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How To Buy Fragrance For Notoriously Tricky People

BY Alice du Parcq

There should be huge pressure on me right now to edit down a selection of bang-on items for this edit. Strangely there isn’t! Because I myself am that notoriously tricky person to buy for. My husband says it. My mum and sister say it. I am picky with high standards and I expect an emotionally laden thought process when they’re shopping for me. I prefer low cost homemade keepsakes but have a penchant for highly extravagant and extortionate luxury.

Mediocrity is dispiriting and I will mask it brilliantly and graciously in my reaction (but leave a 0.1% glint of disappointment in a distant corner of my gaze, which is intended to sting and make you ashamed for not expressing your love for me more accurately). I am a nightmare, frankly.

So really this is more like my Space NK scented supermarket-sweep of what to buy ME! And, of course, any other nightmare beloveds who make you feel unnervingly fidgety when they unwrap your gifts. *sends link to family WhatsApp group*


Acqua Di Parma

Colonia Essenza Eau de Cologne, £80.00

The Winter Cologne
I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t like Paul Simon’s Graceland or Acqua di Parma Colonia. End of. They are both laced with magic and improve every situation, and generally make you a better person. For this festive season, pump up the volume with the majestic Colonia Essenza – a slightly deeper, richer version of the classic splashy icon with a wisp more clove, patchouli, moss and amber. It is the failsafe, goes-with-anything cologne that only people with excellent taste like. And if they don’t, you seriously need to reconsider your relationship.


Boy Smells

Gardener Scented Candle, £36.00

The Cool Candle
Flying the flame for gender-fluid, progressive-thinking boujee bougies is Boy Smells, with its proud packaging plus eco-luxe details that cover all activism bases. Gardener is a safe bet, as it’s reminiscent of dewy mown lawns and succulent climbing plants, with a tinge of green tomato leaf and sweet-steamy honeysuckle. Even the most hardened, sternest soul will soften at this candle’s nostalgic ‘grandad’s greenhouse’ vibe.



Happiness Diffuser, £38.00

The Subliminal Message
If you really can’t win with a particularly tricky person, then play them at their own game. Gifting a treat that has the actual word ‘happiness’ on it means that if they don’t like it, they’re a miserable git. This makes it their problem, not yours, and instead of a glint of disappointment in their eye it’ll be a glint of shame. Which is secretly satisfying, given the shopping pain they’ve caused you over the years. The added bonus with this diffuser is that it’s absolutely delicious and will fill their home with floral and citrus joy, which will seep into their souls and make them a nicer person. Win win, for you especially.



La Sélection Bois Mini Candle Set, £77.00

The Neutralists’ Dream
There is nothing to dislike about this votive candle trio, which is why it’s perfect for hard-to-pleasers. Monochrome and minimalist, they slot seamlessly into any interior style without fanfare or colour upset. As for the scents, Treehouse shouldn’t even be considered a perfume as such, but as an extension of the tree roots and soil and straw growing outside and snaking their way indoors. Unobtrusive and easy, Cotton Poplin has white-shirt clarity with the soft musky edges of a cherished old book. Bohemia is a bit churchy and a bit chocolatey, but still within that neutral-but-yummy zone.


Maison Margiela

Replica Memory Box Fragrance Gift Set, £30.00

The Try-Before-You-Cry Set
If they’re a real perfumista, this discovery box is an absolute winner. All the pressure comes off you, and it’s up to them to figure out what they like the most. Lots of brands make these little sampling sets now, especially given the whole lockdown sitch. What’s particularly fab about this Replica Memory Box is that there are 10 to enjoy. The names are clear and situational (for instance Flower Market, Beach Walk, Jazz Club), they appeal to any age and it’s really, really easy to wrap.



Vetyver Eau de Parfum, £158.00

The Surprise Soulmate
Vetiver is an ingredient that tricky people are drawn to. It’s a long, enduring grass that grows on rugged island coastlines and its distilled oil has an earthy, warm and refreshing scent. It’s not pretty or girly. It’s not manly or tough. Instead it’s poetic, curious, reflective and misunderstood – much like whom you’re shopping for. Chantecaille’s version focuses on the refreshing character of vetiver (also spelt vetyver) with a zingy boost of lemon and pepper. But those deep, soil-rich roots stretch out in the dry-down linger, feeding all those complicated characteristics you secretly adore in the recipient.



Car Diffuser And Baies Scented Insert, £75.00

The WOW One
Diptyque perfumers are geniuses: once in a while they’ll take an unassuming everyday object and infuse it with their scents, upgrading it to luxury new heights. Woven bracelets, stickers and hourglasses have all been ‘Diptyquefied’, as has the humble car freshener. This diffuser pod discreetly slots into your car’s dashboard air vent and emits a subtle aroma that makes traffic jams an exquisite nirvana. There are a few scents to choose from, including Fig, Rose and Orange Blossom. My top pick is Baies, a tangy, cool and invigorating squeeze of fresh blackcurrants and ripped bitter leaves and did I mention I’d very much like this one please, mum?


Tom Ford

Rose Prick Eau De Parfum, £228.00

The Absurd Renegade
If in doubt, go epic. Like really epic. So epic that it stuns the receiver out of their festering fusspot of trickiness into a hypnotic shock of scented submission. Who better to do that than Tom Ford, with his indecent-but-LOLs-named Rose Prick perfume? Warning: this is not your polite dewy innocent rose. This is your obscenely nudey-rudey, fleshy rose smothered in Turkish Delight syrup, running across a posh Chateau garden at dawn looking for your undies, carefree and tantalisingly starkers from a night of mischief. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that action?

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