Perfumista tip: how to do a bottle split

Perfume Factory

Say you want some JAR Bolt of Lightning, or whatever. You don't want to swap for it, you don't want to buy a decant online, but you also don't want (or can't afford) a full bottle. A bottle split is one option. For anyone who's never done a bottle split, here are some details.

What is a bottle split?

In the simplest terms, you agree to split a full bottle of perfume with one or more other people. The first time I did a bottle split, I was after bottles of Ormonde Jayne Champaca and Frangipani but didn't want to pay full price for both scents, nor did I think I needed that much juice. I found 4 other people interested in buying a portion of each scent, so that each 50 ml bottle would get split 5 ways — each person on the Champaca split would get 10 ml of Champaca; each person on the Frangipani split would get 10 ml of Frangipani.

Splitting a bottle has a couple of important advantages over swapping for perfume or buying a decant. First of all, you can be assured that the product will be fresh, and you'll know your decant hasn't already been passed around to five other people (as can sometimes happen when swapping). And if you're hosting the split, your juice will remain in its original bottle instead of a decant container of some sort (in other words, you get to keep the bottle).

As a "splitter": hosting a bottle split

As the host of the bottle split, you are responsible for obtaining the perfume, making the decants, then packaging and mailing the product to each participant (see the swapping article for tips on packaging). You will need to work out in advance who will pay for what. The advantage to you as the host is that you get to keep the original bottle.

As with swapping, hosting a bottle split can be considerably more time-consuming than it sounds, and there are all kinds of things that can go wrong. Splittees can back out at the last minute, or take longer than expected to send their payment. Some perfumes are, of course, more difficult to decant than others. And as we all know, things do occasionally get broken or lost in the mail. You might want to consider working out in advance who will pay if something goes wrong.

My own cautionary tale of woe, from the Ormonde Jayne split mentioned above: I was foolish enough to do my decanting before measuring how much liquid went into the 10 ml decant containers I'd purchased. It turned out that they each held more than 10 ml, so that when I was finished, the portion left in the original bottles was considerably less than 10 ml — in other words, for all my trouble, I ended up with less perfume than anyone else. Worse still, one participant had asked if she could send her own decant container. The plastic atomizer she sent was poorly made, and it cracked down the side when I tried to get the cap on securely. Several mls of perfume leaked out before I could transfer the juice to another container, and since I had broken the container, I felt like I ought to send her the whole 10 ml she had purchased. I ended up with very little perfume left for myself.

As a "splittee": buying a portion of a bottle

As a buyer, you agree to pay for a portion of a bottle. While the details may vary, usually you'll pay for the cost of the juice + a portion of the cost of shipping the original bottle from the retailer to the split host + the cost of the decant container + the cost of shipping the decant to you. This makes it less economical per ml than buying your own bottle, but if you don't want a full bottle, you're still better off.

As a splittee, all you have to do is arrange payment, whether by check, paypal, whatever, then sit back and wait. Things you'll want to be sure of before you come to an agreement: what you will pay for, what sort of container you'll receive the perfume in and how it will be shipped (you might consider delivery confirmation and insurance). And if you don't know the split host, you might want to ask if s/he has feedback tokens on MakeupAlley or another perfume swapping board (again, see the swapping article for more about feedback tokens).

Where to find bottle splits

Arranging a bottle split used to be easy as pie: you went to MakeupAlley and posted a message on the fragrance board ("Anyone interested in splitting a bottle of JAR Bolt of Lightning?") and hopefully, found interested parties. Unfortunately, as part of MakeupAlley's general crackdown on fun, they no longer allow board members to solicit bottle splits.

The new-ish Scent Splits wiki is now your best option. There are sections for current splits, for requesting a split, and for selling full or partially full bottles. Do note that some of the "splits" appear to be for bottles the host has already purchased, that is, it is more like purchasing a decant than doing a "true" split. If you want to know how old the bottle is, you might want to ask before you buy. [Update: Scent Splits is no longer operating, sorry!]

I've been considering holding a semi-regular "swap meet" for people who would like to arrange bottle splits. Maybe a new thread every two weeks, where you could post if you were looking for people to split a bottle with you? Please comment if you think you'd find that useful.

And experienced bottle splitters, please comment if you have any other helpful tips.

Note: image is perfume factory, via loungerie at flickr; some rights reserved.

