fragrance

EauPEN Thread – Decants

Myrna Loy

Do you buy decants?

Let me explain what a decant is for those that may not know. A decant is fragrance decanted from a full-size bottle of perfume. Generally, these are not sold through the brand but through perfume lovers (in real-life or online) or through certain decanting sites. The decants are typically larger than a sample and smaller than a full-size bottle of perfume. They come in generic bottles (so they really aren’t like a brand’s travel-size perfume).

Before I answer the question, I’m just going to say that most brands hate decants. It doesn’t take much to figure out why. There’s the aspect that this may divert from actual sales of their full-size products. But, there’s another reason to – they have no control. This means that someone may be selling decants filled with fake or adulterated product under the guise that is is authentic product. Brands do not like the idea of someone out there watering down their perfume and potentially ruining their future sales or reputation.¹

OK, so I don’t pass any judgement at someone that buys decants. I’m not a brand. I totally understand the appeal of a decant. We want to try things and they may not be available to us in person. Or samples/travel sizes aren’t made for that product. You don’t want to feel pressured into blind-buying a full-size product. I don’t care if you want to try-before-you-buy or if you have no intention of buying a full-size perfume ever in your life. I don’t care. There are many reasons why you may not want to buy a full-size perfume. I understand. I have no moralistic opposition to decants.

Now to answer the question…I don’t buy decants. I have bought maybe 3 decants in my entire life and that was when I first started blogging in 2008. There’s a few reasons that I do not buy them. But, the main reason is that I don’t like having all the little bottles around. If I want to try something, I try to obtain or buy a sample first. If I have used up a sample, then I will just plunge on a full-size or travel size by the brand…or I’ll just forget about it and never buy it. I know it sounds shallow, but I like the packaging of perfumes. It sort of “completes” the experience for me. Samples are mine for the exploratory phase. That’s how I try things. I also live in the NYC area and have the opportunity to try stuff in person. If I like it, maybe a SA will give me a sample. If not, I’ll go home and buy one. I also realize I have the privilege of being a perfume blogger; brands send me samples and products. This is not the reality for everyone. Basically, I don’t buy decants because I don’t feel the need to. BUT I have some decants that dear friends have made me because they really, really wanted me to try a perfume. So yes, I have more than enough decants because my friends are the absolute best.

Like I said, my decants come from friends. Most of the time I’m right there watching them make me a sample or decant. I know that the source is legit. Some of my friends have bought decants from online fragrance friends. They don’t really buy them as much as they trade their fragrant goods. Basically, they buy/trade decants from people they trust, other hobbyists. Like I’ve said before, the perfume community is great.

There are sites that sell decants. They aren’t a good “value” (AKA you are paying more per mL than if you bought the full-size) but they let you try things that may be hard to find or don’t scents from brands that do not offer samples. Here’s a few of those sites:

The Perfumed Court – This is one of the OG decanting sites. They stand out because of their selection and that they also offer vintage. The Perfumed Court is how most of my friends go into vintage perfumes. Warning – Vintage perfumes are addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Surrender to Chance – Another OG decanting site. They’re also super knowledgeable and have a great selection of indie/niche.²

There are probably others. I am only reporting these because they are the ones I have bought from in the past and have been around a long time.

You can also buy samples from places like:

Luckyscent

Twisted Lily

Beautyhabit – has a sample program where you pick 3 samples for $15 and they give you a $10 voucher towards a full-size.

Indigo Perfumery – I like theirs because they come in vials with the sprayer.

Osswald – Call for samples. Also like theirs because they come with a sprayer and generously sized (well, in comparison to other samples).

Aedes de Venustas

FYI – I have bought samples from all of these places. Also, most brands offer samples on their site. Buying from these (brands and perfumeries) are a little different in that it’s only the selection of what they carry and that they are also hoping you’ll end up buying a full-size bottle later. Decant sites don’t care if you come back for a full-size because they don’t have full-sizes.

