Heads up, I’m a perfume luddite.

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne sais rien
Ni le bien, qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égal.

The first time I was invited to Grant’s home I was amazed by his collection to scents (and quickly swiped a Chanel Chance Eau Vive to placate my French roots). I may have heard of potentially a third of the brands/scents but only those that had the millions spent on advertising to launch them.

Over the years of dating and marrying him, I’ve asked more questions, smelt more smells and seem to be a split personality. I either like the super cheap which I wouldn’t dream of picking out myself due to aforementioned French snobbery, or I like the most expensive, which I’d never be able to afford. Or Lush. There’s not a lot their perfume library can’t sway me with.

So, when Escentual Scents got in touch with Basenotes about their monthly mystery scent subscription I thought ‘Aha, a chance to learn without bias’. Maybe a chance to see if I can start appreciating the mid-ranges as well. Admittedly, a few of Escentual's boxes arrived at the house before I jumped in, I think I was intimidated.

It was kind of like how I felt when I thought, ‘I want to get into jazz music’, there was an inherent instinct I’d like it but no clue where to start in such a vast range of styles, eras and tastes. What helped me with jazz was a BBC documentary about the jazz of 1959 and from there I was away. Fingers crossed the Escentual kit will provide the same springboard.

I officially plunged in and opened the July box whose theme was Solar Fragrances. I was intrigued that it contained scents from 1792 to the 2000s, and that it borrowed from citrus, floral and woods to create the idea of the sun. All the vials were labelled with a letter only and a card helped guide me with some initial questions like, ‘If Scent B was a holiday destination it would be…’.

I started spraying on the scent papers and scoring what I thought initially out of ten. Grant then advised me I needed to do another score in 30+ mins time to get the heart and base notes (see, told you I was a rush-at-it luddite!). Of the eight I smelt there was only one I could semi-confidently identified as ‘this is pretty Acqua di Parma-y’. The rest were a total mystery to me in terms of house, let alone individual scent.

So, my initial ratings were:

A – 6/10​
B – 8/10​
C – 7/10​
D – 4/10​
E – 6/10​
F – 7/10​
G – 8/10​
H – 4/10​

That was fun and a little bit sneezy I thought, and again sage Grant advised me to have a walk, maybe a coffee, to clear my nasal passage. After some time, I returned, where my scores certainly changed:

A – 3/10​
B – 6/10​
C – 9/10​
D – 9/10​
E – 6/10​
F – 3/10​
G – 6/10​
H – 3/10​

The biggest surprise for me was the swing I took on scent D which ended up being Paco Rabanne Olympea. On first smell I found it much too sweet, almost cloyingly so. But now on the second try it was considerably mellower, which more layered smells of the sweet but also distinct florals with a hint of citrus. F took a definite downturn which was 4711. The second smell was sweaty, musty (or should that be musky?!) and like an old boss I didn’t particularly like. But on first smell it was so zesty and lively with a light wood that was really pleasant.

So, my first lesson is, don’t judge a scent on its first whiff, I guess!

I like this box as a way to begin exploring the world of perfume and will try a few more to see if I can begin to home in on the right genre for me before doing a deep dive to find the perfect matches. My only gripe is that to uncover the mystery of each scent you have to go to Escentual Scents private Facebook page and I hate Facebook with a passion. I’ve never got on with it – being more an Insta, forums or Discord gal. So, as a consumer having the one social media route would be off-putting initially.

The price is £20 a box but you get this as a discount if you then go on to purchase any of the fragrances which seems the most reasonable way to run a long-lasting subscription service. I will definitely recommend it to some friends and fellow perfume virgins and would enjoy swapping notes, but I’ll have to use Grant’s Facebook account with a grimace on my face.

You can learn more about Escentual's Perfume Blind Trial here. (Only available for UK and European Express delivery services.)