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Giving something scented is tricky. People tend to have a strong reaction to smells, and a present that makes its receiver wretch is no gift at all. But with easily customizable options—and a healthy helping of samplers—there’s something to delight every nose on your list this holiday season. From tough, utilitarian Castile soap to luxurious fragrances, here are the best scented gifts for folks that like it smelly, but in a good way.
- Best for the far-away friend: Homesick Candles
- Best self-care gift: Aroma Humidifier for Essential Oil
- Best lotion: La Chatelaine Shea Hand Butter Cream
- Best seasonal candle giftset: Santa’s Naturals Christmas Candle Bundle
- Best for wine drinkers: The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That
- Best book: A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
- Best soap: Dr. Bronner’s Soap Samples
- Best scent for her: Etat Libre d’Orange You Or Someone Like You
- Best scent for him: L’homme By Yves Saint Laurent
- Best gender-neutral fragrance: MAISON MARGIELA ’REPLICA’ Jazz Club
- Best candle: Yankee Candle Balsam & Cedar
- Best bubble bath: Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Antioxidant-Rich Matcha Green Tea Foaming Bath
- Best room spray: milk + honey Home Fragrance No. 46
- Best reed diffuser: Thymes Petite Reed Diffuser
- Best incense: Papier d’Armenie Starter Box
- Best for on-the-go spraying: Portable Mini Refillable Perfume Atomizer
Best for the far-away friend: Homesick Candles
Made of scented soy wax, these hefty and highly specific candles burn for 60 hours, leaving your room imbued with an aroma of home. Visit the Amazon store to browse their entire collection, which includes city, state, and specialty candles. Washington, my home state, is “the scent of soft downpours, steeped Earl Grey tea, and mild hints of cedar and patchouli,” while my current city, New York, promises “spring days in Central Park, fine department stores, and concrete capture the energy of the greatest city on earth.” Ha.
Best self-care gift: Aroma Humidifier for Essential Oil
Aromatherapy diffusers are the sensory gift that keeps on giving. If you give someone the portal, they can swap out a sequence of their own essential oils until the cows come home. This big ol’ wooden pick can run for 6 hours straight. If it looks like a genie’s bottle that’s because it grants three wishes at once: In addition to diffusing oils, it also works as a humidifier and party light with seven “soothing” colors.
Best lotion: La Chatelaine Shea Hand Butter Cream
A study from in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience showed that smelling lavender really does help you relax. While you can always pop a vial of the purple stuff’s essence into your aromatherapy diffuser, it might be wise to keep this potent floret portable in an ever-stressful world. La Chatelaine’s beautiful boxed set of shea butter hand lotion comes with three distinct-smelling tubes: citrus frizz, pomegranate mulberry, and lavender. Best of all, reviewers say it doesn’t leave an oily residue.
Best seasonal candle giftset: Santa’s Naturals Christmas Candle Bundle
Christmas comes but once a year. If you know someone who wishes that wasn’t true, however, this gift set can make their house smell wintry yet warm, crisp yet cozy at any time. The waftable wonderland includes three fragrances: Fraser fir (Top notes: lemon peel, cypress; Middle notes: evergreen, cedar; Base notes: fir, amber, moss); Winterberry (Top notes: allspice, cinnamon; Middle notes: blood orange, nutmeg; Base notes: juniper berry, clove); and Snowfall (Top notes: eucalyptus, citrus, mint; Middle notes: pine, cypress; Base notes: juniper, sage, smoke). Gift all three candles to a friend, or split them up and give them to three different loved ones. Even better, a sustainably sourced beeswax and soy wax blend gives you peace of mind when gifting. And, a 30-hour burn time means you’re not gifting anyone with the big commitment of burning through an entire candle.
Best for wine drinkers: The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That
Scratch and sniffs aren’t just for kids. This year, you can gift the aspiring sommeliers in your life an aromatic roadmap to wine or whiskey-tasting. The “Know-It-All” guide to wine includes 16 scents alongside illustrations and insider knowledge. The whiskey guide, meanwhile, divides the industry into three categories (grain, wood, and place) and trains your scent receptors on undertones, from vanilla to sandalwood.
If you’re buying on a budget, consider gifting a secondhand book. Chemical analyses show the volatile organic compounds in old books smell a lot like coffee and chocolate—for a fraction of the price. If you want to stay really on theme, try to find a used copy of A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. The first chapter is—you guessed it—”Smell.”