Finally, there are newer models that have hit the market. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it because brands are usually not nice about decanting. But, there are some that are like a monthly subscription program or a service. Those are:

Scentbird: This is a monthly subscription program. You pay $14.95 for 8ml decant of your choice. I have not tried this service but I’m curious (it’s hard to try some of these designer scents!). If you have, I’d love to hear your experience. I’ve noticed that throughout the years that their catalog of scents has really grown and includes some designer and niche brands. UPDATE – They were nice enough to reach out and sent me one to try. I’m actually really impressed with the packaging. It comes in a really nice travel spray (feels more like what’d you buy from Sephora). I will write a review but I’m also curious to do the monthly service and see how reliable they are (shipping times), etc. I think I’m going to get rid of Sephora Play and do this instead. I’d much rather have some Amouage than a tiny thing of dry shampoo and a foundation sample that doesn’t match my skin.

If you know of other programs like this, let me know. I’ll add it to the list.

Shoooo…that was a long answer to that question, huh? Anyway, what about you, do you buy decants?

¹I could go on a rant about this but I’ll save you guys from it today. Basically, if brands think this is a problem, they should offer more samples, discovery kits and travel sizes that don’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. Basically, decanting is a thing because there is a market for it. If the brands want control, then they should control it by giving the consumers what they want. If they don’t want someone selling it on eBay, then they can do what other name brands do…report them as fakes.

²Oddly enough, the hardest samples to get your hands on are designer. If I didn’t get free samples with online purchases, I don’t think I’d ever have a “Mainstream Monday“. They also rarely ever send me anything as a blogger. It’s almost like designer perfumes don’t really care about people that would buy their products based on how they actually smell.


*Disclaimer – Scentbird sent me something to try. I am not financially compensated for my reviews/posts. My opinions are my own. Also, Scentbird contains an affiliate link. Myrna Loy pic from fanpix.net.


 

18 thoughts on “EauPEN Thread – Decants

  1. I’ve always wondered about Scentbird. Back when they come on the scene, other bloggers and YouTubers were raving about their service. Here lately though, I’ve read some pretty negative reviews. I just dropped the Macy Beauty Bag and would consider Scentbird if they are legit.

    1. What were some of the complaints in the negative reviews?

      I’m going to try it as it is relevant to my interests and well, I’m very curious to see how the logistics of this works. My only worry is the queue system. Like are they always out of stock of something you want? (AKA more expensive things). Basically is the catalog reflective of what you’d actually be sent?

      1. My 2 cents. I was always sent what I had queued up, even months in advance, with 1-2 exceptions in about 15 months of service. So I think they’re pretty good from that perspective, depsite continuing to update their catalog. But please update us with your experience!

        1. This is good to know. I remember back in the day with Netflix that I’d be sent totally random things from queue (not in order). Or if you didn’t have anything in your queue, you’d be charged and never sent a product. I imagined that something like that could be done here. i.e. never have the more expensive stuff “in stock” but continue to offer it. Like basically, I saw it being like everyone gets the same 2 things even if you *think* you have a choice. Does that make sense?

          Anyway, I’m going to try it and report back in a few months. I don’t *need* anything else but when has that stopped me? lol

  2. I have twice bought decants through The Perfumed Court and once they showed up (this was an order of rare vintages so I’m glad) and once they didn’t. I’ve heard other people complain about TPC orders not always arriving so I don’t plan on using them again.

    Decants appeal to me for exactly the reasons you outlined: I can’t always get samples of things I want to try, and sometimes I want more than a sample of something but not 100 mL of it. That being said, lately I’ve been focusing on emptying the gazillion samples I have before adding more perfume to my collection. I haven’t even been in this hobby super long and I feel like I already have more perfume than I can ever wear. So… kind of a moot point for me but, like you, I totally see why the decant market exists and it certainly won’t go anywhere as long as brands don’t address the reasons for that existence.

