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A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Fragrance on a Limited Budget - Part 2

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The samples duly arrived and I tested all three. My reviews of these perfumes appear on my long-running thread in the Just Starting Out forum,i.e. “New Member Continuation”. I will not repeat them here. I will say though that I was immediately, strongly attracted to the basic violet scent. The Serge Lutens product was not really a violet soliflore and was quickly excluded from further consideration. The two remaining violets, however, were very much soliflores. They were very closely related with only the slightest differences. Basically I found the violet from Penhaligon’s to be softer, more rounded and less persistent, while the Santa Maria Novella violet was a bit harder, more pointed and with greater longevity. It is difficult for me to talk about fragrances as I do not have the experience to use the proper vocabulary. But the Santa Maria Novella violet was, for me, just slightly more interesting (perhaps it has a green note lacking in Penhaligon’s?).

In the ensuing weeks I frugally conserved my little sample vials of the two Violettas. On one occasion I even put the Santa Maria on my left wrist and the Penhaligon on my right in a direct comparison. After each test I consistenly found the SMN Violetta preferable, and I found, sadly, that my sample of it was used up much more quickly.

In fact I liked the SMN Violetta so much that I found myself beginning to search the Internet for an affordable bottle. But alas, being a niche fragrance house, Santa Maria Novella products were not to be had cheaply! Nor were those of Penhaligon’s. I could buy a 2 ml. sample of SMN Violetta on eBay for $10 plus shipping, which worked out to over $5/ml. The same situation existed for Penhaligon. And I did not want tiny samples anyway. But, to buy these fragrances in the sizes in which they are sold new costs between $110-120 for a 100 ml. bottle. These amounts were more than I had spent during the entirety of my fragrance experience up to that point!

I had reached a situation that would not yield to my ingenuity. No matter how I looked at my prospects of obtaining one of these perfumes, it was going to cost what for me was a lot of money. This was a quandary that existed for several weeks. And then my sample of Penhaligon’s Violetta was finally used up.

Then, just this week, I found on the Basenotes’ For Sale forum a 100 ml. bottle of Penhaligon’s Violetta for $75.00. This was tempting, but I reasoned with myself, “You distinctly preferred the Santa Maria Novella and if you buy this Penhaligon’s you are always going to be just a bit unhappy that you did not get what you really liked”. At that point I had a mini-epiphany of sorts. Another voice said, “OK, let’s say that you did order a 100 ml. bottle of SMN Violetta for $110 plus shipping. That is more perfume in volume than you have ever had; much more than your bottle of Vanilla. How do you know that you might not get over-loaded with violet as a scent? And then if that happened there you are with alot of it and you are $120 poorer”. Hmmm…good point ‘other voice’.

So I decided to ‘hedge my bets’ and compromise. I would order a decant of SMN Violetta from The Perfumed Court. They offer several sizes. For me the right amount of money to spend on this violet kick of mine (about $20 plus shipping) bought me 8 ml. of Violetta. This volume is more than I have ever had of any of my samples and will last me for a goodly amount of time. It will tell me if I really do like SMN Violetta so much that I would spend over $110 on it. So I placed the order last night and now I feel like I have come full circle on this “Violet Odyssey“.

And it occurred to me this morning that my story might be of some value to other beginners -- at least those who are as anal retentive as I am. For the rest of you free-wheeling souls I cannot be of any help. Fling caution and money to the winds and enjoy yourselves! We who live less impulsively salute you and miserly husband our decants with great devotion.


  1. Attar's Avatar
    I enjoyed reading this blog and found it very interesting..I also have a background in horticulture and botany but i am fairly new to the world of the perfume making but i think my passion for plants and raw materials fueled my desire to learn more about the process... thank you for sharing your thoughts.
  2. Saintpaulia's Avatar
    You're welcome! It was a fun excercise in writing - to see if I can still do it halfway decent.
  3. Attar's Avatar
    Yeah I have just started writing my own blogs so i am an amateur at best (never written a blog before) but you inspire me to write more.
  4. adonis's Avatar
    Good idea with buying smaller amounts. It's hard to finish a bottle without getting sick of it at the end. And if you have several different scents in your rotation it could be many years before you've emptied a bottle. There are very few I've been able to polish off - Gendarme and Trumper Portugal are the only ones.


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