The £18 fragrances our beauty writer is buying as last-minute Christmas presents

The £18 fragrances our beauty writer is shopping now.

Even before my time as a beauty writer, I’ve always had a fondness for fragrances. I asked for one every Christmas without fail and never missed an opportunity to hunt down free samples. However, while my collection of faithful favorites was small, their common denominator was a hefty price tag. Expensive taste can be a curse, especially once the last drop of perfume runs out.

Fast forward to now and my affection has turned into a self-confessed obsession. But while I still enjoy the fine fragrance experience, my method for finding new scents has changed a bit. Now, it’s the ones that barely make a dent in my bank account — but still smell utterly decadent — that capture my intrigue.

So when River Island released a four-part collection of affordable unisex scents, the fragrance geek in me had to indulge. As someone whose nose is relatively adept at expensive options, I was desperate to know if these £18 bottles would a) smell like they could qualify as a luxury purchase and b) linger long enough for someone to ask that everything – important question: “what perfume are you wearing?”.

When the perfumes landed on my desk, my hopes were immediately high: The elegant glass bottles looked beautiful enough to display on any dresser, and the “eau de parfum” label made the price tag that much more enticing. Unless you’re a fragrance expert, the concentration of perfume oil in an eau de parfum is much higher, meaning it has long lasting power and a stronger aromatic experience.

river island scent


Now, when it comes to finding that signature scent, there’s no shortage of great options. However, since the days of in-store shopping are almost a thing of the past, finding a fragrance across the sea of ​​choices can be especially tricky when you’re looking on a screen — ah, if only olfactory vision existed. So before you go to the random checkout for a bottle just because it looks pretty, this guide narrows down the minute details of each fragrance and whether it passed my last test: Are they good enough for someone to ask me what I’m wearing?

Whether your sense of smell is satisfied with fresh floral or enveloping musk, there’s a River Island fragrance to take you from business meetings to bottomless brunches. And if you’re part of the crowd in need of some last-minute inspiration, these pocket-sized gifts are great stocking fillers or something to pop under the tree.

River Island Perfume Review: Our Verdict

Spirit of the sun


Head: bergamot, sweet orange, lemon, neroli
Heart: sea salt, jasmine, rose
Base: musk, amber

We all have our preferences when it comes to fragrances – I usually go for sweet and floral scents so this was the one I was most excited to try. As soon as you spritz, the citrus composition lingers, but once it settles, the warming musk rises to the fore for a comforting and mellow moment. Unfortunately, the floral inclusion of jasmine and rose struggles to make itself felt among the more powerful top notes, so I would recommend this fragrance if you like those fresh and lively aromas.

All in all, it’s a light-hearted option that would work great for daytime wear—it’s not offensive, but still has enough vibrancy to make people notice. And if you’re not shopping for yourself, this is an easy and uplifting option that would make a stocking stuffer foolproof.

Do you linger?

Conveniently my friend walked into my room as I wore it with the opening line: “It smells good in here.” A big green check from me.

Wonder Fig


Top: fig leaf
Medium: purple
Bottom: cedar wood

When I first closed my nose on this perfume, I immediately felt it was flirting with me. If she were a person, rather than being the obnoxious “all eyes on me” in the room, she just stares at you and gives you a cheeky wink. Immediately you are struck by the sweet freshness of fig leaf, then slowly creeps in the sophisticated base note of cedar wood. in your favorite cashmere sweater.

It’s the perfect balance of unabashedly confident, shy, and sweet (what a flirt), so save it for times when you really want to elevate your look.

Do you linger?

Yes, it passed with flying colors: my friend stopped short and asked me what I’m wearing. Result.

Patchouli and Amber


Above: smoke
In the middle: rose, geranium, leather
Base: Amber, Tonka, Patchouli

Out of the four, this one has my definitive seal of approval, which is surprising considering I don’t usually go for sophisticated scents. When I think of smoky and woody fragrances, my nose instantly goes up, but this perfume automatically brings to mind two words: bold and sexy. Its floral aroma brings sweet decadence – thanks to rose, patchouli and geranium – but is then balanced by the leathery smokiness of the top and heart notes.

Turn down during the cold months as the dusty throw feels like the quintessential winter scent, but luckily it can also moonlight as a rich evening fragrance. It is romantic, sensual and absolutely irresistible.

Do you linger?

Any musk-based fragrance is going to be difficult if it doesn’t catch the eye so, as you can probably assume, this one has hogged the fame. It’s a bold aroma, but one person definitely appreciates it in a good way.

Fresh vetiver


Top Notes: Baies Rose, Bergamot, Cardamom, Lemon, Mandarin
Heart: anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, jasmine, myrtle, petitgrain, rose, violet
Base: Amber, Benzoin, Cedar, Moss, Moss, Patchouli, Vetiver

If you’re looking to diversify your collection away from fruity florals, but still want something delicate and easy to wear, this is a great in-between. From the woody base notes of amber, cedar and musk, to the citrus top notes of lemon and mandarin, it blends perfectly in an unexpected way. Also, add the floral composition of rose, jasmine and violet and you get a very pleasant and comforting scent.

Just like Wonder Fig, it looks slightly feminine but still has a tangy, effervescent aroma making it a great choice for anyone who loves relaxing scents that you can spray all over. Luckily it can be worn all year round, but above all this will accompany me on beach holidays and sunset evenings with a Sangria in hand.

Do you linger?

If your strong fragrance leads you to sweet and subtle compositions, you will know that they can sometimes be listened to, so don’t be afraid to dose yourself adequately in this one so it can live up to its full potential.

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