Iam generally done with my Christmas shopping by November, but always wait until this week to buy one last bottle of perfume for someone. It’s a tradition that allows me to soak up the department store buzz, enjoy a blast of Slade and peer at what others are buying. If you’re a panic fragrance shopper (don’t feel bad – a scented gift is no less wonderful for its unoriginality), I enthusiastically recommend these widely available gems.
Let’s begin with bold, sexy scents for those who can stand up to them. This year, I’ve fallen hard for Tom Ford’s Noir de Noir (£142.40, 50ml), but with a caveat: please spare an hour to go for a pint while the on-counter spritz (a punchy, characteristically smutty Ford take on rose, truffle and vanilla) dries down to an incredibly soft, sensual robe of velvety black chocolate. It’s everything I avoid in a perfume and yet I’m involuntarily obsessed.
More typically my poison is Cartier’s La Panthère (£74.40, 50ml), a greener, muskier offering that transitions appositely from office to party to bed. It’s extremely sexy on men and women, but it does have a classical, grown-up feel that wouldn’t feel quite right for a teenager.
Beauty fans could hardly have missed Chanel’s centenary celebrations for No 5, the 1921 icon that remains outstanding in its beauty and elegance. If you have a No 5 devotee on your gift list, now’s the time to indulge, since the collector’s eau de parfum packaging will disappear in the new year. But if I may also throw a curveball: No 5 eau de toilette, at £73 for 50ml, is No 5’s least expensive incarnation and among my favourites. Sharper, with a little more attitude, it’s an overlooked masterpiece.
I enjoy the challenge of buying fragrance for – and trying to convert –those who slightly fear it and in such cases, Clarins Eau Dynamisante is my gateway drug. This light, airy, citrussy but still distinctive and rather sexy skin scent smells so quintessentially French as to almost be comical. Gender neutral, it’s chic, unobtrusive and exceptional value (£44.20) for such a massive bottle (200ml!). Truly, it is never wrong.
For something just as wearable but perhaps more seasonal, Roger & Gallet’s Gingembre Rouge (£39.50 for 100ml, but seemingly always on offer somewhere) is a terrific buy. Warming ginger and pomegranates make it pleasingly festive, minus any time sensitivity – so it can be worn safely all year round, without jarring like a reindeer jumper at Wimbledon.