Holiday Gift Ideas 2014

Source: Pinterest. Original source unknown.

Source: Pinterest. Original source unknown.

The holiday season is upon us and many of you have already started shopping for gifts. I thought I’d present a few ideas, whether it’s for the fragrance lover in your life, or merely an office coworker for whom you have to get a “secret Santa” gift. A few of my suggestions are suited for those who don’t even have a serious interest in perfume. For example, a book of poetry by 100 contemporary American poets who were each sent a different vial of unnamed perfume (ranging from Jo Malone to Tom Ford, Creed, Kilian or others), and then wrote a poem in response to the unknown scent.

As you will see, very few of my ideas have to do with buying actual perfume. I think it’s a truly terrible idea to gift someone fragrance unless you know them and their tastes extremely well or, ideally, have a precise shopping list of the exact perfumes that they want. Otherwise, it’s a potential disaster and, quite possibly, a huge waste of money. Given the vagaries of skin chemistry, you simply can’t know how a perfume bought blindly will actually turn out on their skin and if they’ll like it.

So, it’s far better to leave the choice up to them. For example, you can send an e-card, even on the day of Christmas if you’re a procrastinator who is truly behind schedule. Some people may see gift certificates as a sign of laziness or lack of thought but, for a perfumista, they’re the best thing ever! Even small amounts give one the freedom to sample new things, each a potential passage to olfactory Nirvana. Non-perfumistas might also enjoy certificates to places that sell luxury candles, men’s beauty products, or home fragrances. Or, you can go another route, and opt for fragrance-related things like books, foodie essences, or perfume-making kits. Here are a few suggestions.

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Aftelier Perfumes: Cooking with Fragrant Essences (Part II)

In Part I of this series, I talked about Mandy Aftel‘s Chef Essences, and focused on the Ginger, Basil, Blood Orange, Rose Absolute and Pear. Now, I’d like to look at six more: Pink PepperCepes (Porcini Mushrooms), Cognac, Coriander Leaf (Cilantro), Tarragon, and Chocolate, before ending on a personal note about why I think these Chef Essences are so significant.




According to the Aftelier website, the Pink Pepper Essential Spray is composed of berries from Kenya and its aroma is described as “fresh wood and warm-peppery.” I found its spiciness to be piquant, fruity, and a bit tart as well. It also made me realise something: I do not like pink peppercorns. I’ve always had issues with its fruity, gooey, jammy aroma in perfume, but I never really thought about how I avoid cooking with them, or how I actually pick out the pink peppercorns in any pepper mix. (Same with the green ones, actually.) I will put up with the lightest, barest sprinkling, but not much more. Which is why the intensity of the Aftelier Chef Essence came as a little bit of a shock to my system.

It is just like the real berries, with layers of nuance and, yes, the woodiness mentioned on the Aftelier website. I’d previously been told by a few people that the Black Pepper Chef Essence was astonishingly good on ice-cream, so I thought that the same thing would apply to the Pink Pepper one. To my surprise, it really was decent on vanilla ice-cream, though it took me a minute to wrap my head around the flavour combination. It’s certainly different, and captures your attention in the same way that sea salt does on things like cookies, chocolate, or other seemingly inapposite items. Continue reading