Perfume as a gift?

Today will be a fun day. This afternoon, I’m going to be on national radio talking about the gift of scent. It is very timely of course, around this time of the year I do get this question a lot:

”I would like to buy my man/woman/wife/husband/someone a perfume for Christmas, do you have any recommendation? Which perfume should I get?”

I love the idea of giving a scent experience to someone you care about. But my answer to the question above is actually: no, I don’t have an instant recommendation for a specific perfume for your partner simply because I have no idea how your man’s/woman’s/wife’s/husband’s/someone’s skin smells like, feels like, what temperature it is, if its milky, salty or sweet, where they put on perfume, when… what makes them laugh or blush or swear… and several other things about who they are. And my general perspective on fragrance is that it is an intimate and personal choice and should be cherished as such.

There are however a few good ways to approach this idea. Because, yes, something scented is a beautiful personal and emotional gift if you take some time to prepare it. So if you really want to give a scented gift here are some examples. Number one and two on the list are a bit advanced but the rest is somewhat more accessible than you think.

1) You are a perfumer and have created the perfume yourself. This is the ultimate one of course but yes, few can achieve that.

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2) You are not a perfumer but have created the perfume yourself. This is one of the most special gifts I have ever received in my life.

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3) The gift is a bespoke perfume. There are numerous ways to go about this. You can give the chosen beloved person a session with a perfumer who will create a bespoke fragrance with them for them. Or you can give them a perfume workshop where they can blend one themselves.

4) The person who the perfume is intended for has already tried a certain fragrance and wants it/has had the fragrance before and misses it or for some other reason really wants it.

5) The fragrance your buying is an icon or comes with a story that makes it an evidently interesting part of a perfume collection and a reflection of some special part of your relationship. This could be a love story like Shalimar from Guerlain or a fragrance that tells the story of a place that is special to you as a couple. The second suggestion also works perfectly for family members, for example my parents emigrated as young and I have given my mother fragrances that recreate the feeling of lost places from her childhood such as my grandmother’s garden.

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6) Scent discovery. I think this one is an amazing and under-estimated way of giving fragrance and scented experience. It is possible to buy discovery kits from various perfume houses with sample sizes of their fragrances and this is a very friendly priced option compared to the risky choice of a perfume bottle that may or may not be right. Some retailers also sell samples and the good ones can help you put together a perfect selection. Last but not least, fragrance subscriptions. A fun way to explore the world of scents that will open up your senses and keep you updated. If someone was to give me fragrance I would be super-happy to receive any of these and definetely prefer it to a full bottle.

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7) Scent but not perfume. A beautiful perfume bottle is the classic idea of a scent gift but you can be creative. There are many other scented products available that can be equally sophisticated, personal and emotional. A person who loves cooking and/or baking might be thrilled to get fresh vanilla or a new spice. Someone who loves decorating can add a sensual scenographic twist to their interiors with a beautiful carefullly chosen scented candle. (There are actually so many interesting new products for interiors so go explore and don’t be too focused on candles.) If your chosen person has a garden maybe it can be a plant that will remind them of you as it blossoms. Be creative.

Generally, apart from selections like these, I do not really believe in giving perfume as a gift. The reason, as I mentioned in the beginning, is that wearing and selecting the ingredients that blend with your skin and your soul – is an intimate thing. Perfumes, like personalities, are not random, not generic and they are not about what is new or trendy or popular. Sometimes the media and some retail will present it as if the holy and only gate to the world of fragrance is through top 10-lists, trendy ingredients or a certain celebrity. Or even worse, “an exclusive offer of fragrance and body lotion in one for a bargain price”. Just ignore it. Perfume exists with you, blends with your temperature, skin, personality. To discover your fragrance and your body’s own scents is a sublime experience.

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By Nayyirah Waheed

Therefore, if you want to give someone the fragrance that matches their skin as well as their soul you need to know that person extremely well. Who they are, who they want to be. Not who you see them as being, that is something very different. When you choose a perfume for someone you consciously or subconsciously define this person. This is something that should be done with great care and tenderness. Is it possible? Yes, I believe that one person can discover another so attentively and humbly and curiously that you can sense how that person’s soul would smell like if it was tangible. It is also an very beautiful way to love.

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