How To Give Perfume as Gift–Or Not

What kind of perfume do you give as a gift? In my experience, selecting the right perfume for a gift is tricky, because guessing someone’s taste is difficult. Even if your gift recipient likes roses, there are no guarantees that the rose fragrance you’ll select will appeal to them. For this reason, I generally advise against giving perfume as a gift, unless you have the other person’s wishlist.

Scented gifts, on the other hand, are my favorite kind of presents to prepare. For instance, scented soaps, candles, incense or interesting home fragrances are always welcome. Likewise, I enjoy giving and receiving food gifts, and here the limit is your imagination–tea sets, jams, honeys, spices. My favorite recent gift was a package from my Iranian friend filled with saffron, cumin, cardamom and sweet-sour dried plums. Every time I use cardamom in my coffee or sizzle cumin in oil to top a vegetable dish, I think of her.

Another nice idea is to make a set of perfume samples to introduce your family and friends to your favorite lines. I would only keep in mind their budget limitations, because giving someone a set of Serge Lutens samples would be a frustrating tease, unless they’re prepared to spend more than $100 on a bottle of perfume.

In my recent episode on Youtube, I talked about scented presents and shared a personal story of a gift mishap. Once you learn it, you might understand better my misgivings about giving perfume as a gift–the early childhood experiences leave an indelible mark.

What about you? Do you have any gift giving mishaps? What kind of gifts do you like giving?  

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • kat: When I know someone’s favorite scent I might give them something from that line if available – I’ve noticed that soaps for example get harder and harder to find, at least where I live. July 10, 2020 at 6:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Soaps in general? July 10, 2020 at 6:42am Reply

      • kat: Depends a bit what you’re looking for. Department stores run just a few scented soap bars of the standard lines. Getting a box of Bulgari Thé Bleu soaps without ordering abroad was a real adventure.
        And with everyday soaps it’s not much better. I tend to get eczema on my hands and noticed that the ubiquitous liquid soaps are much worse for me than soap bars (the ones containing milk are the best). July 10, 2020 at 8:13am Reply

  • Peter: Mahalo Victoria for another thought-provoking post. I like your suggestion about scented soap, maybe even a guest soap sampler. I usually send Hawaiian food “goody-boxes” to friends and family in the Mainland US. Our local fruit jams, various cookies, Maui potato chips, and macadamia nuts. Now I might add a tropical floral soap. July 10, 2020 at 6:41am Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds like such a wonderful gift. I’ve made boxes of Ukrainian specialties for friends, including local herbal teas (every region, every village has its own recipe), smoked fruit, pastries, spices and linden blossom water. They liked such gifts very much. July 10, 2020 at 6:44am Reply

      • AndreaR: Smoked fruit sounds intriguing. July 10, 2020 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Rakasa: Me too, Peter! Hawaiian tastes and smells were where I started with my friends. But as time went by, and our careers took all of us far away from one another, we started exchanging annual gift boxes of the smells and tastes of that year’s favorite newly explored culture. What started on a whim became a tradition. Now each of us learns about a new culture even if we aren’t traveling. Our annual exchanges now make every holiday a luscious and enlightening international feast, even when we can’t get together in person. July 10, 2020 at 9:31am Reply

      • Peter: Hi Rakasa, My comment went to the bottom. July 10, 2020 at 4:44pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: Oh, I love macadamia nuts! Did you know that they are native to Australia? An alternative name for them is the Queensland nut, after the state where I live.

      When I was a child, there was a local park that had one of the trees, and whenever we had finished playing in the park, we would go over and collect any nuts that we could find lying under the tree. Then we would take them home, open them by hitting them with big, smooth rocks that we had obtained from the beach years earlier, and then divide them up to eat. For me, there is no macadamia as good as one that is fresh out of the shell – delicious! July 10, 2020 at 10:19am Reply

      • Peter: Hello Tourmaline. You reminded me of a memory from my childhood. We had friends who lived in the country, among the pineapple fields. They had a macadamia tree and the keiki (kids) would do the exact same thing to obtain the treasure. July 10, 2020 at 4:33pm Reply

        • Tourmaline: That’s a lovely memory. July 11, 2020 at 3:06am Reply

  • Damiana: If the person likes perfumes and I know they have a certain sense of adventure, I like the idea of giving them a discovery set or decants of fragrances of my choice 🙂 July 10, 2020 at 7:21am Reply

    • Victoria: That kind of personalized gift is so lovely. July 10, 2020 at 8:04am Reply

  • Matty1649: I only gift perfume when I know the person likes it. July 10, 2020 at 9:26am Reply

  • Tourmaline: Hi Victoria,

    What a horrible experience for a child who only meant well!

