Online shopping might have grown exponentially over the last decade, but when it comes to purchasing a new scent, it’s hard to replace the physical experience. The sense of smell is subjective and it’s always a challenge to communicate a fragrance in a way that will help someone grasp an accord. Getting a new perfume under a customer’s nose has always been key, solved by sales assistants keen to spritz, easy to browse duty-free and promotional inserts in our favourite magazines. Then came 2020 – and a jaunt down the road became an exotic outing, supplies became strictly essential and print editions took a hiatus.

Blind buying a fragrance can be a bit of a gamble. After all, good fragrances aren’t cheap and if you’re stumping up the cash for a novel scent you want to be sure you’re going to be more than satisfied with your purchase. A repeat purchase of an old faithful is a safe bet, but what if you fancy the thrill of experimentation?

Buying Fragrances Online

The lockdown challenge was simply to get samples into customers hands. Whether you’re first in line at reopening stores or feel more reticent about mixing with crowds, brands need to adapt to the reality of further local or regional shutdowns around the world. Smart retailers like the Perfume Shop are giving consumers more confidence by offering a free sample of the same scent with most purchases (you can return the unopened bottle), whereas some of the bigger retailers are left playing catch up. Making samples more accessible is something e-scents.co.uk hopes to offer when they launch later this year, offering testers of the very best, lesser-known niche fragrances to trial at home. In addition, fragrancesamplesuk.com and notino.co.uk carry testers from the likes of Creed, Bottega Veneta, Byredo, Bentley, Hermès, Frederic Malle and more, but it can take a while for new releases to trickle down.

Knowing your preferred fragrance family (floral, citrus, woody, aromatic, fougére, oriental) can help you make a more intelligent purchase, and the recent launch of a new database, Wikiparfum (wikiparfum.fr), aims to help fragrance lovers search by favourite scent, brand or raw material, for an objective (non-gender based) selection of possible matches.

If there is one thing we have learned over the last few months, is that while our options for socialising might have been limited, putting on a scent purely for our own enjoyment can help us feel better in all sorts of ways. And it’s reassuring to know that even when our horizons have temporarily shrunk, we can always escape in a good bottle of scent. Here’s our edit of the best new launches to buy now.

D.S. & Durga Crystal Pistil

This scent is an itch that creator David Moltz has been trying to scratch ever since he discovered orange flower water in a back market store in Morocco. Recapturing an evocative experience is a common theme amongst perfumers, and orange blossom is a traditional element of classic cologne with an unmistakeable Mediterranean hallmark.

The name refers to the ‘crystalized flower parts’ on the ingredients list and pistil is the name given to the female part of a flower – a handy reminder of secondary biology class. Aside from the headline orange flower, it contains pink pepper, jasmine water, white musks and ambrette seeds and has the sheer transparency of lush blooms.

It’s the kind of scent one would spritz liberally post-shower, on sun-warmed skin under an open linen shirt, as you head out for dinner under a Balearic sky. Wear it alone or enhance another by layering with your own combination.

Fragrance Family: Citrus/Floral
For Fans Of: Tom Ford Neroli Portofino
RRP: £148 for 50ml EDP

Buy now at Liberty London

Molton Brown Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel

Molton Brown has gone to town with its new scent collection, which features 27 individual fragrances put together by a collective of 10 perfumers and packaged beautifully by Vincent Villeger in weighty flacons with gemstone-style resin caps.

Carla Chabert is the creative behind our seasonal pick, Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel. The call of the sea is strong for many and this marine-inspired composition evokes a salty shoreline of windswept cypress, jasmine and bergamot with a smoky undertone of musk and leather – like the embers of a campfire in an emerald cove.

It would be a shame and a waste to chuck out the stunning bottle at the end, so don’t. A refill of the EDP will set you back £75, from participating stores. And to help customers explore the range, Molton Brown are launching a fragrance finder service in-store and online from 28 August.

Fragrance Family: Aromatic
For Fans Of: Tom Ford Costa Azzurra, Salvatore Ferragamo Acqua Essenziale, Paco Rabanne Invictus Acqua, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt
RRP: £60 for 50ml EDT

Buy now at Amazon

Tom Daxon Iridium 71%

Iridium is a silvery-white metal from the platinum group, which gives us the concept behind Tom Daxon’s striking scent. This version – created by Carla and Jacques Chabert and based on the original – contains 71% fragrance oil, the maximum concentration of fragrance oil that’s permissible by regulation (read: added oomph).

