How to Start a Sampling Group for Perfumes

In our desire to experience more perfumes without going broke in the process, many of us eventually buy or swap samples. But the cost of buying also adds up fast, and swapping requires that you have something the other person wants! Additionally, not everyone lives where they can test the fragrances at a store counter.

There is another alternative, and that is a sampling group, which has these advantages:

1. Each member only spends a little money to mail the package to the next person.
2. Newbies, who don't yet own many samples to swap with, can test the perfumes and join the discussion with more experienced members.
3. We can enjoy sharing our impressions. The threads are viewed by many --obviously others find it interesting, too.
4. You have to test the samples because there is a deadline for mailing them on.
(I don't know about you, but I have lots of samples I still haven't gotten around to testing. Having a deadline forces you to do it, finally! :D)

Over the past year and some 15 groups, I have worked out a system that seems to work for me. Here is my method; use it or modify it as you please.

Decide on which samples to share
You can solicit donated samples from SAs for this purpose, pool your samples with others who want to test them, or dig into your own stash. Follow a theme, if you like: a perfume house, or certain notes.

Write up your original post
I like to include the following:

1. The names of the fragrances and how many samples/how many mls are available.

2. How many members you need and how many groups you are setting up.
If you only have one sample of each fragrance, then of course there will just be one group-- but it will move more slowly and generate less interest than multiple groups testing simultaneously. Also, too many samples in one box means everyone needs to keep the package too long. Anything over 2 weeks is just too long. (Been there, made that mistake twice, finally learned!)

3. A few simple rules:
a. How long to keep the samples before passing them along.

b. How many sprays each member can use.
Most people are conservative in their use of the samples (they are afraid of using too much and depriving the members after them) but people need to be able to use the samples confidently and test adequately, or why bother at all? So be specific.

I find the plastic atomizers with the snap-on sprayers from Accessories for Fragrances hold about 2mls and deliver about 20 sprays. For commercial sample atomizers, the range can be from 6-10 sprays per ml.
Commercial glass vial samples that are typically 2.5 inches long hold 1.5 mls.
The short glass dabber vials (1.25 inches long) hold 0.75 mls when capped.

c. Would you like members to post reviews?
I like to leave this optional as some are shy about posting their impressions.

d. Do you want members to buy delivery confirmation when shipping to the next member?
It helps to keep track of the samples, but may cause delays as members then have to stand in line at the post office to mail them instead of just slapping on some stamps. Some people can't get to the P.O. until the weekend.
Consider saving this requirement for times when the samples are more valuable, rare, pooled with other members, or new/donated for the purpose-- in other words, when accountability is more important.

e. Ask members to post or message you when they have received or mailed the samples.
Then you can update Post #2 to show where the samples are or are headed. I use an asterisk for this. Members like to have some idea of how long until they get the samples.

f. Can the final member keep the samples?
I strongly recommend this.

4. Request the names and addresses of at least the first members to mail to.
As for the rest of the group members, they can either message their address to the person who will ship to them (which they can see when you post the mailing order) or else everyone can send their addresses to you, and you can message each other member with the one they will ship to. I've done it both ways and there are pros and cons to each method. Take your pick.

5. Decide if the group is USA only (or whatever country you are in) or international.
Put that in the thread title and again in the original post. There are pros and cons to each-- postal restrictions, customs, risk of loss and delay, vs. the benefit of a wider sampling group. It's your group; you decide!

If including internationals, try to do it so that the samples don't have to later return to the home country. e.g., Create a group just for Canadians, or put each international member in the final receiving slot in each group, or send individual samples to each international member.

6. I suggest you limit membership in the group to people who joined BN no more recently than the day before the thread was posted.
This reduces risk that the samples may be lost to an opportunist. It matters more if the samples are more valuable, rare, pooled with other members, or new/donated for the purpose (the same criteria as for use of delivery confirmation.)

Be sure to post the sign-up thread at a time when you can be available online for a while.
You want to be able to reply fairly quickly to people asking to join. If people don't get replies soon, sign-up grinds to a halt.

That's it for Post #1.

I like to put up Post #2 right away, showing the groups and open slots, and fill the slots as people join, editing the post often. (That's why I put mailing order in the second post-- so my frequent editing won't interfere with the ability of people to view the original post.)

• If including fragrance notes, you may wish to put them in Post #3 rather than cluttering the original post, especially if there are many samples.

