Natural essences, from a reputable company can be a wonderful gift. I like Eden Botanicals, and Liberty Naturals.
Liberty has a selection of attars from Eygpt and rose otto from different parts of the world. There are also a beautiful list of floral and herbal concretes. These materials are sold by size, so $25 -$50 will buy you a substantial amount.
Eden Botanicals: Amber Essence $13 or $20 in an Eygptian glass flacon - A deep and rich amber accord resin in oil that is smooth and soothing on its own and also good as using as a fixative to make other perfumes last longer. Eden is a high quality essential oil company. They make essential oil accords, and this Amber one is made in California from amber resins they obtain from Northern India. It is composed of styrax, labdanum and other proprietary ingredients fully described on their interesting site.
Sample packs ordered online from artisan indieperfumers are a great way to introduce someone to a line, or to get new releases for those who know and love perfume line already. Many unusual and beautiful perfumes are not otherwise readily available at retail, and the quality of the perfume and the thoughtfulness of the packaging is always top notch. Most come in sets of individual tiny containers plenty enough for several wearings, and in sets of six to eight or so are enough to last more than a couple of months of multiple wearings.
Ayala Moriel - pure, organic, all natural, 6 samples $40 - there is an intriguing long list to check off to choose which fragrance you would like to try.
My sample set was recently described in my post just before this one. I chose Rainforest, Lovender, Schizm, Roses et Chocolat, Fetish and Yasmin. Check the site for minis and roll-ons and body products, teas and chocolates for $65 and under. Beautifully made with the finest ingredients all by hand.
Soivohle' by Liz Zorn - there are areas of the site with pull down menus that allow you to order individual scents in smaller sizes, both naturals and mixed media ($14, $17 and $50). LZ makes special and limited editions, so when they are gone they are gone - get them while you can. It's about time for me to get a new set of samples, the ones I know are no longer on the site (I loved Writing Lyrical Poetry). There is also an extensive list of accords for layering, such as Green Tea and Green Leaf and Persian Lilac and Natural Cedar from $15 to $25, which sound divine. P.S. I hear WLP and some of the others I know will be back in the Spring -- appropriately in time for lyrical poetry, with a new jasmine accord. Good news.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is very creative and has many different areas of interest in perfume. She has a special affinity to scents from history, recreating them from the recipes come down to us from the great perfumers of the past. There is wonderful array of sample packs that highlight each of her areas of interest ranging from $15 and up. My especial favorite is the Perfumed Court Collection; fragrance from 17th Century Versailles - the sampler of ten ($65), which I wrote about over two posts, that are re-creations based on the courts of Louis XIV, XV and XVI, and include the perfumes worn by personalities like Marie Antoinette, Mme. de Pompadour, and Mme. du Barry. They are exquisite, and come in day and night versions for these legendary personas, whose personal taste come through clearly. DSH also presents her limited editions and modern perfumes in this sample pack form, and each sampler pack comes with a written explanation of the notes and the concept of the perfume. Miniature charm perfumes are $60 and each come in a pretty and unique little flacon.
Anya's Garden offers and 8 sample set for $55. These completely natural hand made perfumes have many unique elements that Anya fabricates herself from her Florida tropical garden. The bases are deep and rich, and even the packaging is made of thick biodegradable paper seeded with wildflowers, so you can tear it up and plant it for the Spring. I love Pan the most, which is unisex, outdoorsy, aromatic, herbal, resinous and sunny. 3.5 ml is $60, which seems like an incredible good deal for something made with the best materials by the hand of one of the most knowledgeable natural perfumers on earth.
Roxana Illuminated Perfumes are scents based on mythic illustrations and narratives, made of completely botanical local ingredients, with their beneficial qualities kept firmly in mind and beautifully presented - there are sample sets of various configurations on the Etsy site, ($25 and up) and I can say a gift of solid beeswax perfumes such as Vera, which is a lavender, wonderful to apply on the temples for fatigue and stress, or Q, ($65) based on oak leaves, (both could be for men and women) are the kind of perfumes that are unusually subtle and complex as only natural substances can be. The presentation is gorgeous, the solids are in silver colored compacts in hand crocheted cotton pouches. There are also antique finish lockets to contain the solid perfumes ($45). I have written about Roxana's perfumes a number of times but most recently here. Her perfumes represent a way of life as well as an aesthetic experience.
Cherry Bomb Killer perfume brings sweetness strengthened with depth to a portable format, and I especially like the solids with a very subtle sheer iridescent sheen ($35). The liquids come in heart shaped bottles with key-chain tops to be worn around the neck or dangling from anywhere. I have written more here about the perfumes, Truth or Dare and Rebel Angel. The collaborators Aroma M and Alexis both have beautifully packaged perfumes under their own names, a selection of Aroma M roll-on oil based Geisha perfumes are $50, and also sample sets. Scent by Alexis has a very special presentation with hand gilding of her hand made flacons.
Herbal Alchemy has recently ventured into mixing scented cocktails lately, and offers her infusion materials diluted to the proper strength. Her site has detailed directions on scenting and infusing vodka and creating cocktails, and I know because I have tried them, that these natural essence dilutions make them fragrantly delicious and something really special. Jasmine, Coriander, Clove, Labdanum, and others, $10 each. Throw in the bottle of vodka and you're golden.
Aftelier is for me and many others the gold standard of natural perfumes. The psychological and the material aspects of the natural substances are honored and thoughtfully noted in each of the fragrances. There are samples of everything on the site, $4 -$6 each, so if you put something together for as little as $24 you will be giving something truly memorable. Also, most all the perfumes come in miniatures for $35-$45, and they are dense and rich enough and there is enough of them to get you well and truly hooked. I personally love the Cepes et Tuberose, Shiso Perfume, and Fig Perfume. There are chef's absolutes at $15 and up which would be a gorgeous gift for a serious foodie. The perfumer's absolutes are incredible quality, the fir is so very much the soul of this evergreen -- I can't imagine anything more appropriate for the winter season ($14). The face body and bath section has an array of exquisite quality treatments fragranced with the finest natural materials for $35 to $45. There is fragranced oolong tea for $20-$25. The site is a wealth of gift ideas, so many so surprisingly affordable.
Of course I have tons of other suggestions, all under $50 -- some of which are: books on perfume, especially Mandy Aftel's Essence and Alchemy, in the hardcover version, The Guide by Turin and Sanchez, updated version, Robertet's Aromatherapy, Ackerman's The Natural History of the Senses, Penhaligon's Xmas boxes, Lush Lemon Butter & Salt Scrub, MCMC Humanity Perfume, 100% of the purchase price goes to charity, Cannabis Rose by Fresh in any form, Fracas body lotion, Lord's Jester solid perfumes, Wing and a Prayer Tallulah B, and CB I Hate Perfume Dandelion. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, I believe gift giving is one of the nicest aspects of the winter season upon us.
Here are the other sites participating in gift suggestions -- please visit them because they each have their own special sensibility and they are sure to have suggestions that will be unique and beautiful. So dear readers, do consider spreading the bounty of beautiful independent perfumery around this holiday season: