Certain presents, it is difficult to deny, will forever be confined to the category of Christmas cliché. Socks, for one; chocolates, another – and aftershaves, for a fragrant, heady, overplayed, underpaid third. But it doesn’t have to be this way, because, when it comes to scents, there’s a deeper, more aromatic, considered world of options out there.
From time-tested cabinet classics to new-wave aromas, certain concoctions can make superlative gifts. Some are influenced by romantic notions, others amaze with innovative combinations and there are even a few whose packaging is almost better than the liquid that it stores.
So, if you’re looking to gift a bottle of brilliance this December, wrap up any one of these spritzes below…
A fragrance fit for Bond: Floris, No.89
Well, where else would we start? Classic, sophisticated and quintessentially British, it is widely considered that this would have been James Bond’s aftershave of choice, given his creator’s penchant for this specific number. With touches of spicy nutmeg and sandalwood, Floris’ ‘No.89’ has the right profile for winter – and makes for a killer, surefire gift.
The year-round workhorse: Issey Miyake, L’Eau d'Issey Pour Homme
In Issey Miyake’s first perfume for men, yuzu and tangerine meet water lily, tobacco and vetiver – a clean, straightforward essential that has endured ever since it hit shelves in the mid-nineties. Given its versatile quality, it’s suitable for daily usage, and for any occasion or event, from early-morning meetings to the late-evening wine-bar reservation.
Issey Miyake, L’Eau d'Issey Pour Homme
For the après ski: Creed, Himalaya
Taking its cues from the landscapes of the Himalayan Mountains, this is positioned as a citrus-forward fragrance that also leans towards the rugged end of the scale, with heavy aromas of cedarwood, nutmeg and sandalwood, all of which are encased in an industrial-looking vessel. It’s a perfect stocking-filler for those looking to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc or stretch their legs on the Santa Cruz trek this winter.
Heart of darkness: Aesop, Eidesis
Influenced by the Greek myth of Narcissus, in which the legendary hunter falls for his own reflection, Eidesis melds floral notes (intended to represent a pool, or a looking glass) with an earthy, woody base comprising sandalwood, cedar and vetiver, a creation whose intention is to play on the notions of the real and the imaginary – the result is something with a complexity of depth. The apothecary-style amber glass bottle in which it is encased is also another draw.
The ambiguous one: Byredo, Mixed Emotions
Dovetailing the conventional with the unexpected, cult Swedish maker Byredo has mastered a concoction that is ambiguous, versatile and, quite frankly, abstract – a “juxtaposition between the familiar and the unfamiliar,” says cofounder Ben Gorham. A soothing hit of maté acts as a foil to the sharp sweetness of blackcurrant, with a backdrop of black tea and violet leaf. Despite its aim to represent these unsettling times, our emotions are pretty favourable towards this complex, beautifully rounded spray.
Byredo, Mixed Emotions
Linking past with present: Truefitt & Hill, Apsley
Bottled in 2016, and named after the iconic Hyde Park Corner landmark and former residence of the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, the ‘Apsley’ has been created to alert the olfactory system with a mashup of woody vetiver that plays off grapefruit and pepper – a sensual collision that’s further enhanced by musk and patchouli.
Truefitt & Hill, Apsley
The contemporary British one: Sunspel, Oak Wood
Even though its most famed for its fine cotton T-shirts and premium knits, Sunspel has a deft hand in the grooming department, too. Oak Wood is its debut fragrance, made by London’s Lyn Harris, and is a genderless spritz that’s as clean and straightforward as its packaging, tying together neroli and bergamot with English camomile and angelica seed, all built on a foundation of oak moss and amber.
Sunspel, Oak Wood
Fruits, spice and all things nice: Penhaligon’s, Halfeti
This storied house has been a no-fail go-to for discerning gents since its founding in 1870. But despite being in the business for more than 150 years, Penhaligon’s is far from frozen in the past – the Halfeti, like many contemporary options today, blurs boundaries and juxtaposes ingredients in order to create hard-to-define mixes. Here, grapefruit is offset by Levantine spice, and rose, a multi-tiered mix that elicited the following customer review: “Oh my lord…Penhaligon’s is about to take all my money”.
For next year’s bloom: Atkinsons, The British Bouquet
And as we opened our list with one British classic, we bookend it with another – and this time, we have one eye on the future, namely the return of spring and all things new in 2023. A fixture in the scent scene, Atkinsons can count King George IV and Queen Margherita as devoted fans – and ‘The British Bouquet’, one of its best-sellers, is a reviving and assertive amalgamation of bitter orange and lemon, leather, lavender and myrtle, a concoction as “sophisticated and poised as a perfectly attired gentleman stepping jauntily out into the Mayfair evening,” as put by the brand.
Atkinsons, The British Bouquet