Juniper, Angelica and carrot seed make the top notes, and powdery iris is a very distinctive signature with strong hints of pencil shavings from the cedar wood in the base. It’s smooth and clean and has an air of authority that might put you in the mood to clinch that important business pitch.

Fragrance Family: Woody
For Fans Of: Byredo Super Cedar, Dior Homme Intense
RRP: £110 for 50ml EDP

Buy now at Liberty London

Atelier Cologne Clémentine California Cologne Absolue

Atelier Cologne’s fruity bestseller should quench your thirst for a summery tipple. Clémentine California is as sunny as the name suggests, with the aforementioned juicy citrus paired with Italian mandarin, juniper, basil, vetiver and sandalwood.

For a citrus, it lasts well on the skin and will help transport you a place of cocktails and sunsets and even the morning after – the dry down is evocative of a freshly-cleaned bar, masking an undertone of cigarettes. Sounds weird, but it works.

Fragrance Family: Citrus
For Fans Of: Shay & Blue Blood Oranges, Acqua Di Parma Arancia di Capri, Creed Bois D’Cédrat
RRP: £98 for 100ml

Buy now at John Lewis

Byredo Deep Viola

For Seventies and Eighties kids, violet will always be synonymous with Swizzles Matlow Parma Violets – tiny purple penny sweets with a distinctive taste of perfumed sugar, and not much else. In the promotional blurb for Deep Viola, there’s a quote from Hamlet that refers to violets as the ‘primary youth of nature’. Inspiration aside, there is nothing childish about this scent. Saffron, angelica seeds and bergamot are underpinned by creamy orris and agarwood (oud) with spicy incense and vanilla. The heavy violet opener might be fleetingly reminiscent of something your Granny wore, but the leathery dry down suggests a mysterious nights in far flung places and a solid scent for evenings.

Fragrance Family: Oriental Floral
For Fans Of: Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano IX Violetta, Serge Lutens Palais Royal, Jo Malone Violet & Amber, Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose
RRP: £170 for 100ml EDP

Buy now at Harrods

Bentley Beyond The Collection Rich Pimento

Bentley is all about travel, even when we’re going nowhere. Rich Pimento takes the wearer on a journey inspired by the verdant landscapes in Cuba.

A fruity opening of rhubarb, grapefruit and bergamot gives way to red and black pepper, red pimento, geranium and bourbon, over cedar wood, tonka bean, amber and patchouli. The peppery element gives a gentle heat. It’s spicy and warm without being heavy, making it extremely wearable on both hot and cooler days.

Fragrance Family: Oriental/Green
For Fans Of: Dolce & Gabbana, Tom Ford Noir
RRP: £165 for 100ml EDP

Buy now at Harrods

Jo Malone London Yuja Cologne

This bright citrus takes inspiration from the Japanese yuzu fruit. Perfumer Celine Roux refers to it as the ‘Blossom Boy’ for its masculine stance in the Blossoms Collection. This opens with the perfectly balanced, not-too sweet or sour fruit, moves into heart notes of earthy Clary sage and reveals resinous fir balsam in the dry down. If you’ve ever travelled in the Asia-Pacific region, it will surely trigger happy memories.

Fragrance Family: Citrus
For Fans Of: Acqua Di Parma Yuzu, L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme, Penhaligon’s Eau de Verveine
RRP: £104 for 100ml

Buy now at Selfridges

Pasha De Cartier Parfum

Rich and enveloping, Cartier’s latest Parfum exudes luxury. The blue cabochon on the the silver tone cap nods to the same detail on the famous timepieces from the world-leading jewellers, and the ribbed glass and lid have a tactile feel.

A solid flacon holds an intense accord of sandalwood and patchouli over an amber base of labdanum, benzoin and tonka bean. This standalone scent retains the DNA of the EDT, but it is warmer and woodier with a boozy sweetness, and it will smell even more wonderful as we edge into autumn.

Fragrance Family: Woody Oriental
For Fans Of: Prada Amber Pour Homme, Valentino Uomo Intense, Chanel Bois des Iles
RRP: £77 for 50ml EDP

Buy now at Fragrance Direct

Carolina Herrera Bad Boy

First impressions? The Bad Boy flacon is quite the feat. Gold and black is a ritzy combination; add the skyscraper style and it wouldn’t look out of place in Drake’s bedazzling bathroom.

Spicy black and white pepper open the scent with Italian bergamot, revealing cedarwood and sage with tonka bean and absolut of cocoa in the dry down. It’s a fresh, sweet and addictive combination.

Fragrance Family: Oriental
For Fans Of: Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Black Extra, Armani Bois D’Encens
RRP: £55 for 50ml EDT

Buy now at John Lewis