While we can't hit the beauty halls to spray endless scents onto tiny pieces of card, fragrance discovery sets are the perfect way to find a new perfume in lockdown
If you're looking for a new fragrance to perk up your lockdown days, there's no better way to find fresh scents than with a fragrance discovery set. Having a collection of minis to experiment with allows you to really spend time learning how a scent smells on you. Not only do you get to try a whole batch of scents (something to do on those long, lockdown evenings) but you aso avoid expensive mistakes splashing out on the big bottle that somehow doesn’t smell the same when you get it home.
Providing a more affordable way to get your hands on a high-end perfume, they’re more than just a piece of card with a lonely vial glued inside. Today’s versions are full-blown box sets, housing collections of luxury pint-sized spritzes. And they’ve piqued the public’s interest in a huge way. “[Fragrance discovery kits] are the luxury version of testing,” Net-a-Porter's Global Beauty Director, Newby Hands, tells us. “It’s the most natural way for our customers to explore and discover their favourite scent, with many then returning to purchase a full-sized bottle.”
Making the world of luxury perfumery more accessible than ever, as well as providing a travel-friendlier alternative to pack in your suitcase when we can jet off again, it looks like this is one trend that’s here to stay. Which ones are worth adding to your shopping cart? Here are some of our favourites for any budget.
Atelier Cologne Perfume Palette Gift Set, £30 (10 x 2ml)
This looks more like a pack of pretty rainbow crayons than a perfume discovery set, but one sniff of the decadent scents from Parisien brand Atelier Cologne and you'll be in no doubt that you're in scent heaven. This set includes Orange Sanguine cologne absolue, our personal favourite Clémentine California cologne absolue, Pacific Lime cologne absolue, Pomélo Paradis cologne absolue, Iris Rebelle cologne absolue, Oolang Infini cologne absolue, Vanille Insensee cologne absolue, Rose Anonyme cologne absolue, Musc Impérial cologne absolue and Cédre Atlas cologne absolute.
Ormonde Jayne Signature EDP Discovery Lab, £42 (7 x 1.5ml)
For an introduction into premium British perfumer Ormonde Jayne you can't go wrong with one of their seven discovery kits; they excel in the art of fragrance discovery and this collection of signature scents is the perfect starting point, including Champaca, Frangipani, Tolu, Ta’if, Amber Royal, Ormonde Woman and Ormonde Man.
Shay and Blue Discovery Set, £54.96 (5 x 10ml)
Fairly new on the fragrance scene, Shay and Blue launched in London in 2012. They hand-harvest the ingredients for each scent before weighing and distilling them and leaving them to mature for three months to create a deep scent. This kit includes Blood Oranges, Framboise Noire, English Cherry Blossom, Atropa Belladonna and Black Tulips.
Floral Street Discovery Set, £14 (8 x 1.5ml)
Containing an impressive eight samples for little over a tenner, this set provides a cost-friendly introduction to the London-based brand’s wardrobe of blossoming fragrances.
They’re anything but your traditional florals though. Thanks to the nose of star perfumer, Jérôme Épinette, and the vision of founder Michelle Feeney, they have a depth to them that brings to mind the sights and scents of the capital. The set includes: Wonderland Peony, Neon Rose, Wild Vanilla Orchid, Iris Goddess, Chypre Sublime, Black Lotus, Ylang Ylang Express and London Poppy (my personal favourite).
Le Labo Discovery Set, £20 (5 X 1.5ML)
Featuring the label’s most popular fragrances in a travel-friendlier form this is the ideal way to get acquainted with Le Labo's much-loved scents, including Another 13, Bergamote 22, Rose 31, Santal 33 and Thé Noir 29. Full-sized versions can cost upwards of £125 - quite the investment, which makes parting ways with just £20 to ensure you’re fully clued up before making the commitment, a particularly worthwhile first step.
Perfume Society Indulgence Discovery Box, £36 (14 x 2-10ml)
This multi-brand pick provides an easy way of getting your fill of the latest fine fragrances. It includes the entire Carine Roitfeld collection of seven fragrances dreamed up by the former French Vogue editor, each inspired by a different city, along with French perfumier Lalique's three latest scents, Floral Street's Chypre Sublime, Vines House Parfums' Love Story, Tocca Giulietta and for some extra va-va-voom, Versace's Crystal Noir.
