Holiday Gifts Ideas from French Magazines

It’s time for my gifts lists inspired by French magazines and Belgian stores. Christmas decorations are going up around Avenue Louise, Brussels’s version of Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the boutiques are receiving their seasonal gift sets. I’m rarely tempted by the matching scented creams and shower gels, but the presentations are so irresistible that it’s hard to walk past the perfume shop window without taking a quick peak inside.


My list reflects things that I like to give and would love to receive. If you would like to introduce someone to fragrance and know a bit about their tastes, discovery kits are excellent options, and there are several choices below. Another criterion for including the sets is the high-quality matching products. All too often the body lotions and creams are of mediocre quality in comparison to the perfume and needless to say, such sets don’t make the cut.

Just a note on the availability and shopping options: to give you some ideas where you can find these sets, I’m including a few US and international retailers, but it’s far from an exhaustive list. My knowledge of perfume stores around the world is limited, but please ask questions in the comments. Chances are there is someone who might have the answer.

Balmain Silk Perfume

balmain silk

This argan oil enriched blend to perfume hair is getting lots of editorial coverage in France. The scent is a light rose and pear, and the spray leaves locks fragrant and soft. Silk Perfume 200ml/20,95 €. Available at Balmain boutiques and

By Kilian Travel to Shanghai


The presentation of Kilian’s discovery set is inspired by Art Deco and Shanghai in the 1920’s. Each boxed set comes with a silver travel spray and three 7.5ml spray vials of different By Kilian fragrances. There are four choices: Fresh Harmony (Water Calligraphy, Bamboo Harmony, Flower of Immortality), Floral Harmony (Liaisons Dangereuses, Prelude to Love, Good Girl Gone Bad), Sweet Harmony (Love, Sweet Redemption, Forbidden Games), Woodsy Harmony (Straight to Heaven, Back to Black, In the City of Sin). 3x 7.5ml atomizers, $115. Available at Luckyscent, Aedes, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus.

Aerin Fragrance Gift Set


All five of Aerin Lauder’s new fragrances are presented in a limited edition set of five 9ml atomizers: Gardenia RattanAmber MuskLilac PathIkat Jasmine and Evening Rose. The collection overall is polished and well-crafted. Some perfume lovers might miss the drama, but the set will be perfect for those who want something understated and elegant. 5x9ml, £70. Available at Selfridges, Harrods, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Lalique Encre Noire Gift Set

The Encre Noire gift set includes a 100mL bottle of the eau de toilette and the shower gel.  The shower gel is scented with the same dry vetiver that makes this perfume one of my favorites. I already bought this set as a gift, and I’m trying to resist the temptation to keep it for myself. £65. Perles de LaliqueLalique Le Parfum, L’Homme, and Lalique de Lalique sets are also available. Sold at Selfridges, Liberty, and Harrods.

L’Artisan City of Light Discovery Set

lartisan setL’Artisan Parfumeur includes an interesting selection of perfumes in its newest holiday set, mixing its “classics” with newer additions: La Chasse aux PapillonsMûre et MuscPremier Figuier, and Nuit de Tubéreuse. The packaging is inspired by Paris and features hand-drawn illustrations.  4x 7ml Atomizers, $60. Available at L’Artisan counters, Luckyscent, Aedes, Selfridges, Harrods.

Prada Infusion d’Iris Gift Set


Prada Infusion d’Iris body lotion is excellent, and if you like to match perfume with lotion, this gift set is a good idea. It contains a mint green pouch, a 50ml eau de parfum and a 100ml body lotion. £57. Available at all Prada counters.

Diptyque Three-Piece Perfume Set

diptyque do son

Diptyque’s three-piece set is available for Do Son, Philosykos, Tam Dao, and L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, but the travel atomizer is sold separately.  3 x 12ml spray refills, £30, $72. Available at, Selfridges, Aedes, Luckyscent.

Jo Malone London Cologne Collection


A very nice selection of five colognes: Lime Basil & Mandarin, English Pear & Freesia, Blackberry & BayAmber & Lavender, and also the newest addition, Peony & Blush Suede. 5 x 9ml, £64.  Jo Malone also has a variety of candle and individual fragrance sets. Available at all Jo Malone counters and boutiques.

Miller Harris Wood and Citrus Sets


Miller Harris excels at woody and citrusy perfumes, and it’s great to see two themed sets made available for the holidays. Each set includes three 15ml bottles of Eau de Parfum. Woods features Feuilles de Tabac, La Fumée, and Fleurs de Sel, while Citrus includes Citron Citron, Le Petit Grain, and Terre d’Iris. Packaged in a gift box, £60. Available at Selfridges, Miller Harris counters and boutiques.

