When is a fragrance collection “big enough”?

Most men collect baseball cards. I collect fragrances, but any passion can become an obsession: When is a fragrance collection big enough?

Most men collect baseball cards. I collect fragrances, but any passion can become an obsession: When is a fragrance collection big enough?

When is a fragrance collection “big enough”? 

I just spent the better part of a Sunday morning organizing a closet and installing yet another shelf to house my already large fragrance collection. The picture in this post shows the relative size of much of that collection…but not all of it.  I have others hanging out in my wife’s closets, a few more in their original boxes in storage, and a host of decants and other samples I’m in the process of organizing. If I include all of those, it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many scents I actually have.

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Part of my personal collection

As for the closet, the smallest container is about 30ml, the largest is a 250ml flacon. Most are somewhere between, and you can see they’re layered between a couple racks of loafers. At the present rate of fragrance collection growth, the loafers don’t have much time left before those give way to more shelf space for bottles. I did the picture to try to get everything into one place to look at it.

I suspect doing that will create a problem in the morning in making a decision. Again, this isn’t even considering samples, and I’m running out of room to store the various storage bags of those.

This isn’t funny. The only thing I’ve seen men collect in this quantity is baseball cards, wine bottles or whiskey. Most people would look at the amount of cologne I’m storing and think, “he has a problem“.  This brings me to the question for the day:  When is a fragrance collection big enough?

Unless kept in very controlled conditions — climate, moisture, handling, etc. — fragrances break down over time. Now I’ve had some fragrances for well over 10 years and haven’t noticed any degradation in quality, but your experience will depend on care and storage. I’m not the most fastidious about the aspect either (some of my fellow enthusiasts actually have modified wine chillers to store their collection — that’s probably a next step). But consider this:  Most men will only use one or two colognes, and the bottle will last them around a year or so.

You don’t need to say it: I’m not most men. There are about 75+ bottles on the shelves in here, and that isn’t everything. When you consider daily wearing, these will likely take…never mind saying that either, I won’t live that long. It’ll take a long time to deplete these if I stop collecting today. Which is not out of the question.  It takes a lot for me to like something enough to add it to this collection, as you’ll see if you look closely at the bottles in the picture.

But to the question of “how much is enough”, my answer is “it depends”. It depends on how much of an enthusiast you are, how much you want to vary your wearing habits, how much your share, and how much you use.

  • I’m a big enthusiast. Not as big as others, but I’d venture I’m in the top 1% of people who collect just in terms of the sheer volume. A reminder, this doesn’t include the samples.
  • I vary my wearings. I have various items that are pushed to the back of the closet in summer, and others pulled out in the colder months. Rarely will I wear the same thing on two consecutive days *it happens, though not often).
  • And I share. My wife is one recipient, friends are another, and usually if someone asks about a fragrance, I’m happy to lend out a sample to try. We enthusiasts are usually pretty generous, especially with each other.  Even still?

Yes, I admit that my fragrance collection is more than enough. And that’s probably why I’m less and less inclined to spring for my next scent only because I’ve found a lot of what I like and acquired it. Anything new? You need to impress me quite a bit, and even then, I’m not purchasing the large size for the small chance I’ll use all of it. I have enough. And I have enough to perhaps share at gatherings or with family and friends who share some interest.  As for the recommendations to others, here are a few things I’d suggest.

  1. Find your likes and dislikes. What scents thrill you? What offends you?
  2. Look for scents you’re likely to wear in warm weather as well as cool weather, your habits are likely to change.
  3. Don’t be immediately inclined to purchase the massive size because it’s only a few dollars more, unless this is something you feel will be a daily-wearing fragrance.

If you figure that you’ll have a couple for warm weather, the same for cold weather, some for casual wear and some more formal, and perhaps two or three that are your “go-to” scents for confidence when attracting someone else, you should probably settle on around ten or so scents that you’ll repeatedly use and enjoy. For most people, that’s probably an optimal top-end number that doesn’t lend itself to a crazy set of decisions in the morning.

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About Andrew Buck

Andrew Buck is the editor-in-chief of, and a lifelong appreciator and aficionado of fragrance. He's also the author "(Not) PMO-in-a-Can", a practitioner's perspective on project management, in addition to several articles on the topic. When not writing or discovering new scents, he is a technology manager in New York's Wall Street financial sector. You can read more about him on the "About" page, or say hi to him on Twitter @scentrist.
  • Jenny So on Facebook

    Never too big like handbag and shoes for women!

  • sherapop

    Hello, Andrew!

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I’d like to be the devil’s advocate here and propose that perhaps number of bottles is not the best measure of obsession. How about: willing to forego the necessities of life in order to acquire perfume? Or willing to sacrifice other much more important things in order to expand one’s collection?

    I’d say that if someone deprived his children of school supplies or tennis shoes or nutritious food because he wanted that extra bottle of Xerjoff, then, yes, that would be moving toward the category of pathology. But just having a lot of bottles? I don’t really see the problem, so long as one has the means and the space.

    Variety is the spice of life!

  • Andrew Buck

    Excellent points, Sherry! So, “it’s not the size of the collection, but the motion in the potion”? (Sorry, unbearable puns here)

    I do agree that “size doesn’t always matter”, and I openly admit that I’m not quite the most obsessive collector of scents, but I wouldn’t have thought myself to have quite so many bottles nonetheless.

    One of the points I hoped to make was the perception that a collection of this size could be considered obsessive — I’ve heard that more than a few times when I’ve mentioned “how big it is” — though for a very serious collector and enthusiast, “it’s not that big”. Most guys have only a couple of bottles they use interchangeably, not so different from many women. But your point is well-taken and a few of us recently sat in a panel discussion where we talked about “our sizes”, but we agreed that collecting for us was little different from a wine collector who drinks his bottle within a sitting or two. I can’t imagine using a fragrance as quickly, and we perhaps get far more enjoyment than a few samplings.

  • kate curry

    Actually, I am impressed and kinda jealous of your collection. I just weeded mine out and am down to only 9 fragrances. But what I am really dying to know is, with that many choices how do you select what to wear on any given day/night?

  • Andrew Buck

    Kate, I could tell you that it’s based on weather, occasion, time of year, whether I’m in the office or doing something casually…but in reality, it’s all of those as well as a big dose of whatever I feel like wearing that day. I also try to rotate whatever I’m wearing to give most things some exposure. But it’s a couple minutes in the morning to decide something if I’m not testing or reviewing something new.

  • sherapop

    Hi again, Andrew,

    I should probably add also a point which I neglected above: some perfume bottles are totally beautiful to behold and to hold. It may sound odd, but some of the bottles in my collection are there simply because I cannot bear to part with the objet d’art which is the bottle itself!

    I know that Chandler Burr and others are keen to divorce the packaging from the product inside, but we can also view in some cases the packaging as worthy of contemplation as well! After all, artists are often commissioned to design these bottles, and when they are, it shows!

    True, many bottles are not attractive and some are even ugly. But some of them are so beautiful that they are worth retaining as objects in themselves, it seems to me.

    Just a couple more thoughts… (-;

    I love your blog Andrew, please keep up the good work!

  • kate curry

    Hi Andrew. This post has inspired me to go out and get a few new fragrances. I bought the new Donna Karan Woman, and Eau Demoiselle de Givenchy and I love them. It’s made me so happy! Thanks!

  • fqjcior

    Great blog! Congratulations. As a masculine perfumista and blogger (own ca. 70 original bottles, many decants and samples) I like to read it and I share many opinions with you. Take care!

  • Andrew Buck

    Kate, thanks so much!