Let’s face it, I’m difficult, you’re difficult, Aunt Kathy is difficult, everyone is a pain in the ass to buy for. No matter what you celebrate this time of year, you may find yourself with a difficult person on your list. It’s not that they are rude or mean about your gift, its just that they have particular tastes and you want to get them something at least useful if not something they would love. It doesn’t help that in this day and age, no one waits for a treat. If we want something we buy it for ourselves…now…and ship it within 24 hours! Don’t think you can rely on the tried and true hobbies of your loved ones either. I think my mother-in-law said she liked owls once and now she has a whole armoire full of them. I’m pretty sure if my husband gives her one more owl she will write him out of the will.
Yet fear not dear reader, for I am here, your High Priestess of Pernickety with a gift guide for seven extremely difficult to shop for people with the hope that it will give you strength in your holiday labours this season.
All of our targets below are based on real people I know, details have been changed to protect the identity of the fussy.
The Mark: Your Hippy Relative Who is Loaded But Lives in A Yurt For Fun
The Gift: Venitian Red or Emerald Green by Anna Zworykina Perfumes
Price: $65 USD each
What better way to start off the gift guide than with a little red and green. I tend to be a bit wary of all natural fragrance lines. With a few exceptions, they tend to be a bit boring, a bit muddled olfactivly and have a habit of hocking anti-science BS. Anna Zworykina’s line is different and not only because she has a background in biochemistry. This collection is proof that you can have complex and interesting scents in an all natural line. Rejoice, the earth mothers on our holiday lists need not smell only of patchouli and Himalayan salt crystals anymore!
Zworykina’s take on classic fragrance forms are both dark and morose but also incredibly interesting and refreshing. Venetian Red is my favourite of the line. It’s a classic play on a rose otto but with a sensual blend of labdanum and vanilla paired against the slight sourness of seaweed to keep it from becoming cloying and fussy. Emerald Green plays a similar cord but in grassy galbanum and earthy jasmine. Special mention would have to go to Dark Side of the Goddess which is a dark-resin, baroque tableau that I adore and I know several “Hex the Patriarchy” witches that would love it get this for Yule on the name alone.
The Mark: You’ve Gotten The New Supervisor In The Office’s Secret Santa And You Know Almost Nothing About Them
The Gift: Huile Antique by Buly 1803
Price: $45 USD
Is there any greater hell then getting your supervisor in the Secret Santa! There should be a law against it. Also, let’s get rid of the cabal of lies known as the White Elephant Gift Exchange. Really, who thought that was good for office dynamics? You are on your own with the White Elephant but this gift works for bosses, and new in-laws exceptionally well.
Buly 1803 is another brand that is unusual for me to like. They are a zombie brand, in other words, an old company that stopped trading a century ago which was bought and resurrected to give a new company a veneer of authenticity and grandeur. In general, I hate zombie brands. Even though the new Buly is only 4 years old and it is basically cosplaying as a Victorian apothecary, I’m not mad at it. My box came packed with hay. The wrapping paper was a reproduction of an 1806 Journal D’Imperal newspaper. Hell, it came with a hand calligraphed note. I am a sucker for these details but at the end of the day, its about the products, and they make good products. While there is certainly some pretentious stuff on offer at Buly, their body/hair dry oils are divine and are as fragrant and long-lasting as a perfume. They come in a large, 200ml, ceramic bottle with 19th-century allegorical label and a big heavy cap. They will caligraphy the person’s name on the box for free and you can get it etched on the bottle for just a bit extra. This screams holiday gift to me, especially if you don’t know the person too well and want to impress on a budget. Yes, it is $45 and that is pricey for a body oil but it looks like it’s $120. Plus, all four scents are guaranteed crowd pleasers. Damask Rose is the picture of a juicy red rose with shots of ginger and vetiver. The Scottish Lichen scent is a good alternative for those that prefer a more masculine scent. It is a deep green mineral mix of moss and galbanum that reminds me of mossy stones by the seaside. At the very least you will look like you have good taste.
BONUS GIFT IDEA: Keep this between you and me, but massaging my face in the evening with Tamanu Oil is one of my secrets for keeping my skin soft, supple, and acne-free. Pick up some for yourself or your skincare obsessed friend. 50ml will last you a year at least, and at $25 it’s a bargain especially with the presentation.
The Mark: Your Revolutionary, Out Here Saving The Children, College Friends
The Gift: Single Origin Coffee by Banshee + Cinder
Price: $15 USD for 12 ounces, $20 USD for a pound
Bless’em, they are out there doing God’s work, organising the protests, calling their senators, volunteering with at-risk youth, maybe even running in a local election. These ambitious folks are fighting for a better world, but they need their morning joe too.
Buying ethically is a minefield for one’s self, giving a gift to someone you know is concerned with the ethics of their consumption is a whole other level. Banshee + Cinder is a small, woman-run coffee company out to change the way we interact with our coffee by offering 100% fair trade, sustainable, organic, Rainforest Alliance certifies, single source coffee. They know where the beans are growing, who is growing them and make sure the farmers are treated (and paid!) fairly. Plus, you can tour the rich and diverse growing regions one bag at a time and get the roast and grind exactly as you like it. I love the nutty coco-ness of the Mexican Arabica and the bright fruitiness of the Burundi Bourbon.