Penhaligon’s Sets for Ladies and Gentlemen

Every holiday season Penhaligon’s does some of the best gift sets around. They’re well-designed, beautifully packaged and offer a wide range of scents. I’ve given them as presents in the past to friends and family, and they were always a success. This year’s collections are inspired by Victorian music boxes.


The Ladies Fragrance Collection includes five miniature 5ml bottles of Ellenisia, Lily of the Valley, Artemisia, Gardenia and Malabah. The Gentleman’s Fragrance Collection features Quercus, Sartorial, Endymion, Blenheim Bouquet and Opus 1870. All sets: 5x 5ml bottles, $50. Available at Penhaligon’s boutiques and counters, Luckyscent, Selfridges.

Penhaligon’s Quercus Fragrance Collection

Another interesting Penhaligon’s set is all about Quercus, a unisex woody cologne with notes of lemon, lime, bergamot, mandarin, jasmine, lily of the valley, cardamom, sandalwood, moss, musk, and amber.  The set includes 1 x 50ml Eau de Toilette, 1 x 100ml Shower Gel, and 1 x 100ml Hand & Body Lotion. 3 piece set, $85. A similar set is available for Sartorial. Available at Penhaligon’s boutiques and counters, Luckyscent, Selfridges.

Atelier Cologne Voyage Cologne Absolue Collection


An elegant set and good value. A chic blue box contains Orange Sanguine, Grand Néroli, Bois Blonds, Trèfle Pur, Oolang Infini, Vanille Insensée and Ambre Nue in purse atomizers. 7 x 7.5ml, £75, $95. Available at Sephora, Selfridges, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

Histoires de Parfums Tubéreuse Trilogy


A trio of tuberoses from Histoires de Parfums is my choice for the white floral lovers I know. Three different Eau de Parfums play on the tuberose theme and present this sensual blossom in different guises. Tubéreuse Capricieuse is gourmand and powdery, Tubéreuse Virginale is fruity and warm, and Tubéreuse Animale is leathery and dark. 3 x 0.46oz, $108. Available at Luckyscent.

Do you have any other perfumed gift ideas? What scented items are you planning to give to your friends and family this year?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, the glass dome of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris.



  • george: hahahaha! I found the encore noire gift set on line when you did the recent review of it, and thought that it would be amazing as a shower gel. My money is on you snaffling it. If you do, can we get an addenda on it to your review? November 25, 2013 at 8:26am Reply

    • Robert: Encre Noir shower gel is great and its scent stays behind, I’m on my second tube already. November 25, 2013 at 9:00am Reply

      • Victoria: I usually don’t find matching body products all that interesting, but this one is really well-done. I agree with you, vetiver lingers really well on skin. November 25, 2013 at 10:40am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m tempted, but I will resist. 🙂 Otherwise, it means that I have to brave the crowds closer to the holidays to buy another present, and well, I think that Encre Noire will be perfect for my vetiver loving friend.

      But I’m happy to update the review with a note about shower gel. I got a sample of it, and I’m enjoying it. November 25, 2013 at 10:36am Reply

  • Jenna: Many great ideas here. Thank you, Victoria! I would love that discovery set by Atelier Cologne. November 25, 2013 at 8:47am Reply

    • Brigette: I got one last year after dropping many hints to DH. it was worth it. you go through them quickly but 7ml is better than a small sample. It helped me figure out that I love Trefle Pur and need a bottle of Grand Neroli. November 25, 2013 at 9:19am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s one of my favorite discovery sets. As Brigette commented, the size is perfect to test a perfume thoroughly. Also, it’s great for traveling. November 25, 2013 at 10:39am Reply

  • sara: dear santa, i would love a frederic malle coffret/perfume discovery box. saw it at barneys the other day. November 25, 2013 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I bought a small one on Ebay years ago, when Frederic Malle had a much smaller collection, and I still have it. Most of the vials are empty, and while I would like a new set, the price gives me a pause. But what can I say, it’s very nicely presented, and the idea of sampling several perfumes is appealing. November 25, 2013 at 10:42am Reply

  • Rachel: I love lists! I’m very organized this year and I almost finished buying gifts. I’ll take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to wrap it all up. My mother is getting 24 Faubourg. November 25, 2013 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m nowhere close to being done, but I’ve prepared my lists, and that’s already something. Taking notes on things that caught my attention is fun. 🙂

      24 Faubourg is a great perfume! November 25, 2013 at 10:43am Reply

  • Rachel: Wait, I thought Artemisia was discontinued? November 25, 2013 at 9:48am Reply

    • JLK: It’s my favourite from Penhaligons and if it’s discontinued, I need to stock up. November 25, 2013 at 10:14am Reply

      • Victoria: I just checked the Penhaligon’s website, and Artemisia is listed there. November 25, 2013 at 10:45am Reply

        • Rachel: Oh good. Thank you! I love Artemisia. November 26, 2013 at 2:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t think so. They might have discontinued small sizes, but Artemisia is still around. November 25, 2013 at 10:44am Reply

  • Marika: Thank you, I’m taking notes, since I haven’t started my gift shopping yet.

    Has anyone tried Peony & Blush Suede? November 25, 2013 at 1:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Happy to share! Making these lists is a vicarious shopping pleasure, too. November 25, 2013 at 2:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: P.S. I haven’t yet tried Peony & Blush Suede. I hope that someone else can comment! November 25, 2013 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Helen: So pretty! If you like soft roses and apples, you’ll like it. It’s not a typical fruity-floral because of the leather. November 25, 2013 at 3:07pm Reply

      • Victoria: Soft roses and leather sounds very good to me! November 25, 2013 at 4:22pm Reply

    • Annikky: It’s not exactly my taste, but it’s pretty and nicely done. I think it could be perfect for a sophisticated teenager November 26, 2013 at 6:01am Reply

  • Eva S.: I love the boxes from Penhaligon’s ! So pretty! November 25, 2013 at 1:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Their presentations are always so charming! November 25, 2013 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Nasreen: I LOVE the look of L’Artisan’s set. I wish it came with something else, cause none of those would be my choices. I’d go for four sprayers of Dzing instead. November 25, 2013 at 1:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: L’Artisan should definitely offer some sort of travel spray option. I have a small bottle of La Chasse Aux Papillons, and it’s almost finished. I doubt I would repurchase a full sized bottle, but I would be happy to get a small one. November 25, 2013 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Ann: The first photo is gorgeous! I dream of visiting Paris someday. November 25, 2013 at 2:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: The dome inside the Galeries Lafayette is gorgeous, but of course, when you visit Paris for the first time, you’ll see so many other beautiful things in the city that it will pale in comparison. Maybe, Santa will bring you a trip to France in 2014! 🙂 November 25, 2013 at 4:19pm Reply

  • Steph: I bought a Penhaligon set for myself yesterday. Well, actually my boyfriend bought it for me as an early Christmas gift. He is terrible at gift shopping and usually has me pick out what I want. No way I’m waiting till then to open it! November 25, 2013 at 2:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: The only thing I was told at the shop is that the top of the bottles are very delicate, so you should be careful when opening them. And congrats, what a fantastic gift. I would also be tempted to open it right then and there! November 25, 2013 at 4:22pm Reply

  • Bee: I’m not a big fan of Penhaligons but those sets look gorgeous I shall have to check if I have a friend who’d like the scents as a gift but would give me the box! November 25, 2013 at 3:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: The Ladies set doesn’t have any perfumes I like, apart from Artemisia, but the box!! I wish they sold the boxes separately. 🙂 November 25, 2013 at 4:23pm Reply

  • Bee: Ideally this wonderful friend could give me the Histoire tuberose trio – and they can have the tin back. Doesn’t that sound fair? November 25, 2013 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Quite fair! 🙂
      I love Histoires de Parfums overall, and I think that their tuberoses are very interesting, so this little set caught my eye. November 25, 2013 at 4:24pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Many of them look so tempting! I wish I could mix & match different perfumes for the Diptyque set. As for another gift idea, I was very satisfied with the Olfactive Studio discovery set and can highly recommend it. I would also love to receive Ormonde Jayne’s discovery set. I’m getting my cousin Caudalie’s Huile Divine, which I discovered through this blog.

    Last Saturday, I went to a department store in town to test Encre Noir and saw the gift set. I should test it again but I think I’m in love with the perfume. I can definitely see why you’ve given 5 stars, Victoria! It’s so well balanced/rounded and I love the deep, inky (almost mineral) smell in the beginning. It smelled much better on skin. I’m so tempted to get it for my dad and then steal some from him. 😉 November 25, 2013 at 3:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, good idea to add Olfactive Studio and Ormonde Jayne to the list. Another discovery set I’ve enjoyed is made by Ann Gerard, and you also get decent sizes.