    I remember, one Christmas, giving my mother a gift of some nail products including a clear polish, a pale, frosted peach polish and some varnish remover. (My mother occasionally wore a little colourless polish.) That year, I was using my new video camera for the first time, and I taped family members opening their gifts. I recall playing the tape back to the family, and Mum baulking when she saw herself opening my gift and saying, “Oh, all these things I never use!” I got the message and never bought her nail products again!

    If I know a person’s tastes, I like to buy books, CDs, DVDs, food (especially chocolates and other confectionary), and bath products such as scented soaps and body lotions. Over the past year or so, watching the TV Shopping Network in Australia, I’ve discovered a brand of flameless candles that trades on having “the most realistic flameless candles in the world”. They work with batteries, and come in various colours and shapes. I have given several of these as gifts recently, and they have been much appreciated, giving the look of a real candle, without the danger. (I have no affiliation with the company.) The website is here.

    I have received many gifts of fragrance myself over the years, and as I’m a perfume lover, I’ve always been happy to receive every one of them, and they have all helped with my scent education. But I agree with you that giving perfume is risky unless you know the person’s favourites or have a specific request.

    With kind regards,
    Tourmaline July 10, 2020 at 10:12am Reply

    • Peter: Those flameless, battery-powered candles, that Tourmaline mentions, are good to have during a power failure. Much prettier to keep on a bedside table than a flashlight. July 10, 2020 at 4:24pm Reply

      • Tourmaline: That’s such a good point. It would be useful to have them in strategic positions around the home. July 11, 2020 at 3:07am Reply

  • Marsha: I love cardamom in my coffee too. I am fortunate enough to have a middle eastern grocery very close by. July 10, 2020 at 11:07am Reply

    • MJ: I love it too! My favourite summer beverage is an iced tall “cortado” (that’s black coffee with a spoonful of milk) with cardamon sprinkled on it.

      Also, in Portugal, you can get café pão de canela, an expresso with a cinammon stick that they use instead of a spoon to stir the sugar (if you use it). Delicious! July 11, 2020 at 3:37am Reply

      • Marsha Smith: Alright! When I am not using cardamom in my coffee I’m using a dash of cinnamon. I have a friend who is a true coffee lover and she says that I just don’t like coffee (because of the additions I sometimes use). July 11, 2020 at 7:05am Reply

  • Tara C: I don’t give perfume either unless I know the person very well and what they would like. The older I get the more I hate buying gifts – people generally already have what they want and everyone has too much stuff anyway. Consumables are pretty much it nowadays. July 10, 2020 at 11:12am Reply

  • Golnar: What an interesting subject matter. I love giving and receiving scented potted flowers, like Jasmin and Gardenia. I love giving or receiving potted herbs too, even a small potted rosemary is a joy to receive and to look after. Home made Jasmin scented confectionary sugar is also a very lovely gift. I wish I knew how to make pot-pourri and scented waxes. I, too, love scented soaps. Bulgari’s green tea (if I’m not mistaking the name?) was a joy, both to use and also to scent drawers. July 10, 2020 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Golnar: I almost forgot, re coffee that you mentioned, I recently learned something that you may find interesting, Tunisians use powdered, dried, candied orange peel in their coffee. With a dash of orange blossom water. I’d omit the orange blossom water personally but the powdered candy peels sound very interesting to me. July 10, 2020 at 12:50pm Reply

    • sandra: I tried this today, adding some orange blossom water to my coffee and it was good.
      I would like to find some candied orange peel to try next July 10, 2020 at 3:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds marvelous. I will try it tomorrow. Thank you so much! July 11, 2020 at 9:31am Reply

  • Patricia Devine: I like to give scented ancillary products as gifts – I find those from Artisan Parfumeur and Diptyque particularly nice, very good scents but also good textures, and beautiful packaging. But I rarely buy physical gifts these days – most people I know feel they already have enough stuff. July 10, 2020 at 3:21pm Reply

  • Peter: Hello Rakasa. What an interesting idea. A lot of time and thought go into your international holiday box exchanges. Do you also include a small book or pamphlet about your chosen culture? July 10, 2020 at 4:43pm Reply

