How to Test Perfume? How to Smell Fragrance like a Perfumer?

How do you Evaluate and Test Perfume? How to Smell Fragrance like a Perfumer?

Shopping for a new Eau de Parfum or a new Reed Diffuser can become overwhelming when we are testing so many different perfumes.

Many of our customers ask the following questions:

  • How should we test perfume?
  • How does a Perfumer evaluate or sample fragrance?
  • How do you avoid fatigue of the nose when you smell perfume?
  • How do we choose which scent one suits us best?

In this article, we answer these questions and offer multiple expert tips how to sample fragrance like a pro, a perfumer.

Below we have three chapters:

  1. How do you Test Perfume with a Paper Smelling Strip?
  2. How to test Fragrance on Skin?
  3. What Tips do Perfumers have for Testing Fragrances?

Fragrance Woman Nose Test Perfume

Before we start, keep the following in mind:

  • Don't touch - don't let the charming sales assistant spray the perfume onto your wrist, as it will contaminate everything you try afterwards. The same applies to:
    • candles & reed diffuser: don't touch the wax or the reeds, as the scent will adhere to your fingers and hands.
    • lotions: don't apply a little lotion to the back of your hand, as it will also influence what you sample later.
  • Trust your nose - fragrance is very personal and you should listen to your sense. Just because somebody says its fabulous, this does not mean the particular shower gel, perfumed candle or Eau de Toilette is right for you. Even a very helpful and experienced sales consultant will be trying to help you based on their knowledge of fragrance, and not necessarily based on their knowledge of you. Reading fragrance reviews can be very helpful, however this may or may not  identify the right fragrance that matches your own individual preference.

Olfactive Pyramid or Fragrance Triangle

Pairfum Natural Niche Perfume Home Fragrance Olfactory Triangle 16 9
Pairfum Natural Niche Perfume Home Fragrance Olfactory Triangle 1 1
Pairfum Natural Niche Perfume Home Fragrance Olfactory Triangle 9 16

How do you Test Perfume with a Paper Smelling Strip?

A paper smelling strip, also known as a blotter or Mouillette (pronounced 'Moo - Yet'), refers to the long or square paper cards you find in the perfumery isle. They are typically white and absorbent.

They should be freely available within the perfumery sections of department stores, Specialist Shops or in the Duty Free areas of an Airport.

If you can't see them, then please ask for them. Below you will see why.

How to Evaluate Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance Smelling Strip

They are the simplest and most neutral tool to smell perfume:

  • clean: because you don't need to touch the perfume
  • simple: because the fragrance is applied or sprayed onto one of the strips.
  • multiple: you can smell several fragrances cleanly
  • time: keep the strips and smell them later to see how the perfume develops.

They do, however, have one downside: the perfume does not have a chance to react with your skin, which is why it is only the first step in a fragrance evaluation.

It only offers a glimpse of the perfume, consider it as the initial stage of unwrapping the scent.

You can, however, sample a large number of scents which is why it is one of the most important tools of a perfumer.

The only limitation is your nose. Nasal fatigue sets in after about 3 x fragrances.

In other words, you have saturated your nose and your ability to capture the true nature of a fragrance diminishes significantly.

You may have noticed the moment in the past where suddenly everything smells the sames. This is why we recommend taking a short break after three.

Perfumer Nose Smelling Strip Evaluate Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance Scent

How to Spray Perfume onto a Blotter?

Bend the end of the smelling strip upwards, as it allows you to place the blotter onto a table later without the fragranced end touching the surface.

Hold the smelling strip away from you and spray the perfume downwards onto the Mouillet (and away from any surfaces). Why? When spraying, you want to avoid any perfume landing on your hands, clothes or table underneath. Any perfume that lands there will influence what you smell, e.g. perfume that lands on your hands will influence what you smell when you try the next fragrance. In other words, you want to ensure that what you smell is pure or true.

Spray one end of the card only, either once or twice. Don't spray too much (the card has to absorb it) and do ensure that you stay consistent with the number of times you sprayed the first card. Otherwise, you may find that an Eau de Toilette sprayed twice onto a card may appear similarly strong to an Eau de Parfum you only sprayed once.

From now on, handle the blotter only on the unscented end.

You can now pass the smelling strip under the nose.

One very important thing to remember: do not touch your nose with the smelling strip, as the first perfume you try will then influence every other perfume thereafter.

Try not to inhale too deeply, as this will fatigue your nose a lot faster. Instead, smell lightly and only until you perceive the first notes.

Now take away the blotter and just 'sense' and enjoy the experience. You first impression are typically the 'top notes'.