      I’m so happy that you liked Encre Noire. It’s such a good quality, interesting perfume, and it’s really a pleasure to wear it. On skin, it unfolds beautifully, and I’ve been wearing it for several years and I don’t see myself ever getting tired of it. November 25, 2013 at 4:28pm Reply

    • Annikky: Anne, I actually came here with the intention to recommend both Olfactive Studio and Ormonde Jayne sets, but you beat me to it. These are not specifically Holiday-related, but good quality, reasonable price and nice presentation always work. November 26, 2013 at 6:06am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Hi Annikky, I can’t agree with you more about the good quality at a reasonable price. November 26, 2013 at 6:56am Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I’d love the Kilian’s Fresh Harmony discovery kit. Water Calligraphy sounds so lovely and I’ve never smelled any of the Kilians Fragrances.

    I’m REALLY interested in the Balmain hair mist though. I love that idea. Where I work, we used to have a “Fresh Hair Fragrance Mist” with silk proteins that I was addicted to and could scent myself with the oils at work. Unfortunately, the company we buy it from discontinued it, so this sounds like it could be a good (although a bit pricier) substitute. November 25, 2013 at 8:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a bit pricey for a styling mist, but it really has a wonderful scent and it works to smooth the hair and making it shiny. Out of a bunch of different sprays I’ve tried, this was the more interesting one. November 26, 2013 at 10:26am Reply

  • erry: With regards to perfume, I usually complain about the limitation of choice here in Indonesia. But now, I somehow relieve that we don’t have a wide range of options you guys in America and Europe have. Because otherwise, I will surely fall to temptations. November 25, 2013 at 9:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sometimes it’s not such a bad thing. Keeps one away from temptations and spontaneous purchases. 🙂 November 26, 2013 at 10:26am Reply

  • Annikky: I bought Penhaglion’s sets (both for ladies and gentlemen) when I was in London recently and I’m the first to admit it was mostly because of the packaging. I have a weakness for anything art noveau-ish, so couldn’t resist. No regrets, though, they are seriously pretty and I’ve been able to test some new scents.

    Everything looks good in this selection, but I’m mostly tempted by Balmain and by Kilian. Balmain has also done a nail set this year that looks seriously chic.

    For the ultimate luxury gift, I agree with those who recommend Frederic Malle. I was lucky enough to receive it for my last birthday and it’s beautiful and a wonderful way to sample everything in the line. Crazy expensive, too, of course. This year, I’m thinking of Neela Vermeire’s discovery set as a gift to myself: I like all three original scents, but full bottles are just not feasible at this point. November 26, 2013 at 6:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Neela Vermeire’s discovery set seems to be good value, and you already have tried a few fragrances and want to have larger amounts to play around, it fits the bill. I agree, the price for a full bottle is very high.

      Now, Arquiste should do a discovery set! November 26, 2013 at 10:28am Reply

      • Annikky: Oh, yes, I’d buy that! November 26, 2013 at 11:42am Reply

        • Victoria: Ok, another one is Tom Ford. A little discovery set would be terrific, especially since they have such a large line. November 26, 2013 at 1:54pm Reply

          • Rachel: While we’re at it, I’d like Serge Lutens too. November 26, 2013 at 2:33pm Reply

          • nozknoz: Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales’s have a Tom Ford Fragrance Private Blend Collection Set of 12-ml (0.40 fl.oz.) mini decanters of Neroli Portofino, Jasmin Rouge, Oud Wood, Tuscan Leather, Tobacco Vanilla and Noir de Noir for $315. November 27, 2013 at 8:23am Reply

            • Victoria: Oh, thank you so much for mentioning it. Of course, the moment I said that I wish Tom Ford makes a set, I should have realized that if he did, it would be out of my price range. 🙂 November 27, 2013 at 11:28am Reply

  • nozknoz: 2013 is really a stellar year for holiday gift sets!

    The Kilian travel atomizers are beautiful! I use them regularly – not just for travel, but because I can keep them out on my dresser with the perfume safely protected from the light.

    While it’s not specifically a holiday set, I’d note that LuckyScent still has the Ann Gerard Discovery Collection: three 9-ml bottles (Perle de Mousse, Cuir de Nacre, Ciel d’Opale), attractively packaged, for $65.