Maison Crivelli Discovery Sample Fragrance Gift Set, £35.00 (8 x 2ml)
Founded in 2018 by French Thibaud Crivelli, this relatively new fragrance brand encourages us to describe scents in first impressions and experiences rather than in notes, with all scents in the collection inspired by raw materials, presenting a new twist on ingredients we're familiar with such as tonic bean, frankincense and tobacco. Each scent is created by a different nose, so they vary a lot. There's no better introduction to a mysterious brand such as this than a discovery set, which allows you to test out all of the scents to see which one suits you best, with no preconceptions attached. This set includes Rose Saltifolia, Iris Malikhan, Bois Datchai,Papyrus Moleculaire, Citrus Batikanga, Absinthe Boreale, Fleur Diamantine and Santal Volcanique.
Escentric Molecules Fragrance Discovery Set, £25 (8 x 2ml)
There are few brands whose scents are cloaked in as much mystery as those from Escentric Molecules. Often described as the ‘anti-fragrance fragrance brand,’ it draws its inspiration from both art and chemistry, (an ethos reflected in its packaging and eclectic line-up), with many fans claiming its scents differ from person to person.
This makes its jam-packed discovery box all the more useful. Containing samples of its full offering - Escentric and Molecule fragrances 01 through to 04 - it makes finding your perfect formula all the more straightforward.
Sana Jardin Discovery Set, £30 (8 x 2ml)
This brand lives and breathes all things female empowerment, from its Revolution de la Fleur perfume that was created as an homage to the women’s marches when Donald Trump was elected, to its Beyond Sustainability movement that seeks to improve the lives of low-income communities involved in making its products.
Each of the fragrances also comes with some great eco-credentials too - high concentrations of naturally perfumed essential oils and recyclable bottle packaging. The 7-piece set provides a well-sized taster: Berber Blonde (a favourite of our Editor Victoria Woodhall’s), Tiger By Her Side, Savage Jasmine, Sandalwood Temple, Celestial Patchouli, Jaipur Chant, Nubian Musk and the aforementioned Revolution de la Fleur.
Penhaligon’s Ladies’ Fragrance Collection, £40 (5 x 5ml)
It can be pretty tricky to make a 5ml vial look good, but Penhaligon’s appears to have done it courtesy of their eye-catching set of perfumed miniatures. Containing five of the brand’s bestsellers - Artemisia, Vaara, Empressa (my ‘special occasion scent’), Iris Prima and Halfeti, they’re as much of a joy to look at as they are to use.
Frederic Malle EDPFM The Essential Collection 1, £20 (6 x 1.2ml)
Incredibly potent, just one spritz is all you need for a Frederic Malle perfume to last you all day. You certainly get your money’s worth. Containing six of the brand’s biggest hits, Carnal Flower, Eau de Magnolia, Iris Poudre, En Passant, Musc Ravageur and my personal go-to, Portrait of a Lady, there’s something for every mood and occasion.
Diptyque L’Art Du Parfum Discovery Set, £87 (5 x 7.5ml)
These artfully designed vials house five of the French perfumer’s most sought-after fragrances, carefully selected to provide a guide of sorts through five olfactory landscapes - a range of florals in Do Son, Eau Rose, L’Ombre dans L’Eau and Eau des Sens, and the woodier Philosykos. Presented in a decked out black and white box (that you’re going want to keep), with a handy pouch included to keep them safe from bumps in your handbag, it’s a great gift idea.
Byredo La Selection Nomade, £78 (3 x 12ml)
With each vial containing 12mls, this box provides a fantastically large amount of perfume for your pennies - the most in our edit.
With its name and assortment of scents inspired by founder Ben Gorham’s travels around the globe, they serve as the perfect fragrance pairing for your next big adventure. The set includes GTG team favourite, Gypsy Water, the warming Bal d’Afrique and refreshing Blanche. I love all three.