An All-Purpose Fragrance Gift

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?

  • Marla says:

    I liked your choice of Kelly Caleche-every time I wear it I get compliments on it. I also think Un Jardin Sur le Nils would be another good choice.
    As a late teen my aunt started my budding love of fragrance with a gift of Opium. She just chose her favorite for me. Unless I know someone’s personal favorite, buy them yours- they can always exchange it.b-)

  • Rowanhill says:

    How about Acqua di Parma’s Colonia? Classic and inoffensive. Works for both women and men.

  • lunarose says:

    hello everybody! i’m sad i’m getting in late, long day at work yesterday.

    contrarian that i am, i’m tickled pink that a topic on how not to be controversial has turned out to be so …. controversial!! seriously i think people have presented some really good ideas. i especially like the idea of making a custom sample pack for someone, with or without a gift certificate. it shows a lot of thought and care went into it, and the presentation can make a nice impression as well.

    one idea i’ve heard bandied about is to buy a gift based on the name or bottle – for example you could get a goutal bee bottle for a friend who keeps bees, or a bottle of salvador dali for someone writing her dissertation on that artist. then it’s more about having found something connected to them whether or not they enjoy the juice (heretical on this forum i realize, but since this subject is so thorny to begin with thought i’d throw it in the ring).

    just fyi, i do want to say that i’ve tried bvlgari femme twice in the past couple of weeks at two different places and it smelled fine both times. so if if this sounds like a likely fragrance for someone, i’d suggest you give it a try. March i’m hoping you just got mixed up with a bad bottle. !

    thanks again everyone, as i’ve really enjoyed the comments and hearing about people’s experiences. it sounds like it is possible to emerge from fragrance giving unscathed, if one treads carefully and lightly…………..@};-

    • March says:

      I thought it was interesting how many people thought the whole thing was a terrible idea! 🙂 But I’d still wing it. And I’ll try Bulgari Femme somewhere else, considering how those bottles sit around in the light and heat they must go off occasionally.

  • Joe says:

    If it had to be something found at your average department store or Sephora:
    1. EL Amber Ylang Ylang
    2. Lancome Magnifique
    3. KenzoAmour (for someone under 40, I guess)

    In fact, I gave minis of Amour to my two sisters-in-law for Xmas, not knowing a thing about their likes.

    The EL & Lancome — well, I confess, I developed crushes on them in the last month or two of 2008 and have hoarded a few spray samples of each. I actually enjoy both, and 30ml of either probably wouldn’t offend anyone. I especially like the AYY much, MUCH better than the similarly “inoffensive” Sensuous.

    • Joe says:

      After mentioning “Sensuous,” it got me thinking about fragrances you wouldn’t want to give as gifts because the name is a little inappropriate. “Sensuous” might give someone the wrong idea. Not to mention “Putain des Palaces” or “Tabu,” I suppose. Unless that Aunt Tillie is a firecracker.

      After reading all the comments, I have to agree with the L’Occitane idea, as well as Bulgari The Vert — who wouldn’t like those? And if they didn’t, they make great air fresheners.

      • March says:

        Giggling. Yeah, “I Don’t Swallow” probably wouldn’t be on my gift-giving list. Also the same reason (among other reasons) I keep refusing to give my daughter a bottle of Addict, which she really wants. I know it’s just a name but it bothers me. Also she’d kill us all with the sillage, who wants to smell Addict 24/7? Not me.

      • BBJ says:

        I think that the bottle saves “Sensuous”, it really does look terribly respectable.

    • March says:

      Are those Amour things not the cutest thing you ever saw? Love those things. Did they say anything about the fragrance?

      The problem I have with Sensuous is I can’t smell it very well, although in the lotion (oddly) it’s perfect — quite strong. I may get some of that. The Amber Ylang blew me away as you know from my review, I was very impressed. I’ve been wearing my samps and may end up springing for some.

      • Joe says:

        Your post is what alerted me to those cute Amour things! Of course I kept the orange one for myself, which is about all the Amour I personally need. Both SILs seemed to like the scent (but it’s only like 5ml, so really…). The cute mini bottles were part of what made them such great gifts.

        Sensuous bored me and had a nasty synthetic vibe. Magnifique did that generic wood much better for me, and the Amber Ylang was definitely a great surprise. And you can’t beat the fact that they sell 30ml. Hallelujah.

  • Robin says:

    I’d give Daisy to almost anybody…and for that matter, while I’d never buy it, I wouldn’t cry if somebody gave it to me as a gift.

  • BBJ says:

    My mother-in-law wears Emeraude exclusively, which is very kind of her–I can always get points by putting one of the gift sets in the Christmas box.

