New to perfume and want to learn more?

There are lots of articles on Now Smell This to help you get started, and I've also included some links to helpful information on other websites. Readers, please comment and add your best advice!

You're really brand new, and have no idea what anyone is talking about...

Start by reading the frequently asked questions. After that, you might take a peek at the glossary, then learn a bit about the basic building blocks of fragrance by reading on lists of fragrance notes, why they matter & why they don't and getting to know fragrance notes. If all of that starts to seem overwhelming, reading how much perfume knowledge is too much? might help you put things back into perspective.

Of course, you'll need to find some perfumes to smell, so take a look at our primer on how to get fragrance samples, free or otherwise. You might also want to learn more about how to apply perfume, and in case that new perfume isn't working for you, you'll need to know how to remove fragrance from skin.

You're learning more, but still worried your taste isn't up to snuff? Please read de gustibus non est disputandum ~ random thoughts on perfume snobbery.

If all of that wasn't enough, it's time for a trip to your local library or bookstore. Check out building a fragrance library: five "must-have" books for beginners.

More reading: Perfume 101 — Beginning Your Fragrance Adventure at Perfume Posse, the Encyclopedia at Osmoz, and the Just Starting Out message board at Basenotes.

You're a newbie, but can already feel the pull of addiction...

Congratulations, you're becoming a perfumista. You might find some helpful advice in things I wish I'd known as a newbie perfumista, part 1 and part 2. And if you've finished off those five "must-have" books for beginners, it's time for five suggestions for advanced readers.

Wondering what you should smell? Check out 100 fragrances every perfumista should try. You might also want to starting thinking about layering your perfumes to create new combinations.

If your wish list is bigger than your budget, it might be time to consider swapping for perfume or doing bottle splits. Either way, you'll probably need to know how to decant perfume.

Can you already see that your perfume collection is going to get out of control? We have lots of material on that subject; check out how much perfume is too much?, perfume for life: how long will your fragrance collection last? and curating a perfume collection. You can find helpful budgeting advice (especially in the comments) at perfume budgeting, part 1, part 2 and part 3.

More reading: Perfume 201 at Perfume Posse, the fragrance message boards at Basenotes, MakeupAlley, and Perfume Of Life, the bibliography at Scented Pages. And of course there are tons of wonderful fragrance blogs; check out the blogroll on the left right (it moved!) hand column as a starting point.

Note: image is Perfume Bottle #2 by ignescent_infidel at flickr; some rights reserved.

Update: a few more resources that you might find helpful ~

If you need help pronouncing names in French, check out the audio files at Bela's Fragrance Name of the Day.

Perfumista tip: on fragrance families

How to make fragrance last through the day

Fragrance concentrations: sorting it all out

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This. Here's a handy emoticon chart.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Robin wrote, “my dream perfume . . .(which, in case she is wondering, is a very green jasmine, bright and sparkling and just a bit indolic, over masses of dusty incense and a tiny dollop of dark woods) –

    So, what comes closest to that dream perfume for you, Robin?

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is awesome, Robin! One thing – is Perfumes: The Guide mentioned? I'd definitely consider it a “must have” book, too. It's great!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Have you told people about I like reading others opinions/reviews. PLUS they have pictures quickly of the scent notes – I like that, because when I see a picture of an orchid I go AHHHHHHH I know what that smells like. And it also gives the grouping – so If I'm on a Florals Green, it will show me other perfumes that are in Florals Green

  4. Anonymous says:

    Really, nothing comes even close. I guess that's why it's my dream perfume

  5. Anonymous says:

    It wasn't written yet when Marcello wrote those 2 posts on “must have” books. Hopefully he'll do a 3rd post that will include The Guide — I agree, it's a must have.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well now you have! I like the pictures of the scent notes too.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hey, did you ever try the Opus Oils Jitterbug? The notes are Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Lemon essence, orange blossom, ambergris, blond tobacco and sandalwood – it may not be dirty enough for you but it is a nice jasmine and the sample is, like, $2.

    Thanks for this info compilation. I was waiting for a lazy Friday poll but this will do!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Robin, didn't you once do a post on perfume storage/organization? Forgive me if it's above and I've missed it, but I'd love to read it again for hints on how to organize the ginormous jumble of samples on my bureau. Thank you!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I haven't, but I have quite a few favorite jasmine scents so it isn't like I need more — just looking for a particular thing w/ lots of incense.

  10. Anonymous says:

    There are 3, so rather than posting the links here, I'll tell you how to find them: click on General Perfume Articles on the bottom menu, then scroll down to “On Perfume Storage…”

  11. Anonymous says:

    Great article. Thanks for the very informative update.

