Fragrance Samples: Which are worth it? Recreation Bondi Beach

Rectangular box with the 'R' logo at top-left, and 'Clean. Vegan. Cruelty Free' in large text along the top. Beneath this are the  six small spray bottles, each with the name of the perfume and scent notes in black font underneath.

Eau de Parfum Sample Set

Recreation Bondi Beach is a ‘clean’, vegan and cruelty free beauty band based in Sydney, Australia. Founded by Nedahl Stelio, a former editor at Cleo and Cosmopolitan magazines, they set out to create a clean, luxury perfume brand to fill a gap in the market, starting in 2019. As with so many brands, I’m pretty sure I discovered them on Instagram, some time in 2022. This review is a long time coming, as I ordered this sample set in August 2022! I’m always slightly sceptical of claims to be ‘clean’ – it’s just such a vague phrase and I have neither the medical nor chemical knowledge to know whether the claims are very genuine. However, I can certainly get behind vegan products, and it’s nice to support small and (relatively) local companies over the multi-national giants.

Smaller perfume companies really seem to be having a moment, perhaps led by a desire to find more unique scents and step away from the crowd a bit. I’ve always been a big fan of perfumes/colognes and so on, and love exploring new scents and brands. Having doubtless fallen for an Instagram ad, I was excited to try this pretty substantial sample set.

What do you get?

I went for the basic Eau de Parfum Sample Set, which comes with six fragrances, each sized at 2.5ml. This is larger than some other sample sets I’ve tried, and they feel more substantial, in little glass bottles with proper spray tops. Unlike some other brands I’ve tried, these six are the total of their perfume offering, so you are getting to test the whole range. Currently the set retails for $49, but there is basically always some kind of offer on, and I paid $44.10 plus shipping for mine. To put this into perspective, I paid $38 for a total of 10.5ml in the By Rosie Jane Sample Set (which I wrote about here), so this seems fairly reasonable. By Rosie Jane came out at around $3.6 per ml, with Recreation coming out (including the discount) at about $2.9 per ml. So not a bad comparison. You also get a $20 off voucher to spend on a full-size bottle. I thought mine had expired, but it seems to have worked regardless!

The fragrances

Image of the back of the rectangular box, featuring the names of the perfumes and their scent notes.

I actually really enjoyed basically all of these scents. Across the six you get a good range of different ‘types’ and moods of scent, and each has a fairly unique identity. As with other sets, they offer little scent notes for each (and longer summaries are available on their website), which I’ve found to be pretty accurate.

Taking the scents in turn:

  • Call Me Venus – fresh rose. This scent does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a beautiful, fresh rose scent. It takes me back very specifically to the garden of a holiday home we stayed in when I was very little, which was absolutely stuffed with roses. It isn’t a particularly subtle or layered scent, it really does just foreground rose, but this is such a classic scent that it doesn’t really matter. The name evokes a sort of old-school view of femininity which suits the classic nature of the scent – soft petals and blushing pinks. Rose is a scent our grandmothers all love, so it makes sense that there is a sort of 40s vibe to this perfume!
  • Sun-Kissed – fig and citrus. As often seems to be the case, the fig really dominates this perfume. There is a nice citrusy undertone, but it’s certainly fig forward. It seems to be a fairly popular scent choice, as I’ve had a few different perfumes that feature it. I find it’s a fragrance I really have to be in the right mood for, but I do like how it’s been blended with the citrus in this perfume. It definitely evokes a Mediterranean afternoon in the sunshine!
  • At Night We Dance – musky spice. This is probably my least favourite of the six scents (going by how little I have used up!), but it’s still got a lot to recommend it. There is a nice balance between the musky undertones and the more forward spicey scents. Overall it’s a pretty powerful scent – not one I’d really choose to wear on a daily basis or perhaps even at all during the day. Hats off to Recreation for choosing names that really suit the mood of their scents – this feels like a scent for when you’re in evening dress with music drifting in from another room. Very evocative, just not quite what I’m looking for.
  • Stardust – woody peach. In contrast, this is definitely my favourite of the scents. I love woody, ‘masculine’ scents, and peach is one of my favourite fruits/scents, so this was a match made in heaven for me. Peach is often quite sweet, but the woodiness of this scent balances it out perfectly to make a fresh, sophisticated day to day scent. I can’t quite see the link to the name as clearly with this one, but I guess it does have that kind of fresh, spring evening feel to it.
  • Joyeux – peony bloom. Peonies have really had a comeback in the last few years, and now they’re invading the world of fragrance too. Another really charming floral sent, this is probably my second favourite of the set. It has a slightly musky, heavier feel to it than the rose perfume, with more subtlety. I honestly am not familiar enough with what peonies actually smell like to say whether it’s a good facsimile, but it’s definitely a pleasing, elegant scent. ‘Joyeaux’ means joyful, happy, cheerful, etc in French, and I think this would make for a good ‘French girl’ scent. A nice balance of simple and subtle, it makes for a good outfit finisher.
  • This Love of Mine – gardenia and jasmine. The final scent is another that includes one of my favourites: jasmine. I just love walking down the street in jasmine season and getting a nose-full of that beautifully floral, fresh scent. This perfume brings a little bit more than that, and again feels slightly heavier than the scent would be on its own. I get the name with this one – it has a kind of romantic feel to it which puts me in a good mood.

