Gift Ideas for Perfume Lovers and Gourmets

It’s the holidays again, and it means that it’s time for Bois de Jasmin’s gift lists. The best part of the season for me is to come up with unusual gifts for my friends and family, and I would like to share some ideas with you. These gifts are eclectic, and they’re meant to satisfy those interested in sensory pursuits.

Powdered Incense Perfume

Shoyeido’s powdered incense perfume makes me want to give up all of my other fragrances. Well, almost. It’s spectacular–a rich, lingering aroma of incense, woods and soft spices. In my experience, anyone who loves incense is taken with it, and it features on my gift lists this year. The Shoyeido US website offers a selection, and my favorite is called Tokusen, since it’s the most complex of the collection. While you’re at it, Shoyeido’s incense is a must try. Elegant, delicate, and smoke-free, it’s a revelation for anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the Japanese style of incense.

The EU/UK incense lovers can find Shoyeido’s collection, as well as many other incense types, on the Incense Shop website (UK only) and the Sensatonics website (EU).


Georgian Qvevri Wines

Living within driving distance of France, I’m spoiled by the choice of wine, but if I had to pick only one kind, it would be Georgian qvevri wine. The Georgian wine tradition is 8000 years old, according to the most recent archeological discoveries, and qvevri wine is part of it. Crushed grapes are fermented in buried clay amphorae, qvevri in Georgian, and through the careful control of the temperature and fermentation, wine makers are achieving a complex palette of flavors. Qvevri reds have notes of cherries, plums, tobacco and vanilla, while the so-called orange wines taste of peaches, hazelnuts, apples or caramel, minus the sweetness one might expect from such a profile.

In the US, you can find an excellent selection of Georgian wines at Georgian Wine House. UK sources can be found on the Georgian Wine Society page. I order mine from AndereWijn, which also has a great collection of wines from small, artisanal vineyards all over the world. I’m currently in love with Eristavi Rkatsiteli, a white wine that tastes of grapefruit, dates and pears.

Th article Best Georgian Wines is a good place to learn about some excellent Georgian varietals. The Georgian Wine Society page is another great resource.

A Jasmine Set

I’m fond of gift sets, as you might notice from this list. Often, several assorted gifts are fun and creative, and you can surprise your friends with something they wouldn’t buy otherwise. One gift idea that I love is a thematical set. This year I’m making it a jasmine one. It will include one large Diptyque Jasmin candle, a package of Ten Ren Jasmine Pearls tea, Korres Jasmine Shower Gel, and a copy of Hafez poetry (translated by Reza Ordoubadian.) Few poets capture the heady intoxication of a jasmine filled garden better than this Persian bard.

Perfume Game

Some wine stores in Brussels offer a neat little game to test your sense of smell. It includes a brochure with the olfactory wheel and explanations as well as a set of aromatic oils that capture notes found in wine. A modern day kōdō (Japanese scent guessing game), if you will.

These sets make perfect gifts for wine and perfume lovers, but you can also put together your own game. For instance, you could include essences like orange, bergamot, lemon, rosemary, lavender, pine, and cedarwoood. Such a selection would be easy to find at pharmacies, and it gives a good idea of the basic materials used in classical perfumery. Take a look at Bois de Jasmin’s Note Index to create explanatory notes for your selection.

Spice Box, Masala Dabba

The UK website Sous Chef is offering an interesting selection of chili peppers this winter. It’s on my Christmas wishlist, but meanwhile I’m making a set of spices to give to a few friends who love cooking. My inspiration is the Indian masala dabba, a special box used for storing spices. It includes a double-lid, which keeps spices fresh and fragrant, and it usually has 7 compartments.

You can buy a dabba from any Indian grocery store (brick & mortar and online), and you can either fill it or give spices in sealed bags alongside the container. I usually fill the dabba myself, since it looks more fun. This year my Persia inspired dabba is filled with whole coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, dried rose petals, dried orange peel, chili pepper flakes, and fennel seeds. If you can find a small marble mortar and pestle, it also makes for a great companion to a dabba.

