I've made several full-bottle mistakes, so I'm trying hard to stick to a set of pre-bottle sampling rules.
The steps are, approximately:
- First sniff. Ideally, this is a sniff at a store or from a free vial sample. If I can't get a free sniff, I'll buy a cheap vial sample from LuckyScent or Aedes. If that doesn't work, then I'll pay for a 1.5 mil sprayer sample from The Perfumed Court.
- Wearing test. a 1.5 ml or 2.5 ml sprayer sample from The Perfumed Court. (Obviously this merges with First Sniff if I can't find a cheap sample.) I can get two or three or five wearings from this.
- Decant waiting period. I try really, really hard to go through at least a 5ml decant before I seriously consider buying a bottle. This tells me when I wear the fragrance, how often I wear the fragrance, and gives me another chance to realize that maybe I don't like it that much.
So at some point I've used up the 5ml decant. If this is two weeks after I bought it, apparently I like the stuff - at least, I like it right now. If it's two years, apparently I don't like it that much.
Even here, there are other things to consider. Such as:
- Am I going through a note craze? When you're first discovering a note, it can be easy to buy and buy that note - a bunch of leather perfumes or a bunch of jasmine perfumes. Then you're on to the next note and you realize that you really could have gotten along with one or two. So another rule is that I'm allowed to buy _one_ perfume representing the Note Craze note, while I'm in that Craze.
- Am I falling for bargains? Right now, I could buy Rochas Tocade and Balmain Vent Vert and Balmain Ivore and two or three others, for the price of one bottle of Bois Blond. But what I really want is the Bois Blond. So I need to resist the temptation to buy all those others. To counter this tendency, I made a budgeting rule that I'm allowed to buy _one_ bottle at specific intervals. This helps me narrow my sights and get the bottle I really wanted.
- There are always decants. Repeat this as many times as necessary. The decant doesn't have the magic of the full bottle and the box and the cellophane-opening-ceremony, but it does give you the perfume, at a price much less than that of a bottle. I have a number of decants representing moments where I _almost_ bought a bottle, decants that are still nearly full months later. So I know that I was right not to buy that bottle.