You can then return back to the smelling strip for another test and you will notice how the fragrance gradually changes to bring the 'heart' and 'back notes' more to the fore. You may hear people speaking about how a 'fragrance develops'.

You will find that soon you will be holding 3, 4 or 5 smelling strips in your hand. Try and hold them like a fan, keeping the scented tips away from each other, i.e. the oils of one perfume don't come in contact with another to alter the scent.

Pairfum London Evaluate Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance

Remember that earlier you bent the end of the smelling strip upwards? The reason now becomes apparent: you can place the cards or smelling strips on a surface without the surface touching the sprayed area. In other words, you won't taint the surface with your fragrance or vice versa, the fragrance on the mouillette does not pick up any molecules from the surface.

Also, rather than 'throwing away' used smelling strips, you could place the ones you love into separate compartments or pockets of your purse or hand bag, jacket or trousers pockets. However, you should always insure that the smelling strips are dry, so that you do not cause damage to your clothing or material lined purses and handbags. Storing your favourite ones in this way will allow you to experience and try the fragrance much later on in the day.

In a perfumery house it is a common sight to see perfumers walking around with a fan of smelling strips in one hand. Alternatively, they may use 'smelling strip holders'. They do this for the exact same reason: evaluating scents over time.

Here is an example of a smelling strip holder:

Fragrance Smelling Strip Holder Blotter Mouillette Smell Sample Test Perfume

Enjoy Testing Pairfum

Pairfum Collection Niche Perfume Experience Fragrance Library 6 16 9
Pairfum Collection Niche Perfume Experience Fragrance Library Square Gift Box Open Display
Pairfum Collection Niche Perfume Experience Fragrance Library 6 9 16

Enjoy the Compliments for Your Fragrance.

How To Test Perfume On Skin?

What may smell superb on a mouillette might not compliment or work on your skin. You must always test perfume on your own skin.

Hence, once you have shortlisted 2 fragrances from your test with the blotters, trying a perfume on your skin is the next logical step.

Evaluate Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance Skin

Try hard to reserve this for the very select number of fragrances that stood out for you.

The warmth of your skin, your skins flora or chemistry and the skin’s natural oils will react with the perfume to create a scent on your skin that is unique to you. On your skin, the fragrance will also go through its full olfactive life cycle, in other words, you must still love it towards the end of the day when only the 'base notes' will be still present.

Practically speaking, testing on your skin will limit you to your two wrists. You could spray different parts of your arm or body but the more parts you spray the higher the chances are that the difference fragrances will contaminate each other.

Evaluate Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance Skin

How to Test a Fragrance on Your Skin?

On Your Wrist:

Spray your wrist, not too close and not too far.

When you are testing, leave it to dry naturally, i.e. don't rub your your wrist with a finger (to prevent contamination).

Without touching the wrist with your nose, inhale the perfume.

Allow the fragrance to develop over time and periodically refer back to enjoy how the scent develops and changes.

During this time, try to avoid washing your wrists or splashing water onto them.

Don't apply another fragrance in the same area until you have thoroughly washed your hands and you are sure they are scent free.

Evaluate Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance Wrist

On the Back of Your Hand or on your lower Arm:

After reading the previous section, you may be delighted that we suggest the back of the hand or the lower arm.

They may be more uncommon areas for fragrance testing, but are much more practical, as they are easier to smell.

For the next steps, follow the same procedure that we outlined under the 'wrist' section above.

How To Evaluate Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance Skin

Naturally You!

Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Cardamom Tonka White Oud Woman Finger 16 9
Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Cardamom Tonka White Oud 1 1
Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Cardamom Tonka White Oud Woman 9 16

Natural Niche Perfume for You & Your Home.

What Tips do Perfumers have for Testing Fragrances?

Here are a few simple tips that may be helpful when evaluating different fragrances.

For example, have you experienced that you went 'Nose Blind'?

Pairfum London How Do You Describe Perfume Fragance Description Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance Perfumer Tip

It is a common phenomenon when testing multiple fragrance and happens when your nose is oversaturated with scent.

We don't, however, recommend the use of roasted coffee beans between testing fragrance.

Scientific tests have shown that they have no effect at all and in our opinion it does not make sense that you inhale something else to 'clean' your nose.

Here is an analogy that we like to use: we don't tend to drink coffee between the 'starter' and the 'main course'. We may enjoy, however, a very light sorbet to cleanse the palate.

Roasted Coffee Bean Aroma Perfume Nose Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance

Instead, try and smell your own skin or clothes. Perfumers tend to exhale into corner of the bent elbow to clear their nose.

The best tip is to stop after having smelled 3 x different scents, to take a break of a few minutes, and then to test the next three.