  12. Anonymous says:


  13. Anonymous says:


    As someone who has enjoyed perfumes for years but is a relative newbie to any serious studies of it, I really appreciated this post. It's extremely helpful to those of us who didn't really start to think seriously about perfumes until we picked up Sanchez and Turin's Perfumes: The Guide.


  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for posting all the links bundled up. Great articles, they've really helped and inspired me!

    (you'll be shocked to learn this “i only like fresh lemony scents” girl has now tip-toed over to the dark side and sniffing her way through what is usually described as “sensual” notes…. there's no telling where this will end! )

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the information! I've been learning about perfumes for years but through this blog (where I've been “lurking” almost a year) I've steadily built up new things to try. It's amazing how there's something new to learn every day! One thing that would be helpful is if there was a way to find a perfume according to a cultural or geographical area: ie I am looking for perfumes that recall my homeland: Africa. There are so few! Especially considering the many unique and gorgeous scents.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have to say that this blog has taught me an enormous amount about perfume since I became a regular reader of it about a year ago. I had always been a scent freak, but reading NST has increased my knowledge, appreciation and taste for scent. I'd never tried niche perfumery before, although I was already a convinced Guerlain-worshipper.

    Part of what is so attractive about this site is Robin's open-mindedness and lack of snobbery when it comes to scent.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I'm new at this too…which scents have you found which recall Africa? I'd like to sniff them!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Glad it was helpful!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I started out only liking citrus & light florals myself :-)

  21. Anonymous says:

    You're right, Africa is not covered nearly so well as some other regions. Here are a few that were “inspired” in one way or another by Africa, although you probably already know most of them, and of course, they may or may not actually recall Africa: The Different Company Sublime Balkiss, Lubin Idole, Comme des Garcons Ouarzazate, Parfumerie Generale Aomassai, Naomi Campbell Seductive Elixir, L'Artisan Timbuktu, Lorenzo Villoresi Piper Nigrum, Scents of Time Nenufar & Ankh, Hermes Jardin Sur Le Nil.

  22. Anonymous says:

    No, I didn't know these..I'm new at this and will not have to try these out too!. I did get a sniff of the Hermes (beautiful!) and have a sample of Lubin on the way.

    this sample pack thing is getting out of control!

  23. Anonymous says:

    The Lubin, strictly speaking, is a journey from Africa to the east, or something along those lines. And yes, samples start to add up, don't they?

  24. Anonymous says:

    That's very kind, thanks :-)

  25. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for a few new ideas! I hadn't heard of Scents of Time, or realized any connection to TDC's Sublime Balkiss. I usually favor L'artisan Timbuktu and Hermes Jardin sur Le Nil for recreating African scents. I know there's been a lot of talk about the sur le Nil “grapefruit accord” but to me it is straight-up green mango. Just about perfection for the entire 10 seconds that it lasts on my skin. Also: Red Flower Hammam is a great Morocco evocation. Shea Terra organics makes some good African body products.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Does anybody know of any 1 or 2 day courses (not online) in basic perfumery or perfume appreciation here in the US?

    I own more than 400 colognes but never did learn the correct way to describe or appreciate the different notes present. I would like to learn basic terminology, different scent categories in a class format with samples. I want to be able to describe fragrances, and to read the reviews by others of different colognes and picture in my mind what it might smell like based on descriptions of the fragrance.



  27. Anonymous says:
  28. Anonymous says:

    The only real connection w/ the TDC Sublime Balkiss is that it's named for the Queen of Sheba.

    Also, don't know why I didn't think of it, but much of the Serge Lutens line is inspired by Morocco — he went there in 1968 and still lives there part of the time.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I'll have to check these out. Robin: thanks for another great discussion. And, yes, the sample are getting crazy. Oh well.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Don't forget L'Air du Desert Marocain! It reminds me strongly of Cuba (so does Lonestar Memories, oddly enough), but maybe that's because I've never been to Morocco.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Right, thanks — Morocco actually gets most of the attention for Africa, doesn't it?

  32. Anonymous says:

    A great article,sir. I will appreciate some help from you. Can you suggest some male EDT sprays which have sufficient fragrance strength to produce an aura of fragrance approximately 5 feet around me.Fragrances like Sean John Unforgivable for men have good notes but fail to be noticed by others.Thanks.

  33. Anonymous says:

    YSL Kouros or M7, Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male, Thierry Mugler A*Men.

  34. Anonymous says:

    If you want to be noticed 5 feet around you, I would suggest Hermes Bel Ami, Issey Miyake LeBlue, original Aramis, original Dolce & Gabanna (dark blue box), Trussardi Jeans, Azzaro Chrome (and Chrome Legend) and of course original Polo (green). There's other choices if you want more. I'm just telling what I know based on my experience with the 300+ colognes I own. Hope this helps!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Thanks a lot. I will definitely try these out.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I fully agree with Issey Miyake LeBlue. Others I will definitely try. Thanks for your help !