    A generic giftable–the Acqua Allegorias come to mind. They’re pretty and themey–two or three steps up from Calgon, but in that same sort of spirit.

    Nobody doesn’t like Bobbi Brown.


    • March says:

      The AAs are really nice, are available (and thus exchangable) at Sephora, and I think the bottles are so pretty. Ditto Kenzo in a slightly different way.

  • rosarita says:

    I’m not giving an opinion on whether I would or would not give perfume as a gift to someone not esp. into perfume. My pick is Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist. Nice gift sets, available at Nordstrom, and a fragrance that works for any age or situation. As to perfume gifts I’ve received: I recall getting a bottle of Cachet from an aunt when I was a teenager. Remember Cachet? It was marketed as being a scent that smelled different on everyone, since it was supposed to *react* with your own unique chemistry. 🙂 I think it was kind of fresh and citrussy. :)>-

    • March says:

      That’s funny, I don’t remember Cachet at all. Remember Love’s Fresh Lemon? :”> I wore that, makes Cachet look like Mitsouko.

  • sybil says:

    Correction…should have said good perfume. Dreck is everywhere!

  • sybil says:

    Very stressful to even think about this! If forced, i’d try one of the bulgari tea scents. Or I’d wuss out and do candles or bath oil, or nice soap. Everyone I know would rather have chocolate! (and truly, where I live, gourmet chocolate is easier to find than perfume.)

    • March says:

      Well, our chocolate is TRASH [-( where’s my sulky emoticon? Bath products are always nice, and they’re easy to pass on and share if someone’s not wild about it.

  • Justine says:

    I often like to give women friends fragranced shower gel or lotion rather than the actual fragrance. They are usually really nicely packaged, so the presentation is special. I figure if they love it they can buy the scent, and if they don’t, well it’s a shower gel or lotion and they are more likely to use it up, even if it’s not love. I recently bought my niece (she’s under 15) VW Princess in a foaming shower scrub and it was a big hit.

    • March says:

      I have come around to this idea, actually. I don’t use much scented product, because I don’t want to interfere with the perfume :”> but your reasoning is good and most people love that stuff. And even I have a couple of cheesy BBW bottles (bubble bath, shower gel) when I’m in the mood, stuff I would never wear as fragrance.

  • tania says:

    When I first got this scent monkey on my back, I would gift people with pefumes I loved, in the hope that they would love them too. Usually, they didn’t, and I’d have to watch as the bottle was regifted or left out to ‘turn’ and evaporate on their dressing table. Such a waste! I wish I had some of those bottles back now, as some of those scents have since been ruined by reformulation….
    Anyhoo – nope, no perfume gifts from me! Except maybe for my Mum, who inexplicably wears and loves Body Shop White Musk. I’ve learned my lesson.:d

    • March says:

      Oh, bless your mom. Although I can think of worse things than Body Shop White Musk, which has become the shorthand reference for acceptable but inexpensive musk, ie “I can’t believe they are charging $250 for something that smells like Body Shop White Musk.”

      I don’t think I’ve ever given a scent I loved. Too weird. Although I’ve given scents I introduced people to and then they wanted. 🙂

  • Aparatchick says:

    I’d never do it. Nope. I’d undoubtedly get it wrong and the giftee would hate me forever. I did, however, give a relative a gift certificate to a certain online retailer and sent a few samples along with it. It was quite a hit – I think one of the Sephora gift samplers would have been too. But, playing by your rules, I’d go for the Amber Ylang or one of the Bvlgari teas. They’re all quality scents and I can’t imagine you’d actually offend someone with them. I throw the Jo Malones in there, but I actually loathe one of them, so…..

    • March says:

      Well, that’s the thing. Your sample approach is better, but even if they didn’t like the others, I agree — it’s hard to argue offense.

      But more to the point, I am curious — which JM do you hate? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours. I hate two of them, actually.

      • Musette says:

        OoohOOOh! Can I play?

        I have several but will stick with two – I shall list the one that gives me a migraine (LimeBasilMandarine) and the one that makes me sneeze at least 20 times (the SA counted – on different occasions – thank Gawd for handkerchiefs!) – Vintage Gardenia…

        there are others that I like just fine – but those two

        • March says:

          Blue Agava reminds me of why I hate chocolate fragrances, and Pom Noir is Satan’s EDP.

          • Zoe says:

            :d PomNoir is something awful, no?
            White Jasmine and mint was rather a disappointment, too. I love jasmine in general, Marc Jacobs Blush (jasmine & mint), the L’Occitane tea and mint one… and yet it’s so wrong.
            To be fair, I love Dark Amber & Lily, or whatever the endless name is.

          • Aparatchick says:

            French lime blossom. I know! I know! Everyone else loves it. So I ordered a sample, opened that vial, stuck my nose down in it, jumped back, and yelled “Oh, Ick!” After that I never even tried it on skin.

          • Musette says:

            that’s one of my icks, too! It has an oily roundness that makes me a bit queasy. It’s one of those “dang. if only they’d _________” scents…


          • March says:

            I didn’t hate it, but it’s really, really sweet. I don’t wear it.

          • March says:

            That Dark Amber was excellent, and there’s a rumor they’ll reintroduce along with the Lotus Blossom & Water Lily. I hope it’s true.

            I like the JM White Jasmine, but I don’t want too much on at one time.

  • Masha says:

    A very pretty and (so far) popular gift has been Laura Biagiotti’s Roma. Even people who don’t wear perfume end up wearing this one, and it’s a staple in Central Europe, not too expensive.

  • Teri says:

    In my 20-year old innocence, I gifed my future mother-in-law with a bottle of L’Interdit (the original, not the reformulated dreck)for her birthday when I was first engaged. She adored it and I drafted in on the wave of goodwill, becoming in time her favorite dil. I’m positive it was the L’Interdit. :-\”

    I immediately retired from the perfume gifting arena, leaving my 1000 batting record unsullied. Probably wise, as I doubt I’d have been so lucky twice. lol

    But if I were forced at gunpoint to gift a fragrance, I’d buy the nicest fashion magazine I could find and buy the editor’s choice for the month. Most women I know are very aware of what’s hot and what’s not and this way, even if the giftee wasn’t wild about the fragrance, the message would be positive (I think you’re chic and up-to-the-minute stylish).

    • March says:

      I like your thinking. At least they’d have the sense that the fragrance was au courant (did I spell that right?) even if they didn’t love it.

      But I think you struck gold with L’Interdit, what a lovely gift. 😡

  • violetnoir says:

    Gosh, I don’t give perfume as a gift unless someone ask me to pick something for them. I received a bottle of Tresor for Christmas and immediately gave it to my SIL who loves it. I, unfortunately, do not.

    That said, if my MIL ask me to purchase something for her, I ask if she likes florals or something spicier. The Merveilles, especially the original, are a good choice, as is Caleche. Lancome 1000 Roses is good. I think your selection of Eau Premiere is very pretty, as is Coco Mlle. Finally EL Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, AG Eau d’Hadrien and AG’s Orange Blossom, Chevrefeuille and even Songes may be good picks. I can go to Nordstrom and pick up any of these, and most of them are under $100. I would not go to Macy’s to select a gift for someone, as their selection is too limited and “generic” for my taste.

    But, at the end of the day, you really need to have a general idea of what someone likes.


    • March says:

      Tresor!!! oh lordy. I would really have had to work up some enthusiasm for that one. OTOH as you discovered there is probably someone in my life who would LOVE that bottle the way it deserves… and I forgot about Tuberose Gardenia. I’d throw Amber Ylang in there too.

      Mostly, though, folks think this is a bad idea! :”>

  • sweetlife says:

    Well. I think it is such a terrible idea to buy fragrance for anyone without knowing they like it in advance that I wasn’t even going to answer, but then I realized I give people perfume presents all the time. Here’s how it goes for me: In the course of my relentless evangelizing, I hear all kinds of stories from people about perfumes, or just scents they once loved, so I use that information to make up little sampler packages for them. If I’m feeling ambitious and really like the person I write up descriptions of what I’ve included and invite them to tell me if they find a “winner.” Then I give them a decant for the next occasion and/or point them to a reliable online discounter. I should add that I try not to include super-pricey (above $100) or discontinued scents in my little packages.

    If I *really* like them I just invite them over for a sniffing session. I make a lotta friends that way…


    All that said, playing by the rules of your game, March, I’d go with Annick Goutal all the way. Eau de Hadrien, Chevrefuille, or Neroli depending on the temperment of the giftee. They are gorgeous things that I love myself, are able to open people’s minds to a world past Happy et al, and are cheerful enough that if they do really hate them (unlikely) they will be easy to pass along.

    • sweetlife says:

      And the minute I posted that, I thought of my friend for whom Eau d’Hadrien was too strong. (I know, I know…) But she was ecstatic when I gave her a bottle of L’Occitane’s Lemon Verbena. So I’ll throw them in the ring, too. Lots of good ancillary products there as well. And let’s not forget Yves Rocher — you could get a set of minis and then if they liked one they wouldn’t be totally shocked at the retail for a full size.

      I suppose we could add L’Artisan–but that’s a mite pricey for gifts…

      • March says:

        The great thing about the Yves Rocher is for $100 you could practically buy the whole store. 🙂 There’d be SOMETHING in there to like!

