Fragrance Collecting As A Hobby: A Beginners Guide For Guys

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As a man, when I explain to people that my hobby is fragrance collecting, I do get the odd raised eyebrow. Perfumery is often stereotyped as a feminine pursuit; it’s time to dispel the myth.

Here I am, a London geezer born and bred, captivated by fragrance. I spend my weekends smelling the latest creations in fragrance departments and niche boutiques.

If you’re a guy considering taking up fragrance as a hobby, here is my journey from initial curiosity to building a scent collection that speaks volumes of my individual take on fragrance.


Breaking Stereotypes: Men & Perfumery

Montblanc Explorer
Montblanc Explorer is a classic place to start

For too long, men have been pigeonholed into a corner of the fragrance world that smells overwhelmingly of wood and spice, with no room for floral or sweet notes. 

I say, let’s break these stereotypes! Fragrance knows no gender; it’s all about how it makes you feel. From the cheerful zest of bergamot to the woody confidence of Oud, every note has a place in our scent wardrobe.

Getting Started – Why Store Visits Are Vital

Andrew in-store at Acqua di Parma.

My own scent journey began with hesitant steps into the perfume department of large high-street department stores, where the air buzzes with a myriad of scents.

Here, I could hide in plain sight as staff usually left me to my own devices unless I asked them a question. Visiting stores is crucial; you get immediate feedback from testing fragrances that cannot be replicated online.

Andrew In Store at Kilian

Myself and Ingrid would then visit the more fancier department stores such as Harrods where fragrance is taken to another level.

Slowly, I began interacting with knowledgeable staff and learned about the fragrance pyramid and different masculine fragrance notes. It’s also where I first discovered the invigorating freshness of Acqua di Parma’s Colonia.

Once I gained some knowledge from in-store visits and research online, my scent confidence grew, and I could visit niche fragrance boutiques without feeling like a complete imposter!

Fragrance Samples Are Your Best Friend

Bleu de Chanel samples

Ah, the joy of perfume samples! They’re just what every fragrance hobbyist needs. Before committing your heart and wallet to a full-sized bottle, samples are the way to navigate the sea of scents.

Perfume samples allow you to live with the fragrance, see how it changes on your skin over hours, and how it whispers or shouts in different settings.

Over the last few years, Viora London has amassed a whopping 500+ samples, mainly being given them for free in-store or purchasing them online (usually as discovery sets). So, I’m never short of a scent or two.

Swapping Fragrances To Boost Your Collection

Andrew with his bottle of Dior Sauvage

In my quest for the perfect fragrance wardrobe, swapping fragrances with fellow enthusiasts has been invaluable. 

For scent swapping, I usually patrol the fragrance forums on Fragrantica and Basenotes, where you can find some exciting (and often discontinued) fragrances available for swap.

For me, swapping is a simple way to explore niche scents outside my comfort zone without the financial commitment. There are also some excellent Facebook fragrance-swapping groups, too.

Cheap Thrills: Sales & Online Discounters

shop sale sign

While nothing beats the experience of in-store trials, online fragrance discounters can be a treasure trove of deals, especially for discontinued or hard-to-find scents. 

Sites like FragranceX or Notino often have incredible deals. But beware, the risk of counterfeit colognes looms large, so always verify the seller’s reputation.

The Zara sale is also another excellent place to get some low-cost fragrances that smell expensive.

Scent Bargains: Always Look Down To Find Hidden Treasure

Bentley For Men Intense Eau de Parfum is a bargain
Bargain! Look what I found on the bottom shelf.

OK, my biggest tip: Hidden gems await you in the nooks and crannies of department stores or on the lower shelves of boutiques! 

These often overlooked bottles may not have the allure of Chanel, but some unloved scents are created by some of the most famous perfumers on the planet. 

OMG, I could not believe my eyes when I saw Bentley For Men Intense, created by perfumer genius Nathalie Lorsonsitting on the bottom shelf. 

This classic male scent oozes masculine sophistication with its boozy, smoky, woody/leather notes and projects incredibly well.

Navigating Fragrance Types: From Eau de Toilette to Parfum

Understanding the concentration of fragrance is key to building your collection. Cologne, Eau de Toilette (EDT), Eau de Parfum (EDP), and Parfum differ not just in their longevity but often also in note composition.

Using the Dior Homme collection as an example, the Eau de Parfum and Parfum versions are heavy on the iris (it’s a bit too pencil shavings-like for me), yet the Eau de Toilette is more woody and fresh (I own a full bottle).