  37. Anonymous says:

    Dear Robin,

    Got my hands on CK one summer(orange one). I really loved this fragrance. Will try your suggestion of A*Men next. Hope you don't mind me keeping you informed. Thanks.

  38. Anonymous says:

    You might also try the A*Men Pure Coffee — if you like coffee. And there's reportedly an A*Men Pure Malt coming later this year…

  39. Anonymous says:

    Sure I will. Thanks !!

  40. MUKS says:

    Dear Robin,
    Can you help me with how to differentiate between an original fragrance and a knockoff, in general? I live in India at present and the market here is flooded with all sorts of knockoffs that smell just like original.Are you aware of any sources of genuine perfumes in India?
    What is the difference between an imitation and a knockoff?
    Thank you very much.

    • Robin says:

      I really don’t know any good tips. In the US, fake perfumes are usually only found on the street, not in reputable stores. And I’m afraid I know nothing about perfume stores in India.

      Sorry to be so little help!

  41. MUKS says:

    Dear Robin,
    Thank you for your attention. Please do let me know if you come across any sources of genuine fragrance in India, including webstores.

  42. Joane says:

    Dear Robin and perfume lovers:

    I need your help! I have been wearing Calyx (Prescriptives) for 20 years….as you know, it is not available anymore. I have been trying to learn about perfume, smell them, try them, but alas….nothing made me think, ”I need to have this” like I thought when trying Calyx for the very first time. Any recommendations? I like the earthy tones of the Aveda products and although I don’t mind spraying their ”perfume” in a room, I wouldn’t wear it. Help! Thank you in advance…

    • Robin says:

      Prescriptives is gone, but Calyx will stay in production, in fact, it’s just started reappearing in stores in slightly new packaging. Check Nordstrom, they do have it online.

  43. Joane says:

    Thank you so much Robin! That’s a relief! It looks like I would have to obtain it online though and I don’t know how long I want to do this for…maybe it’s a sign that I need a change? So I will get a couple of bottles but will continue to read the site and follow you on FB. I don’t know if you can do this but..if you remember what it smells like, could you think of a perfume with similar tones? Please do let me know if you can….thank you again. Joane

    • Robin says:

      Oh not at all — you’ll be able to buy it in stores as well. Just not sure they’re all stocked as of yet. And do consider the Monday Mail!

  44. Elegance108 says:

    Hello! I am a brand new wannabe Perfumista! I am so glad you have made all this educational information available here.

    Here are my opening bids on ebay today:

    Cashmere Mist For Women! 3.4oz! New & Sealed! Your max bid: $0.99
    Viva La Juicy for Women! 3.4 oz ! Brand New & Sealed!! Your max bid: $1.50
    Jean Paul Gaultier Classique 3.4oz Women’s Eau de Toile… Your max bid: $0.50
    ANGEL BY THIERRY MUGLER, 2 SAMPLE VIALS, IN BOX 1.5 ML … Your max bid: $0.99
    ✈ Hanae Mori ♥ HANAE MORI ♥ Sample TRAVEL SPRAY Vials ♥… Your max bid: $1.00
    Nice lot of 20 vintage Christmas postcards Your max bid: $2.00
    CARTIER for Women “Delices de Cartier” EDP perfume samp… Your max bid: $2.00
    Lancome Tresor Parfum Your max bid: $3.00
    Jo Malone Cologne Vanilla Anise Your max bid: $1.00
    Creed Perfume Samples – Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie and … Your max bid: $1.50
    Estee Lauder Beautiful Eau de Parfum Spray 1FL. OZ Your max bid: $0.99
    NEW – RARE perfume christian dior DUNE ******** PURE … Your max bid: $0.99

    I set myself a limit of $3.00 per perfume for vials or testers. If these work out, I’ll have all of these for less then $20.00. Then I’ll start ribbon caning! I like musk as a base note, obviously. My other favorites are amber, sandalwood, muguet, jasmine, honeysuckle, tobacco, and peony.

    In my collection already are: BVLGARI, Dior J’Adore, Yves Saint Laurent Cinema, Van Cleef and Arpels First, and Joy.

    Thanks for all your help!


  45. majic says:

    I have been enjoying reading the opinions of others and utilizing information here in order to make perfume purchases for some time now but I just had to finally register and tell everyone how wonderful their insights are! (create run on sentences much? :) I feel much more knowledgeable at the perfume counter ……much like that tagline from a clothing retailer from some time ago referencing “an educated consumer.” Bottom line: Thank you for this fabulous resource!

Leave a reply