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How To Buy Fragrances Without Smelling Them – Tips & Advice For Blind Buying Online

Men's Grooming
Wednesday, 11th December, 2019

How to buy fragrances online without smelling them

There’s plenty of reasons why you might think about buying a fragrance or aftershave without smelling it, but is it a good idea to blind buy a fragrance?

Since I have a lot of men’s fragrances, I have some experience of buying scents without smelling them first. Sometimes you get a good surprise, sometimes the scent lives up to the expectation, and other times, it’s bad.

It’s always going to be a good idea to try before you buy, but sometimes that’s just not possible, and others you might just want to shop online.

Here’s some tips on how to buy fragrances online without smelling them.

Why Buy Fragrances Online?

There’s plenty of good reasons to buy fragrances online. These include:

  • A huge choice – The scent might not be available in your local shop, but it is online
  • Cheaper – Often you can grab good deals which you can only find online
  • Convenience – As with everything else online, you can buy from the comfort of your home without leaving.

There is one downside, and it’s a pretty big one. With almost every other purchase you can get a brilliant idea of what something is by just seeing a photo. A fragrance on the other hand, you can’t. Usually, you can also not return them once you’ve opened and tried them.

Tips On Blind Buying

Do Some Research / Read Reviews

You can read my fragrance reviews, and I would also advise reading from as many people as possible before buying your fragrance. You can then get a good sense of what you’re going to be buying from people with first hand experience.

Everyone’s nose can be different, so it’s good to get a broad idea from a lot of different people. Two of the biggest sites online are Fragrantica and Basenotes, both with a big community built around them.

The Clue Is In The Name

Occasionally fragrance houses and brands give off more than a hint when they choose their names for their bottle of aftershave. You can guess that a fragrance with a name such as noir, black, dark, and nuit, these are going to be masculine scents which are probably woody and best suited to an evening.

With names such as fresh, light and aqua, you’ll know these are lighter scents, possibly citrus or aquatic, and best suited to the day.

Different Colour Bottles - Tips On Blind Buying Fragrances

The Bottle Colour & Branding

Another key indicator is the bottle colour, and branding to go along with it. Take this Bvlgari MAN In Black. It comes from the MAN collection from Bvlgari, and since it’s got the black moniker, it’s likely to be something darker and woody. This is true, and it is a much more woody take on the original.


Black is dark and mysterious, and is almost always used for those masculine, darker scents which are boozy or woody, and true scents for the evening.


What’s cooler than blue? not much when it comes to colour tones. If you see a blue bottle you’re likely to encounter something which is fresh and aquatic, which is probably exactly what you’d expect. These are usually great for the daytime.


I often categorise fragrances as green, but what does that mean? It means that springtime flavour, it’s citrus-y but not lemon or zesty, and more of those greener fruits and plants. These can typically be mixed with aquatic notes which give a really good overall scent.


Red is a bit of a wildcard. It can be fruity, spicy, or have soft woods, so is one of those colours which can say a lot of different things when it comes to the smell of a scent. Red is a power colour, so these scents usually have a bit of punch to them, whatever that note may be.


Whenever you see yellow, you’re likely to get a citrus or zesty scent, as you’d expect. They’re light with some spicy or aquatic notes, and are usually associated with day time scents.

Different Colour Of Juice In The Bottles - Advice On Buying Fragrances Without Smelling Them

Colour Of The Juice

If the branding and bottle colour doesn’t give enough hints away, the colour of the juice, the stuff in the bottle, can be a big giveaway. If you have a bottle which is clear, you’ll be able to see the colour of the juice. Colours which you’re likely to see are:

  • Orange/brownish – This is likely to be a spicy or woody scent.
  • Green/blue – This will be aquatic or green-citrus like.
  • Yellow – This is likely to be citrus of the zesty lemon variety.
  • Clear – This is a bit of a wildcard, and could smell like anything, depending on what ingredients are used.

Understanding The Notes & Fragrance Families

There’s some notes which I have mentioned above, and also fragrance families. For me, I think it’s far easier to understand and breakdown these notes which you separate them for a few things; Occasion, season and time of day.

Some scents will be universal, meaning they work in every situation, but some will be better for day, while others should be used exclusively for the evening.