    • Musette says:

      Sweet, what a lovely idea, especially the samps you make up yourself. Alas, I am such a l-) that were I to try to manage that in timely fashion they wouldn’t get the gift until their NEXT birthday (or whatever).

      Anyway, I love Liz Zorn’s sample boxes. What I love about them, beyond the frags (and I am a Zornophile, I admit) is that you can choose them yourself. I made up a Big White Flower sample set for my galpal who is heavily into Fracas and La Chasse, etc. It had all the cachet of a well thought-out gift without the potential drama of an unloved bottle…and the set is big enough (6 or 9 – I forget) to allow them time and juice enough to play. She loved it (don’t know if she loved the frags but she loved the presentation)! My work is done.



      • Divalano says:

        I’m not familiar with Liz Zorn’s line but that’s a wonderful idea!

      • sweetlife says:

        Well I didn’t claim to be *timely* 😉 In fact, I’m often months past the intended gift moment. But nobody seems to mind!

        Just ordered my first set of Liz Zorn samples a couple of days ago!

    • March says:

      How did I miss you? 🙁 I’m sorry. I think your idea and packaging shows a degree of thoughtfulness that puts me to shame, and it’s a lovely idea. There is certainly the argument to be made on here, and people are making it: why not get someone something really good instead of supporting mediocrity? :)>-

  • helenviolette says:

    Well- this makes me want to give perfume to people that I love and tell them to wear it until they get it!!! (with a note that says “why drink Boones Strawberry Hill if you can have Dom Perignon?”)

    But of course that does not work. I think the new Notorious would be good and boring and the new Vera Wang Look(terrible bottle) was pleasant and inoffensive. Also smelled Cartier So Pretty yesterday and it was nice and easy to like. (quick aside- I also smelled cartier Must and that was some pretty interesting wallop packing stuff- must go back and spray on skin)

    Finally- there is a bug spray note in Kelly Caleche that I can’t abide that ruins an otherwise good perfume (can anyone tell me what this note is? I also smell it in Bond’s Hamptons)

    • March says:

      Bug spray not. I’m not sure. Some combination of citrus and musk? Bug spray is not a scent I’m looking for in my fine fragrance. [-(

      I have no idea what So Pretty smells like. But I’ve always liked the name. I should go smell it.

    • BBJ says:

      To me Eau des Merveilles, both versions are pure DEET. I mourn over this, since people write such lovely descriptions of Eau des Merveilles, and all I get is heavy-duty bug spray.

      I don’t know what that smell is.

    • Joe says:

      Maybe it’s something at Hermes. Or JC Ellena is playing jokes on all of us… a fellow bus-rider who I chat with regularly said she thought she smelled bug spray one morning when I was wearing Jardin en Mediterranee. I’m thinking maybe she picked up some kind of sharp cedar/citronella vibe somehow. Then again, maybe she did smell bug spray — I can’t be SURE it was me. Ha!

  • Zoe says:

    I’m with the droves of commenters not burning themselves on the gift of fragrance. Knowing how incredibly picky *I* am, I’m not about to risk giving someone random something I don’t like (because it’s an inoffensive snooze of a scent), and which they might not like either (because they think it’s an avant-garde rubber and tar reeker).
    That said, Gucci by Gucci is the latest frag I tried where I simply couldn’t qualify it any other way but “nice”. SJP Lovely probably carries too much of the celebuscent stigma to safely gift. Agree on the Bvlgari Teas, though, and I *would* agree on the Jo Malones and L’Occitanes, if only those were available at American prices in Northern Yurp. So aggravating there’s no such thing as fragrance discounters here.
    Happy is indeed, ehm, dreck. It was everywhere at high school in the second half of the 90s, and I quite liked it then. Made the huge mistake of buying it without trying on skin (I mean, the cool kids wore it. What could I do?) and it smells like… I don’t know. Fragrance gone off. Not happy.

    • March says:

      Clearly a lot of people think this is a terrible idea. 🙂 And I’ve given gifts but I have no idea whether people liked them.

      The lack of online discounters is so weird — I ran into it in this complicated swap with a gal from Paris. I could buy my side over here for $30, but over there it was full retail — $120!

  • Kathryn says:

    Choosing a perfume for someone else is sufficiently perilous that I never do (except for my DH who is a very good sport with a taste for the mildly outrageous.) I remember my mother politely thanking an uncle for a Christmas gift of Evening in Paris and then being blighted by another unwanted bottle every year thereafter. Despite decreasingly enthusiastic thanks and increasingly pointed hints, the bottles did not stop. They sometimes got passed on to me and then to my dolls who ended up reeking so badly that I didn’t want to play with them any more. Every once in awhile my mom still comes across one of those cobalt blue bottles lurking in a corner somewhere and starts sputtering about the cluelessness of good old Uncle Arthur. And then there is a friend who marks the beginning of the end of her marriage to the day her husband gave her a gift of a bottle of Charlie….