    • Rakasa: Yes, absolutely, Peter. Food recipe and cultural overview books/pamphlets come often, but over time we all began to add authored short stories/lists. I loved the one about that included history about the 6 Mudras (seals, signs, gestures in Hindi/Buddhist culture) and how they create hundreds of different meanings from simple gestural movement. It arrived on a USB Drive and included links about where to learn more. Another was a book about my favorite artist Joaquin Sorolla accompanied by the adventure story of seeking out Sorolla’s work in country, native’s views on his work and info on how modern artists are using techniques he perfected in new ways. Another I loved was an overview about the traditions of Haka amongst the Maori. Ditto on the legends that surround Uluru in Australia. Most of us also try to add something about finding modern hidden gems and out of the way treasures. Of course perfume hunting for the perfumistas amongst us; location of astronomy sites open to the public; hot air ballooning and other unique interests. The kids truly love reviews about who the hottest local bands and singers are. Its getting easier every day to access these artists music. Likewise the best chefs. And new trends. July 11, 2020 at 2:16pm Reply

      • Peter: Wow Rakasa! You folks are amazing. What a great way to keep learning. I just looked up Joaquin Sorrolla, an artist that I’m not familiar with. I will enjoy discovering more about him. In Hawaii, our football players do a ‘haka’ before their games. That could be something else to explore. Mahalo for sharing your enthusiasm! July 11, 2020 at 7:33pm Reply

        • Rakasa: Whakamihi, Peter. Keep us posted on your adventures, too! In my experience exchange is the heart of discovery. July 12, 2020 at 12:42pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: We gave a bottle of “La dame en rose” by Pierre Bourdon to a friend. I could have sworn that she would absolutely love it. But no. She didn’t like it at all. I feel a bit silly having given her that present. And I’m a tiny bit miffed that such a rare perfume is probably wasting away in some closet. July 10, 2020 at 4:51pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: Wow – no white lie? Do you have a policy in your friendship of total honesty? I agree that it would be disappointing for you to know that the perfume is probably being wasted. Perhaps you could ask her to return it so that you can buy her something more to her taste. July 11, 2020 at 3:11am Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: That made me laugh! We’re German; no Anglosaxon niceties here :-)! July 11, 2020 at 6:38am Reply

        • Tourmaline: A pity. My father’s paternal grandparents were Germans, and there is English on his mother’s side. There’s German and English in Mum’s family, as well. So, I have a German surname, but, as yet, my German is minimal… July 11, 2020 at 7:01am Reply

          • OnWingsofSaffron: Not to be misunderstood: I don’t think Germans are rude per se. I think, gave or take, it is the same as in the Romance, Germanic and Slav cultures.
            I do however think that in a certain social stratum in Anglo-Saxon culture (and I mean UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, South Africa, AU and NZ) there is a certain effusive courtesy which at times can border on the gushing. This politeness makes it easy and predictable to navigate everyday life. So, indeed, I wish we had a bit more of it here. On the other hand, it can also mask what people really think.
            In this vein: I really loved reading the two books by Elizabeth Strout, “Olive Kitteridge” and “Olive, Again”. Among many other things, it portraits how in that Anglo-Saxon world people take offence to a person who isn’t that socially forthcoming. Highly recommended.! July 11, 2020 at 8:44am Reply

            • Tourmaline: I agree that the politness vs reserved or curt behaviour line can be a grey one that is a little difficult to navigate, at times. I must add those two books to my reading list; thanks so much for the tip! July 11, 2020 at 9:16am Reply

            • Victoria: I think that this is a spot on explanation. That’s what I was going to mention in regards to the comments that my great-grandmother didn’t use white lies in regards to my frankly bad present. She told us what she thought and no discount was made for our age. Children weren’t treated with any special deference. That was fine with us. July 11, 2020 at 9:19am Reply

  • Cherie W: Great advice to give scented gifts instead of perfume. I noticed you illustrated with Ostara, which I discovered on your site and which is my favorite spring/summer scent. Has it been re-introduced or do you have any idea why it was discontinued? July 10, 2020 at 5:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I just wore it, so I’ve used the photo. Sadly I don’t think that it will return. It’s a mystery why they decided to remove it from the collection. So many people enjoy it. July 11, 2020 at 9:30am Reply

  • Tami: A couple different times, I’ve received gifts of “homemade” vanilla extract—vanilla bean, sliced open, set into a decorative but functional sealable glass jar, and covered in vodka, then aged for several months. Consumable, basically non-caloric, and totally practical, as well as pretty, lovely to smell, and tempting to dab behind one’s ears. 😉 July 10, 2020 at 6:13pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: How lovely! July 11, 2020 at 3:12am Reply