Be sure not to wear your own fragrance or a strong deodorant when sampling different fragrances. You will find that they interfere with your test.

It is also preferable that you do not choose to try perfumes, just after you have eaten a dish that is laden with garlic or heavily spiced.

How To Assess Fragrance Perfume Quality Smell Test Perfume Sample Fragrance

Don't believe it when anybody tells you that rubbing a perfume too hard can 'crush' the scent molecules, e.g. rubbing your wrists together. This is nonsense. Ask a nuclear physicist, if you are in doubt.

What may happen though when rubbing your wrists together is that you spread out the perfume further, thereby increase the surface area from which the perfume can evaporate. This will not 'crush' the perfume but it will dissipate faster.

A vital point before smelling perfume is to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Ironically, sales consultants in-store rarely ever caution against this. Smelling a fragrance before the alcohol has evaporated skews your perception and the zingy fumes of alcohol saturate & block your nose quickly, leading to nasal fatigue, i.e. you have to take a break. Instead, we advise to wait until the spot looks dry where you applied perfume and only then inhale to enjoy.

Try and evaluate perfume in an environment free from other odours. We know this is very difficult since most department stores, perfumeries and duty free shops are completely over-saturated with fragrance.

Ideally, ask for a small sample or buy one to take home allowing you to actually wear and live with the fragrance. This is the best advice when looking to find your perfume that we can give you.

It is not necessary to buy your perfume the day you smell it first in the store. You may wait, test it and come back to the store. Having said this, it is wonderful feeling to treat yourself to a beautiful scent you have just discovered and fallen in love with.

How To Evaluate Sample Fragrance Test Try Smell Perfume

Boutique Luxuries in Niche Perfume

Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Spiced Rum Lime Guaiac Wood Couple Kiss 16 9
Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Fragrance Descriptions Spiced Rum Lime Guaiac Wood Couple About Kiss
Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Spiced Rum Lime Guaiac Wood Couple Kiss 9 16

We are London's Artisanal Perfumery House.

Discover Pairfum London

Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Mandarin Blossom Sandalwood Scateboard 16 9
Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Mandarin Blossom Sandalwood Scateboard 1 1
Eau De Parfum Person Reflection Mandarin Blossom Sandalwood Scateboard 9 16

Natural Indie Perfumes, not only for the CognoScenti.

Magazine & Blog

Read in our Blog & Magazine about:

  • Anything 'Making Scents', e.g. perfume memories
  • Home Fragrance, Couture Perfume, Skin / Bath / Body Care
  • Ingredients, e.g. natural / organic essential oils, flowers, bees, waxes.
  • Your Home, e.g. beautiful interior designs, architecture, decor, ...
  • Food, Drink, e.g. essential oils in foodd, desertd, drinks,...
  • Britain, e.g. London, the Queen and Royal Family, ...

The Fragrance Boutique

Enjoy shopping in our online Boutique:

Natural Home Fragrance:

Luxury Scented Candles, Reed Diffusers and Refill Oils, Perfume Room Sprays, Sleep & Pillow Sprays, Fragrant Botanicals, Wardrobe Sachets, Drawer Liners, ...

Natural Perfume:

Eau de Parfum "Intense" Sprays,  Eau de Toilette Sprays, Eau de Parfum Travel & Purse Sprays, The Perfume Experience Box, ...

Organic Bath, Body & Skin Care:

Hand Lotions and Creams, Hand Oil & Washes, Body Lotions, Body Washes and Shower Oils, Foam Bath, Hand Soap, …

Gifts & Giftsets:

Giftboxes, Giftsets, Luxurious Gift Bags & Tissue Paper, Gifts for Men, ...

Let’s stay in touch.

As a warm welcome to the family & friends of Pairfum London, we will send you a free gift, the e-book “Perfume” by Patrick Sueskind.

Popup – Newsletter Subscribe

Try Natural Niche Perfume

Get a Full Refund when you later buy a full-sized bottle.
Special Offer: Free Gift-Wrap (luxury bag & tissue paper) with every Perfume Experience Box.

Popup – Free Gift-Wrap with Experience Box

We value and respect your personal data and privacy. By submitting this form, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Risk Free Trial

We understand that shopping online for perfume is different, which is why we offer our 100% Happiness Guarantee:

  • Free Tester: We will include a mini sampler with your Eau de Parfum so you can try the perfume before you open the pack.
  • Free Returns: Should you not love your perfume, then we will collect it free of charge from your home (unopened product). No quibbles from us.
  • Free Shipping: over £50 (UK) | €100 (EU) | $ 100 (US/Can)
Pairfum London
    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty