Here's how to find a fragrance your loved one will swoon over

By Jillian Ruffo
Updated March 21, 2017 03:54 PM
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Picture this: You’re wandering around the beauty department at your local department store, searching for a gift for your best friend, colleague, or sister. Time is running out, and with pretty perfume bottles are everywhere, a new scent seems like the perfect gift. After all, there are plenty of versions to choose from, they’ll never go out of style, and those perfume and body lotion sets always offer a great bargain. But in practice, scents can actually be surprisingly difficult to give, because just like that green sweater your Aunt Rhoda gave you last year, not every style is great for every person.

So to save you the stress (and the headache of giving every scent a whiff wondering “Does this one smell like cousin Carrie?”) we tapped Penhaligon’s CEO and fragrance expert Lance Patterson to give us a few pointers. Before you head to the fragrance counter, think about the person you’re shopping for, check out Patterson’s guidelines and follow our helpful flowchart, above, to make sure you make the perfect pick.


Rule #1: Your relationship matters.
If you’re shopping for a family member or best friend, chances are you know them fairly well — in which case, you can pick a more bold, nighttime-appropriate scent. But if you’re not too close, a general rule of thumb is to choose something lighter, which will have less room for error, Patterson explains. And if it’s a significant other you’re shopping for, you’re in luck: simply pick a scent that you’d love for them to wear.

Rule #2: Consider their personality.
Before shopping, Patterson recommends thinking about the recipient’s overall demeanor. If they’re typically louder or more outgoing, they generally like to be noticed — so a bold fragrance for day or night is doable. On the other hand, someone with a shy, more quiet personality might prefer a lighter scent during the day, and a mildly rich scent at night.

Rule #3: Choose a time of day.
“It’s important to know when they’ll wear the fragrance,” says Patterson. “Is it for daytime, nighttime, or something more versatile?” For daytime, go for something on the lighter floral side, whereas a heavier, spicy or musky scent is great at night.

Rule #4: Their taste in food and drinks is important.
If she loves a glass of red wine or spicy foods, chances are she’ll love a deeper scent, like a woody musk or rosy oud. And if she’s constantly craving sweets, she definitely won’t hate smelling like vanilla. Patterson explains, “If you like sweet coffee, you’ll like a gourmand, whereas if you’re somebody who likes red wine, you’ll like a woody scent.”

Rule #5: Think about their everyday style.
Is she classic or attention-getting? Does she spend her money on denim or leather? The more understated her style, the less likely she is to go for a deep fragrance, so keep it fresh — while someone who loves sumptuous clothing will love rich notes like wood

Ready to shop? Here are our recommendations:

Warm gourmand:
Thierry Mugler’s Angel

What’s your favorite fragrance? Sound off below.