Please share your gift wishlists as well as any gift ideas. I love reading your lists.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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60 Comments

  • Marco: I’m interested in the powdered incense perfume for myself, but my partner would appreciate a gift of Georgian wines. 🙂 December 8, 2017 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Both would make a nice holiday gift, and they’re perfect for sharing!

      I will write a separate article on that incense perfume, because it’s really wonderful. December 8, 2017 at 9:41am Reply

  • Maria: I love your idea of a jasmine set! I think I will make an iris set for myself 🙂 December 8, 2017 at 9:36am Reply

    • Maria: An Iris Murdoch book, an Iris Apfel biography, some Santa Maria Novella soaps, and some decants of a variety of iris parfums would be my choice! December 8, 2017 at 9:41am Reply

      • Victoria: We’re typing at the same time! What a perfect selection. December 8, 2017 at 9:42am Reply

        • Victoria: By the way, if you include a pouch of iris root powder in a box, the paper will take on its scent. Of course, one can always spray it with an iris perfume, but the powder is more interesting. December 8, 2017 at 9:43am Reply

          • Maria: I’m very curious about iris powder. How do you use it? And I forgot Frederic Malle Beurre d’iris! December 8, 2017 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: What would you include in your iris set? December 8, 2017 at 9:42am Reply

  • Monica: Victoria, do you know the difference between the 3 Powdered Incense Perfumes? Shisheido lists the same notes for all of them on their website. They sound really amazing anyway. December 8, 2017 at 10:06am Reply

    • Mary P Brown: They actually denote different grades of powder and they do have the same components, but I think that the more costly elements are reduced in the lower grades. The difference between them is noticeable yet subtle. I actually love the lowest grade the best – it’s softer and less pungent to me. December 8, 2017 at 11:16am Reply

      • Monica: Thank you Mary P Brown! I will be getting some
        Tokusen. The softer the incense the better. So excited to try it! December 8, 2017 at 11:44am Reply

      • Victoria: They’re not the same. Each blend has slightly different components, but it’s true that in the highest priced blends there is a higher percentage of kyara/agarwood. All three are excellent though. December 8, 2017 at 4:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: The two other types have more camphor, so I find them fresher and brighter but more pungent. I’m not a big fan of camphor, though. The second grade is their best-seller in Japan. December 8, 2017 at 11:27am Reply

      • Monica: Thank you Victoria. I will be getting some for me and a couple of family members for the holidays! I am an incense lover! December 8, 2017 at 11:42am Reply

        • Mary P Brown: Ah, it’s the camphor! December 8, 2017 at 1:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: Their incense is also great. Many Bois de Jasmin readers like the Autumn Leaves set. December 8, 2017 at 4:31pm Reply

  • Marsi: Terrific suggestions. The powdered incense intrigues me. Do you have a Hafiz translation that you would recommend for first-time readers? I have been meaning to get a book of his poetry for some time now. December 8, 2017 at 10:21am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s the one I mention. December 8, 2017 at 11:28am Reply

  • Mary P Brown: I adore the Shoyeido incense powders! I found them years ago, I don’t know how they have been kept secret so long. I use them as they are and have also blended them with unscented body powder as well. Beautiful!! I love these selections, and also am intrigued with an iris set as mentioned in the comments above – the idea of using orris root powder in sachets sounds beautiful! December 8, 2017 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Iris/orris powder is one of my favorite ingredients. If you have some sandalwood chips, you can mix it in for a complex and beautiful scent. December 8, 2017 at 5:59pm Reply

    • David: Thank you for giving me the idea of blending the incense powder with unscented regular body powder. I have the Johin incense powder and it is rather messy to apply on its own. And also a bit strong. I hope Victoria writes more about these powders. December 10, 2017 at 9:52am Reply

      • Victoria: I definitely will do!

