There are so many fragrances, so little time … sigh, and money. As much as I would love to indulge my nose and fragrance habit with a new bottle of fragrance a day, there’s just not enough hours in the day, or days in the year, to use it all—and if you ask me, that’s just a smelly waste of money and perfume. Rather than accept defeat, I accept decants.
A perfume decant is a fragrance that has been transferred from the original bottle and sprayed or poured into a smaller, brand new, and sterile glass vial or bottle. A decant from a reliable source allows you to try out a rare or original fragrance you think you might like, to purchase a reasonable amount of an expensive fragrance you love but can’t afford, or to just add a new fragrance to your collection without running out of dresser space. Fragrance decants are available in sizes from 1-milliliter sample size vials to 30-milliliter spray bottles and they come labeled with the fragrance’s name.
There are a number of sources for perfume decants, but you have to be careful for obvious reasons. I’ve bought decants from both the Perfumed Court and the Posh Peasant and I’ve found both sites to be fun to look at, informative, and most of all, easy to purchase from! Emails are answered and orders shipped promptly, with pretty packaging, by ladies who love perfume as much as I do. Gentle warning: receiving packages full of different fragrance decants in the mail is quite habit-forming!
The Perfumed Court 
The Perfumed Court is the grande dame of decanting. The ladies of the Perfumed Court have an extensive collection of French perfume as well as hard-to-find and discontinued fragrances.
A fun feature of the site is their list of some of the top perfumes mentioned in Perfumes: The Guide  by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. If, like me, you have been reading the book and are curious about some of the perfumes, you can click from the Perfumed Court’s list to obtain samples. You may not agree with all the book’s reviews (I certainly don’t), but if you’re interested in fragrance, the book is a wonderful reference guide and an excellent read. I recently sampled the following fragrances from the Perfumed Court:
Mayotte by Guerlain
Eau de Parfum with notes of neroli, frangipani, tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, sandalwood, vetiver, and vanilla.
I came across Mayotte while stalking the counters of Neiman’s for a bottle of Apres L’Ondee. I couldn’t find one, but I did smell Mayotte. I didn’t like it at first, and couldn’t place the smell, though it reminded me of something. My nose kicked in eventually and remembered the smell of a wonderful Spanish brandy, Fundador. I promise you will not smell like a keg of brandy when you wear this, but it does have the same richly spiced vanilla essence. I left the store—and the fragrance—behind, but when I got home, the man in my life was va va va voom for the lingering scent and offered to buy me a bottle … until I told him it’s $200 a bottle! The Perfumed Court to the rescue …
Tom Ford Private Blend Black Violet
You know I always have to try anything with Violet in the name, and this is one of those fragrances I loved from the get-go. It opens with a sharp citrus that dries down to a sweetish woody floral that is just divine. At $165 a bottle, the price is less divine (as is the experience of tracking down this hard-to-find fragrance), so a decant is the perfect way to decide if you really want to splurge.
The Posh Peasant 
This fragrance site was recently launched by the charming Abigail. It has some very interesting niche perfumes, with an ever expanding line. Be sure to join Abigail’s mailing list, as she will send you updates and special offers. I recently sampled the following fragrances from the Posh Peasant:
Midnight Violet by Ava Luxe
The perfume notes are listed as violet, blue iris, orris, earth, black hemlock, galbanum, pink pepper, cinnamon, cedar, sandalwood, incense, wood balsam, moss, civet, and cashmere musk.
Midnight Violet is a violet with its petals singed by smoky incense. If you like smoky, mysterious fragrances, this is definitely worth a try. The dry down is glorious and I loved every minute I wore it; it made me feel like a 1940’s film star—sophisticated and sultry like Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. The lasting power is excellent, so as always, spray with restraint the first time around.
The notes are listed as Tahitian gardenia, French muguet du bois, and hints of island vanilla orchid.
Monyette Paris is a French take on a southern California beach: fun, saucy, and a tiny bit naughty. The top notes are almost too sweet, but the dry down is a mellow, pretty gardenia. It’s one of the few sweet perfumes I actually like and the perfect accessory to a summer dress and flirty sandals.
Apart from the allure of getting packages full of perfume in the mail, one of the things I like most about perfume decants is that they are a way to educate your nose away from the pressures of the perfume counters without having to spend lots of money for something that may not suit you. There are certain fragrances that anyone who is passionate about perfume should sniff, try wearing, and give some thought to even if they end up being perfumes you don’t like, like Chanel No. 5 and Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue. They are two of the great classic perfumes that have stood the test of time, yet they where created in a very different olfactory time than we live in now. If you are used to wearing a lighter, “cleaner” scent, you might not like either of these perfumes at first sniff—or ever—yet I think it is important to understand what makes them iconic, high quality scents. Decants are a wonderful way to find out what you like, what you don’t, and why.