Viewer Mail: I Want to Smell Like a Bonfire

Hello Katie!

Bit of an odd one this, but my favourite smells are bonfires, petrol stations and marker pens! I'm not overly keen on florals. I don't want to smell like I've doused myself in gasoline (people would be scared to light a match around me!) but is there a perfume genre for folks like me who like that kind of smell but don't want to alienate their loved ones?! I would like to smell like a bonfire :)


Hi KerryPanda – What an interesting question! There is indeed a special family of fragrances just for you: a woody sub-group that includes birch tar and oud wood. Both of those can smell burnt, petrol-y and/or medicinal. These very sharp notes are usually apparent at the opening of the fragrance, and then mellow out to something more wearable. So you get what you need, without sending your loved ones running screaming away from you.

The very first thing that comes to mind is Le Labo Patchouli 24. That has your name all over it! It's so smoky at first, you're practically choking on the fumes. It's burnt, burnt wood (and no patchouli that I can tell), which calms down to leathery vanillic sweetness.

See also Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant, as well as Armani Privé Bois D'Encens, both dry, smoky incenses. I have a new favorite, Etro Sandalo, which settles down to a creamy, sensual sandalwood, but definitely has a petrol kick at the top. And try 10 Corso Como, a sandalwood/oud wood fragrance that also has a reported gasoline tinge to it. I actually experience it as more of a dill pickle niff.

There's CB I Hate Perfume's Burning Leaves, which is basically Patchouli 24 without the rich vanilla drydown. Also, Comme des Garçons Garage -- a smoky, synthetic-y leather. And also from the CdG Synthetic Series is Tar, which I haven't tried, but it's supposed to resemble car exhaust. And people actually say it smells sexy.

I know you said you don’t actually want to smell like you’ve doused yourself in gasoline, but if you’re ever feeling flammable, I have just the thing for you. It’s Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia, an eye-watering mix of gas, motor oil and new tires that finally spins out in a pleasant pile-up of leather, tobacco and vanilla. It’s a long drive to get to the breathable stuff, though!