During the holidays, we often we hear “it’s the thought that counts,” usually in connection with a gift that was a disappointment. I am one of those people who thinks it is the thought that counts, whether you’re spending $60 or $6. I love to give gifts, and I spend more time than money finding things that I hope the recipient will not only like, but show how valuable that person is to me. Some of my best gift ideas came at times when I had very little money, but lots of ingenuity.
There are all sorts of fragrance options available at this time of year, from the wildly luxurious and expensive to the more affordable, but equally wonderful, choices. Fragrance really is one of the most affordable luxuries and often one of those things that fragrance lovers don’t buy for themselves while they’re shopping for the holidays. A bottle of a favorite fragrance paired with body lotion is a wonderful gift that will be remembered long after the latest fashion or newest electronic toy lies discarded in the back of a closet.
I had a glorious time browsing and sniffing my way through all sorts of products, from the budget-busting to the wallet-saving, and these are my favorites.
You can usually find sets in a variety of stores, but to keep things manageable, I’ve listed just one store for each item.
Bvlgari au the Blanc Gift Set , $125 at Bloomingdales. Lovely and soothing.
Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Set , $75 at Bloomingdales. Just fabulous.
Feerie Deluxe Gift Set , $170 at Neiman Marcus. A pretty fragrance.
White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor , $29.99 at Target. One of the first and best celebrity fragrances and a perennial bestseller.
Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely Gift Set , $72.00 at Macy’s. Her first, and best, fragrance. A lovely rose and deservedly a bestseller.
Dirty English Gift Set by Juicy Couture , $80 at Nordstrom. Excellent and fun.
Tom Ford for Men Gift Set , $75, at Saks Fifth Avenue. You might like this so much you’ll be sneaking sprays to wear on yourself.
Versace Pour Homme Deluxe Gift Set , $72 at Macy’s. Versace has a real winner here and I love the fragrance.
Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier , $75 at Nordstrom. I didn’t like the women’s fragrance at all, but the men’s is very nice.
Purse Sprays, Rollerballs, and Solid Perfume
I love rollerballs and purse sprays for their convenience and low cost. Solid perfume compacts are also easy to carry and often collectible. Estée Lauder in particular has a loyal following. Look for the limited edition compacts every year. I tried not to go overboard at one shop, but in this case, Sephora really has the widest selection of rollerball fragrances at great prices.
Juicy Couture , $50 at Neiman Marcus. Juicy Couture may look amazingly pink and tacky, but it’s actually an excellent tuberose.
Bvlgari Omnia Amethyste , $20 at Sephora. Lovely, with a hint of heliotrope.
Stella Eau de Parfum Roll-On , $16 at Sephora. A very nice, musky rose. Well worth a try.
Bond No. 9 New York Perfume Token,  $85 at Sak’s in six refillable (yay!) fragrances; Chinatown and Nuits de Noho are my favorites. The token is beautiful and heavy, and comes in a cute white leather carrying case. This is on my wish list for 2008, or anytime.
Marc Jacobs Daisy Solid Perfume Ring , $30 at Sephora. I love Daisy, and this is just a cute idea.
Michael Kors Rollerball with Lip Gloss Combo , $22 at Sephora. Great for a night out, and I love the perfume—a heavenly white floral.
Bond. No. 9 Candles , $85–$95, available exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue or at Bond. No 9. The packaging is delightful and the candles come in fourteen of Bond No. 9’s fragrances, including New Haarlem for the man in your life (or you!).
Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose Large Candle , $17. Creamy and velvety, a perfect gift for the tuberose lover.
Jo Malone Candles , $85 at Nordstrom. Six votive candles and a nice treat for Jo Malone lovers.
Kai Candle , $40 at Luckyscent.com. Kai is one of the most beautiful gardenia fragrances ever. I have the perfume and love it, and the candle is just as fabulous.
Scent Diffusers and Home Fragrances
Henri Bendel Reed Diffuser in Fig , $26 at Bath & Body Works. If you like figs, this is a terrific pick, and the other scents are excellent, too.
Ruby Mandarin Reed Diffuser , $17.99 at Target. Target has a wide array of reed diffusers, ranging from mini diffusers for $5.99 and on up, with a nice fragrance selection. These may be a little less intense than some of the higher-end diffusers, but that can be a good thing if you’re scent-sensitive.
Agraria Bitter Orange Individual Petite Essences available at Luckyscent  and full size Air Essence available at Saks Fifth Avenue , $105. Agraria was founded in San Francisco in the 1970s and makes beautiful, elegant home products. Bitter Orange is a must smell; you’ll fall in love with this sophisticated scent.
Agraria Lavender and Rosemary Tasselaire , $35 at Saks Fifth Avenue. These decadent tassels make wonderful presents and the lavender and rosemary combination is a winner.
Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Lavender Room Freshener , $4.99 and widely available at stores. The spray is perfect to remove any lingering smells and the lavender is tempered by a tangy citrus. A real find, inexpensive, and like all Mrs. Meyers  products, good for the earth and good for you.
For the Bath and Shower
Lush  has so many varieties of bath bombs, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but right now I like the Lemon Day and Ginger Beer  because it reminds me of summer. The Hot Java  spices me up after outdoor activities in the cold and the Ne Worry Pas  helps me soak away my worries. Put any three bath bombs in a Bath Bomb tube  for $4.25 and you have a wonderful present!
If you’re not a soaking fan, but still love bath products, you may share my current obsession: shower steamers. Pop one of these in the corner of your shower and in no time, you’ll have a cloud of fragrant steam enveloping you. Lush makes Up You Gets  and Too Drunk  for $3.95. I also really like Angel Face Botanicals shower steamers , which come in peppermint, lavender (my favorite), eucalyptus, and citrus for $4.00 or a six-pack for $22. These easily last through two good showers and are beautifully packaged.
EO  is a wonderful company that is widely available in stores, including Whole Foods and on Amazon.com . I tried their Ylang Ylang and Cedarwood  bubble bath for $7.99 and was thrilled at how good it smelled.
Soaps, Butters, and Lotions
This category is almost too vast to cover, but there are a few standouts.
Fresh makes boxed oval soap trios  for $42. They’re substantial and beautifully packaged. Also available is a frankincense, myrrh, and gold soap set for $45 that I really like. It’s as exotic and good looking as it sounds, but only available in stores and in the catalogue.
Agraria makes a line of bath soaps  that are so beautifully packaged, you almost don’t want to open them. The bitter orange is a standout, and at $18 per bar, you have a piece of luxury.
If you are a Bond No. 9 fan (and I am), their line of Body Silk  creams for $115 are good value for the money. You get a big tub (6.8 ounces) with excellent lasting power that glides beautifully over your skin. It’s intense enough that you could mix it with your favorite un-fragranced lotion and make the tub last a long time.
While strolling through the aisles at Target recently, I came across the Boots Mediterranean Collection , $6.99–$16.99, which is excellent and good value for the money. Boots Chemist was founded in England in 1849 and is a national institution. I loved poking around the shop near my grandmother’s house as a child and the products they have available at Target don’t disappoint.
I hope this gives you some good ideas for your fragrance shopping this month and that you have as much fun looking through this list as I had putting it together!
Winter Woods: Scents & Scentsibilities