Right, we all know giving scent as a present is tricky. But you’re going to do it anyway, because what’s Christmas without a new bottle of perfume nestled under the tree? I’ve been to many, many shops, smelling the year’s precious offerings. I had a young lad throw me a perfume strip for a new launch with what I believe was a wink, and the single, surprisingly effective line: “Just givvit a chance, yeah?” You know what? It was a great perfume and I was grateful for his intervention. Here are my festive suggestions – given with a wink.
Orange Bitters by Jo Malone
This is so joyous, reminiscent of mandarin jelly rather than a heavier spiced pomander. Satsumas in a stocking are a real let-down, right, but this is the acceptable form of giving a citrus fruit. Unlike many hesperidic scents, Orange Bitters belies its straightforward name and any suggestion of flightiness, offering a grown-up base that glows with amber light. Delicious.
Pear & Vanilla Edible Fragrance by Smith & Sinclair
For that bit of Christmas where you don’t know what’s going on any more, and are at risk of drinking your scent. With this trio of potable perfumes, it’s to be encouraged. Pear & Vanilla offers olfactory cosiness, and also works as a flavour topper on your Christmas pudding (not sure what would happen if you tried to set the pudding alight after dousing it with this). And if things get very trying with your family, you can always crack open the atomiser and glug down the whole thing. Good work-colleague/Secret Santa present.
Layers 01 Blending Collection by The Experimental Perfume Club
DIY Blending kits are easy enough to find, but few are as considered as these from east London’s open scent lab, The Experimental Perfume Club; detailed menus and ideas are given on layering the three and you can even generate and print your own labels. The Bergamot Incense layer is offered as the top but it’s worthy on its own. If buying a present I’d recommend getting a small kit with pipettes and blending bottles so they can play.
Fragrance Oil Préparation Rose Oil Isparta by Ostens
A while ago, at a trade sniffing event, I tried a rose material from fragrance house IFF’s famed LMR Naturals programme. I was sitting on a very spindly barstool and almost fell off from swooning when smelling it. It was as luscious and dripping with succulence as a nectarine in August. New fragrance house Ostens is being unusually transparent by sharing its partnership with LMR and its raw materials. This perfume oil, which can be blended with other scents in the range, exists to showcase that very rose material. Avoid unstable seating arrangements when sampling.
INFUSION D’OEILLET BY PRADA
A beautifully baroque perfume centred on carnation, with the kind of cosy, resinous base that will compensate for the probability that December will be unseasonably warm. Loaded with a hot clove note to the extent that it has a tobacco-leaf buzz, this is the one to be worn by a wicked governess with a fox stole from a wintry story like The Box Of Delights, in which all trains have private compartments and all lipsticks are carmine red.
Bramble Leaf Anywhere Spray by Priddy Essentials
Is it for your linens? Yes! Is it for your pulse points? Yes! Is it a mouth spray? No! (see Smith & Sinclair, above). These simple multipurpose scents are very handy for anyone whose taste you’re not certain of. Bramble leaf is a tart, green blackcurrant, and reminded me of the ideal woodland aroma for a Sylvanian Families house. Yes, this would be absolutely ridiculous. Who scents a toy? Well, this year you won’t have the choice, because your six-year-old niece will do it for you.
Carat by Cartier
On first sniff, I absolutely dismissed this union of soft, springlike florals as a shampoo smell, as it reminded me a little bit of an abstract green-apple fragrance. I was wrong. Carat is an Anaïs Anaïs for our times. I feel a bit jaded for this optimistic, radiant ingénue, but it’d be the perfect present for a little sis who’d love a real perfume.
Les Exclusifs de Chanel Discovery Set
There’s the red-bottle version of No 5 for this Christmas, which is obviously beautiful, but if you don’t know what perfume to buy and have budget, I’d argue this set of 15 fragrances is one of the best scent extravagances you can find – resembling a bevy of draughtsmen at your service. On Christmas Day, crack open the spicy Coromandel with a bottle of Syrah and then move on to textbook vetiver perfume Sycomore for a Boxing Day walk.
Moon Bloom by Hiram Green
If you know someone who is obsessed with tuberose (hi, The Pool's head of fashion and beauty, Frankie Graddon), this is the extra-thick double-cream option, but made from coconut milk. Moon Bloom is as unctuous as a glass of Sauternes. It’s jubilant, like the bit in Once In Royal David’s City where the descant begins. It’s a hardcore perfume, so buy it for someone who’s going to enjoy jousting with it.
Russian Leather by Molton Brown
Enough with the miniature screwdrivers on a keyring… If your favourite bit of a Christmas cracker is desperately sniffing the strip after it’s snapped for its singeing scent, you’ll enjoy this perfume. It's smouldering embers, peat and birch tar. Reasonable price, too. You could buy it for an uncle and then steal it back.