    Having witnessed how badly perfume gifts can go, what I do now is give my nearest and dearest perfume sampler packs with gift certificates attached. Aedes, Luckyscent and Sephora all offer them, and I have even made up my own. This avoids the numerous pitfalls of boring, depressing, maddening or unintentionally insulting the recipient. It also has the added advantage of occasionally converting a friend or relation to the joys of perfume sniffage. It’s always fun to have more playmates.

    • March says:

      Oh, all those poor old bottles of Soir de Paris! Although you could sell ’em all on eBay now! I like your idea of the sampler gift pack better. 🙂

      • Kathryn says:

        There must have been quite a few Uncle Arthurs out there in the 60’s because there’s an awful lot of Evening in Paris sloshing around on eBay. But maybe it’s because of being given permission to drench myself and my dolls in a dime store Ernest Beaux at an early age that I regard perfume now as such a source of delight. I am still completely smitten with Beaux’s Cuir de Russie, although, of course, in much smaller doses!

  • Meliscents says:

    OK, I’m going out on a limb with this one, but what about some of the drugstore stuff? Maybe for someone you like more than some but you’re not super close with and certainly someone you wouldn’t spend Chanel dollars on. I was thinking of Windsong, Jovan Musk, Sand & Sable, or the classic 4711. I was also thinking of L’air du Temps which you can get really reasonable. In the case of Windsong & L’air, they aren’t as good as the original but still decent & most people aren’t as hardcore as some of us & wouldn’t know the difference between a “new” & “original” if it bit them on the back end! Oh, and I agree with the choices above but am shocked someone would pick Happy over Mitsouko.

    • March says:

      I like a number of things from the drugstore, but again I think it’s a comfort level. The theoretical giftee I’m picturing might be thinking it’s cheap. OTOH you may well have much nicer drugstores than I do! :)>-

  • Suzanne says:

    I’m sorry, but I loathe Kelly Caleche–I get lots of leather from it and something sour. DH said, “You smell like a man!” when I tried it. Premiere is nice and so is Prada IdI. I didn’t know a lot of people couldn’t smell it. On me, it’s baby shampoo and light incense; I’m baffled by those who think it smells like No.5.

  • carmencanada says:

    Hey, I’d take a “generic” gift of N°5 Eau Première any day (but will probably have to settle for buying it myself). And I wouldn’t cry if I got Kelly Calèche, I quite enjoy it actually.

    I would totally put Eau d’Hadrien on my list (a couple of other lighter Goutals like Petite Chérie might also fit the bill): I don’t think anyone in the world dislikes it. Dior’s Escale à Portofino and Guerlain’s Cologne 68 would also be good choices (the 68 is sold in duty-frees now).

    Based on the very popular scents among young/youngish women here in Paris, I think that Kenzo Flower and Coco Mademoiselle would go over very well.

    • March says:

      AG makes me smile in particular, because I discovered it on the left bank in Paris (my first: Mandragore) and because it is what got my perfume obsession cranked up.

      I’m kind of liking the Coco Mad. Quick, someone, slap me!

  • Divalano says:

    Oh my. I’m way too wussy to give fragrance as a gift. It’s just too confusing. Anything generic enough not to cause offense usually offends ME. So I’m fascinated to read what others come up with.

    I agree about Chanel 5 being perceived as generic. Ditto: Shalimar. Yes, I had the Jo Malone thought too, maybe that Jasmine & Mint tea one. But moving on, and trying to limit myself to what’s in stock at Sephora/Macy’s/Bloomingdales/Nordies etc … I spritzed Bulgari Jasmine Noir last week & it seemed inoffensive & pretty. Or how about L’Occitane? The Honey & Lemon or the Verbena are nice.

    • March says:

      L’Occitane! DUH. A couple of those are really nice. There’s a men’s one (okay, I wouldn’t gift it) that I’d like … their 4 Reines one is pretty for rose lovers, and I like that Honey-Lemon one. And who doesn’t like verbena? Plus they have gift sets.

      I still haven’t tried Jasmine Noir. I disliked the Voile de Jasmine and so haven’t sniffed further.

