By the time you read this, you’ll have already seen the John Lewis advert at least a dozen times, which must mean it’s officially Christmas. If you’ve finished your shopping, congratulations! We bow to your superior planning and organisational skills. Please do spare a thought for the rest of us as you kick back with your mulled wine and mince pies.
Buying fragrance as a gift can be tricky at the best of times, never mind during the pre-Christmas rush. Our best advice? Know what you’re looking for before you head to the shops, or at least have it narrowed down to a handful of options. To save your sanity, here’s our fragrance Christmas gift guide to showcase the best of what’s out there this season. We’ve covered all the basics – tried and tested classics, stocking fillers, and the best launches of 2017. We’ve even got the answer if you’re stumped for a last-minute secret Santa gift. Happy shopping!
FRAGRANCE FOR HIM
You probably know Missoni, even if you think you don’t. Their signature zig zag, rainbow striped knitwear is recognisable from a mile away. Their first men’s fragrance, Missoni Man, perfectly captures the spirit of the brand. Hold the bottle up to the light and you’ll see it: an opalescent finish that shimmers and fades as you turn it in your hand. Those iconic stripes engraved into the base of a weighty cap that snaps satisfyingly back into place. The fragrance is not unlike the bottle itself – a dark heart of sandalwood and patchouli streaked through with notes of grapefruit, lavender and green lemon pulp that catch the light and reflect it back to you like softly glowing silk. It’s stylish both inside and out, and hands down our favourite men’s launch this year.
You heard it here first. Eight & Bob is about to get big. Up until now, the brand has been something of a secret, but word is getting out fast. The story goes like this: back in the thirties, a French aristocrat by the name of Albert Fouquet met an American student one summer on the Côte d’Azur. Intrigued by his new friend’s cologne, the American made an unusual request: send eight samples, he wrote, “and if your production allows, one for Bob.” And so, Albert’s original blend of pink pepper, violet leaf, cardamom and vetiver became known as Eight & Bob, and his American friend became known as John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America. The formula was lost after Albert’s untimely death, but was painstakingly restored to its former glory in 2012. Like its first fan, it exudes quiet confidence and charm. It’s not flashy, but it doesn’t need to be. In keeping with tradition, the original comes hidden in a book, to be seen only by the eyes of those who seek it out.
Here is our full review of Eight & Bob Original.
Sometimes the hardest people to shop for are those with the best taste. They’re the ones who don’t shop often, but when they do, they only buy the best. The Smythson wallet, the Hunter wellies, the Mont Blanc pen – whatever it is, it’s a guaranteed classic that’s stood the test of time. Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage is the definition of classic. Created in 1966 by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, it takes the sparkling citrus and bitter herbs of a traditional cologne and seamlessly weaves through hints of sandalwood, leather and musk to concoct a fragrance that’s reassuring yet somehow different. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know it when you smell it.
We have it on good authority that the perfumer behind some of the bestselling men’s fragrances this century is the very same gentleman who created Lynx Apollo. Despite its excellent pedigree, there comes a time when every young man must step out from the aerosol fug of the locker room and into something a bit more interesting. If you know someone who could use a gentle nudge, a set of Giorgio Armani miniature aftershaves should point them in the right direction. Think of it as a foundation course. Each mini is a bite-sized education covering citrus, woody, aromatic and aquatic fragrance families – just enough to give them a taste for the delights that wait beyond the world of body sprays.
FRAGRANCE FOR HER
The House of Gucci has never been one for understatement, as any former fan of Gucci Rush well knows (“I did many a walk of shame wearing Rush,” said one lady friend of ours with a wink). Don’t be fooled by the ballerina pink bottle of Gucci Bloom. Look closer and you’ll notice its clean straight lines framed with jet black accents, sharp as the lapels of a custom-made suit. Buttoned up inside is a rush of jasmine, tuberose and honeysuckle, with touches of Rangoon Creeper, a powdery white flower that blooms blood red at night. This one isn’t for shrinking violets, so give it to your most audacious friend.
