Best perfumes gift guide: How to give the gift of fragrance
We have the failsafe guide to buying the gift of fragrance this festive season with fullproof tips from James Craven, Fragrance Archivist at Les Senteurs
1. Take your time. It is better to travel than to arrive. Never rush: that usually ends in disaster. This is not an hour's quest, nor even a day's. It can take weeks, months, or longer. Enjoy your odyssey and what you learn en route. You may end up finding more than one prize on the way.
2. Visit a specialist independent store for impartial advice. (Try Les Senteurs and the Creed Boutique, Roja Dove at Harrods, Jo Loves, and Miller Harris are all excellent). Make friends with the staff. Cultivate a regular acquaintance on the shop floor. Ask advice of a knowledgeable, sympathetic but dispassionate sales assistant who knows their product – and who knows you.
3. Don't neglect to use your instinct too. Perfume is all about emotion and feeling. Don't over-critique; beware of over-analysing. Trust your inner animal and instinct. Properly cultivated, instinct will never betray you.
4. Do, if possible, solicit the opinions/ insight of other intimates of the recipient. Amass a dossier – see the recipient through the eyes, emotions and experience of others. Be a detective and a psychoanalyst.
5. Search for clues! Handbag, pockets, drawers and dressing table. Or smell the wardrobe. I often retire to the stockroom and have a quiet weep when married couples of 25-years standing admit they have no idea what their partner wears. Unforgivable.
6. Think. Imagine. Analyse. Consider the personality. Can you honestly smell the recipient wearing this perfume – and loving it? Ponder on other sensory clues: what colours does the recipient like? What’s their hair colour, skin tone? What kind of clothes does they wear? What is their personal style? How do they walk? What kind of music do they listen to? What's their favourite food? Who's their favourite movie star – and why? Analyse. Make links. Think it out…
7. Don't seek to impress by over-spending: 'Oh! It costs £500 – so she's bound to be impressed! She'll think I'm SO generous.... so she'll love it'. (Be embarrassed and resentful, more like). Equally don't buy for the packaging alone – unless the recipient is a known collector of bottles.
8. Empathise. What does the recipient love? Put yourself in the recipients's shoes: how old is he? What's she interested in? Is he shy or exuberant? Then match, match, match. Suit the scent to the recipient.
9. Don’t go off-plan. If someone has dropped hints for a gift and has named the scent she wants, buy THAT scent and no other. Don't try to be clever and buy something else ‘for a surprise’. It will always be a disaster.
10. Final note…And, if you really lose your nerve – there's always a voucher, or a consultation you can offer up, in lieu. But go on: be adventurous. Accept the challenge.
THE BEST FRAGRANCES FOR CHRISTMAS 2020
Jo Malone Midnight Musk & Amber Cologne, £105
Powdery musk and juniper spice, warmed up by amber and a smidgen of sweetness, will make this the perfect partner for NYE dress-up.
Miller Harris Scherzo Limited Edition Gift Set, £150
Scherzo is one of a pair of fragrances; inspired by a text passage in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. It’s both sweet and heady and utterly romantic and now comes in a stylish, reusable, and very gift-able tin.
Memoize London Isla Rose Extrait, £197
True romance in a spritz, with dreamy rose in full bloom along with jasmine, amber, and woods.
Tom Ford Bitter Peach, £228
This has all the trademark elements of Christmas in one bottle – from the candied lushness of fruit, edible notes of vanilla to the shots of rum and cognac that spike the dry down; it’s undoubtedly a scent to celebrate the season.
Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin Zellige Limited Edition Eau de Parfum, £110
A ferociously feminine scent inspired by German film star and cabaret dancer Marlene Dietrich – it’s described as a rose with thorns with geranium, patchouli, honey and moss and perfect for feisty females everywhere.