      • Tami: I think so, too! A simple but thoughtful gift that just takes a bit of forethought. July 11, 2020 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Aurora: I love your personal story Victoria, I hope it didn’t discourage it from ever giving perfume to other people. However, I agree it’s a little bit difficult but some colognes from Dior for eg. are quite safe bets, and I’ll always remember being gifted with Cacharel Anais Anais when I was fifteen, such a thoughtful gift (I still wear it when I feel nostalgic). July 11, 2020 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Carolyn Middleton: Oh my goodness, that bottle of Ostara at the top of the article! Much missed, especially by my best friend, which is odd as many years ago I gave her a ‘discovery set’ from Penhaligon which she told me years later she didn’t like that much as most of the fragrances were too floral. She only told me last year that their Bluebell, which I’ve worn for years & dearly love, she thought was revolting (she actually used the word ‘minging’, which is a Scottish & perhaps even a north east of Scotland word). However, some years ago she & I were in Edinburgh around the time of Ostara’s release & she really liked it, so I bought her a bottle a few years later, reduced to a ridiculous price, which of course I later realised was because it was about to be discontinued! She later told me that it was the only fragrance she wore that elicited compliments from her work colleagues (she was the only woman among half a dozen men) at the time. July 13, 2020 at 11:20am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t know why they decided to cut it out. It’s such a beauty. July 14, 2020 at 1:36am Reply

  • Muriel: I have given my a few perfumes as presents to my close relatives and, so far, they were happily received. I gave Dyptique Fleur de Peau to my 16-year-old daughter, Goutal Le Chevrefeuille to my mom, then Dior Eau Sauvage to my son and more recently Guerlain Après l’Ondée to my 14-year-old daughter. Of course, I know all these people super well and I took time to choose the perfumes (and the choice was wider than what was available to Victoria back then), but it makes me super happy when I smell the chosen perfume on all these nice persons 😀 July 16, 2020 at 9:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Knowing your recipients’ tastes is key! July 19, 2020 at 7:41am Reply

  • Jana: Ostara! Another one of my graveyard of unjustly discontinued loves (together with Fragile and Beyond Love). July 19, 2020 at 4:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t realize Beyond Love was discontinued… July 19, 2020 at 7:42am Reply

      • Jana: Officially probably not but phased out as only refills exist now and they are “temporary out of stock” for at least two years on Kilian’s EU website. Such a pitty! I am so disappointed with Kilian, I don’t need fragranced lipstick or new releases every month, I just want my perfume back. July 19, 2020 at 8:02am Reply

        • Victoria: Brands keep complaining that there are too many releases, while churning them out. This is not about by Kilian per se, but whenever I see yet another line announcing a dozen of new perfumes I don’t even feel like trying them. July 19, 2020 at 8:06am Reply

  • behemot: I have been a longtime Bois de Jasmin reader and an avid fan who took workshops and read books on the subject. I love scent and fragrance, but my loved ones never give me one unless it is on my wish list.
    This year was a bit different, though. I received a very wise gift from my wonderful daughter. For Mother’s Day, I got a text message from, telling me that my daughter invited me to create the fragrance with the perfumer’s help. I thought it was such a great idea and decided to re-create my version of Jicky. I asked the perfumer for more vanilla since I felt that the modern version of Jicky from my collection lacked this ingredient.
    When the package came in the mail, it has been a total surprise. I knew already that it was a beautiful gift, but I must say I received an exquisite fragrance. It was made according to my instructions by Nicolas Beaulieu,
    a perfumer who composed over thirty mainstream fragrances.
    The set included a larger bottle of the primary perfume, called, of course, “behemot” and two smaller ones. They can be layered according to my wishes. I was deeply moved by the beauty of my daughter’s idea, but also by the fragrance itself, and I mean it. Maybe I am not an expert but smelled a few things here and there, and have some sense of what a good perfume is.
    I wanted to share this experience here, especially now, when it is hard to find something merely pleasurable in the news. And it is on the topic because it is another idea of perfume related gift. In this case, it is so much fun, and you may end up with something you like. September 28, 2020 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, this sounds like a great idea of a perfume-related gift, which is surprising and creative for the receiver. I wish I never about it earlier when I was looking for something like this for a friend. Thank you for sharing. September 28, 2020 at 9:36am Reply

      • behemot: My pleasure 🙂 September 28, 2020 at 10:01am Reply

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