How To Buy Fragrance At Christmas

Fragrance is so subjective, and yet one of the most popular gifts at Christmas. Get it right and you’ll be star of the show, get it wrong and well...into the re-gift pile it goes. SL Beauty Columnist Emma Strenner explains…

Fragrance is a tricky subject. Unlike the 90s and early 2000s, there is no scent that fits all anymore: CK One for the teens, Guerlain Samsara for the Glamma’s, if you remember? These days there are so many amazing creations available, that you really need to know your stuff before you head out to buy something bottled to delight those who are nearest and dearest in your life.

It’s not just trends that affect olfactory preferences either, in fact, women especially, will change their tastes regularly throughout their life (this is down to hormones). I, for one, loved, and couldn’t get enough of Tuberose scents in my early 30’s (Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle, Tuberose by L’Artisan Parfumer), and doused myself in it, leaving, what the beauty industry refers to as a heavy “sillage” everywhere I went. Now, after having my daughter, I can’t bear the smell. It just feels too much.
So, in view of how some bottles can be opened and make the “one” recoil in horror, here is my guide to picking the right one this holiday season.


How to choose a scent:

1.  Spray directly onto the skin, do not rub the scent together. This can bruise the molecules and compromise the final finish of the fragrance.

2.  Know the difference between Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette. Parfum is more concentrated, will last longer, and you’ll need less. Toilette is a lighter version.

3. Consider the style of the person you’re buying for. If someone is dedicated to wearing a floral print always, you might consider a more floral based scent for them. If they’re very utilitarian and minimalist in their wardrobe, consider a scent that isn’t overly heady with notes. A fragrance and its wearer must match in terms of personality.

4. Try spraying fragrance into the hair, it will leave you with the fragrance for longer and give you a sense of its movement in the air.

5. Steer clear of gourmand scents. Just because Molly loves Apple strudel, it doesn’t mean she wants to smell like one.

Great Gift Choices

Molecule 01 - Iso E Super, £46 | Escentric Molecules

The Utilitarian One: Escentric Molecules, Molecule 01 Eau de Toilette 100ml

This is a win win all round, namely because it’s a super smart single ingredient scent that adapts to the wearer. The adaptive molecules are so unique in fact, some people can’t even smell it (this is a minority, but do check before buying). It sits beautifully on the skin and has none of that heavy cologne finish some mens’ fragrances have.

The Grown Up One: Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady EdP £235

My personal favourite, but it’s taken me to get to my 40’s to really love it for its genius. It’s a beautiful blend of modern, sumptuous and traditional. With a deep patchouli heart, and plenty of rose, I am stopped daily when I wear it, and asked what I’m wearing. Nobody can put their finger on it, but you immediately feel you’ve made an effort when you wear it. It’s the sartorial equivalent of a Stella tux jacket and pearl hair slide.

Portrait of a Lady Eau de Parfum, £235 | Frederic Malle
Sunday Cologne Eau de Parfum, £105 | Byredo

The Cologne Addict: Byredo Sunday Cologne EDP £105

A modern take on an old pharmacy cologne that will get you nostalgic while giving you something entirely modern and much chic-er. The underlying notes of lavender and citrussy bergamot mean there’s a softness that doesn’t hang too heavily in the air. I’m planning on giving this to my other half this year.

The Feminine One: Dior Joy EDP £75

A super mellow scent that is floral, and feminine. The powdery base gives you an instant grown up feel without weighing it down too much on the skin. Mandarin, rose and jasmine notes lift and strike a sunny note instantly. Uplifting.

Joy Eau de Parfum, £75 | Dior
Berber Blonde Eau de Parfum, £180 | Sana Jardin

The Natural One: Sana Jardin Berber Eau de Parfum £180

This is the scent of sun, and boy do we need it in these bleak winter months. A blend of orange blossom, neroli, and musk that just screams of sunny days in the Italian Riviera. The scent is full of pure ingredients and filled with natural overtones but still luxurious.

The Free Spirit: Le Labo Santal 33 EDP £125

An all-round best seller throughout the year, this iconic scent is a real conversation starter. The woody, smokey, leathery notes that sit at the base with iris and violet to give a lighter softer finish get most people to stop and ask what is that scent? A totally unisex scent, it’s a winner with most fragrance lovers. And brings to mind images of folksy, leather tassels and wild flowers in the hair.

Santal 33 Eau de Parfum, £125 | Le Labo
Colonia Eau de Cologne, £95 | Acqua di Parma

The Clean Freak: Acqua di Parma Colonia EDC £95

For those who want to wear fragrance but don’t want to smell like they are, this is the one. It smells like soap, with lemons, and some florals and a little rosemary somewhere within the blend, and you won’t feel for a moment that you have that cloud of scent that can feel claustrophobic to the scent-phobic.

Emma Strenner has been a beauty journalist for over fifteen years. She has written for VOGUE, Sunday Times Style, ELLE, PORTER Magazine, Conde Nast Traveller and more. She has been the Beauty Director at PORTER, ELLE UK, VOGUE Australia, Tatler and Stylist. Emma's career has taken her to beauty launches across the globe, laboratories and clinics, backstage at the shows and directing beauty shoots everywhere from Tulum to the Meatpacking District in New York.

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