    Last Christmas, my imaginary cat gave me one of the Xerjoff discovery sets from LuckyScent. There are four sets of six 15-ml or 13-ml sprays (depending on the series) in beautiful packaging. For example, the current price for the Oud Stars set is $250. (In comparison, a 50-ml bottle of one of the Oud Stars is $310.) November 27, 2013 at 8:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for extra ideas! Kilian’s travel atomizers are really well-made. A friend gave me one as a gift, and I loved using it. It never leaked, it looked beautiful and the magnetic top made it easy to open and close. Unfortunately, it got lost in the move. November 27, 2013 at 11:30am Reply

  • Alessandra Tribotti: I love some By Kilian fragrances but I am seriously annoyed and bored by this massive Shanghai trend. It’s a commercial wave of fake interest bliking at the rising chinese market, of which Shanghai is the epicentre. BORING.

    I am more interested in knowing which Serge Lutens fragrance you see as the sexiest and / or chicest, dear Victoria. I always read you with much pleasure, therefore I trust your opinion.

    The sexiest other than Ambre Sultan, that is. I already own it.

    I would love to buy myself a new Serge Lutens for xmas and I love too many of his to be able to pick just one, so I decided that I am slowly going to get all the ones I want but need a selection criterium for the xmas one, haha! November 28, 2013 at 11:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Have you tried El Attarine? I know that sexy is something subjective, but it smells ravishing to me. I also love Chergui and Santal Majuscule for their seductive aura. If you love jasmine, then A la Nuit is a must try. It’s a rich, warm jasmine perfume. November 28, 2013 at 1:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: P.S. Feminite du Bois is one of his chicest for me! 🙂 November 28, 2013 at 1:31pm Reply

      • Alessandra: Thank you for your kind and enthusiastic answer! 🙂

        You are right, sexy is subjective… I think I expressed myself inappropriately… I kinda meant something that can be considered chic and charming and enthralling / alluring (as that’s my idea of sexy).. for some reason I think I need to feel that way, haha.. I don’t have an upfront idea of sexy, I would say. Of course, most Serge Lutens fragrances have that aura, but I was looking for the best one of them, or one of the most ‘impeccable’, haha. Aaah yes, I know all the ones you described, except El Attarine, which I know only vaguely. I have a solid perfume sample from the Serge Lutens shop, though, so it’s time to open it!
        However, I must say that I am not sure I like this solid perfume sample thing… I mean, it’s great, overall, but I find it sort of gives a completely different impression of some scents. Interestingly, it seems to allow one to enjoy the very last notes, hence what really remains of the perfume.. and that’s useful!

        I do like Feminité du Bois and I adore Chergui Santal Majuscule – you’re right, it’s very seductive! 🙂 I’ll probably pick one of these two, or El Attarine if I end up loving it. What about Koublai Khan?

        Yes, I love jasmine! A la nuit is great, though I was mostly looking for something woody warm or spicy warm, so santal etc are probably best choices. 🙂

        thanks again! November 28, 2013 at 1:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: I feel the same way, so what you said makes a lot of sense to me. Actually, yes, Muscs Koublai Khan would fit there as well. It’s much more subtle in wear than it seems at first, but it’s definitely a shape shifter. On some people, it’s quite raunchy, though, so definitely try a sample on your skin first. November 29, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

      • Alessandra: P.s.: I also fell in love with Datura Noir… just found out that it feels great when it’s really cold outside! November 28, 2013 at 1:42pm Reply

        • Victoria: Its tropical edge is perfect in the winter, although in the summer, it’s a touch too heavy for me. November 29, 2013 at 11:17am Reply

  • Alessandra: Buck back to the topic of this entry for a second (apologies for the partial derail, but I really need to get myself a xmas lutens, haha).

    I think L’Artisan is one of the best as usual, not just for the travel-size perfume sets you mentioned, but also for the perfume + body cream sets. Their creams are really good quality and persistent in sillage, I find.. and the boxes are aesthetically very pleasing.

    It would be great if they did this for more than just their major bestsellers, though… at least with the travelsize perfume sets. November 28, 2013 at 1:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I would love Traversee du Bosphore, Ambre or something else in the L’Artisan set. But I love Nuit de Tubereuse, and I would be happy with another little bottle of La Chasse. November 29, 2013 at 11:18am Reply

  • N.: I have the Aerin fragrance set and I love it. These fragrances are sophisticated and easy to wear. There isn’t a bad one in the bunch. December 1, 2013 at 3:55pm Reply

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