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 December 25. 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.net’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, 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 do 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.
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, is floral but has a kick, and is just so super simple that it’ll undoubtedly earn the title of your signature scent.
Like a decadent dessert, this fragrance layers creamy almonds with the tang of redcurrants. The overall effect is a little bit spicy.
Black Opium is as iconic as fragrances come, and this year YSL wrapped it in this glittery limited-edition bottle that you’ll want to keep even long after you’ve spritzed the last drop of perfume.
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 No5 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.
As the name (and bottle) would suggest, this fragrance is undeniably decadent. At its base lies amber, a note famed for its ability to anchor a scent to the wearer for hours and hours, as well as strong fruit and floral notes. It’s pretty addictive.
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.
If you’re shopping for a fan of the original Flowerbomb, you can’t go wrong with this Rose Twist edition. Designed to be worn below the original scent, it lends an extra helping of fresh roses that intensifies the aroma and allows the wearer to customise the overall effect.
It’s a bit of a blow-the-budget luxury 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.
& Other Stories’ rollerball scents are perfect for keeping in your handbag or pocket, and Fig Fiction is arguably the freshest scent the brand does. Think wild fig, currants and pink pepper: It’s modern and lightweight.
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.
Coach is a heritage leather goods brand from New York. It’s all-American, and this floral fragrance has Chloë Grace Moretz as its face. With hints of rose, tuberose and sandalwood, it’s a chic perfume that will fast become an everyday staple.
The classic daisy scent has been encapsulated in an all-gold bottle. Too pretty.
This perfume is described as a scent that “whispers,” and it contains traditionally heady aromas such as patchouli, myrrh and amber that have been expertly blended by Glasser. She describes the scent’s inspiration as “the memory of picking up that old book in Grandma’s attic, and watching it fall apart holds memories of heritage and intelligence that is profound and a rare perfection.”
If you didn’t find this under your tree last Christmas, then 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.
You can’t get more traditional than Penhaligon’s, a perfume brand that was established in 1870. This discovery set is ideal as a gift and includes five of the company’s best-selling fragrances: Artemisia, Vaara, Empressa, Iris Prima and Halfeti.
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.
Imagine a warming winter cocktail… This cologne contains bitter orange (naturally) and mandarin and is warmed up with hints of prune, sandalwood and amber. A true festive scent.
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 of an old-school jazz club.
Packaged in a gorgeous gift box are five atomisers, including Diptyque’s cult classic Philosykos. It includes a great spectrum of perfume types from Oud Palao, an intoxicating woody incense scent, to L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, inspired by a stroll through a sunny English garden.
Need more fragrance advice? See the five fragrance trends everyone’s going to be wearing this winter.