There’s no getting around it: Chanel’s first completely new fragrance since 2002 was the most hotly anticipated launch of the year. We think it was worth the wait. Gabrielle is the softer side of the world’s most famous perfume brand. It has neither the life experience nor worldly outlook of its older sister Chanel No5 and as a consequence is much more open and innocent. Wearing Gabrielle is like turning your face to the sun on a warm spring day – a joyful burst of tuberose, fresh green jasmine and creamy ylang ylang are all bathed in the golden light of orange blossom. There are no secrets here, just simple happiness. Buy this for your sunniest, most optimistic friend.
Read our review of A Visit to the Espace Gabrielle Chanel
Spanish designer Angel Schlesser is known for his sharp, understated collections. Think COS meets Zara – minimalist silhouettes rendered in jewel-coloured silk and intricate lace details. But Oriental Soul is anything but understated. Anyone with a sweet tooth will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. Warm, buttery vanilla and benzoin are whipped up with juicy peach and citrus zest, but perfectly balanced out with sandalwood and the merest hint of oud to give it that, “Oh no, I really shouldn’t…oh, okay, just one more slice” moreishness. It’s exclusive to Harvey Nichols, but you can buy it online if you can’t get there in person.
Our last pick of gifts for her is another vanilla-laced sweet treat, but we’re not sorry. It’s Christmas, and that means the rules of healthy eating no longer apply. Besides, it’s dessert o’clock somewhere. We’ve been fans of Ferragamo’s Signorina Misteriosa since it launched in 2016 – it’s a show-stopper of creamy vanilla mousse, delicately scented with orange flower, piled high and lavishly topped with tart, juicy blackberries. Christmas calls for a bit of extra sparkle, and this year Ferragamo have released a limited edition 50ml bottle, dusted with gold and all wrapped up in a glossy matching box.
We’ve all got that one globetrotting friend who seems to be in a different corner of the world every week, endlessly posting her perfect, #nofilter snaps on Instagram, right? Not that we’re jealous. A Travalo Milano strikes just the right balance between beautiful and useful. The clever design of this little atomiser will hold 5ml of her favourite fragrance and look great in her carry-on. It comes in an array of colours, but there’s just enough room on the silver cap to have it engraved for an extra-special touch.
Office Secret Santa always seems like a great idea until you pick Sheila from accounts who you last spoke to in June at the company away day. What on earth are you supposed to get for a tenner? A Molton Brown Mini Shower Gel Bauble, for starters. The generously sized 75ml minis come pre-wrapped in a festive red box, making them look a lot more expensive than they actually are. They’re only available online, so maybe get in a few for last-minute gifts.
Here’s a neat little trick if you’ve got a fragrance geek on your shopping list: there’s nothing we love better than getting our hands on samples. Especially when they come as beautifully presented as this unisex discovery set from edgy French brand Le Labo. Each set contains four mini sprays of their bestsellers, which takes the guesswork out of finding something to their (no doubt excellent) tastes. Bonus: the utilitarian parchment box is so stylish, you won’t even need to wrap it. That’s one job crossed off your list.
This is a gift guide, and we think that covers self-gifting as well. Yes, an Aveda Stress Fix Roll On is the perfect size for a stocking, but it fits even better in your handbag. Reach for it when you’re feeling a bit worse for wear after a month of parties and Prosecco or just when you need a quiet moment to yourself. Simply roll the concentrate onto pulse points and the warmth of your skin releases a calming burst of lavender and clary sage essential oils. For best results, pair with a cup of tea and a handful of Celebrations.
FRAGRANCE FOR TEENAGERS
No one can quite believe this is a perfume, but that’s just part of the game. Moschino Fresh is all about fun – the retro-fabulous, window cleaner bottle takes the idea of ‘Serious Designer Perfume’ and flips it on its head. After all, it is only perfume. Why shouldn’t it make us laugh? We should probably mention that the fragrance itself doesn’t smell like Mr. Muscle – it’s actually a bright and bouncy citrus floral with a pop of raspberry and a touch of patchouli. If you have a budding artist or design student on your hands (or if you know someone who’s too clever by half), this will definitely make them smile.