Some note types you’re likely to encounter are:

  • Citrus – Usually a greeny or lemon kind of scent. This is usually better during the day, but depending on what the other notes are, it could be worn on an evening
  • Aquatic – Usually light, watery and aqua like. These are usually better to wear during the daytime, or when you want to smell fresh on an evening.
  • Woody – When you think of masculine scents, it’s likely to be woody. These are scents which can be musky, or have a more modern twist
  • Spicy – This goes along with the woods, with fragrances which have that spicy kick to them.
  • Floral – These are usually a softer scent, with floral elements, but in the men’s varieties are usually combined with other notes.
  • Aromatic – Warm and inviting, as the name suggests, they have a really nice aroma to them, usually combine with something above.

A lot of the time, fragrances are more complex, and have more than one note, for example a woody aquatic scent, or a citrus-floral scent. Although that may sound complicated, it actually gives you a much better indication of the style of the scent.

Worried about how long a bottle lasts? Check out how long aftershave lasts before it goes off.

Buying Flankers - Tips on buying aftershaves without smelling them


You may be thinking, what are flankers?

Simply put, at times some perfume houses and fragrance brands take advantage of a popular scent, and release a new bottled which is supposed to come from the same family of fragrances.

This is usually identifiable when the bottle is the same with design variations, or the name has a new twist.

For example BOSS Bottled with a large number of flankers, as seen here too. Some would say that flankers share the DNA of the original scent, however at times they are completely different. BOSS Bottled and BOSS Bottled Night for example are very different.

There’s also Dolce and Gabbana The One which has several flankers, with the original, GREY and Gentleman. This is common in the fragrance space, with lots of brands selling a variation of a fragrance which has previously done well.

Choose The Perfumers Over The Brand

If you really want to get into scents, you can check out who designed the scent, rather than go on the reputation of the brand alone. At times brands work with different perfumers, and sometimes scents get reformulated or discontinued.

The perfumers are like anything else, in that some scents could be incredible, and others not so good, or just not to your liking.

The Safest Smelling Scents To Buy Online

When I talk about safe scents, I’m not talking about the website you’re buying from, but that safe kind of scent which won’t offend. The idea of a safe scent is that it smells good and will almost universally be liked, but not necessarily loved.

The safest scents to go for are usually the mass marketed ones. Most are popular and there’s plenty of them which are brilliant. Bleu de Chanel and Dior Sauvage are two which spring to mind, which are very good masculine scents which almost everyone will like.

The Most Risky Scents To Buy Online

The more risky scents come with two issues, niche and price. Niche scents are usually from dedicated perfume houses, rather than a fashion brand which sells other products. These tend to be more expensive, and also not as easy to come by, with only authorised retailers usually stocking them.

One of the ideas of a niche scent is that it has that special something which is different to other scents. While that can be a good thing, it can also be bad, if you get it wrong. There’s plenty of scents out there which you’ll just not like.

There’s nothing wrong with that, or the scent, but it’s just not your style of fragrance. A problem with this is that they’re usually more expensive, so it can be a lot of money to waste on a fragrance which you’re not going to like.

The more mainstream but niche perfume houses which are popular are Creed, Floris London and Tom Ford to name a few, all of which I’ve featured here. It’s worth mentioning that just because you like one scent from a perfume house, doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy everything they do.

Creed do a lot of scents which have a large variety, as do Tom Ford and Floris London. There’s some from Floris London I simply adore, but I’ve got a few smaller bottles, which I don’t like so much.

Don’t Be Afraid To Get It Wrong

I think one of the biggest things to think about and consider is that you shouldn’t be afraid to get it wrong. If you blind buy fragrances, you could get it wrong, from time to time. Don’t worry, it’s something we’ve all done.

I’ve blind bought scents and they not liked them, and others I’ve loved. You have to take the chance, otherwise you’ll never know, and you may end up with an aftershave which you like over time.

How To Buy Fragrances Online Without Smelling Them

  1. Do research, read reviews & ask experts
  2. Check the name of the scent – Does it giveaway any characteristics?
  3. Check out the colour of the bottle, branding and the juice
  4. Understand what kind of scent you like, and what you’re looking for
  5. Check the notes & scent style
  6. If it all sounds good, go ahead and buy the fragrance.


Sometimes you buy scents online out of necessity, sometimes it’s for convenience, but if you like fragrances, there’s going to come a time when you do end up buying a scent without ever trying it out.

I hope that this guide on blind buying fragrances serves you well, there’s always a few safe options as well as the more risky ones, and you can opt for buying the safer ones online, while going in store to try out the risky ones.

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Michael Adams

About Michael

Michael Adams is the founder and editor of Michael 84, blogger from Newcastle, UK. Sharing men's fashion tips, style advice and lifestyle information for all guys.

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