The custom giving a perfume as a gift, especially at Christmas, is a very old one. It all started with Jesus’ birth when the wise men brought incense and Myrrh. Buying a perfume for someone, even when we know them well, can be a risky thing.
The senses of taste and smell are strictly related, yet, when it comes to the latter, likes and dislikes are much more difficult to define, even with ourselves. Going out to dinner a couple of times with a friend is usually enough for us to know what to cook or not if we have him or her for dinner. But with perfumes it is a different story, as they are generally more connected than food to our inner self, and with no apparent reason they can cause great appreciation or nauseous repulsion.
This does not mean that giving a perfume as a gift is a lost cause, we just have to accept the fact that, buying a fragrance for someone always has a risk factor, regardless of how well we know them, and unless we already know exactly what they like. But if we decide to play safe that way, where is the surprise?
However, once we take the irrational part into account, we can still use a few tips to connect a perfume to a person. Age and personality of the person we are buying the perfume for should be the first things to examine.
If you’re buying a perfume for teenagers, if they are interested in perfumes at all, they will look for brands, so go for them. For a girl it is actually easier, there are plenty of celebrity perfumes out there to choose from, like fragrances by Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez. For a boy, Tommy Hilfiger would be a sure shot.
For grown ups, fashion per se is no longer a help. You need to look at the lifestyle of the person you are buying the perfume for. For women, I would forget all the olfactive categories and subcategories and keep just the two most important: floral and oriental. Here is where knowing the person may pay off. My tip is: go to a perfume shop with a notepad and a pen, and try two perfumes: Opium perfume by YSL and Happy Perfume by Clinique, typical examples of oriental and floral fragrances respectively. Sit down at a coffee table and write down all the qualities that a person who wears either perfume should have. When you have finished look at the list and ask yourselves in which one you friend would fit best. Now you can go back to the perfume shop and try other perfumes of the same family.
Also remember that rules are made to be broken. If you are brave enough you can embrace the risk and choose a very sensuous fragrance for a shy person or a dark spicy fragrance for a sunny person. We all like to be different from time to time.