisan Fragrance Salon in Sa Francisco. Buy the parfum or eau de parfum here

scent accessories for the modern lad and lass

You can now enjoy a new take on the old classic: solid perfume in pencil form. We wish they could also write in scented ink. Available for around $10 at Anthropologie. Is there an eraser available if the scent is unappealing?

Le Métier de Beauté, NYC craft maquilleur, has gone where no cufflink has ever gone before. They have designed three types of scent-embedded cufflinks. The fragrance names are more abstract than the concept though. Who could choose from “bold,” “classic,” and “modern,” without actually smelling them? At a cool $3,500, we’d like to give them a test drive before committing. Smells like something every dandy nowadays must have.

South African strip club Mavericks knows their clients’ needs intimately. The club is selling three fragrances as part of a line called “Alibis” which are designed to mask that incomparable lap-dance and booze accord that makes girlfriends and wives so angry. The fragrances are only available for sale at the club itself. SNL did an ad parody in the 90s about a shoe treatment that gives shoes business trip realness. The salt-like powder was the husband’s alibi, covering up his tropical beach getaway with his mistress by pretending to be on a Chicago winter business trip. Life imitates art.