Fragrance Gift Guide

An all-occasion, evergreen list of do’s and don’ts for giving fragrances as gifts

When I started this blog, I created a loose editorial calendar that included a holiday gift guide post scheduled for early November. I had planned to highlight special holiday editions, gift sets, stocking stuffers, etc. You know the type of post I’m talking about here: a listicle with links that click through to a website selling the item.

The post I’m publishing today is NOT that post, and upon further reflection, I realized there is no need for me to do that kind of post.

The main reason is that this blog is not monetized in any way. If you see links on here, it’s because I love a product, person or thing and want to share it with you. I am not using Google AdSense or AdWords, not selling advertising space on my blog, not creating sponsored content and not participating in affiliate marketing. (I don’t begrudge any blogger or influencer who seeks to monetize their content, but after years of paid work in the fragrance industry, I now just want to have fun with fragrances, do my own thing and have complete control over it.)

Wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree
Photo by Oleg Zaicev on

The second reason is that there are plenty of fragrance-themed listicles already on the internet. I could easily compile a list of solid fragrance gift ideas for another such article, but I don’t think it will be of much benefit to my readers. What I feel would be more helpful at this time is actually a list of…

Do’s and Don’ts of Fragrance Gifting (Whatever the Occasion)

My knowledge comes from years of gifting many fragrances, often to what I realize now were reluctant recipients and with mixed results. I’ve also seen some people do unpleasant things with fragrances they don’t like but received as a gift: killing moths (okay, I actually did this one); using an expensive fragrance as bathroom air freshener; spraying a little bit outside in the backyard every day, so it would look like the bottle was being used up; “accidentally” breaking a bottle; pouring perfume down the drain or into the toilet; throwing full or nearly full bottles in the garbage. (Please don’t do any of these things. If you can’t return an unloved perfume to its place of purchase, find a friend to pass it on to, sell it on Ebay, donate it to a thrift store, swap it for something you’ll use, etc.)

A stack of wrapped gifts with a tag that says "Just for you."
Photo by Pixabay on

I am a firm believer that it’s the thought that counts, but when giving a fragrance gift in particular, that it should be about making the recipient happy, rather than trying to impose my interests on others or show others how much money I could spend/what exquisite taste I have. To that end:

  • DON’T give any fragrance gift–perfume, candle, bath oil, lotion, potpourri, etc.–unless you are certain the recipient uses fragranced products. As hard as it is for us perfume lovers to imagine, some folks have zero interest in fragrances. Others are very sensitive to fragrances and must choose any they use with great care. A few folks even have medical reasons for avoiding fragranced products altogether.
  • DON’T buy a perfume for someone unless they have specifically mentioned they want that particular fragrance. Fragrance is extremely subjective. Just because a fragrance is this year’s most popular release for teens, just because the recipient once complimented you when you wore the fragrance, just because they like Chanel No. 5–so surely they’ll like Chanel Chance Eau Tendre, too, right?–doesn’t mean they will enjoy a particular perfume or even use it.
  • Similar to the above, but an important variation: DON’T buy someone a knock-off or designer dupe of a scent unless they specifically asked for it. You’ll only look cheap and they’ll likely be disappointed! If you can’t afford even a very small bottle of the real thing, find some other non-fragrance gift they will enjoy. On the other hand, DO be aware that someone who knows their way around fragrances might have good reasons for asking you to buy them, for example, Parfums Vintage Pineapple Vintage instead of Creed Aventus, and if they asked, go for it!
  • DON’T buy a niche/indie/artisan fragrance for someone who is not a member of the tribe. By “tribe,” I mean a member of the online fragrance community who is actively sampling and sharing thoughts about niche/indie/artisan, or who has expressed interest in doing so when their funds allow. True story: I cyclically accumulated and purged many samples and even full bottles of exclusive niche scents in my years as a fragrance writer. Whenever I let non-tribe friends know I had an excess of fragrances to give away, everyone asked if I had any [insert any mainstream designer or celebrity fragrance name], which I rarely had, because those brands have huge advertising budgets and don’t need to generate buzz by putting free product in the hands of bloggers and influencers. After too many comments about $200 bottles from exclusive new niche brands smelling like “old lady” scents (one person’s eyes got big when I told her how much it cost, and not in a good way. More in the way of “Oh, shit! I should have checked Ebay to see how much I could sell it for instead of throwing it away like I did”), I stopped sharing those niche/indie/artisan scents with non-tribe members. Please know I say all of this with love and without judgment. My goal in giving away fragrances was to clear some space for me and give someone else something they would enjoy, but I’ve learned that tribe and non-tribe members are at different places on the fragrance-lovers spectrum. A casual fragrance appreciator who wears only fragrances from the department store cosmetics counter–say, D&G Light Blue–is not going to be impressed by, and may not be fully able to appreciate, your gift of Mendittorosa Sogno Reale or some other niche brand they’ve never heard of. Save your cash and make them happy by buying something they know and like.
A red gift box tied with a sparkly red ribbon, held in a woman's hands
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on
  • DO always give a beautifully wrapped gift. Even when I was just passing on a bunch of samples, I went and bought gift bags and tissue paper to make a pretty gift presentation, included any original cards or boxes that came with the samples, tied things up with ribbon, etc. Whether you’re gifting a brand new bottle you just purchased at Macy’s or passing on to a fragrance friend some gently used bottles or samples from your own collection, take a moment to make the gift more special and meaningful for the recipient.
  • DO consider giving the gift of your time along with the gift of a fragrance. Take that bride-to-be friend shopping for fragrances and body products as a bridal shower gift and finish with a stop at the wine bar. Make a memory with your kid or grandkid when they are ready to pick out their first fragrance: a lunch date, followed by shopping and sniffing together. Quarantine/anytime low-key option: order a bunch of samples, have a nice relaxed lunch and sniffing party in your own home, and then order online a full bottle of their chosen fragrance when you’re finished.
  • DO opt for a gift card or cash if you know the person loves fragrances but you don’t know what to choose for them. If you know where they like to shop, get a gift card for the store (Bath and Body Works, Sephora, Luckyscent, Etsy, etc.). If you’re not sure about a store, an Amazon gift card, Visa gift card, or cash may be your best options.
  • DO research a store’s return policy on fragrance items before buying anything, and always keep a receipt/gift receipt, just in case…
A hip young man and woman exchange gifts in bed
Photo by Moose Photos on

By Jodi at Solidly Scented

A lover of all things fragrant

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