Best soap: Dr. Bronner’s Soap Samples
I saved the best for last, folks. Dr. Bronner’s bar soap is basically a cult classic of the cleanliness world. The pure Castile bar soaps come in rose, citrus, almond, baby unscented, peppermint, and lavender. Across thousands of online reviews, they’re revered as long-lasting, delicious, near-magical treatments that will scrub the lines off your face and add years to your life. You can order the gift set now on Amazon—or buy them in a panic in late December from Target, Macy’s, and probably the nearest drugstore and still seem like the best and most-prepared gifter around.
Best scent for her: Etat Libre d’Orange You Or Someone Like You
Etat Libre d’Orange
This ethereal perfume is inspired by Anne Rosenbaum, the main character in New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr’s 2009 novel You or Someone Like You. Anne is a gardener in the story, and it shows in this scent—it smells like you’re running through a garden barefoot. Timeless, comfortable, and crisp, this perfume is an enchanting mix of mint, citrus, rose, and musk.
Best scent for him: L’homme By Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent
This scent includes ginger, lemon, and bergamot top notes; spicy, basil-and-violet middle notes; and base notes of tonka bean, vetiver, and cedar. All together, it makes for a well-rounded fragrance that can go from day to night and everywhere in between.
Best gender-neutral fragrance: MAISON MARGIELA ’REPLICA’ Jazz Club
Maison Margiela’s REPLICA perfume collection features gender-neutral scents inspired by memories. Jazz Club evokes sitting in a smoky bar drinking a Manhattan. Top notes include pink pepper, Neroli, and lemon; middle notes include rum, vetiver, and sage; and a luxurious mix of tobacco, vanilla, and styrax. It’s warm, enveloping, intoxicating, and inviting—just like your favorite haunts.
Best candle: Yankee Candle Balsam & Cedar
Yankee Candle’s primarily paraffin wax blend is long-lasting, burns beautifully with proper care (trim your wicks and burn it until the melted wax reaches the edge to prevent tunneling!), and can hold and throw a fragrance like no other. Although they’re pricey, a 160-hour burn time makes it a wise investment and a great gift.
Best bubble bath: Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Antioxidant-Rich Matcha Green Tea Foaming Bath
This gentle cleansing bubble bath has long-lasting bubbles, and the relaxing blend of citrus and chamomile oils is easy and gentle on your olfactory system. Plus, matcha green tea is antioxidant-rich for smooth and supple skin. It’s also great to use if you’re buying gifts for the most stressed-out people you know. It comes in a set of two, so you can keep one bottle for yourself and gift the other.
Best room spray: milk + honey Home Fragrance No. 46
milk + honey
Help your friends create a calming, warm vibe in their home, office, or car with this sandalwood, vetiver, and cardamom-scented room spray. They’ll love the aromatherapy benefits and that it’s cruelty-free; You’ll love gifting them with a spa scent they can use at home.
Best reed diffuser: Thymes Petite Reed Diffuser
Siberian fir needles, cedarwood, and sandalwood mingle together in this woodsy scent. It will make your loved ones’ home smell like a crisp forest. The reeds soak up the oil and disperse the scent flame-free. Simply flip the reeds every two weeks to prevent the reeds from getting clogged. The bottle is gorgeous and looks stunning in a home, and can be refilled when the oil runs out.
Best incense: Papier d’Armenie Starter Box
You don’t need an incense holder—or even traditional incense sticks—to experience a new way to bring scent into your home. Simply tear each paper accordion-style, light it, quickly blow it out, and place it in a flame-safe shallow dish (we think this crystal one is a great option). The bundle includes two booklets of three scents: Tradition (a vanilla and balsam scent), Armenie (a woodsy myrhh scent), and Rose (which, like its name implies, is rose scented).
Best for on-the-go spraying: Portable Mini Refillable Perfume Atomizer
If your loved one has a robust perfume collection but doesn’t have their favorite scents in a smaller size, these portable mini atomizers will come to their rescue. And, they’re easy to fill: simply remove the spray cap on the bottle you’d like to extract from, place the bottom of the mini atomizer on the exposed nozzle, and press up and down to fill it up. They’ll be able to spray on the go as much as they please—and not have to spend more money on a travel size.