    1. Interesting to know. I haven’t personally had any issues with them but again, I don’t order very frequently. In fact, I haven’t ordered from any decanting site since moving to the East Coast.

      My goal for this year is to empty all those little samples and what is left of my decants. Writing about perfume means that I’ve collected too much perfume. This is fun and all, but I also hate having samples of things I love but never wear them. I have made it a habit now to pull out a few that I really like or want to revisit each week and wear them at night…to enjoy them! Like I guess I realized I was sort of hoarding and what was the point? I’m trying to enjoy more of the perfumes I have, even if they are in little vials. It’s been fun to do themes too. Like right now, I’ve been wearing all my orange blossoms.

      They will take over and this is another reason why I haven’t given in to decants. Because of their price and size, I could see myself hoarding them like I do samples. Before you know it, I’d have 50 of the things around evaporating and never getting used. I just don’t have the space for much of anything living here. So, it’s like if I’m going to have to give up “real estate”, I want it to be a pretty bottle…or something tiny like a sample that I can throw in a cute box.

      Ugh, I really should downsize but that’s hard. Ideally I see myself having 10 full-sizes and keeping it at that. *when pigs fly*

  3. I buy from Surrender to Chance and Luckyscent all the time. I do not live in or near a major city nor am i near a perfume community (at least as far as i know). It never occured to me to dislike the little bottles and the absence of packaging. It also never occurred to me that that i could potentially be negatively judged for buying from Surrender to Chance or that their decants might not be legitimate. Maybe I should think about it more carefully.

    1. The only person that could possibly be thinking negatively about you doing this is a brand…and that’s only because they aren’t getting you to blind-buy!!! I wouldn’t worry about it. You are buying from places that are legit and are not going to scam you. You are getting what is in the big bottle except only in a small bottle. Enjoy trying new things 🙂

      As far as me and the packaging, I’m weird. You know there are people that buy physical books instead of read them on Kindle or a Kindle app? That’s how I feel about me and decants. I just like the actual bottle (even though I buy plenty of samples, gosh, I buy too many little samples). I don’t think someone is odd for wanting just physical books even if I love my Kindle. It’s just one of those weird quirky things, we all have them. Another thing I failed to mention – I know that decants are a slippery slop and if I give in I’ll be overtaken by them.

  4. Hello friend! It’s been a while since I commented but I’m always reading.
    I had a Scentbird subscription for about a year and a half, and really liked it! I agree about the nice packaging and I found it to be a good value. I discovered a few things that I’d consider FBs of, and a few that I’m happy to have the 8mL. I ended my subscription for no good reason other than I have too much perfume and didn’t want my true loves to compete with my monthly decants (and the decants to “go to waste”). But at the end, they did send me the wrong perfume and didn’t respond to my support request for a long time, so they might be experiencing growing pains (which is totally normal for a young company). Anyway, I’d recommend it at least for a trial. Their selection was much better than I had expected. Other than this subscription, I don’t buy decants, just samples like you, but I appreciate the option to :).

    1. Thank you! This is really helpful. I’m going to try it anyway since a service like this seems totally relevant to this blog.

      I’m having similar issues with the beauty boxes. I am just getting too many little bottles of stuff and I need a break to use it all up! Sephora, as far as logistics, does pretty good but they are a well-established business. Back in the day, I had an issue with ipsy (never got my bag and they would never answer my requests). Apparently, ipsy is much better now. But, yeah, I think a lot of these companies experience some real growing pains.

  5. I purchase decants occasionally. Generally if a scent is discontinued, i can’t find a good price on ebay, or if a bottle is expensive.

    My favorite is bottle splits, followed by decants from Surrender to Chance, then decants from ebay.

    But my work doesnt allow perfume, so i rarely indulge in new scents lately. Skincare, however, is a different story…..

    1. I forgot to mention discontinued. Yes, decants are great for “restocking” an old favorite or trying out something that is no longer available. And it seems like these days a brand will discontinue or reformulate most of their lineup even if the stuff seems to be popular.

