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Sampling common individual scents?

I've only recently got into wearing what I guess you would call fragrances. I'm not wearing typical colognes but I've found scents that I like from various artisan shave product producers and I've ended up using strong aftershave splashes as a more subtle cologne.

I've always been turned off by the fragrances I've caught a whiff of other dude's wearing out and about. I don't think i like the so called "complex" colognes with a whole bunch of different notes that project for days. I'm kind of getting an idea of common scents i like and don't like but it's still hard to tell what i''m actually smelling.

Is there any way, other than buying a whole bunch of expensive essential oils, of getting to test out individual scents such a vetiver, patchouli, geranium, juniper, bergamot, musk etc., so that when i see these listed in a scent profile I actually know what they are talking about what I actually like?
Alternative health stores and aromatherapy type shops will often have testers of essential oils, so you can sniff without buying. I'd look for one of those in your neck of the woods and see if that is an option.

This is really good advice^

You'll be able to identify SOME things in colognes.
In fact, the stuff you listed is a great start. (Note: "musk" is pretty much always artificial. Killing animals to make perfume has been pretty much outlawed.)

These items listed below ARE used in normal fragrances as is, FTMP. Of course, there are lab derived absolutes that can provide more consistency in a commercial blend, but these do what they say.
Vetiver* (See below)

But also consider, most colognes don't smell like essential oils. 90% of a commercial fragrance mix is going to be something created in a lab like Iso E Super, Linalool, Silvamber, Calone, Galaxolide, Zenolide, Habanolide, aldehyde C-11, timbersilk, etc..

That said, some "artificial" ingredients are chemically the same as their natural counterparts. For Example, Eugenol smells exactly like clove, it's just a the refined, lab-derived version with no volatile, additional naturally-occurring elements.

*When a cologne says "vetiver", chances are you're smelling a vetiver "accord" made with Vertofix, Vetikolacetat, etc.. That said, natural vetiver smells good, and it's nice to be able to recognize it.
look at perfume-trial and -training kits.
from $20-$400

Excellent advice to check out health food stores and similar for testers.

Aside from issues of synthetic ingredients, natural ingredients are not all going to smell the same for each type of specific fragrance. Things grown in different parts of the world often smell different. Sandalwood, which should be on your list, and vetiver for two a whole lot. Patchouli, too.

I would add myrrh and frankincense to your list. Balsam, rose, carnation, neroli, pettigrain, birch tar, vanilla, jasmine, basil, tarragon, rosemary, other herbs, anise, lilac, cardamom, oak moss, tuberose, ylang ylang, really anything and everything. I think you can count on going back numerous times. Lists of notes for various scents might make it seem easy to pick out scent notes by smelling scents. But it is not in my experience. But all of the knowledge and experience is cumulative. After a while you will have a lot more appreciation for what you are smelling and for the perfumers art. You will be able to appreciate what the synthetic folks were trying to get to.
Fwiw, don’t skip the artificial stuff.

If you want to be able to pick out scents in commercial colognes, you need to know what these smell like.

ISO e super
Dyhydro mercenol
Phenyl ethyl alcohol
Galaxolide/habanolide/zenolide/exaltolide/etc. (the white musks)
Oak moss (natural or artificial)
Amber xtreme

You can get most of these in a kit at perfumers apprentice

The interesting thing about scents is that some things that smell horrible when sniffed in concentrated form can provide very interesting nuances when included in minute quantities.

We see the same thing in flavorings used in food. A food lacking salt is quite bland, but if you dump an entire salt shaker onto your meal, you might not be able to eat it. A little cayenne pepper can spice up a dish, while too much might make it too hot to handle. The same thing happens with fragrances. Getting the right balance is critical.

Some shaving soaps and aftershaves have very simple scents. it is not difficult to discern which scents were added. Many simple scents will contain scent notes with which you are quite familiar. For example, you would have no trouble picking out the scents of almond and vanilla in a scent by that name.

Some shaving soaps have very complex scents. For example, Gentleman's Nod Zarahoff Signature was developed by the House of Zaharoff. The scent notes are:
Top Notes: Cardamom, Lavender, Black Pepper, Juicy Pear, Blue Cypress
Heart Notes: Ginger, Cedar, Oud, Iris, Pimento, Fir Balsam
Bottom Notes: Creamy Sandalwood (Australia), Gold Patchouli (Indonesia), Black Amber, Myrrh, Frankincense (Ethiopia)

With a scent this complex, you might be able to pick out a couple of familiar scent notes, but unless you have the nose of a perfumer, you won't pick them all out. If you look through the scent notes, you will find fruit, flowers, spices, woods and resins.

I have very sensitive skin and have to avoid simple scents that have a high concentration of lime, lemon, grapefruit, mint, menthol, clove, cinnamon and a few others. However, I find that in complex scents, the concentration of any one ingredient is not sufficient to irritate my skin.

Some of the ingredients used in scents are extraordinarily expensive. For example osmanthus absolute is over $300 per ounce or about $10 per ml. Fortunately, it does not take much to make an impact upon a fragrance. Other very expensive ingredients are authentic versions of jasmine, rose, orris, oud, musk from male musk deer, and natural ambergris from the fecal matter of whales. I doubt you would want to smell ambergris in its natural state, but in minute quantities, it adds a musky scent to expensive perfumes. Less expensive fragrances use synthetic versions of these natural scents. For example, ambroxan is the primary ingredient in ambergris, but it can be synthesized in the lab for far less expense than the rare, natural counterpart.
I have very sensitive skin and have to avoid simple scents that have a high concentration of lime, lemon, grapefruit, mint, menthol, clove, cinnamon and a few others.
In my experience one's skin does not have to be all that sensitive to have problems with lime, clove, and cinnamon!
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