My first Olfactif subscription box came in the mail yesterday. It’s always nice to get surprises in the mail that don’t involve subpoenas, but my experiences with such monthly subscription services have been mediocre at best. I started out writing this review explaining why I was going to cancel after the trial month, but in investigating the details ended up talking myself into keeping it. Let’s take a look so you can make up your own mind:
Price: An Olfactif subscription costs $18 a month. For this price, from June onward, you will be getting three samples in 2.2 ml spray vials. This indicates that Olfactif is listening to the market, because previously you were getting one ml dauber vials. You can also get volume discounts by purchasing a six month subscription or 12 month subscription in advance, lowering the price to $16 or $15 respectively.
Pros: This is a pretty good deal. I compared to Surrender to Chance, which is my current favorite sampling service. Two of this month’s samples in 2 ml spray vials (the third isn’t available on STC) would cost me $17.95 not counting shipping. By moving up to 2 ml sprays they’ve really upped the game here.
Cons: None. The other bright side to the price is that if you purchase a full bottle from the service you are credited $18. I’m not sure how this works (do you get the next month’s samples free, or do they give you an $18 discount on the bottle?), but it makes shelling out nearly $20 a month more palatable. I checked the prices on one of this month’s selections, Parfums DelRae Debut, and they are asking the same price as my two favorite online fragrance retailers, Lucky Scent and Aedes.
The samples come in a chic little black box with a pull out drawer. A card insert explains the theme of the month and the fragrances, including notes and inspiration.
The box is stylish.
This wasn’t one of my favorite things about the service. While attractive, it is difficult to open (I was afraid I was going to rip it). Also, there are three little custom wells that fit each month’s sample fragrance. I’d like to see an ordinary “drawer” where I could house other samples from my collection.
Also, the packaging looks very expensive. This is a con in this case because for the money I’d rather have plainer packaging and an extra sample or two.
Olfactif promises niche perfumes and that’s what they deliver. This month features selections on a floral theme for May from Ineke, Parfums DelRae and Maria Candida Gentile. Last month’s selection included L’Artisan, Sonoma Scent Studios and Imaginary Authors.
Pros: This is a good selection of introductory, intermediate and really indie niche houses. When this service was first announced I heard a lot of people react to say “They’re not going to have anything I’m interested in,” which has been true for me with other subscription services (Birchbox, I’m talking to you).
Cons: I am not at all crazy about the idea of themed selections. Part of the idea of the service is to expand your horizons, and I get that. I would never order three floral samples on my own, and yet an introductory sniff indicates that all three of these fragrances are beautiful in their own right. However, when we get to July or August and the inenvitable ozonic/marine notes surface, they’re going to make me hurl. It’s also a bit too predictable– who wants to give me odds on October including Like This Tilda Swinton with its pumpkin notes?
Cancelling: This is a big issue with many monthly services so I thought I’d mention it here. To paraphrase my favorite author, Douglas Adams, you do not have to go to the cellar without a flashlight on collapsed stairs to find instructions in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavoratory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.” To cancel, email firstname.lastname@example.org. While I have not done this, a couple of friends have and they have told me they received prompt, courteous responses cancelling their subscriptions.
The bottom line is that I cynically ordered the first free month of this service with every intent of cancelling, and they’ve convinced me to try it for another month, one in which I actually pay for it. (DISCLAIMER: Olfactif has been offering one free month’s trial for everyone in April and May. I took advantage of this offer. I have no material connection to them.)
Is there room for improvement in the service? Yes, but it’s only been around for two months and they’ve already improved. I am pleasantly surprised and I hope you will be too.