We got sidetracked in the comments recently about what might make a good all-purpose fragrance gift, and Lunarose made the suggestion that we do a post on that topic. I think that´s a great idea. Here are my thoughts — agree, disagree, add your own. Guys — sorry, I did this aimed at women. Feel free to contribute your male equivalents.
1) If it´s a friend or relative who lives nearby, and someone I know well, I´d take them shopping, show them some options, and let them pick their fragrance. This post is about giving a quasi-generic fragrance to someone you don´t know especially well and/or wouldn´t necessarily drag shopping with you — your Aunt Sally you see once a year, or your distant cousin Jane on her 40th birthday.
2) If your response is, well, don´t buy fragrance for someone you don´t know – if I have to buy something for Aunt Sally, because this year I got her name in the Christmas gift draw, I figure my chances of getting her a fragrance she likes aren´t any better or worse than any other gift (chocolate, clothing.) If she doesn´t like it she can …
3) Return or exchange it, which is why I would try to pick a reasonably available fragrance from a place like Nordstrom or Sephora and I´d include a gift receipt. I don´t think Macy´s takes used merchandise back. If Aunt Sally loves your gift, she can get another bottle, or the lotion, without having to go to Florence or Tokyo to get more.
4) Also, for no good reason, I´m going to keep the price limit at $100 or less, but you don´t have to. In fact, you can declare all my rules stupid. I´ll give some rough price quotes for each and correct me if you know I´m wrong.
5) These fragrances are for adults, and I´m defining “adult” as … I don´t know. Age 17 and up. If they´re 16 or younger I´d buy one of those cute Marc Jacobs Daisy gift sets I got for my niece and call it a day. Also I should mention that I threw a bunch of Jo Malone samps (the most benign ones) into her gift box and she really liked those too, the orange and grapefruit were big hits.
So, after some consideration and two painful, rigorous days of re-sniffing the candidates, my winners are:
1) Hermes Kelly Caleche, pictured at top. A soft floral, with notes of iris, lily of the valley, mimosa, tuberose climbing rose and leather. It´s pretty without being fussy, it bears the Hermes name which signifies quality, you could wear it to work, and it´s grown on me over repeat sniffs once I got over the missing leather, in fact it’s rather peppery on me. The bottle´s handsome. You can buy it at online discounters for $50 (!) or in stores for $75. Alternates: regular Caleche or Caleche Eau Delicate.
2) Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere pictured at left – again, it bears the name of a quality brand, it smells classy without being aloof, and like Kelly Caleche this is to me an all-day fragrance that you could go to dinner in and still feel pretty. A softer, more light-hearted interpretation of No. 5, with aldehydes, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, iris, amber, and patchouli, and about 50% of the time I swear I get a hit of incense … whoops! This breaks my $100 price point by $25 at Nordstrom. Maybe it´s online somewhere cheaper.
3) Bulgari Pour Femme, which is the fragrance that started our conversation in comments. I don´t find the bottle particularly elegant, but it isn´t hideous, and most people would associate the name Bulgari with something luxe. Nordstrom: “A clear and sensual fragrance, with a unique note of sambac jasmine tea, mimosa, fresh flowers and Prelude rose.” You can get an entire gift set (1.7 edp, body lotion, and shower gel) for $86 at Nordie, probably cheaper at online e-tailers. UPDATE: nope, taking this off my list. Maybe I got a bad bottle, or they tweaked it, or maybe my taste got better. It smells weirdly plasticky on my skin.
4) Coach Regular, at left, a slightly aquatic floral (mandarin, guava, violet leaves, water lily, honey, orange flower, mimosa, jasmine, sandalwood, amber, vanilla) or Legacy (lighter and more gourmand – florals, amber, vanilla, woods.) The bottles are pretty, I hear they´re selling like hotcakes, they seem to have broad appeal. $75 for either.
Off the top of my head, things I did not include:
Prada Infusion d´Iris, because so many people can´t smell it at all.
David Yurman, because too many people can smell it. Okay, kidding, but if I remember right this is one of those fine-by-me mall frags that many of you loathed.
The Vera Wang oeuvre. These should be on my list, right? But they all seem so … blah, except the original, which I dislike mildly. What’s the deal with VW? Am I anosmic?
Eclat d´Arpege. One distressing part of this research was that everything begins to smell like Light Blue.
While I´m issuing random, biased edicts: one fragrance I would not give would be Chanel No. 5. Follow my twisted reasoning. For those of us “into” fragrance, which I assume you are if you´ve read this far, Chanel No. 5 is an admirable icon that you, personally, may love or not. I think for the general non-perfumista giftee, though, Chanel No. 5 might seem almost painfully generic – like it´s the only fragrance on the planet and you wanted something “classy” and you put five seconds into the thought process. For the general public, No. 5 is the high-end version of grabbing a gift box of Jean Nate off the shelf at CVS. Your gift needs to look like you put more thought into it.
So … which one of my list would I want? None of them. Okay, if pressed, I’ll take the Chanel. But can I tell you what a frustrating, mildly depressing experience this was? How grateful I am for my fragrance collection? How you should learn from my mistakes and never, ever put Ed Hardy Love & Luck on at the same time as Gaultier Ma Dame just so you can remind yourself what that newfangled gourmand stuff smells like? Here´s what I´d take – a bottle of Annick Goutal Eau d´Hadrien, which I practically fell to my knees in front of and sobbed over when I picked it up after Day One of this sniffage. You have no idea how interesting Hadrien smells until such a moment. Day Two I threw caution to the wind and sprayed myself with the last liquor-like vestiges of Opium EDP in the almost-empty bottle at Nordstrom. I´m sure you could smell me across the breezeway to the parking garage, but hey- at least I was worth smelling.
Okay, your turn! What are some good generic giftable fragrances? Would you give a fragrance in these theoretical circumstances, or go with something else? Have you ever given (or been given) a fragrance like this, and how did it work out?