      Lol, yes, that is dangerous. I once worked in a perfume-free place and I will tell you this – I spent a lot more on skincare and candles when I worked there!

  6. I’ve only bought decants from TPC and STC a few times over the years. BUT I have bought a lot of decants from other perfume people. Swapping through MUA was how I fell down the niche rabbit hole, and I’ve always appreciated the option to try expensive or hard to find perfumes that way. Also, I’m a maximalist. I like variety and tend to have a lot of stuff. I like having so much perfume at my disposal to wear whatever I’m in the mood for. I do enjoy a lovely bottle/box presentation, but there is no need for me to have bottles of all the perfumes I like. Often, 5-10ml suits me just fine. The downsides for me are some you mentioned. The little bottles have overtaken my one bedroom apartment. I’m currently dealing with too much choice that it’s overwhelming. I think sometimes that I really need to wear this and that and this, but there are only so many days in the week and the year. I don’t think anyone has brought up another big downside, which is evaporation. The decant bottles aren’t made as well as perfume bottles on the market. So I’ve dealt with a lot more evaporation lately due to how many years I’ve had some of the decants and sometimes just due to bottle quality.

    All that being said, I’m working on buying fewer decants. But I still will for certain brands and price points. I really should do more sampling first, and thanks for posting a list of which stores offer spray vials. That makes me more inclined to buy a sample.

    1. I really should have mentioned splits! I mean, they are sort of decant-y.

      YES – evaporation! That is a HUGE issue with decants and samples (and bottles with a bulb atomizer). But, yes, I have some decants/splits a friend gave me and those Guerlains evaporated into thin air in less than a year. It was really sad. But, it’s also something that happens when perfumes are stored that way. Another thing, “turning”. Some of those older decants can turn because they are slowly evaporating and it’s changing the composition (especially if it contain a high amount of naturals).

      I’m not one to talk about being a minimalist. I have a gazillion little perfume bottles and lipsticks. Both are things that will eventually “go bad”. But, I love them. I’m just trying to get better at cutting back and basically not buy everything on a whim…or everything I sort of like. I’m getting better!

      I was going to talk about spray vs. dabber in another EauPEN thread. It really makes a difference. For stuff that I review, I always put the dabber stuff into a spray sample if the full-size also has a spray bottle. It really makes a difference in how the perfume wears!

      1. Oooo yes, please do the spray vs. dabber thread! I’m not really ‘minimal’ either, as well as being a bit of a Luckyscent junkie…so I’ve got all these tiny little spray and dabber things laying around. While trying to have a clear out I started pondering how much the sample format might be influencing my fragrance experience (dabber sample vs. full-size spray) but then I found myself wondering the flip side too. There are a few that I’ve held off on buying full size because the proper bottle DOES have a spray and I don’t think I’d like them nearly as much if I had to spritz them. Obviously I could decant them myself into a dabber container of my choice, but I was wondering if other people also spend time thinking (overthinking?) these things.

        1. Another member of the Overthinkers Club! Welcome! 😉

          I used to think I was making all of this up until I actually tried a dabber arm next to a spray arm of the exact same perfume and there was a difference. Is it like this for all perfumes? I don’t know. This was with an Ormonde Jayne and the difference was HUGE. I didn’t even like it dabbed but loved it from the spray.

          Sooo…many years ago I wanted CdG Daphne but was broke. I bought a sample and loved everything about it. It was a Luckyscent sample. I ended up saving my money and buying a full-size and didn’t like it so much. I realized it was because it was just too intense as a spray. A friend gave me some empty rollerballs and I filled those up with Daphne and fell back in love with it. I don’t always prefer a spray either. It can really “change” how I see a perfume.

  7. You know, I’ve never really discerned a difference between a decant and a sample, I’ve always sort of thought of them as the same, or maybe more it’s that I’ve decanted a sample for someone? Maybe decant isn’t to be used in a verby way like that, I don’t know. Words are weird!
    But I think I am like you…if I try a sample of something, and like it, I will just buy the full bottle! As opposed to a larger size decant. For me, the bottle is part of the experience, too. A bunch of little plastic sprayer bottles with peely labels just don’t do it for me, aesthetically.

