The secret trick to buying fragrance for someone else

Cassie Steer,
Beauty Editor At Large

Finding the perfect scent for a gift needn’t be a hit-and-miss affair. Fragrance specialist and perfumer Roja Dove shares how to get it right…

Holding shot

Fragrance used to be the default gift you bought everyone – from your aunt to your sister. But in a world of personalisation, finding a gift that feels unique is becoming ever more pressurised.

But here’s the thing – the reason why perfume is so difficult to buy is also the reason it makes the ultimate gift. Find someone their signature scent and you’ve scored brownie points for life. With this in mind, we’ve endeavoured to make the process easier thanks to the expertise of master perfumer and fragrance specialist Roja Dove.

‘Fragrance is, to the majority of people, a mysterious and baffling subject,’ says Roja. ‘This is why I created a very simple process that guides the buyer through the different styles of perfume through comparison and elimination. My main piece of advice when looking for a scent is to narrow down your search – this can be done in one easy step by deciphering what “fragrance family” is best suited to the personality of the person you’re buying for.

‘There are three families in feminine perfumery: floral, chypre and oriental. Floral wearers often have a carefree disposition, tend to be uncomplicated and are happy-go-lucky. Chypres are a very refined group of fragrances based on woods and mosses. Often complex but never overpowering, chypre wearers tend to be understated and very tailored in their tastes; they are true sophisticates and don’t want anything flashy. Orientals on the other hand are big scents that suit extravagant personalities with luxurious, sensual tastes.

‘By taking the steps to decipher what fragrance family is best suited to the person you’re buying for will immediately narrow down your search and set you on the right path.’

Scents of style

‘Consider the various elements of their style,’ advises Roja. ‘Do they prefer sumptuous interiors and dress in luxurious fabrics and colours, for example? Then an oriental scent is their match.’ We recommend the sensual warmth of AERIN Amber Musk.

‘Or perhaps they prefer the sleek, sophisticated aesthetic that aligns them with a chypre – the sort of character to invest in one good, well thought out piece?’ For a luminous, floral chypre that transports you straight to sun-baked climes, try Chloe Nomade.

‘Also think about items the person has around the house – scented candles, flowers or spices they use in the kitchen. This will be a good indicator of their olfactive tastes, so be sure to look for a fragrance that contains the same basic notes to match,’ says Roja. Know someone who loves zesty citrus fruits and whose spiritual home is nestled amongst the fragrant greenery of southern France? Then Givenchy Eau de Givenchy is your go-to. Or maybe jasmine is their Achilles heel? Then try Gucci Bloom – a rich, feminine floral.

Season ticket

‘Another indicator when buying fragrance for someone else is to separate fragrances into seasons,’ notes Roja. ‘Do they prefer spring freshness? Go for a fresh floral. For hot and heady summers, go for a sensual floral. A warm, dry chypre is perfect for those who thrive in the autumnal months, while a spicy oriental is just the ticket for anyone who loves the cosseting, sensual aromas of the winter season.’

For spring lovers, try Tiffany Sheer, a bright interpretation of the iris-infused signature. Summer devotees will love Narciso Rodriguez Pure Musc For Her which boasts a sensual musk heart enveloped in a white floral bouquet. Charlotte Tilbury’s floral chypre Scent Of A Dream is perfect for autumn enthusiasts, while winter fans will relish the warmth of Tom Ford Black Orchid.

Sweet smell of success

‘It’s important to avoid buying into the latest craze and purchasing a scent based on a bottle, especially when you’re hoping to give a thoughtful and unique gift,’ warns Roja. ‘See the fragrance for what it is – the choice and quality of the notes used in the composition – and how these reflect the taste and personality of the person you’re buying for.’ 

And when it comes to the practicalities of sniffing out ‘the one’? ‘Your nose will soon tire after the third spray or so, due to the alcohol content which works like an anaesthetic. Smelling the perfume on paper when the alcohol has evaporated is the best way to try a fragrance. Spray a few options on blotter cards, taking note of the name, and smell them away from the perfumery. Compare each one to the next, eliminating the one you think embodies their personality least until you are left with just one.’