Alice Dunn

A guide to buying scent for Christmas

Picking a perfume is a high-stakes game

  • From Spectator Life

Is it presumptuous to buy perfume as a gift without knowing the recipient will like it? Scent is such a personal choice, we are told, ad infinitum. But those in close confines with a person drenched in fragrance will experience it as much as (if not more than) the wearer. Purchasing an eau de toilette is high-stakes stuff for all.

Every fragrance smells different to (and on) everyone; a single spritz at the perfume counter could convince gift-givers that they have found the most charming scent in existence, only to learn it induces abject nausea in their chosen recipient. I know this to be true: a whiff of Angel by Mugler is like a high-pitched siren through my head, but its curious chocolatey concoction remains one of the most popular. So, a perfume’s commercial success won’t always guarantee victory. Already we are in troubled waters. Eau de dommage.

But before abandoning the perfume counter completely, just imagine if we could bottle the sensation of unwrapping the most glorious fragrance at Christmas. Finding a beautiful, pitch-perfect perfume feels like meeting a friend for the first time. A fantastic perfume makes a promise that cannot be broken. It is something we all need. 

So, where to begin looking for a scent as a present? If you are used to witnessing the ritual of Chanel No. 5 being unwrapped but want your gift to be a surprise this year, try switching to Chanel’s No. 5 Eau Premiere. It’s much like the original but slightly sweeter, greener; as though No.5 has just visited the spring. Similarly, Prada’s Infusion D’Iris offers a sensible deviation: lighter and woodier while holding on to that crucial iris note.

By dividing each bottle into notes – top, middle and base – online descriptions read more like a piece of choral music than a scent to sniff and enjoy 

Another safe option is to haul in the easy-to-wear – but by no means insipid – scents.

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