The £18 perfumes our beauty writer buys as last-minute Christmas gifts

The £18 perfumes our beauty writer is buying now.

Even before becoming a beauty editor, I always had a penchant for perfumes. I’ve asked for one every Christmas without fail and would never miss an opportunity to look for free samples. However, while my collection of loyal favorites was small, their common denominator was a high price. The expensive taste can be a curse, especially once the last drop of fragrance is used up.

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

So when River Island launched a four-part collection of affordable, unisex fragrances, the fragrance fanatic in me had to let loose. As someone with a relatively experienced nose in expensive options, I was desperate to know if these £18 high street bottles would a) smell like they could be called a luxury buy and b) s would linger long enough for someone to ask that all-important question: “what perfume are you wearing?”.

When the fragrances landed on my desk, my hopes were immediately high: the chic glass bottles were beautiful enough to display on any dresser, and the “eau de parfum” tag made the price tag that much more alluring. If you are not a perfume lingual, the concentration of perfume oil in an eau de parfum is much higher, which means it has lasting power and a stronger aromatic experience.

river island scent


Now, when it comes to finding that signature scent, we have no shortage of great options. However, with the days of in-store shopping all but a thing of the past, finding a scent through the sea of ​​choice can be especially tricky when staring at a screen – ah, if only smell existed. So before you randomly checkout a bottle just because it’s pretty, this guide breaks down the finer details of each scent and whether it passed my ultimate test: are they good enough for someone ask me what am I wearing?

Whether your olfaction is content with fresh florals or enveloping musk, there’s a River Island scent to accompany you from business meetings to bottomless brunches. And if you’re one of the crowd in need of last-minute inspiration, these pocket gifts make great stocking stuffers or something to put under the tree.

River Island Perfume Review: Our Verdict

spirit of the sun


Top: Bergamot, Sweet Orange, Lemon, Neroli
Middle: sea salt, jasmine, rose
Base: Musk, Amber

We all have our fragrance preferences – I usually go for sweet and floral scents, so this was the one I was most looking forward to trying. As soon as you spray, the citrus composition lingers, but once it settles, the warming musk comes to the fore for a comforting, mellow moment. Unfortunately, the floral inclusion of jasmine and rose struggles to be heard among the more potent top notes, so I would recommend this fragrance if you like those crisp, fresh aromas.

Overall, it’s a lightweight option that would work great for daywear: it’s not offensive, but it still has enough zing to make people notice. And if you’re not buying for yourself, this is an easygoing and uplifting option that would make a foolproof stocking stuffer.

Does it drag?

Conveniently, my friend walked into my room while I was wearing this with the opening line: “Smells good in here”. A big green tick from me.

wonder fig


Top: fig leaf
Middle: Violet
Base: cedar wood

When I first locked my nose on this scent, I immediately felt like it was flirting with me. If it was a person, rather than being the obnoxious “all eyes on me” in the room, he kind of looks at you and cheekily winks at you. Right away you are struck by the sweetness and crunch of fig leaf, then slowly the sophisticated base note of cedarwood creeps in. But above all, the violet stands out for me – it gives off a powdery aroma, a bit like wrapping in your favorite cashmere sweater.

It’s the perfect balance between being cheekily confident, shy, and kind (how flirtatious), so save it for those times when you really want to elevate your look.

Does it drag?

Yes, it went brilliantly: my friend stopped short and asked me what I was wearing. Result.

Patchouli and Amber


Top: Smoke
Middle: rose, geranium, leather
Base: Amber, Tonka, Patchouli

Out of the four, this one has my definitive stamp of approval – which is surprising given that I don’t usually like fancy scents. When I think of smoky, woody scents, my nose instantly perks up, but this scent automatically comes to mind: bold and sexy. Its floral aroma brings a sweet decadence – courtesy of rose, patchouli and geranium – but is then balanced by the leathery smoke of the top and middle notes.

Soak up in the cold months as the powdery spray looks like the ultimate winter scent, but luckily it can also be a rich, nighttime moonlit scent. It’s romantic, sensual and totally irresistible.

Does it drag?

All musk-based perfumes are going to be tough if they don’t grab the attention, so as you can probably guess, this one has cornered the fame. It’s a bold aroma, but a person is definitely going about it the right way.

fresh vetiver


Top: Pink Pepper, Bergamot, Cardamom, Lemon, Mandarin
Middle: Anise, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Jasmine, Myrtle, Petitgrain, Rose, Violet
Base: Amber, Benzoin, Cedar, Moss, Musk, Patchouli Vetiver

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

Much like Wonder Fig, it feels slightly feminine but still has a zingy, effervescent aroma that makes it a great choice for anyone who loves easy going scents that you can spray all over the place. Fortunately, you can wear it all year round, but above all it will accompany me on vacations by the sea and evenings at sunset with a sangria in hand.

Does it drag?

If your strong scent takes you to sweet and subtle compositions, you’ll know they can sometimes be heard, 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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