Monday, November 16, 2009

Answers: What's a decant?

Sometimes I mention spraying from a decant, or that I'm going to buy a decant. And I've never actually defined what a decant is.

A decant is a small bottle (or vial, or other container) of perfume that was poured, sprayed, or otherwise removed - "decanted" - from a full-size regular bottle. The amount can range from a fraction of a milliliter to an an ounce (thirty milliliters) or more, though I'd say that five to fifteen milliliters is an average size decant. A decant is useful when someone is craving a perfume but doesn't want, or can't sanely afford, a full bottle. It's particularly useful for perfume freaks like me, who want to own everything.

You can buy decants from full-fledged business like The Perfumed Court or The Posh Peasant. You can buy them from other perfume freaks. Or you can swap them around or inflict them on friends that you're trying to turn into perfume freaks. Sadly, you can no longer buy decants on eBay - eBay's forbidden it. Being the kind of person who sticks with the first thing that works, I get all my decants from The Perfumed Court, and I buy all my supplies for making decants from Accessories for Fragrances.

Another term is "split". It's the same as a decant, but the context is generally several people getting together to buy one bottle of perfume, and splitting it into several bottles. Normally, the organizer of the split is the one that gets to keep their share in the pretty manufacturer's bottle. Each bottle is referred to, pretty interchangeably, as a "split" or a "decant". The whole transaction is called a "bottle split" as in, "Who wants to go in on a bottle split of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille? There are three shares left." There's an entire wiki devoted to scent splits, called, naturally, scentsplits.

The line between decants and samples is a little fuzzy, but if you're looking for just a sample sized bit of a currently available perfume, you can also check LuckyScent and Aedes, among others. And many of the perfume houses themselves sell or give away samples. And Sephora will cheerfully make you a sample of anything in the store. But samples are a whole separate topic.

And I should mention that postal regulations on mailing perfume are pretty stringent, because perfume contains alcohol and is therefore flammable. I've never cared to navigate the complexities, which is another reason why I just buy from The Perfumed Court and let them worry about it.

There's plenty of useful information out there about decanting and how to decant, including:

Perfumista tip: how to decant perfume, on Now Smell This.
Perfume Decanting 101, on Perfume Posse.
Resources for Niche Perfume Decants and Samples, also from Perfume Posse.
I couldn't resist including the very funny How to Decant Your Perfume into a Vial from Make A Mental Note, which makes the process sound like as much fun as bathing a cat.

Image of the making of perfume in Ancient Egypt photographed by Gilliaume Blanchard. Wikimedia Commons.

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