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65 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article, Robin!!
    I think the 'swap meet' sounds like a wonderful idea..It would be super useful IMHO

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don't want to sound “hoity toity” but I for one would never consider a bottle split simply becuse to me 50% of the experience is opening the cellophane on the box ever so carefully, saving the box, and spraying from that original work of art bottle! For me its not enough to have the juice in a plain bottle, no matter how amazing a fragrance it is. I won't even buy testers! I know, I nutz, but we all have our quirks!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I sometimes send decants of perfumes, (EDTs, etc.) to my friend in Australia and need to fudge it on describing the contents, because one is not supposed to send alcohol -based fragrances overseas. Is it ok to admit the truth when sending it in the States?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks! Very helpful article and site links. The Swap Meet does sound great! Were you thinking of such a thing just within the USA, which I could understand because of the shipping aspect – or various SMs operating in different regions?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lavanya, thanks!

  6. Anonymous says:

    No, I wasn't thinking of limiting it, but since most of my readers are in the US it might be harder to find “takers” if you're elsewhere.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I'm sure you're not alone !

  8. Anonymous says:

    You cannot mail alcohol-based fragrances here either (see the link to the swapping article above).

    • Gattina says:

      Well, we’re not *supposed* to, but everyone I know does anyway.

  9. Anonymous says:

    thanks Robin for the great article..You have covered several questions that I have asked on MUA.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A “swap meet” sounds great, especially for a person new to the exploration of perfume!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Since I've been boycotting MUA (I'll not stand for any crackdowns on fun!), your swap meet idea sounds particularly wonderful to me! I use the Scent splits wiki, but I don't think it gets as much traffic as the fragrance board on MUA used to for splits, so any additional venues where we can split would be very helpful.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I would only ever want to be the splitter b/c I don't want perfume that's been sprayed once already (albeit into a bottle or a vial) or decanted by someone else. I don't mind if it's a present, obviously, but not if I'm forking out quite a lot of money.

    I've only ever sold decants (of Rahät Loukoum, several years ago – I only kept a tiny sample for myself) and it was incredibly time-consuming, with everyone wanting to pay this way or that way, etc. It drove me to distraction. I did make a tiny bit of profit. I'm afraid I couldn't undertake to do this kind of thing at cost. Someone has to pay for time and effort.

    Hosting a swap meet is probably a good idea. You can always try and cancel it if it becomes too much of a nuisance.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Jasmine!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Good, thanks.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The crackdowns over there are really annoying to me too. There are just too many rules now :-(

  16. Anonymous says:

    J, it is a pain in the neck, and only worth it if you really, really want something and are on a limited budget — there are people who complain about the prices of decants, but I think it's amazing that anyone will undertake to sell decants at all.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The ban was mostly caused by abuse, IMO: half of the board was taken up by recruiting posts, etc. I don't miss the endless, 'So-and-So, the package is in the post' announcements either.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I love the idea of a swap meet! I HAVE to reign in my budget but perfume is a great joy in life for me…this would be lovely!

  19. Anonymous says:

    My 2 arguments: first, those abuses have been happening since I started reading the board in 2003 — and nobody made any huge deal about them 'til recently. More to my point, there are 2 other boards for people who want perfume, perfume, perfume, nothing but perfume. MUA was fun to me precisely because it was a mix, and the mix allowed you to get to know other people. It seems very dull to me there now. But I'm sure there are plenty of people who agree with you, and I never understood the “your package is in the mail” posts either — send an email, for heaven's sakes.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thanks!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Great article Robin, very informative!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Well, if credit cards didn't exist, and I was forced to reign in my perfume spending ;-) then I guess I would consider bottle splits. But it does sound like an awful lot of trouble, especially for the one 'hosting' the split. And it sounds like with several people involved there's the potential of a lot of personality issues… I definitely appreciate your post since I never really knew exactly what a bottle split was before this. But, I think I'll just deal with my credit card for now…and buy full bottles of the juice that I really *need* to have!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Thanks!

  24. Anonymous says:

    It is probably most appealing to people who already swap & enjoy the process. For myself, it is appealing not only because of the cost savings, but because I just have too much juice already. I really don't need full bottles, and don't know why I buy any — but I do!

  25. Anonymous says:

    I am sorry to hear about the crackdown on fun! But I feel like it's epidemic these days…

  26. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I totally understand that point of view. I shouldn't buy another drop let alone a bottle for the rest of my life! AND with the changes on ebay and the potential that maybe someday in the near future I won't be able to buy or sell perfume on the bay….I might end up being a splitter, too…

  27. Anonymous says:

    Swap meet sounds like a great idea. I left MUA a year or so ago, so a swap meet (never having had a bad experience, never having had the experience at ALL) sounds like it would fill a perfume jones at a reasonable price.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Isn't it though?