Saying that, I tend to lean towards Eau de Parfum for its balance of longevity and character, but for your classic barbershop freshie, Eau de Toilette is the way to go.

Fragrance Pyramid & Olfactory Groups

The fragrance pyramid is a guide that shows how a perfume unfolds and changes over time, from the moment you spray it until it fades away. It’s divided into three parts:

  • Top Notes: The initial aromas you smell are often light and fleeting.
  • Middle/Heart Notes: The core of the fragrance is more pronounced and lasting.
  • Base Notes: The final, lingering scents that give the perfume its depth and staying power.
perfume wheel

As depicted on this fragrance wheel, fragrances are also grouped into families, like fruity, woody, or spicy, based on how they smell. This helps you get a better idea of how a fragrance will smell, even before toy sniff it!

Understanding these basics makes exploring fragrance FAR easier. Check out my article below for a deep dive.

Must Read: Masculine Fragrance Families: 6 Olfactory Groups

Fragrance Pairing: Time of Day to Seasons & Occasions

Andrews Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille fragrances.
So good, I have two!

Like pairing the right wine with a meal, selecting a fragrance can depend on the time of day, season, occasion, and even your current mood.

Citrusy, light scents like L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme by Issey Miyake uplift morning routines and are especially good for spring or summer.

Deeper, smoky fragrances, such as Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, envelop you in warmth for evening engagements in autumn or winter.

Iconic Fragrances Worth Collecting

Chanel Allure collection
Don’t pass up on the Chanel Allure collection

Some famous perfume houses stand the test of time, becoming icons of their era. Chanel’s Bleu de Chanel and Dior Homme are modern classics that epitomise elegance and are must-haves in any collector’s arsenal.

I also have a soft spot for the Chanel Allure collection when I fancy something discreet but masculine and classy.

The timeless appeal of certain colognes lies not just in their aroma but in the perfumer behind the creation. Perfumers such as Jacques Polge, François Demachy, and Alberto Morillas have created many of the most iconic scents in history.

Exploring Niche Perfumeries: Beyond Mainstream Brands

Roja Dove fragrances in-store.
Roja Dove in Harrods

Venturing into the realm of niche perfumeries opens up a new dimension of scent exploration. If I ever see a niche perfume boutique, I rarely walk past it.

Houses like Le LaboDiptyqueSerge Lutens, and Amouage offer fragrances that are not just scents but stories, meticulously crafted with unusual note combinations and precise narratives.

Other notable niche brands for me are Boadicea The VictoriousDiptyqueThe Merchant of VeniceParfums de Marley, Roja Dove (pictured) and Kilian.

Storage and Care: Preserving Your Fragrance Collection

Masculine Fragrance collection

Caring for your collection is as essential as acquiring it. Fragrances are sensitive to light, temperature, and humidity. I store mine in a cool, dark place, ensuring they retain their integrity and continue to tell their stories for years to come.

The Perfume Collecting Community

The perfume hobbyist and collecting community is an ever-expanding universe where passion thrives, and every scent lover can share their olfactory experiences.

Engaging with fellow collectors through Basenotes forums or Fragrantica forums, I’ve learned not just about specific fragrances but also about unusual brands and famous perfumers.

Future Trends in Perfumery: What Collectors Can Look Forward To

Izola niche perfumes in Nowrich
Niche perfumes at Izola

As a perfume hobbyist and collector, I have noticed that the overall direction of perfumery is evolving, with small niche brands like Izola in Norwich that aim to allow sustainability and innovation to steer the course.

With the resurgence of natural perfumery and the exploration of uncharted note combinations (such as rose fragrances for men), I foresee niche scents emerging triumphant.



Andrew in fragrance store during Covid
Even during Covid, I was in-store (and looking younger!)

As a guy becoming a fragrance hobbyist, it’s not just about amassing bottles; it’s about curating a collection that resonates with you personally and reflects your journey through this invisible world.

As you take your initial steps into fragrance, I hope you’ve now found encouragement and excitement to begin your adventure.

The essence of this aromatic adventure is building your knowledge and confidence, exploring with curiosity, and connecting with the fragrance community.

Also Read: History of Mens Fragrance: Egyptian Gods to Stylish Mods


Further Reading

Below are some additional articles from Viora London’s blog. We write articles on a number of interesting lifestyle topics such as fragrance, beauty, luxury accessories and more.

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The Viora London team caters to a worldwide audience. We provide a professional review service on fragrance, beauty and luxury items to assist our readers make informed purchasing decisions.

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