      • Divalano says:

        Jasmine Noir wasn’t bad, which is as good as I’ve ever gotten from Bulgari – except for Black, which honestly isn’t always great on me. The JN was pretty but the jasmine all burned off much too soon, leaving me with a sort of smooth bland woody something. I had to shower & dress & didn’t give it a chance to finish, figure I’ll try again in warmer weather. It was verging on that perfumey make me cough vibe but didn’t quite get there. Could be ok. Jury is out. But, it could be ok as an inoffensive, accessible gift …

        • March says:

          I should have set this whole construct up differently: what if you HATE Aunt Tilly? (And she doesn’t live nearby.)

          I’d give her Baiser. Or Must. Or really go the distance and order up some Animale by Parlux. That’ll singe your nosehairs off.

          The problem with almost anything mainstream called Noir is: they’re thinking, why did she give me this kinkfest? And we sniff and go, meh, you call this noir? This is greige.

    • Shelley says:

      You reminded me! I liked the L’Occitane Green Tea w/Jasmine last spring/summer, and toyed with getting some. It seemed particularly nice in the warmer weather going on when I was sampling it…but I haven’t tried it in cold.

      • Joe says:

        Hmm, if only they still sold that one in the 20ml for under $20…. but no, only the regular Green Tea. I wish these lines would add some consistency to their size offerings. /cranky

        • March says:

          I miss all their great travel size stuff. Travel restrictions get tighter and they do away with all their little travel things? 🙁

  • Olfacta says:

    Well I guess non-offensive is the keyword here right? So no MKK or Fleur de Cassie for Aunt Tillie.

    I think most of the Bulgaris (except Black) are mainstream enough but interesting (and sale-priced online.) Hermes 24 Faubourg, too. Eau Premiere. White Linen. Gentle florals, most people like those; they expect perfumes to smell like flowers, so when they do, they’re happy.

    • March says:

      Oh, go ahead. Give Aunt Tillie some MKK. But that’s going to set you back more than a Ben Franklin, isn’t it?

      I agree that people expect perfume to smell like flowers. Maybe that was why this was so hard for me — if you looked at my collection, it’s apparent I don’t really care for most florals, even niche ones. /:)

  • Shelley says:

    Honestly, I think I might skip the agony and go for the fun. Gap Grass. What the heck…you can use the gimmick angle as an excuse if it’s not a straight up hit, and you know what? They just might like the fragrance….

    That said, any “layering” set might be fun to play with and the recipient can maybe even discover a something. Agree with Prada Iris and Bulgari Tea or Femme, which dodge your concern about Chanel being seen as a “non-thinking” gift.

    I think the Sephora mini collection with gift certificate is another good way to handle this situation, though now *I’m* dodging the spirit of identifying a particular fragrance.

    • March says:

      I had totally forgotten about the mini collection/gift certificate and I think that’s a good idea! Given that I’m not personally invested in steering my giftee away from Angel, then she’d have time to sample and mull.

  • Silvia says:

    Being obsessed with scent, the majority of the gifts I give are smellies, mostly candles or bath oils, but often perfumes too. Surprisingly unless you hit an incognito perfumista the potential for getting it wrong is not that high.

    Good choices are the Bulgari teas, Prada Iris, the Guerlain Aqua Allegorias, the Hermes Jardins. L’Artisan and Diptyque also have a number of inoffensive winners although not really mainstream brands unless you live in a big city.

    Making samples for someone is also a good gift.

    • March says:

      The AAs have really pretty bottles. I was trying to decide whether to include Figue Iris, maybe I should have? Also they’re stocked by Sephora, which means they can be exchanged.

  • Carol Sasich says:

    I would never give perfume…even though I pass out samps and decants like vitamins…someone has to ask me about perfume.
    The frags I was given over the years always depressed me .
    ( I might consider re-gifting something if I know the persons favorite scent…)
    I’d give a bag of Mystic Bean Coffee Beans
    Yeah , listen up Vera , how about a great frag to go with your pricey gowns ?
    I just sniffed the Chanel No 5 eau premiere and it WAS lovely….

    • March says:

      Did you smell VW Look? The new one? It’s as depressing, and definitely ugly to look at. Not sure what she was thinking with that one.

      You could definitely depress me with a gift of a “wrong” fragrance, trying to think what that might be….

  • Louise says:

    March, you do realize how much anxiety this post is causing us, yes #-o ?

    First limitation-I would only consider buying perfume for a local friend, not a distant relative or a colleague.

    From your list I would head straight to the Infusion d’Iris, which is light, but lovely. Eau Premiere would be second-the Chanel brand might be engaging.

    I would also consider Narcisso Rodriguez-though I know some are pretty much anosmic to it’s charms 8-|

    Otherwise…gift card time-to one of the mall boutiques here with an older, broader range of perfumes…and I’d insist on going along :p

    • March says:

      Yes! I feel bound by duty to share my pain! I’ll never do this again, I promise, it was torture — worse than, what scent would you give someone you hate?