  29. Anonymous says:

    A “swap meet” sounds like a wonderful idea, and is automatically self-selecting for those who are interested. I vote for giving it a try…and thank you for being willing to host the experiment!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, maybe we'll give it a shot.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Thanks!

  32. Anonymous says:

    I don't agree about your first point, R: when I first joined, in late 2002, talking about any activity that involved money changing hands was not allowed on the boards and no one ever mentioned selling decants or organizing splits. Do you remember the open swap thing we had for a while? That got cancelled very quickly. You have to agree those split announcements were getting out of hand, no? I never complained about those things, but they were very tedious and possibly offputting for newbies or members who didn't visit regularly – rather 'cliquey'.

    I do agree about the current dullness, however. I see nothing wrong with a group of people deciding 'for themselves' what they want to talk about – within reason. I don't understand why that needs to be regulated. *We* are the Frag Board, not the mods.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely! It's a wonderful service they're doing. I get very annoyed whenever I'm forced to fork out masses of money upfront for something I might not like. Luckily, I'm quite content with what I've got these days.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I'd certainly be interested in a swap meet post!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Great article–extremely informative so thank you very much!

    Currently I'm considering a more delicate proposition: I'm thinking of buying travel sizes and spliting the package that way…would the wiki link apply as well? I'm think of of possibly FM Vetiver Extraodinaire or one of the Hermessences…haven't decided yet but it's tempting…

  36. Anonymous says:

    Bottle split, great idea! Never thought of that either :)

    Too bad that sending perfume by mail to the US, and vice versa, is not allowed anymore.

  37. Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent idea…if all parties involved are honest and dependable. I think it would be most useful/appealing concerning pure extraits, parfums, vintage, etc. While many perfume lovers will shell out quite a bit of cash for a “true love”, there are some exceptions. When the purest form of a beloved scent is devastatingly gorgeous, yet requires a $400.00-$600.00 investment (and on occasion, even more than that), splitting is a sensible–even responsible–option.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I will agree there were fewer “OT” and swapping related posts back then. But there were also just fewer members. Also would agree that sometimes it got tedious. But the current “dullness” is the result of cracking down, so makes me sad.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Thanks!

  40. Anonymous says:

    You can use that wiki link to sell anything, even regular bottles. I don't know how much traffic they're getting since it's still fairly new, but it's worth a shot. You can also sell full bottles on Basenotes, although not decants if I remember correctly.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Many people continue to do it regardless.

  42. Anonymous says:

    “If all parties involved are honest and dependable” — and of course, that cannot be guaranteed. But the token system at MUA is a good way of making sure the people you're dealing with are on the level.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Omigod, I'd LOVE to have the financial resources to be able to crack the cellophane on FBs of everything I'd like to sniff!!!!!! Unfortunately, sometimes even the postage on swaps is just about all I can handle.

    Robin, I love the idea of your biweekly swap meets; I'd often thought of it, but thought it much too presumptuous to ask of you. Being from Canada, I get quite jealous of your greater access to niche scents, and I really get the feeling that your posters are particularly reliable and trustworthy types, so it would be an exceptional opportunity for all of us who have gotten to know each other on your site. (And I do hold you personally responsible for my current addiction to niche fragrances, so you OWE me this!!! ;-D)

    I can't see why it would be problematic in any way to open the swap opportunities to everyone. In fact, I'm sure the European posters have access to all sorts of gorgeous things that Americans don't, and vice versa. I'm afraid we poor Canadians are distant runners-up in the usefulness category that way, but we'll more than make up for it in trustworthiness!

  44. Anonymous says:

    Exactly, Robin. It feels SO good to be able to siphon off bits of my FBs to share the wealth, as it were — and make me feel that it wasn't such an extravagant, selfish thing to be buying yet another bottle of fragrance I don't really “need”!!

    I actually finding decanting, labelling, wrapping and mailing a very Zen-like, relaxing and rewarding experience. I love the idea of the people on the other end of the swap being delighted to try things they couldn't afford otherwise, and to have the chance to broaden their knowledge base. I know that, thanks to some lovely swappers, I can read the comments on this site and know exactly what you mean when you say so-and-so is similar to such-and-such, and if you like this then you might love that. Without swapping, I'd be a lot more clueless.

    One last comment; I couldn't agree more that swapping is a great way to meet some wonderful men and women. It makes the world seem like a nicer place. When you give someone your trust and they reciprocate — and I can't tell you how many times I've received the sweetest extras — it can brighten my whole week! Thanks for letting me share.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Maybe?????????? You'd dangle that juicy carrot and then just yank it away?? LOL. I was already planning a rash of full-bottle purchases to be poised for some terrific NST swappin' action!!!

