Aside from a handful of Capricorns and enthusiastic skiers, I have never met anyone who looks forward to January. Why would you? The presents have been opened, the parties are over and the shops will soon be maddeningly full of sundresses and sandals, even though there’s snow forecast for next week. You’re likely a few pounds heavier and more than a few pounds poorer – perverse, given that this is just the time you could do with some cheering up.
Rejoice, then, for I bring you glad tidings, the January fragrance bargains! When it comes to perfume, you don’t always get what you pay for. Sometimes you get a lot more. There is joy to be had on the fringes of the fragrance hall, both for your nose and for your soul. These perfumes may be bargainous, but they are by no means second rate. I can only assume that they missed a decimal point when they printed the price tags, but I won’t be the one to tell. Hurry and grab one before they realise their mistake.
CK2 by Calvin Klein
If your last memory of Calvin Klein is Kate Moss looking slightly grumpy in the original CK One adverts, it’s time to give the brand another chance. You’ll probably have to hunt for it – more often than not, it’s trapped in the centre of the fragrance hall labyrinth, stranded between a nail bar and a Costa. Even when you find it, you could easily overlook CK2 – the bottle looks like it once dreamed of being a lightbulb, but never made it past the audition phase. It’s not going to sell itself, so let me do that. CK2 is not one for the spotlight – its place is in the soft winter sunlight that begins to melt the ice on a stream. It eases you in gently with the cool sweetness of not-quite-ripe pear and fuzzy violet leaves peeking through the snow. But there’s something you may not notice at first – a bracing hint of wasabi that clears your head and brings the landscape before you into sharp focus. Suddenly, the stillness of mid-winter begins to give way, and the world stirs to life again. CK 2 probably won’t blow you away, but it might just give you a little moment of zen.
£26 at Beauty Base
Velvet Orchid Touchpoint by Tom Ford
I’m not entirely sure that a Velvet Orchid rollerball even qualifies as a bargain, but it’s under £30, so it just squeaks by on a technicality. Tom Ford doesn’t do economy, but he has graciously bestowed us mere mortals with the Touchpoint collection, so that we may partake of his greatness without a second mortgage or chart-topping album. The handbag-sized indulgence comes in several different fragrances, including the best-selling Black Orchid, but my current favourite is the boozy, slightly more feminine Velvet Orchid. There’s definitely a family resemblance in the floral heart, but rather than the dark chocolate and candied fruits of the older sister, we get vanilla and honey-laced rum mulled with orange peel and dark spices. Think of it as drinks by the fireside rather than dessert by candlelight. Just don’t think of it as cheap.
£29 at Feel Unique
Red Jeans by Versace
Not long ago, I was reliably informed that Versace’s Red Jean has something of a cult following. That’s pretty impressive for a twenty-year-old fragrance that doesn’t advertise and gets you change from £20. Intrigued, I went off to my local Superdrug on a hunt for the cheerful red tin. When I finally smelled it, my face fell. It was a very pretty, powdery green freesia and violet floral, but where was the tart plumminess I so loved in my twenties? I left the shop feeling confused when suddenly, there it was –rich red wine and fuzzy peach rising up through the purple flowers to greet me like a long-lost friend. It was just as I’d remembered. And that’s the appeal of the Red Jeans Appreciation Society. It only reveals its true depths once it warms to you. Take the time and get to know it – you’ll be glad you did.
£15 at Superdrug
Lust Solid Perfume by Lush
Legend has it that Marie Antoinette’s perfume gave her away as she attempted to flee the French Revolution, when one of the rebels caught a whiff of her signature fragrance and knew the Queen was nearby. I think of this story each time I get off a train at Victoria Station. No matter which platform, no matter which way the wind is blowing, an unmistakable patchouli-rose-lavender-I can’t even fog hits me and gives away the game. Somewhere within a one-mile radius, a Lush shop has opened its doors. If you follow the scented trail and look beyond the whimsical bath bombs, a treasure trove of perfumes and other scented delights await you. The names alone will make you want to know more. I could spend hours immersing myself in the stories of Dear John, Smuggler’s Soul and Tank War, but my personal favourite has always been the heady, intoxicating Lust. I am told that it contains rose and vanilla, but the star of the show is jasmine. Not the sweet, pretty kind you’ll find in well-lit department stores, but the dark, seductive blooms that only come out to play at night. The name tells you everything else you need to know. Most Lush fragrances are available as sprays, but I prefer the pocket-sized solid perfume pots. The waxy base keeps the scent close to your skin and keeps your secrets safe as well. Perfect if you’re being pursued by an unruly mob.
£9 at Lush
Rose by Paul Smith
Most of us would be delighted to receive a huge bouquet of roses, yet so many of us instinctively shy away from wearing rose perfumes. The usual given reason is that they smell “grannyish”, but it is perfectly possible to find a gorgeous rose scent that won’t make you smell like an ancient bath cube. Paul Smith Rose is as close as you can get to the real thing without tracking mud through the house. Science will back me up here – the fragrance was created by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu following a laboratory analysis of the air surrounding a rose in full bloom. The result is a glowing, petal pink flower that is perfectly balanced between dark green leaves and cool sweetness. The only thing missing are the thorns.
£15.50 at Allbeauty