It’s little surprise that internet searches for perfume skyrocket this time of year, and it’s also highly likely if you’re reading this that you’re on the lookout for a new scent, whether you’ll be adding it to your holiday wish list or gifting a loved one with it come 25 December.
But with perfume being such a personal thing, where do you start? It’s hard enough finding a fragrance for yourself, let alone someone else. Master perfumer Alberto Morillas suggests narrowing down your search: “Do you prefer fresh, spicy, floral or warm? Choosing one of these categories will help edit your search.”
Not sure what you like? Fragrance expert Nick Gilbert of Love to Smell recommends thinking of a perfume you love already and then finding out what its base notes are on Basenotes’s fragrance directory. This same tactic will help you when shopping for a present, too. You find out what their current favourite perfume is and use that as your starting point.
If you’re trying to decide on a new scent, spritz some onto your skin when you’re out shopping. “Apply the fragrance to your wrist, which is one of your pulse points,” Morillas says. “The heat from this point of your body helps to develop the fragrance. You should let fragrances develop for 30 minutes on your skin so you can smell all levels of the fragrance—top note, the heart of the fragrance and dry-down.”
Of course, you can’t do this for your recipient, so consider buying them a discovery set. Plenty of brands make them, and that way they can have fun trying the different perfumes to find their favourite. Now that you know how to shop for new fragrances, you need to know the best scents around.
Keep scrolling for our roundup of the best new, classic and cult scents that anyone would want to find under their tree this Christmas.
Quite masculine and gritty and almost a bit dirty (but in a really nice way). You can smell the tonka, but it isn’t as sweet as would imagine thanks to the woody elements.
If you’re a member of Beauty Pie, you’ll get this perfume for just £19, which is incredible, since the RRP is £125. What’s even more remarkable is that this perfume was created with Frank Voekl the nose behind Le Labo Santal 33 and Glossier You. This smells like hazy holiday nights. The fig, lime and tea make for an intoxicating combination that you’ll want to wear every day.
Fruity and sparkly, this perfume lingers on the skin thanks to sandalwood and musk. You have to give it to J.Lo—she knows how to create a covetable fragrance.
All Saints has created a trio of fragrances that look and smell far more expensive than their £49 price tags. Sunset Riot is a sparkling floral scent that’s seriously addictive thanks to pink pepper and rose that mingles with warming cedarwood.
Ostens is disrupting the fragrance world by selling one-note fragrance oils direct from the manufacturers in France (think of it like The Ordinary, but for perfume). Alongside each single note oil is a fragrance created by a master perfumer that brings the ingredient to life. Each perfumer was given the brief to create a fragrance that shows off the ingredient in the way they believe it should be. Jasmine Absolue is a clean, fresh scent that’s incredibly wearable and will no doubt become a future classic.
A complex scent, this blends citrus with jasmine and sandalwood. As the names suggests, it’s a pretty, happy, joyful scent that’s easy to wear.
Massimo Dutti’s new perfumes look far more expensive than they actually are. This heady fruit floral has a spicy edge but also a sweetness thanks to the rose, praline and red berries. Not for the faint-hearted.
Totally unisex, (just like the original), this juice has strong hints of green apple and almost sparkles. Pink pepper, amber and vetiver make this totally irresistible on the skin.
Love Ouai products? Yep, we do too. And now Jen Atkin has taken the addictive scents of her hair products and bottle them as perfumes instead. North Bondi is seriously popular and shares the same fragrance as her iconic Wave Spray.
Perfume heads would classify this fragrance as an Eastern scent thanks to its notes of sambac jasmine, vanilla and lavender. It’s light but has longevity with a floral vibe. It’s also just so simple that it’ll undoubtedly earn the title of your signature scent.
The perfume equivalent of an energising juice, this fragrance contains fresh, juicy mandarin along with a kick of zingy ginger.
The first brand-new fragrance to come out of the fashion house in 15 years, Gabrielle Chanel is set to become just as synonymous with the luxury fragrance world as the brand’s cult No.5 scent. In essence, it’s a white floral that feels as crisp as a fresh white shirt, but that’s slightly softened by creamy sandalwood and tart blackcurrant.
Imagine taking a stroll through a country garden during the springtime, and you won’t be far off the effect this fragrance evokes. Inside, there are notes of tuberose, jasmine and the unusual rangoon creeper—a floral note with a powdery finish.
There’s something rather decadent about this fragrance. It’ll transport you to a 1960s boudoir fit with chiffon sheets and heavy velvet curtains. It melds coconut water, patchouli, cacao and musk, making it sensual and exotic in equal measure.
It’s a bit of a blow-the-budget buy, but Clive Christian’s scent is so intoxicating it’ll give you a kick you didn’t know was capable from a perfume. Unusual notes of kaffir lime leaf, pepper, clove and suede along with papyrus give it a hazy incense vibe that’s cut through by the sharp bitterness of apple skins.
Not for the faint-hearted, Cafe Tuberosa has a weighty base of Madagascan vanilla and musk that means it will cling to your cashmere jumper all day long. Later, notes of spicy cardamom and fresh mandarin will reveal themselves to have the same comforting feel as wrapping yourself in a super-soft blanket and hunkering down for a Netflix marathon on the sofa. Bliss.
If your attitude to Christmas gifting (or indeed receiving) is to go big or go home, this is for you. Tom Ford has surmised exactly how we want our fragrance to feel by way of almond, clary sage and leather.
The word might make us cringe a little, but there’s no denying that this fragrance is pretty sexy. Ripe plump raspberry is blended with neroli to create something rather sensual.
Modern Muse Nuit explores a more intoxicating and addictive side of the original scent. The new incarnation blends jasmine absolute with creamy woods and musk. A great crowd-pleaser, it’s a combination of floral, exotic and woody.
This cult-classic perfume contains just one molecule: Iso e Super. Despite being just one ingredient, this perfume has a complex aroma that’s subtle and woodsy. It mingles with your pheromones and vanishes, resurfacing to smell completely unique to you. You won’t notice it, but it can be quite captivating for people around you.
The classic daisy scent has been encapsulated in an all-gold bottle. Too pretty.
If you didn’t find this under your tree last Christmas, no doubt it’s still on your list this year. The packaging makes it too covetable for words. This fruity, floral scent has zesty bergamot and sweet raspberry softened with wood notes and white patchouli. In short, it definitely doesn’t smell like toilet cleaner.
Okay, so Marfa by Memo has been on our wish list since it launched. Each fragrance from Memo is a scent memory from a place this scent conjures up the bewitching small town of Marfa in the heart of Texas. Tuberose is the star of this show, but orange blossom and sandalwood feature too. But in all honesty, we’d buy it just for that bottle.
Not for the shrinking violets among us, the debut fragrance from makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury (of which Kate Moss is the face) is intoxicating. With tuberose, frankincense and Ambroxan (a molecule that magnifies the natural scent of your pheromones), this is a bold choice that smells quite incredible.
Originally created for men, this is now regarded as a good unisex choice. Inspired by a jazz club, there is zesty citrus, sweet hints of rum and vanilla, as well as tobacco to conjure the hazy, heady vibes.
Need more fragrance advice? See the five fragrance trends everyone’s going to be wearing this winter.