Any variation of Marc Jacob’s eternally smiling Daisy would work as a gift for a teenage girl –they’re stylish enough to please, yet they don’t take themselves too seriously. Eau So Fresh is a cheerful blend of grapefruit, raspberry and rose, but honestly? We just really love this gift set. Instead of the usual shower gel and body lotion, the flower-topped bottle comes with a 10ml refill and a tiny golden funnel so it doesn’t end up all over her dressing table. It’s so cute and dinky, you might be tempted to keep it for yourself.
2017 was the year that the most sophisticated French perfume houses all decided it was time for a makeover. Like hopeful suitors hoping to win the hand of a princess, they laid out their offerings. Poison Girl, Gabrielle and Twilly d’Hermes battled it out to win the heart of the young woman who was ready for grown-up things, but on her terms. Of all the new launches, Mon Guerlain takes the crown. Guerlain has been making heart stoppingly beautiful perfumes for more than a century now, but they can take time to appreciate. Mon Guerlain is easy to fall in love with. Like many recent bestsellers, it’s based around vanilla, but the trick here is the flawless blending with the burnt sugar note of lavender, bringing light and air to balance out the heavy sweetness. If you’re buying someone their first grown-up perfume, make it this one.
But what if you know someone who’s just starting to take an interest in make-up and perfume, but isn’t quite ready for the full smoky eye and a cloud of Angel? A bottle of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse should do the trick – the cult beauty favourite is deliciously scented with orange blossom and lily for a subtle yet satisfyingly grown-up scent. Since it’s Christmas, spring for the golden shimmer edition – it should tide her over until she discovers the Barry M glitter pots.
Laurent Mazzone Veleno Doré
If we were choosing perfumes for star signs, Veleno Doré would definitely be one for all the Scorpios out there. The latest fragrance from Laurent Mazzone’s gold collection was inspired by the tale of a snake king, whose deadly bite turns his victims to pure gold. No snakes were harmed in the making of this perfume, but it’s still pretty wild – an enigmatic cocktail of spiced rum infused with smoky tobacco, vanilla and sweetened with ripe black cherries. It’s dark, it’s sexy and it’s all the better for it.
Is there anything Tom Ford can’t do? He makes Oscar-nominated films, dresses A-List celebrities, sells lipsticks and once transformed the ailing House of Gucci into the fashion powerhouse it is today. He may not be a perfumer (yet), but you can still feel pretty confident that if he puts his name on the bottle, it’s going to be good. And Neroli Portofino is more than good. This lush mandarin and orange blossom cologne is Ford’s homage to the sun-drenched Italian Riviera, right down to the sparkling azure bottle. If you have a perfectionist on your shopping list, you can’t go wrong with this. Don’t worry if your budget won’t quite stretch to the EdP – just go for the body oil instead. The fragrance is a bit subtler, but no less luxurious.
The word rebel is applied far too easily these days, to everything from pop stars to containers of yoghurt, for goodness sake. But in designer Alexander McQueen’s case, it was true. His most famous designs, often adorned with bird feathers and elaborate headdresses forced the viewer to see the world through his eyes, even for just a split second. His vision was not to everyone’s taste, but he was not to be taken lightly. Neither is the perfume that bears his name. The feather armoured bottle alone is startling, perhaps to prepare you for what’s inside – heavy-hanging tuberose, both creamy and chilly by turns. A flower considered so narcotic in some cultures that young girls are forbidden from smelling it, lest they fall under its seductive smell. A gift of this perfume makes a definite statement – make sure you give it to someone who understands what it means.
Just twice in the last forty years, a strange and beautiful event has occurred in the Algerian town of Ain Sefra, known as “The Gateway to the Desert”. As the morning sun rose over the Sahara, residents woke to the site of snow resting atop golden sand dunes. Wonderly captures the joy and mystery of this seemingly impossible phenomenon into a fragrance that magically blends unexpected notes into a much bigger picture. A euphoric burst of goji berry and apricot illuminate frosty blankets of iris, almond and jasmine, which finally soften and melt to reveal the warmth of myrrh, sandalwood and incense below. Because of the way they are made, no two bottles of Wonderly will ever look exactly the same – just like the snowflakes falling over sand.