    I am always looking to turn new friends into perfumaniacs, so I foist hand decanted samples on my friends all the time, but I don’t buy so much from the decant sites any more, precisely because of that markup (though I am not worried about the quality or the actual product. I think I trust the people who run TPC and STC, they’ve been around forever). I will take advantage of free samples from luckyscent or twistedlily, though, if I am purchasing a full bottle of something.

    I will be honest, and say that I have never tried scentbird because I loathe their ads (or at least the ads I was seeing at a certain point in time.) They look like instagram makeup tutorials. It offends me on some level. Like, what, ugly people can’t like perfume, too? Quit showing me these perfectly groomed women with their cut-creases and crazy instagram brows and overly glossed lips–what do these trendy faces have to do with fragrance? Scent transcends that nonsense; you don’t have to be conventionally beautiful, or beautiful at all to enjoy it. Argh. Now I am feeling ranty!

    There was another scent subscription service that I tried a few years ago, what the heck was it called?
    Ah, Olfactif. https://www.olfactif.com . I had the subscription for about six months and I was impressed with the things that they sent me (uncommon/niche-y stuff) but I was getting a little nuts with my subscription boxes at that time, and ended up canceling the service….
    mlleghoul recently posted..Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster

    1. Too much info warning – Samples that we buy from like a Luckyscent are from testers that the stores buy. Brands are sort of weird about how many testers a store can buy (fear of getting into that “black market”). I’m still confused by how a high volume like Luckyscent can get all those testers to make samples! But, I think it is on trust and a great reputation, the brands know we are buying samples from LS and hopefully buying full-sizes (I think it’s a special arrangement). Anyway, this is why stores charge for samples – they cost them money to produce. There’s the tester (which isn’t exactly cheap), vials and decanting supplies. In a sense, brands are participating with this model, even if indirectly.

      THEN we have decants. Boutiques don’t sell those. We buy those from a market that is basically doing splits…buying a full-size at retail price and splitting it into whichever size we order (also, explains their higher costs). They aren’t getting the product from the brand directly (in a sense, I mean they could be ordering directly from the website). Basically, they aren’t a wholesaler and don’t have an agreement with the brand (there may be some exceptions, like Scentbird, for example). That’s how they differ. It’s basically “do you have a contract with Eau de XYZ International” or not.

      But, really they are the same in the sense that you are getting perfume in a smaller quantity in a generic bottle. And that we are usually paying more per mL (which isn’t a big deal because it is cheaper than full-size).

      I will happily say that when Scentbird got started I was mostly off of Youtube, even watching videos. I was so burnt out by that entire aesthetic and it didn’t feel like a “safe” space for me, for lots of reasons. I realize looking back that so much of that “safe” for me was realizing that you couldn’t even talk about perfume or even science without being a babe, but in that cookie-cutter sex symbol way. It really depressed me. It was hard to relate to and made me feel old/out of touch, etc. I must be feeling ranty this morning too. It is frustrating and I can tell you because you write too. But, it doesn’t feel like there is much of a space for people that write about what they love and also don’t look like Barbie & Friends. When I get on IG, I see all the press kits of perfumes going to babes that say “This smells great!” and that’s it. But, that’s what brands want. And I get it, because apparently that is what people want. I’m not bitter about it, working with brands isn’t always that great either, but it is something that is the “norm” over the past 5 or so years. It feels like any woman over 21 is being pushed out of anything “beauty” related, even perfume. It just bothers me on a personal “I am a person of a certain age” level, not as a blogger.

      Anyway, yes! I covered them. I didn’t realize they were still in business. I’ll update. I liked them too but was at overload then as well. I had all the boxes coming in and like YT, I cut them from my life, lol.

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