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Gifts that are smelly, but in a good way


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.

Made of scented soy wax, these hefty and highly-specific candles burn for 60 hours, leaving your room imbued with an aroma of home. Every state is represented, sometimes twice, and there are some city and country candles, too. 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.” Huh. $30.

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 canister can run for 8 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. $22.

A recent 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. $24.

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. $11.

Know someone who needs even more scented illustrations in their life? The Scent Society, a New Zealand-based company, ships colorful medallions with great graphics and similarly pleasing smells around the world. You can hang them from your car’s rear view mirror, the side of the toilet paper roll, or anywhere else that suits your nose’s fancy. Trial pack for $12.

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.” Hopefully a bargain

Perfumes are personal. Instead of hedging a guess on what specific scent cloud your mom or wife might like to wear around, gift them Sephora’s 2018 perfume sampler. This assortment of the year’s most popular perfumes in just 0.05 ounce bottles means they’ll be able to shake up their aroma eight days a week—and decide on their favorite scent just in time for Valentine’s Day. $65.

Beard oil and balm sampler

Beards are publicly paraded, but their styling and maintenance is a little more intimate. Fortunately, beard oils can also be purchased tapas-style. This trial kit from Badass Beard Care comes with eight oil-and-balm combinations, so the hirsute human in your life can figure out exactly what they like—and smell good doing it. $30.

A self-organized sample of Dr. Bronner’s soaps

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. $27.


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