We’re now at the last-chance saloon stage of gift-buying, when so many of the men in my life reluctantly and needlessly visit the shops at the most dizzying time imaginable. Perfume may seem a route-one choice, but it’s entirely possible to dash in and out of your local Boots or John Lewis, for a high-quality, mass-market scent that seems more thoughtfully chosen than it perhaps is.
Gucci Bloom (£52), for example, while not entirely my bag, is a solid and impressive choice if your loved one enjoys the hugely popular Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb or Chanel’s recently launched Gabrielle. Floral fans will love this elegant, long-lasting, soft white floral with rounded edges and a beautiful bottle. More my poison is Les Infusions de Prada Amande (£79.90 for a huge bottle), a soft, mellow, cosying scent that almost smells like pudding, but mercifully, stops a fraction before it gets there.
Another fragrance that unfailingly puts a smile on my face is Hermès Eau de Mandarine Ambrée (£65.45), which somehow smells potently of freshly zested mandarin oranges without being spiky and acidic (particularly an hour after spritzing), and of warm amber without the cloying heat characteristic of the ingredient. It’s both instantly uplifting and bright and, later, almost snuggly and wintry, making it ideal for those who like a year-round signature scent.
I was hugely sceptical about Chanel’s modern take on No5 (I’m generally unkeen on franchises of a classic, much as I’m unkeen on flavoured Bailey’s – why tamper with perfection?), L’Eau No5 (£52), but I can see why the original is too blowsy and strong for some. This is a much lighter, less risky perfume to offer as a gift, and lasts much longer than one might expect at first sniff. It also layers well with the original, and is arguably a more appropriate daytime choice for those who prefer not to leave a cloud of perfume in their wake.
Finally, Clarins Eau Dynamisante (£30) is an overlooked classic. It’s an extremely fresh, gender-neutral scent that, despite its affordability and ubiquity in department stores and chemists worldwide, somehow still causes people to stop and ask what I’m wearing. Always polite and wearable, it deserves far more praise than it gets and is often just the thing for those who think perfume is intrinsically heady, sweet and obtrusive. Go on, convert them.