Everyone is difficult in their own way, which is why the myth of people who are “difficult to shop for” is not only patently ridiculous but, quite frankly, a bit rude. Unless the person you are shopping for is a child who has written out a list of the exact items they would like (or, more likely, provided the link to a running Amazon wishlist) or someone who collects something wildly specific (roosters or elephants for good luck, perhaps?), it is standard to have to put forth some effort to find something that suits your people and their complex, multifaceted selves perfectly.
is unarguably difficult is picking out fragrance for other people. Sure, you can confidently buy your mom her 10th bottle of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue without pause, but when you want to introduce a seasoned fragrance fanatic to a new scent, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Perfume, after all, is personal — but the challenge of finding someone something they’ll actually want to wear is better than buying someone a porcelain doll for their overflowing, creepy-as-fuck collection, don’t you think?
Ahead, a compilation of fragrances and gift sets that acknowledge and account for the idiosyncrasies of the people you care about — and show them how much you love them anyway.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
Consider the trope of the
manic pixie dream girl, and then picture what would happen if she gave up on her dreams of moving out to the desert to become the next Georgia O’Keeffe and got an executive gig raking in six figures instead. That’s who this intense, commanding floral fragrance, which combines a woodsy rose with the rare Rangoon creeper, is for: the freelance wild child who finally learned the value of being gainfully employed and now has dollar signs in her eyes where stars used to be. She can keep the portable rollerball in her pebbled-leather laptop case and the 1.6 oz bottle on her vintage armoire — right next to the dried flowers she still strings through her hair when you go to the bar on weekends. At least she always picks up the tab. Gucci Gucci Bloom Nettare di Fiori Eau de Parfum Gift Set, $146, available at Sephora
Despite its enduring popularity among well-off women of a certain age and Marilyn Monroe wannabes, Chanel No.5 — with its heady aldehydes and elegant floral fadeout — is not for everyone. But people who love it really, really love it, and that’s why you should absolutely buy them this limited-edition collectible
eau de parfum bottle, which is all done up in rich blood red to match Gabrielle Chanel’s favorite color. (An even better gift for the No.5 diehard in your life would be the 30.4 oz, $30,000 pure packaged in Baccarat crystal, but unless you just won Powerball, that’s probably more of a long shot.) parfum extract Chanel N°5 Limited Edition Eau de Parfum Spray, $160, available at Chanel
Yoga, in reality, smells like boob sweat and strangers’ feet, but the
idea of yoga smells like this: the lightest, most ethereal combination of amber and white musk spun into a beautiful, airy scent that’s best described as clean. You’ve never smelled anything like it — and neither has your most quote-unquote spiritual and yet flakiest friend, who’s always fifteen minutes early for Bikram but consistently “forgets” all about your Friday night plans. Double down on the transcendent fragrance with the same scent in candle form, which is made with 100% soy wax and will pair perfectly with the wind-down stretch for the classes she’ll teach once she completes the 200-hour training program she’s been talking about doing for the past two years. Lake & Skye 11 11 Eau de Parfum, $98, available at Lake & Skye
Pizza or Chinese food for delivery? Loose ponytail or messy bun? Pick a movie to watch on Netflix or just scroll through the comedies for 45 minutes until you just get up and go the fuck home to watch your own damn movie on your own damn TV? Sometimes the best way to deal with a loved one who just can’t make up their mind is to put them in a situation in which they don’t have to decide anything at all. Take, for example, this advent calendar, which contains 24 very special, very luxe minis to spare them the enormous weight of having to choose which fragrance to wear in the days leading up to Christmas.
Atelier Cologne Discovery Advent Calendar, $59, available at Atelier Cologne
Behold, a nicely-curated collection of five Jo Malone fragrances — and you know who wears Jo Malone fragrances, right? Long before she became Meghan, Duchess of Sussex,
told Suits actress Meghan Markle Express that she loves the British perfumery’s Wild Bluebell and Wood Sage & Sea Salt Colognes, both of which you’ll find shrunken down to travel size in this elegant box fit for the most Markle Sparkle-obsessed person on your list. Jo Malone London Cologne Collection, $115, available at Nordstrom
She might be all long, messy bangs, no-makeup makeup, and frayed kick-flare jeans these days, but scroll back far enough in her Instagram feed and you’ll find photographic evidence of the “old” her — the one who rocked bootcut leggings (with the fold-down waistband) with a serious fake tan, a lip piercing, and eyebrows tweezed to oblivion. The soft, airy notes of jasmine, cedarwood, and liquid musk in this sophisticated fragrance and body lotion duo will match her current brand: It’s from a chic Brooklyn-based company, but comes with a holographic pouch that’s a subtle nod to a similar clutch she bought at Urban Outfitters in 2011.
Ellis Brooklyn Myth Holographic Set, $115, available at Credo
Oh, the things that studying abroad in Paris can do to a person — like give them the audacity to spend the rest of their days pronouncing “croissant”
kwa-sahn and starting sentences with, “When I lived in Paris…” The Francophile’s fragrance collection is not complete without a little something from Diptyque, which has operated out of a small boutique at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 5th Arrondissement since 1961. This sleek set contains five vials of the brand’s best-loved eau de parfums, all of which will bring them straight back to their semester in the City of Light — even if their current location is Paris, Texas. Diptyque Eau De Parfum Discovery Set, $105, available at Barneys New York
The olfactory equivalent of giving someone a blanket scarf as a holiday gift — because who
doesn’t want a blanket scarf? — this universally-appealing fragrance set is foolproof, and fit for any human of any gender or taste. The three new fragrances, Serenity, Energy, and Intensity (respectively described as a woody amber, a citrus musk, and spicy woods), are meant to be mixed and matched, layered or worn alone… and besides, who couldn’t use a little extra serenity or energy this time of year? Kenneth Cole Kenneth Cole for Her Gift Set, $100, available at Kenneth Cole
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods — unless, of course, thy neighbor wears Santal 33, in which case it’s perfectly all right to want to steal a spray from time to time. For the friend who mentions how
lame it is that everyone wears the cult-favorite smoky sandalwood scent so often you’ve started to become suspicious of her motives, get her this set of two travel-sized spritzers. Finally, she’ll be able to tell everyone who asks that she wears Santal 33… and then she can switch to the slightly more obscure AnOther 13 once she’s over smelling like every other “cool girl” in the Western hemisphere. Le Labo Santal 33 & AnOther 13 Set, $95, available at Nordstrom
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