  46. Anonymous says:

    I second that, have learned so much since reading the blog. It's enlightened my knowledge (but not my pocketbook)……

  47. Anonymous says:

    I think the're worried about the flammable nature of alcohol-based liquids going through the mail, which is reasonable. Given the modest amount of fluid we're talking about here, though — sometimes as tiny as 1ml in stoppered vials — I don't think we're posing a huge collective risk.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Just guessing: awarding tokens would be a challenging thing to set up on a website? Great idea, though, if it was a cinch. Otherwise, we don't want you slaving over a hot computer on our account, R!

  49. Anonymous says:

    That's a great idea, Robin! I come here much more often than the Wiki site (for some reason, it hasn't lodged itself in my memory banks), so it would be a great service.

  50. Anonymous says:

    You know, I should have been more specific though — “swap meet” was an unfortunate term because I don't want to host a swapping thread but a bottle split thread…there are already plenty of places to swap. Hope that was understood? Maybe not.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree — I've made so many wonderful friends through swapping. I don't swap nearly as much as I used to since this blog drains most of my time, and I do miss it.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Rule number 1: never buy because you're planning to swap, LOL…but also as I noted above, the thread would be for splits, not swapping. There are already 3 good boards allowing swapping.

  53. Anonymous says:

    I don't see the need for a token system here because it would just be a thread, not a true swapping system, and mostly for splits. On the scent wiki, most people are linking to their feedback elsewhere (MUA, etc).

  54. Anonymous says:

    Thanks!

  55. Anonymous says:

    lthe crackdown on fun at MUA, LOL!

    your story of the decants is one of the things that keeps me loving bottles. although i have read on MUA about “decanters finger” that has that smell of all scents, which we love, like the ground floor of a department store!

    the wiki site is great! they also have bottles and partial bottles for sale which is great for me, as i am just not keen on “decants”. its updated all the time and there are some gems there.

  56. Anonymous says:

    Well, I should have said I've done many splits since then that were essentially trouble free — just want to make sure people understand the potential risks. And yes, the wiki site is wonderful!

  57. Anonymous says:

    Wanted to say I think this was a great piece. I've been loving buying decants and “splits” for awhile and I've been lucky to have great success with no horror stories at all.

    I will cast another vote for saying that ScentSplits site has some great postings and I just hooked up with another person there recently to get a whole load of decants (Rahat Loukhoum, Dzing, Eau de Navigateur, etc.). It has, in fact, been more like buying decants from someone's collection for me (often more affordable than Perfumed Court), but I really don't mind. I'm not sure I'd ever go through all the trouble of hosting a split myself though (and how do you get the dang cap off certain spray bottles?).

    Oh, and I'd be all for the occasional “swap meet” post.

  58. Anonymous says:

    So glad you found it useful, and so glad you scored at the wiki! And will have to go look…I'd like some Navigateur myself!

  59. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,
    I've done been the 'splitter' and 'splittee' and have mostly enjoyed the experience on MUA. As mentioned, people that you are splittling a bottlewith do back out or can make it difficult, but…then there are those fab. folks that just make it worth it.
    Being a perfectionist, I would only want everyone involved to be thrilled and would go out of my way to do that.
    Those that I have purchased from have all worked out and, as others have said, you get connected with people that have similar tastes.
    I'm all for it and thanks for doing this!!!

  60. Anonymous says:

    So agree on fab people who do make it worth it. I've met wonderful folks.

  61. KRL says:

    I love the idea of splits. Once in a while, I meet a perfume I really like, but not in a “100 ml kind of way.” If I can find someone on MUA who is “holding,” and convince them to swap, great. But there are times when this is not the case and a split would be great, since I have sworn off paying 3x times the bottle price at TPC. I don’t know how old this article is, but hope you’re still considering this — I find the split site (wiki) difficult to navigate and it seems more like a forum to sell decants than to do a proper split.

    • Robin says:

      KRL, I admit I had kind of forgotten about it…I do promise to give it some more thought!

  62. chrissyinoz says:

    Please do Robin!!! Like K, I’ve used scentsplits but have also found it quite non-user friendly. I tend to be here more frequently than other sites so having a thread to follow for split participation would be fab!! Thanks also for a very informative article :)

    • Robin says:

      Not sure a long comment thread would be more user-friendly, but we’ll give it a shot.

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