Overall I’d say the scents definitely lean towards the more floral, ‘feminine’ side, with fewer of the woodier fragrances that I’m drawn to. However I was surprised by just how much I liked them regardless of this. The collection has a really lovely spring, summery feel to it. The scents have good staying power, particularly when sprayed on fabric (I often spray a little on my top, fabric colour and type allowing), so you may find yourself stopping to smell yourself throughout the day!

The box includes the instruction to ‘Choose your favourite fragrance or mix n match these scents to create your own unique perfume’. I think scent layering can be a bit of an art, and you can easily end up with something that doesn’t quite work and you feel like you’ve wasted a bit of two instead of just having a nice time with one. But these scents actually work really well together, and for the most part are pretty complementary. I’ve mostly mixed Stardust with one of the more floral scents to give a bit of depth, and take the edge of the strength of the floral ones. While buying two of the full size bottles would be a bit of an investment, I’d definitely encourage you to have a bit of fun playing around with the different samples as a way of using them all up, even those you’re not so into.

Is it worth it?

Of all the sample sets I’ve tried this has probably been my favourite. The balance between decent sized samples and a nice range of scents has really won me over. I’ve enjoyed playing with the different fragrances, and have found one or two that I really love, and will definitely be going back for. It’ll come as no surprise that I spent my $20 off voucher on a bottle of Stardust – a real favourite. Although the bottles aren’t that much bigger than your average sample, I do think the slightly bigger size and the type of bottle, with a proper lid, makes them perfect for travel. I always pack one in my work backpack just in case, and when I’m travelling I choose a couple of my favourites and take those in place of a bulky full-size bottle. Taken altogether I think this is a pretty good value set, which will introduce you to the whole range of Recreation’s perfumes.

However, one thing to throw into the mix here is that they have a perfume quiz on their website. These are fairly common for fragrance companies, and it has pretty generic questions. ‘Find Your Perfect Perfume’ asks you to answer a number of questions on whether you’re into femme or unisex scents, fruity, floral, woody, etc scents, your aesthetic, which morning mood you identify with, and (handily for them you’d think!) what your favourite scent is. The quiz includes an option to sign-up to their mailing list and get 10% (which is also offered in various places across their website). These quizzes often feel generic enough that they’re not very convincing. But in this case, it was right on the money, suggesting Stardust as my favourite fragrance! It was almost more interesting to do this quiz in hindsight having tried all the fragrances than it would have been to do it in advance. This might just be a stroke of luck, but it does suggest that the quiz could be an option if you’re not interested in small (and therefore worse value) samples and want to go straight to the real thing. 10% off the full-sized bottle would definitely be a better saving than 10% off the sample set, so if you’re confident in your tastes it could be worth skipping the samples and picking one you think appeals. Give the quiz a go, and if the result sounds like your cup of tea, you might be best off taking a sip!

For me, I’ve enjoyed both the experience of trying the different scents and finding a new favourite, and the utility of the little bottles themselves. So for my experience and needs, it’s been worth it!

I hope this little review of another relatively new fragrance brand proves helpful to you! I love trying new fragrances and exploring what these smaller brands have to offer, and Recreation has been one of my favourites. What new fragrance brands have you discovered recently? Or do you prefer to go for the big-hitters where you have a better idea of what you’re getting? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and any recommendations for brands you’d like me to try, so please do leave a comment!

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