• If sign-up starts to lag, I'll post a thread on other forums with a link to the main thread to draw in more members.
Don't overdo this. Keep those other posts current and update them when the group is filled.

Mail the samples as soon as you have the first members of each group.
Then post that they have been mailed. It sustains interest and shows that progress is being made.

Once you have all your slots filled, post that the group is closed to new members.
Alter the title to show that. It saves people time.

Then you can sit back and enjoy the show-- mostly!

• Subscribe to the thread.
• Update the Mailing Order post (move the asterisk) any time someone mails or receives the samples.
• Answer any questions that arise.
• If the samples get hung up too long in one location (life happens), follow up on it.

And that's all!

It may seem complicated, but it's really not bad once you know what to do.
Figuring it out is the hard part-- doing it isn't.

Try it! On a small scale, at first. I think you will find it fun and rewarding.

Blog Comments


Well-known member
Mar 21, 2011
Thank you for sharing your experience and organizational wisdom. As far as I have seen, your sampling groups go pretty smoothly, so it is a model worth emulating.


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 26, 2005
Thanks for the tips and for all the samples you have sent to other people within the last couple of years.

Read this one -- some sort of an adverb is missing, IMO.
4. You have to test the samples ________ because there is a deadline for mailing them on.

30 Roses

Well-known member
Oct 8, 2007
Hi Twolf-- thank you!
Actually there is no word missing-- I meant to say that the fact of a deadline forces one to finally test a perfume that one has been meaning to try but putting off.


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 26, 2005
OK. Thanks for clarifying. I thought something like "in a speedy manner" or "rather quickly" or "without much of a delay", but I see your point.


Well-known member
Feb 8, 2009
Thanks, 30 Roses,

How many people do you usually have in a group?

I actually like to test a sample with 3 sprays: one on my wrist, one one my wife's wrist, and one on a piece of paper towel. But then it's a stretch to make a 20 ml sample satisfy 7 members.

30 Roses

Well-known member
Oct 8, 2007
The numbers have varied according to how much of the perfume we had available.

• We have an Hermessence group (2 groups with 7 members each) going now in which we were able to pool more juice of some of the fragrances than of others (ranging from 2-3 sprays of some to 4-5 sprays of others.)
• In wooznib's group (40 members-- no group larger than 3 members) each member gets 6 sprays (6-7 sprays really, but I said 6 to be sure the last member has enough.)
• In the Penhaligon's group (4 groups of 6 members each), we had 15 different fragrances. The amount of juice varied-- for some of the fragrances we had 2 or 3 vials; for other fragrances only one vial. We made do. This group moved too slowly. 15 perfumes is too many to test.
• With the Jo Malone samples (5 groups of 2 members each) each group tested two official Malone spray samples (1.5ml sprays). These moved fast and were lively groups.
• Our current roses sampling group has 2 groups of 5 members but each person tests 30 different rose samples, which are about .7ml each. We had good intentions with this group, but 30 samples take too long to test and leave the members sick to death of roses! Live and learn!

As you see, there is a wide range.

Having done this enough times, I definitely favor more groups with fewer members each, testing only a handful of different samples, keeping them no longer than 10-14 days. To me that is ideal.

I like to see people get an absolute minimum of 2-3 sprays. I've noticed that the men seem to want more juice while the ladies tend to be able to make do with less.

This may not necessarily be enough for the tester to determine if they want to buy a bottle, but it may help them know whether a fragrance is not for them. If unsure, they can always get another sample or decant for further testing. Or they may only wish to sample in order to get a sense of what a house or a line is like, or what a note is like-- or just to satisfy curiosity.

Usually I have not had 20 ml of any one fragrance to pass around-- usually it's smaller amounts of multiple fragrances.

But people can do whatever they like with these groups-- there is no one right way! Tailor it to whatever amount of perfume you have that you wish to share.
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30 Roses

Well-known member
Oct 8, 2007
Postal regulations have become more restrictive since I wrote this blog. To be in compliance with the law, samples must be shipped by ground, and must be brought to the counter so that the postal employee can put a biohazard sticker on the package. This will not increase the cost-- a first class package sent by ground will cost the same as it would if sent by air. You will be directed to click "yes" on a screen that asks if there is hazardous material in it.

This also means international packages cannot be sent legally.

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