How to Buy Fragrances (online!) This Christmas

Buying a fragrance for a friend, relative or boo, for Christmas. It sounds easy.

Just wander over to their dressing table, pick up the bottle with the lowest liquid level and simply re-purchase it, right? But where’s the fun in that? Why not go for something different? Alternatively, what if this hypothetical dressing table doesn’t exist, they don’t have a favourite fragrance, and you’ve got nothing to go by? It’s a minefield. Just getting one base note wrong, and whilst you may smell a beautiful Jasmine field, they grimace and resign it to the back of their cupboard forever. Or worse, use it as bathroom air freshener.

Of course, buying a fragrance for someone else is difficult enough as it is (how do you know if they’ll like it? What if it smells different on their skin?), but how do you blind-buy them one? (that is, to buy one online, without smelling it). Doubly tricky.

Of course, taking your nostrils to a fragrance shop is the best course of action to make sure you love the scent, but to get the best deals you have to shop around (and usually these days, that means online). So I’m going to break this ‘how-to’ down into two parts, firstly, how to buy a fragrance for someone else, and secondly, how to do so online. Get ready to be everyone’s favourite Santa Claus.


How to: buy a fragrance for someone else (for him):

Think of the reason behind the fragrance: where would they wear it?

Does he have an office job, does he do manual labour or does he work in sales? His fragrance choices will probably vary depending on where he’s most likely to be wearing it. If he works in an office or has a client facing role, steer clear of anything too oud-y or heavy. If he’s always texting you to complain about his constant stream of Tinder dates, choose something a lil sexier.

What do they like?

If you can sneaky a peeky at their existing fragrance collection, that’s the easiest route to figure out whether they’re into light or heavy fragrances. If this isn’t available, just give them a sniff in the least creepy way possible when you next see them. If you feel nauseous after your next interaction, their favourite cologne is probably heavily musk based.

Invest in a gift set

Gift sets are often super good value for money, and look like a very nice gift (ie, a big box of things, for the same amount of money as a small box of perfume – win win). But aside from that, it also gives the receiver options. If they love the fragrance, a gift set including soap or body moisturiser will allow them to layer it on. If they’re not so keen, shower gel smells are less potent than the fragrance itself, meaning they’re more likely to use it.

Think how they dress

Is he always suited and booted, or more of a jeans and tee shirt guy? Oftentimes clothing brands create fragrances that correlate with their style of clothing. The example I’ve picked out below is ‘Hugo Boss Bottled Tonic’. If your guy has an office job in which he is required to wear a suit, this scent might be perfect for him. It’s a light, citrusy scent (hence not being too overpowering on his colleagues), and it’s by a brand notorious for their excellent work place attire. Taking into account all those little details about someone makes it a much easier task to buy a fragrance for someone else.


How to: buy a fragrance online (for her):

Read reviews!

The reviews from lay people are always going to be easier to understand than the product descriptions. An official description might tell you something has ‘top notes of zesty Italian citrus fruits on a warm summer’s day’, whereas a normal human being will tell you if it smells like lemon or not. Fragrancedirect has a review section for every perfume on their site, but another place I love to use before I commit to a purchase is the dedicated perfume review website, Fragrantia. Simply type the perfume you’re looking for into the search bar and it will tell you the notes, ‘main accords’ and how many people like and dislike it, as well as a whole host of reviews in plain English – even for really niche scents.

Take into account the fragrance notes

A lil fragrance note breakdown:

  • The top notes are instantly recognisable but fade the quickest. This is basically your ‘first impression’ of a fragrance.
  • The middle notes are the ‘heart notes’; the main thang.
  • The base notes are the final notes (think: two hours later when you catch a fading whiff on the arm of your hoodie). These are the lingering notes, but often ‘dry down’ into the most subtle of them all.

Consider the format of the scent

Is it a body spray? A roller ball? A solid perfume? An Eau de Parfum? An Eau de Toilette? A body cream? Different formats will produce different potencies, and will therefore cause the fragrance to smell, and wear, differently. If they like their scent to pack a punch, go for an Eau de Parfum or an oil based rollerball, as these have the highest oil (and therefore fragrance) concentration. If your pal likes something lighter, a body product or solid perfume would make great additions to their routines.

Look at the colour and design of the packaging

The colour and design of packaging usually correlates with fragrance notes. It seems strange to rely on the component to tell you the smell, but it makes perfect sense. For example, if a perfume bottle is black and heavily engraved, it’s probably a musky, night time scent. If it’s pink and covered in crystals, it’s a sure bet it will be sickly sweet. And although of course you should always read around the fragrance, not just solely rely on the packaging, you see where I’m going with this. For example, Hugo Boss ‘Boss The Scent’ for her comes in a beautiful crystal bottle, with a rose gold stopper. The outer box is a pale pink, and the liquid inside is a peach-pink. It’s described as a ‘floral fruity’ scent, and to my untrained nose, it smells like fancy peach scented beauty products. Without knowing its notes, the packaging would have led me to guess it smelt sweet; all these little tips can help you build an idea of what a fragrance will be like before you commit to adding to basket.


Fragrance is undeniably a luxury (when was the last time you popped one in your basket when doing the weekly shop? Never. Exactly). People don’t often buy themselves it, and if they do, they’re unlikely to ‘branch out’ once they’ve found something they like. In fact, I had a conversation with a colleague the other day about this very topic. I asked what perfume she wears and her answer was ‘whatever people buy me as presents, I’d never think to go out and get myself one’. This makes Christmas the perfect time to gift someone a fragrance, and Fragrance Direct has gift sets galore, all at heavily discounted prices (they’ve even curated a super handy Christmas gift guide). Thanks again to Fragrance Direct for providing me with the fragrances that made this post possible (I’ve worked with them before on a Summer fragrance quiz and a body mist special, if you want to see what else they have to offer!)

Happy shopping! Keep me in the loop with what you buy; hit me up on Twitter (@amelia_perrin) or Instagram (@ameliaperrin).


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