        I apply them with a small brush (like a makeup brush). This way, you can control it better. December 11, 2017 at 2:06pm Reply

  • Severine: Nice choice of gifts! You have successfully convinced me of hafiz, Japanese incense and Georgian food and wine.
    My recent discovery has been hand-crafted jewelry in sterling silver and semiprecious stones by artists/entrepreneurs in third world countries, carefully selected by National Geographic for international sale. Their objective is to alleviate poverty by empowering people to use their creative skills. Details can be found on novica.com December 8, 2017 at 11:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Hafez is definitely worth discovering. He’s among the greatest poets of any time.

      Thank you! Such beautiful pieces and a great cause. December 8, 2017 at 4:32pm Reply

  • faith: hi all! the masala dabba kit and cookbook were a big hit last year with my eldest niece….i am pretty sure i got the idea here….i have bought a couple fragrant, seasonal gifts [for myself] this year….trader joes cedar balsam candle is pretty nice and is less than $5….also an atelier colognes advent calendar……now i am on the prowl for some local orris/iris root. i did not know they were the same thing. December 8, 2017 at 11:55am Reply

    • Victoria: The cedar candle sounds great! I’ll ask my mom to check for it. December 8, 2017 at 4:30pm Reply

      • faith: they seem to sell out pretty quickly. i am seeing them on ebay for double the price and more…..off topic, but do you think you will do a cheap thrills post any time soon? December 8, 2017 at 5:45pm Reply

        • Victoria: What sorts of cheap thrills are you looking for? Perfumes, candles, etc? December 8, 2017 at 6:00pm Reply

          • faith: well i really loved the cheap thrill of the sandalwood soap you mentioned a while back and the rose water as toner and face spray. ooh, also the japanese eye liners. i just remembered the saffron rock candy sticks. so beautiful and just $7! December 8, 2017 at 6:56pm Reply

            • Alice: I also bought that saffron candy from a Middle Eastern store in my town. I’ve had requests for it from my family this year too. December 9, 2017 at 1:46am Reply

              • faith: alice, i could shop forever at the middle eastern store. i have found soap from aleppo there as well. December 9, 2017 at 3:01am Reply

              • Victoria: Very happy to hear it! December 9, 2017 at 4:41am Reply

            • Victoria: I have a couple of very good French soaps that are under 2 euros. If I don’t manage to put a post together before the end of the year, it will run in 2018. December 9, 2017 at 4:43am Reply

              • faith: victoria, that sounds grand. December 9, 2017 at 11:06am Reply

  • Vetiver: The double lid of the masala dabba has a dual purpose. It is used to store dried red chillies or bay leaves/cinnamon leaves in it after it is put on over the cups holding the spices. December 8, 2017 at 4:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I’ve seen it sometimes in India, but just like my MIL, I don’t do that. It’s useful for such large spices, though. December 8, 2017 at 4:29pm Reply

  • Vetiver: If anyone is interested in the finer aspects of incense appreciation, read the reviews on the Olfactory Rescue Service blog. It covers incense in enormous detail at a level similar to perfume appreciation here. The blog is temporarily on hiatus but the posts are still online. December 8, 2017 at 6:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thanks! December 8, 2017 at 6:01pm Reply

      • Vetiver: I learned a lot about Japanese incense there-I now have several that I burn (Minorien Sandalwood and a couple of different Aloeswood blends). Being Indian, I pretty much only buy Indian style incense made by Shroff Channabasappa. They are absolutely heavenly. December 8, 2017 at 6:07pm Reply

        • Gabriela: Oh, lovely world of incense. I am just a beginner and don’t know where to start. Which ones would you recommend for someone starting and where can I buy them here in Europe? I live in Spain. I saw some Japanese on Amazon but very expensive.
          Thanks! December 9, 2017 at 3:59am Reply

          • Victoria: You can try this website:
            http://www.incense-shop.co.uk/
            They ship in the EU, and they have a special section on Japanese incense.
            Japanese incense is my favorite, because it’s usually smoke-free and the scents are complex and yet subtle. December 9, 2017 at 4:41am Reply

            • Eudora: Hello Victoria, I am in the same boat as Gabriela and I was so excited but found they only ship to UK. Do you know other places to buy it? Thanks! December 9, 2017 at 8:09am Reply

              • Vetiver: I’ve been ordering from here since 2009. http://essenceoftheages.com
                The business has a huge stock and ships worldwide with the following caveats. It’s run by 1 person and is VERY slow and came close to shutting down this summer due to complaints about the slowness. It is very difficult to get hold of the owner-no phone and Email is iffy. It appears to be back in operation now, and I have a large order of Shroffs pending. The only reason I order is the owner has the largest selection of Shroff incenses in the US. Nobody else has the range. Caveat Emptor. I now order Japanese incense from here: http://www.japanincense.com, but they only ship within the US and Canada. December 9, 2017 at 9:59am Reply

              • Victoria: Oh no! They must have changed their services. I will check and update.

                You can buy Japanese incense here:
                https://www.vectiskarma.co.uk/baieido-japanese-incense
                They don’t carry Shoyeido, but I very much enjoyed the quality of the products they offer. December 9, 2017 at 10:53am Reply

                • Gabriela: Just checked the site and they carry Shoyeido!! Great. December 9, 2017 at 3:25pm Reply

                  • Victoria: My friend is also a fan of the Bhutanese incense, but I haven’t tried the particular one the site carries. After the holidays I will also place an order for it. December 10, 2017 at 3:58am Reply

              • Victoria: Shoyeido’s Japanese website offers international shipping, by the way. Click on the shoyeido.co.jp and select “English”. All of the products they offer in their stores can be shipped abroad, but the prices will be higher than the ones listed online, because of the import duties. December 9, 2017 at 10:56am Reply

              • Victoria: A friend in Germany just emailed me this website that she uses often and recommends without reservations.
                https://www.sensatonics.de/en/shop/incense/japanese-incense/ December 9, 2017 at 11:04am Reply

                • Gabriela: Thanks Victoria! December 9, 2017 at 12:01pm Reply

              • faith: i love this place in san francisco’s japan center. they also have a very large website. http://www.japanincense.com December 9, 2017 at 11:28am Reply

          • Vetiver: Gabriela, Good Japanese incense IS expensive-what I learned from the ORS blog is to avoid dipped charcoals, which is what cheap incense is made of. I like Shroff Channabasappa because the body of the incense stick is made of aromatic materials, which may well be dipped later, but the resulting incense is much better than any dipped charcoal. Japanese incenses fall into a vast price range but the best are not cheap since they are composed of expensive ingredients such as aloeswood (the source of oud in perfume). December 9, 2017 at 10:13am Reply

  • Alice: I love your gift lists and I waited for them every year. I’d like to make a jasmine set for my sister, because she loves perfume and poetry. December 9, 2017 at 1:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Alice. 🙂 December 9, 2017 at 4:41am Reply

  • Maria-Anna: What a wonderful list of delights! I imagine your jasmine set really would transport one to the heat of a summer night.

    I tried a Georgian ‘orange’ wine this summer and found it really intriguing – something of the structure and hard edges of a red, but with the notes of a white. Although I’ve only tried one, I would absolutely endorse your suggestion. December 9, 2017 at 7:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Your description of an orange wine is spot on! December 9, 2017 at 10:58am Reply

  • limegreen: I received my Tokusen packet — so lovely but oh so messy! I unearthed an unused salt and pepper shaker set that are tiny stone-shaped shakers with only one or two holes, so useless as salt/pepper shakers. These were a gift many Xmases ago and now they are perfect for the incense powders.
    I look forward to your separate column on this new (for me) discovery!
    Thank you, Victoria, for the gift suggestions! And may you have a lovely lovely holiday season. Thank you for your column all year round. December 16, 2017 at 7:24pm Reply

  • Toni: Now that most posts are in, I will use this as my best way to communicate. The contact messages were never answered.

    Is the Doctors Without Borders Contest over? My emails from November were unanswered. I had a small bottle to contribute. Thank you. December 22, 2017 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Unfortunately, I didn’t receive your messages, Toni. There is no fundraiser this year. We will have one in 2018, and I will be happy to have your bottle for this good cause then. Thank you. December 22, 2017 at 5:53pm Reply

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