      Narciso charges a LOT of money for a bottle filled with water. /:)

  • Eva says:

    Hmmm – March this has really made me ponder. I think I would give something else – maybe gourmet foody items but generic perfume? Nuh. Unless I know somthing about the person and am absolutely certain they are eg a citrus freak and so Eau d’Hadrien would be divine (am wearing it today!). Generally i don’t get given perfume unless friends or family know for sure I am hankerng after something particular. They all know abut my curious obsession. However have been given a bottle of Clinigue Happy and E/Arden Sunflower in the last few months which I . . ahem. . . use in the bathroom as room fresheners. That is as far as they go. :-& Sorry to all you Clinique Happy lovers but so many perfumes to try, so little time!!!

  • Erin T / Tigs says:

    No. 5 Eau Premiere would definitely be a good gift. Kenzo may also have some options. Flower, for example, while not something I wear myself, seems like a popular, quality choice – it’s complex, but fresh-sweet enough to be broadly liked.

    • March says:

      Flower’s a legit choice. Depending on who the giftee is, maybe I’d go for one of their cool gift sets, or the giant super-tall bottle.

  • Dain says:

    The Different Company Un Parfum de Bois et Sens: it’s delightful and not the least bit alienating, and in my humble opinion, its niche status is a bonus. It gives a personal touch (it shows you thought about it, instead of grabbing the big brand name an SA shoved at you) to a personal gift.

    • March says:

      That is a nice fragrance. For some reason I never see it out with the rest of the line. My recollection is it looks good too.

  • Natalie says:

    I’m going to quibble with your assertion that fragrance gifts are just as hit-or-miss as chocolates or clothing — most people don’t think fancy chocs or even a cashmere sweater are some expression of their deep innermost character, whereas perfume is somehow supposed to convey all that and more. That said, I think I’d go with one of the Jo Malones for a generic perfume gift; most of them are pretty, innocuous, and fleeting. Or maybe a cheapie EDT version of something nice, like Diorissimo?

    The only time I ever gave a generic perfume gift was a bottle of Chanel Allure that I re-gifted (the hospital where I had my son gave out kick-ass Chanel gift bags to all the new moms), and it was a huge hit. The closest I’ve come to receiving a generic perfume was this past Christmas, when my best friend, knowing that I’m into perfume, gave me a big bag of samples of a bunch of, um, boring crap, for lack of a better term. I love her to pieces, and I love her all the more for going to the trouble, but man oh man did she miss the mark!

    • March says:

      Yep, Jo Malone is a giant hole in my post here. What kind of blogger am I anyway? All I can say is, I have to go to a different retail center to smell them, but it’s not like I don’t know what they smell like enough to recommend a few from the line, which I halfway did in my aside.

      I hate giving/getting clothes. Talk about something that can say all the wrong things (you’re huge! you like loud, ugly prints!) Chocolate I love, but cheap chocolate depresses me. Anyone giving me drugstore chocolate’s going on my naughty list.

      • March says:

        PS. Those samples. o.m.g. what are you supposed to DO with those things? I get samps I wouldn’t give to anyone with a straight face, and my church thrift shop didn’t want them. I threw a bunch into one of their toothpaste-for-the-homeless boxes, but I don’t know what they did with them.

        • Natalie says:

          Darn, there goes that Whitman’s sampler I had all picked out for you! I do agree that there’s plenty of room for error with chocs and clothes (my SIL once gave me a Lurex tank top, used, size large, which I am not), but it’s also easier to find a decent generic option in those categories.

          As for the samples, hmmm… Mix ’em all together and see what happens? If it hasn’t already spontaneously combusted, throw a match in? The kicker is, my friend lives in L.A., and I told her all about Scentbar and the cool stuff you can get at Barney’s, and still she got me the same junk I can find at Macy’s in my local mall.

          • Musette says:

            Wow. Your SIL ………um……..@-) (I hope this is the right emoticon – attempting to convey Shock and Awe here)

            And the Whitman’s sampler!=)) I remember loving those boxes as a Very Young Girl – you could actually see what you were getting, rather than having to poke surreptitious holes in the bottom (with your grubby little fingernail because hey, you were a kid!) of the Fannie May box!


          • March says:

            You send me the Whitman’s and I’ll send you a veeeeery special set of samples I picked up. At Sears. Every iteration of Liz Taylor. Some Pierre Cardin… the Beckhams …

            Okay, NOW you are making me want to do a generic random friday post on sucky gifts we’ve gotten, and then I think we should all put our heads together and brainstorm for your next gift to your SIL, who I am now going to refer to as “Satana.” That okay with you? >:)

          • Natalie says:

            “Satana” suits her to a tee! “Sneaky underhanded b*#@%” would also work. Perhaps a Whitman’s sampler for her?

