It’s tough to buy perfume as a present unless you have specific instructions. If your loved one is seriously into perfume, my tips will make you look like you have gift-buying superpowers.
1. Go for discovery sets. If you’re extra generous, add a gift voucher – the gift recipient will be able to choose a perfume that smells great on their skin and buy the full bottle at their leisure. My favourite perfume discovery set comes from Ormonde Jayne. All the scents in it are stylish; the packaging is elegant and it’s an indie perfume house which means the scent won’t be worn by millions of others. Many perfumeries now offer these types of sets, so consider this option if you want to buy a perfume but aren’t sure which scent the recipient might like. Also check out Penhaligon’s miniature tins and the Etat Libre D’Orange discovery set.
2. If you can, write down the names of the perfumes they already wear (if you live together, a sneaky peek at the perfume collection should be easy). Then go to a well-stocked perfumery (Les Senteurs, Harrods or online at Escentual or LuckyScent and ask for help. These stores should have knowledgeable enough staff to suggest scents based on the existing perfumes your gift recipient owns). There are a couple of problems with this approach: 1) You might not live together and might not get a chance to spy, 2) If they’re a full-on nose-nerd, their perfume collection might be eclectic and have scents from more than one scent family. They might have very specific wishes for scents they’d like to add to their collection (in this case, you could just ask whether there are any perfumes they’ve been lusting after. Be prepared for eye-watering prices).
3. Buy a perfume discovery day from Sarah McCartney (your gift recipient needs to be able to get to London for this). Sarah is a friend and an ex-Lush colleague; a polymath and a perfumer. Her 4160Tuesdays indie perfume brand kicked off with crowdfunding and she has set up a scent studio for events and exploration. Sarah has an impressive collection of vintage perfumes and all the tools and materials to make custom scents. Check out her perfume days here.
3. Perhaps the answer to what to buy for a perfumista who has everything is a course on how to make perfume. Karen Gilbert, also a friend and a perfumer is an ex IFF-evaluator, a best-selling author and a perfume trainer. She runs new online training courses (so, for that, any location will do) and also hosts regular perfume training classes. Some are better for beginners; some more advanced. Check out her perfume training courses here.
4. If you are buying for just about anyone who likes beautiful scents, getting a candle from Diptyque is almost guaranteed to be well-received. They started as an exotic goods and knick-knack store in France and have become very well known for their candles.
5. If your loved one can’t travel to London or doesn’t fancy an online training course, Perfumer’s Apprentice has been packaging basic perfumery materials into beginner’s kits for a while. One of these will make a great present to anyone interested in exploring perfumes further. Some of these kits are only available for US-residents.
6. The British Society of Perfumers celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and worked together with its members to produce a unique book, cataloguing the past, present and future of the British perfume industry. The book was produced in-house and written by the members themselves. The contributions therefore vary from warm and informal to quite corporate – but the picture you get of the British perfume industry is really interesting and there are some great stories in there. This would be a good addition to any perfume enthusiast’s library. Disclaimer: I am featured in the book and a student member of the Society. You can read my full review of the book at Basenotes and purchase the book for £45 directly from the BSP.
What’s on my wishlist this Christmas? I am lusting after Iris Prima, Elie Saab le parfum and Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle. I also have my eye on the gorgeous NARS gift sets at Space NK and I would love the Noisette candle from Diptyque. Hint, hint.