The Mark: Your Death Positive Roommate That is Talking About Becoming A Mortician A Lot
The Gift: A Mortician’s Tale by Laundry Bear Games
Price: $15 USD
I’d suggest a clip-on bang but if she is a DP girl she probably already has a luscious fringe which is how we signal to our kind, “Hark, fair stranger, I am one of you!”
All kidding aside I get asked about Death Positive gifts all the time and with the exception of the reading list, (and art) I don’t know what to suggest. I’m not big (for ethical reasons) on the casual display of human remains, even reproductions, in curios, oddities, or medical models for the purposes of decor. There is a reason you will never see me posing with a skull. That really cuts down on deathly things you can give for Kwanza. Laundry Bear Games has solved this gift dilemma for me with their Mortician’s Tale. This is a narrative-heavy Steam game giving the player a taste of what it is like to be a mortician and work in the death industry in a thanatophobic society. Its beautiful purple colour palette, gentle tone, and moments of contemplation are really lovely. It is an inspiring game to play for any death aware person and a great way to introduce your friends to the movement.
The Mark: Your Extra AF Goth Girlfriend
The Gift: The Maddona Halo by Hysteria Machine
Price: $375 USD
This is a splurge in every sense of the word. No one ever needs a crystal encrusted golden madonna halo from Hysteria Machine and really how often would you even wear it? I can think of a thousand reasons to not buy this but just think of the moment: your beloved is laced into her best corset, decked in her best going out dress. The time spent on her hair and makeup have been extensive in order to transform her into the dark fairy of her dreams. Just think, dear reader, of how filled with joy her dark little heart will be donning this perfection on her head. What is money in the face of such glamorous joy!?!? Also, you can get away with the old “this is for all 8 night of Hannukah” line with this one.
The Mark: Your Little Brother That Bartended At Applebee’s One Summer & Still Calls Himself A God Damned Mixologist
The Gift: Cocktail Elixirs & Mists by Alice & The Magician
Price: $15 USD for the Elixirs & $18 USD for the Mists
The cocktail snob is related to the coffee snob, beer snob, and gin snob, but with the added talent of performance art. Gone is the showy sportiness ala Cocktail and in, is the sort of earnestness verging on pedantic that was beyond charming in the likes of Milk & Honey’s Sasha Petraske (RIP) but I fear the kindness and passion of Sasha is missing in a lot of his proteges. Regardless, a type of steampunk molecular gastronomy has entered the world of cocktails and if your brother is going to subject you to his concoctions on Christmas Eve, he should at least have some decent tools.
Alice and the Magician Cocktail Apothecary is basically a perfume company for booze. The Flavour Elixirs are edible aromatic blends of botanicals that boost the flavour profiles of your drink and instantly makes them taste more professional. The Thai Green Market Elixir is a lovely melange of Thai basil, mint, and lime leaf that works perfectly with a gin-based drink. Spice Trade Elixir is a comfy blend of vanilla, cocoa, and cinnamon which not only goes well with rum but is bomb in an oil diffuser if you want your house to smell like Christmas.
The Aromatic Mists boost your experience of the drink by engaging your nose. 90% of taste is smell after all. A little spritz on the top of your drink and there are layers of complexity and interest you had no idea you could ever feel about a cocktail. I recommend Feast of Field & Forrest which is a lovely earthy mix of herbs, black pepper, butter, and truffles. As well as Rosemary & Wild Honey which has hints of pine and orange blossom as well as the titular ingredients.
The Mark: Your Sensitive Teenage Niece You Are Trying To Bond With
The Gift: The Skin Trilogy by Alice Broadway
Price: About $10 USD each (depending on where you buy it)
As someone who is gloriously barren (I guess the proper term is Child-Free but that’s no fun) I find myself looking at the youth today and thinking, “surely I wasn’t that emotional and off on flights of fancy?”
Sadly, I was that emotional, dear reader, I’ve just had 25 years to try an eradicate the memory of my heart aching desire to lose my virginity to all three musketeers in the 1993 Disney version of The Three Musketeers movie (along with Chris O’Donnell and Tim Curry). This is a roundabout way to say I worry about young women with wild imaginations and not enough dynamic female role models.
Ink is a wonderful YA novel written by Alice Broadway. It is a dark and dystopian world that still manages to feels very relevant and real. The story focuses around a young woman named Leora. After her father’s death, Leora faces her community’s unique customer of tattooing one’s life story on the skin to eventually leave a skin book for your family once you’ve died. Leora finds that there is something wrong with her father’s book and this sends her off on a quest of discovery in herself, her past, and her community.
The first two of the trilogy Ink and Spark are both out now and the third should be coming shortly. These books deal with issues of identity, death, grief, religion, and conformity. Which we can all agree are much better subjects for tween girls to tackle then say…how they would seduce Oliver Platt in the carriage house.
I think these books would actually be a fun read for both adults and kids and might spark some interesting intergenerational discussions this holiday season.
I hope that helps, and if all else fails, give them everyone’s favourite present…money.
If I can be a bit sappy for a moment. Thank you so much for another fantastic year here at Death/Scent. So many things are coming to fruition because of your love and support. I am blown away by my readers’ encouragement and generous spirit. I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season and lots of new content in the new year.
All items suggested are Nuri’s recommendation, Death/Scent does not accept paid promotion of products.