A guide to buying scent for Christmas

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

The sweet smell of success: the story behind Chanel No 5’s popularity

This is a curious book, by turns profound and whimsical. Karl Schlögel, a professor of Eastern European history at Frankfurt, begins by stating he didn’t know anything about his chosen subject of perfume beyond going into department stores and duty-free shops to encounter a ‘peculiar mélange of scents… the light and sparkle of crystal, the rainbow of colours, mirrors and glass’. Although he always felt this to be an alien environment, he was also repeatedly captivated. Then by chance he discovered a link between Chanel No. 5 and the Soviet perfume Red Moscow. Intrigued, he went on an intellectual journey to find out the shared and distinctive histories of France

Where are the scents of yesterday? Entire countries have lost their distinctive smell

Smell is the oldest sense. We owe our existence to it. The moment you start to talk about smell, things explode in a shimmering, chaotic starburst of epistemological and ontological complication. It is involuntary; we have no noselids. Smell stays switched on in our sleep: to inspire is to smell. It has a bigger ratio of genes than any system in any species. Yet it remains almost unspoken of. The existence of smell — either as verb or noun — seems a guilty secret. Mr Justice Caulfield, in Jeffrey Archer’s 1987 libel action against the Star, would have caused no comment had he suggested that Mary Archer had ‘elegance’. But