          • March says:

            Whitman’s AND I think you should have saved the samps she gave you and regifted them to her. And eaten one of the chocolates. 🙂

          • Musette says:

            Even better? Poke holes in the bottom with your fingernails![-(


    • mollypenny says:

      Yeah, I had a co-worker give me a bunch of samps she had, mostly from Victoria’s Secret. The only thing they’re good for is air freshener in the office bathroom.

  • Musette says:

    A poll guaranteed to strike terror in the perfumista heart!

    You won’t believe this but my Number One Go-to Scent for a generic, mid-range gift: Clinique Happy (the original – I have no idea how the rest smell). It never fails to thrill. Don’t ask. I would rather give you a sack of vomit than CH but for those who are not in love with Yatagan it’s just one that seems to work. Weirder still? Everybody I’ve given it to WEARS it! Not one return.

    My sister chose Happy over Mitsouko. I just stood there, in stunned silence.

    I do mid-range Jo Malones, usually, for the higher-end generic. A bit more unusual, they are still pretty ‘safe’. And the presentation is pretty, which boosts the level of the gift.

    The only reason I would buy Hermes is to go back to the boutique and beat those silly people over the head with the bottle. But you knew that. Besides, KCaleche irritates me because I get not even a little hint of leather. And since their name is synonymous with luxe leather (and bad manners), they should’ve made that work, in my opinion.

    Totally agree with you on Chanel No 5. I love it (perfume only) but I can just imagine my nonscent pals giving me the :-w look if I gifted them with it!

    ps. my opinion on the Vera Wang oeuvre: you are not anosmic – she is. I hate that stuff (it all smells the same, which is to say it doesn’t smell like much of anything) with the silly bottles and all – but that’s just one Evil crank’s opinion.

    😮 (is the full moon done yet? I’ve not done mayhem yet but……well, a new lunar phase would be most welcome!

    xo your Evil >-)

    • March says:

      MuWAHAHAHAHAA. >:) Feel the fear in the fragrance choices!

      Well, right off the bat, Jo Malone is a HUGE hole in my strategy (I just typed stragedy). Plus there are ancillary products, no? So maybe what everyone should do is forget everything I said and buy JM. Or a gift card.

      Or Happy. Hon, it’s hugely popular. I’ve smelled the flankers and thought I would die, but I’m not the target anyway. I hear Happy for Men is actually kind of nice (although seriously — Happy for MEN? Wouldn’t they pull your Man Card for that?)

      Glad to hear you feel the same way about VW. They’re supposed to be classy, and I guess they’re innocuous, but I couldn’t really tell.

      • Melissa says:

        This post has me perusing my collection for some of my older department store fragrances and classics. I came up with Lanvin Arpege for Aunt Sally (or in my case, Shirley), although I doubt that I would give it to a younger person. Well, maybe. It’s not screamingly aldehydic and it even has a slightly spicy note on the drydown.

        I have a vintage bottle of the parfum and a newer one of the edt. The reformulation is fine. It can be easily obtained at Amazon and it is inexpensive. I assume that it can be found in other places as well.

        For the younger set, I agree with the Kenzos. Hip bottles, fun fragrances, not likely to offend. Perfect.

        • Melissa says:

          Okay, something is misbehaving here. Whenever I try to enter a comment, it automatically fills in on the “reply to” line in the wrong place. So, I meant to reply to your post, not to your first comment. Blog gremlins? (:|

          • March says:

            … and this bothers you? 😕


            Our IT department is stuffing her face with croissants right now, and buying hats at Bon Marche, but we’ll discuss updating the WordPress install when she gets back. I’m afraid to do it, because I don’t know how to fix it if something goes wrong.

          • dissed says:

            Good place to weigh in, I think.

            In the “Let Them Eat Cake” category, I would give the Ormonde Jayne sample set. If the recipient is young and doesn’t want to wear any of the scents, she’s likely to google it and think (like my niece), “it’s expensive and sophisticated and I’ll probably grow into it, and besides, it smells good even if I don’t want to smell like that YET because I probably will someday.”

        • March says:

          Lanvin Arpege (the reissue) is in fact a really pretty scent, and I was deeply annoyed at Nordstrom for having Eclat but punting the original, which they definitely had in the past, along with Pour Homme (which they also got rid of). How are people supposed to know that alternatives to Viva La Juicy exist if they won’t keep them on the shelves?

          For the younger set, any of the Kenzos might be great. I always loved the leaf bottle, although I think it’s full of water. 😉