Meet the Virtual Perfume Butler Who Can Help You Shop for Scents Online

Scentsei is the latest creation of fragrance brand Phlur.

Phlur, the niche, sustainable fragrance brand founded by a former Ralph Lauren global e-commerce president, has introduced some personality to the task of shopping for those ethereal notes online. The idea of ordering a bottle, scent un-smelled, is generally an unappealing one, but the company has made it into a fun, interactive experience thanks to a customizable sampling option and Scentsei, which you could think of as a digital robot advisor with extensive knowledge of perfumery.

We took the just-launched Scentsei for a spin, first ordering the $20 sampling set that includes 2ml testers of three of their six cruelty-free fragrances. The trio we chose included Hanami, described as aquatic and floral (featuring fig, white florals, hazelnut and sandalwood), Olmstead & Vaux, a crisp, clean medium-weight scent with white ginger, shiso leaf and orange flower, and Moab, an arid spice evocative of the dry, hot desert (thanks to long pepper, clove, vanilla and jasmine).


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Right after placing the order, we received a note via Messenger: "Hi, I’m Scentsei, a charming and handsome chatbot from PHLUR. I was designed to help guide you through your sampling experience." He goes on to explain that once the fragrances arrive he’ll be offering tips for getting the most out of them and checking in periodically to see how they're evolving on our skin throughout the day.

Once the delivery was confirmed, we were pinged again, asking when we were "ready to begin smelling amazing." We get going right away, selecting Hanami to try first. “Minimalist. Reserves its most lasting and memorable notes for those you allow to get close. I recommend two quick sprays on your collarbone, since it’s literally right under your nose," Scentsei advises, before asking our first impression. Answers include "love it" and "not sure," the latter being our response. Not to worry, though, Scentsei understands these things take time and says he’ll "smell me" in two hours after it’s opened up a bit.

The interactive feature is incredibly easy to use, because Messenger gives you two to three buttons for each response (as well as the ability to stop it at any time, ask for help, or buy now if you feel so compelled). For this first scent test, we keep asking for more time. And Scensei continues to share insight: "That mellow botanical scent is what’s called the drydown — basically, what lingers after a fragrance has dried on your skin. It will continue to melt away over the next few hours, as ephemeral as any of us. #deep thoughts."

For each fragrance — which are all designed to be worn by customers of any sex — he’ll ask when you wish to start the next scent check. Moab followed, which Scentsei recommended spritzing on our elbows and the back of the neck (and described as "a translation of the feelings inspired by a road trip through the desert"), which we instantly loved, and were rewarded with an inspired Spotify playlist featuring Spoon, Fleet Foxes and Ray LaMontagne.

Eager to try the next, we were politely requested to wash off the remaining fragrance with soap and water before applying the last, which he says inspires confidence, on the crook of each arm and ankle. Again a win, which initiated an Alt-J and Alabama Shakes–stacked playlist, followed by a reminder that each of the sample vials lasts about a week, so it might be worth stocking up on a full-size ($85).

The verdict? Scentsei absolutely helped navigate this experience, turning us on to glorious scents we otherwise likely wouldn’t have taken a chance on. Plus, a reminder to in a sense "stop and smell the roses" never hurt anyone.