Valentine’s Day Fragrances

There’s nothing like Valentine’s Day to make you feel it’s your solemn duty as a fumehead to be even more deliciously fragrant than usual. Although not everyone agrees that perfume is a good thing.

I got a grumpy tweet the other day from a fellow who declared, “I don’t like perfume on anyone. What’s wrong with soap and water for the lads and a light smell of strawberries for the ladies?”

Two things immediately come to mind, here. Firstly, where does he think this “light smell of strawberries for the ladies” is supposed to come from, if not perfume? A generous application of Summer’s Eve?

Secondly, “strawberries”, light or not, is a very specific smell, and one not normally emanating from ladies’ skin, unless they’re teenagers. Or strippers. Or teenage strippers.

Anyway, I refuse to let “Mr. Natural” rain on my perfume parade. Especially when there are Valentine’s perfumes to be considered and shopped for. I’ve assembled a list of 10 mainstream fragrances to cover a range of romantic moods, from snuggly to sensual to out and out showboating:

Robert Piguet Fracas

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

Marc Jacobs Lola

Prada L'Eau Ambrée

Agent Provocateur

John Varvatos

Prada Amber Pour Homme

Kenzo Power

Yves Saint Laurent Body Kouros

Annick Goutal Les Nuits d'Hadrien

Fumeheads, I’m interested to hear what your tried-and-true “business time” fragrances are. And please don't tell me “Summer’s Eve”.

To find out more about each fragrance, including the official ingredients list, click on its name.


  1. without a doubt:

    L'Air de Rien by Miller Harris
    Poivre 23 by Le Labo

    and if i'm feeling obvious:
    Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle

  2. L'heure bleu, Shalimar, Gucci eau de parfum (yeah!), and, indeed, Musc Ravageur.

    And o! Scherrer eau de parfum.

    All tried and true. It worked. Got a guy, made out, o joyous night.

  3. I'm going beyond the mainstream here:

    Amouage Jubilation 25
    vintage Femme
    Party in Manhattan

    Beyond the mainstream, but not beyond the obvious, as Dea mentioned. As for strawberries, dip mine in dark chocolate please. And hold the perfumer's alcohol.

  4. Rochas Tocade and Bond No. 9 Broadway Nite. Of course, I'm not a romantic by any stretch, so bawdy and loud works for me. :)

  5. Intrigant Patchouli, 10 Corso Como, however as ashamed as I am, Le Male gets the most guys of them all (from my experiences hehe).

  6. This is all good ammo, fumies! melisand61's choices are so dirty-minded, they practically get the party started without her.

  7. How strange - I decided to wear Agent Provocateur today for no other reason than I felt like a lift after a scale and polish at the dentist's! I never detected a skanky note in this before, but today I swear it is doing a Vivienne Westwood on me. Either that or it is something to do with the antiseptic hand gel at the hospital where I went after the dentist's.

    Technically, I have no tried and true "business time" fragrances, as I only properly discovered the stuff at the age of 48, and Mr Bonkers only likes soap and (as I recently discovered) SJP Lovely ("it smells like nice soap!"), though he likes neither in that way...

    My theoretical scents in this category would be:

    Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
    Penhaligon's Amaranthine (cracked record, I know!)
    PG L'Ombre Fauve (not called Bestial Shadow for nothing)
    L'Air du Desert Marocain (but only about 4 hours in, as the incense might be a bit OTT sooner)
    Kenzo Flower Oriental (as above but 2 hours should do it)
    Guerlain Plus Que Jamais (luxe ylang and powder)
    Guerlain Bois d'Armenie (mysterious woods)

    Clearly "woody" and "incense" seems to float my boat. No sniggering please. Can't speak for the hypothetical male subject.

  8. Hi Katie!

    Long-time reader, first time commenter here!
    Shortly after reading this post I was browing around on Luckyscent (as I'm wont to do) and saw a review for Montale Musk to Musk that went like this:
    "Probably smells like crap. Never tried it, never want to."
    This person must be in cahoots with Mr. Strawberries. Why would someone feel so negatively toward perfumes (unless they have alergies)? Perfumes never said anything so unjustly snarky to them!

    In regards to your question... I'm new to actually *smelling* perfumes (although I have forever salivated over their descriptions) so I have little to offer here. But sandalwood seems to put me in a sexy mood.

  9. xaryax - Welcome aboard! I'm so tickled that you brought up that Musk to Musk review on LuckyScent, because, I saw it too and I mentally quote it to myself all the time. There's something about the truculence and unreasonableness of it that cracks me up. And you left out the best part, which is the sign off: "Take a hike, Musc to Musc". That's the bit I think of whenever I encounter something new that I don't like.

    And I'm with you on the perrrroww nature of sandalwood.

  10. flittersniffer, love your putative business time list. Dig L'Ombre Fauve and Oriental Flower, too. Oriental Flower reminds me of another love, Miller Harris Fleur Oriental, which reminds me of my new favorite perfume, just bought yesterday: Mona d'Orio Nuit Noire. Yes, you read right, the perfume you've memorably referred to as "repulsive rotting fruit". You'd challenged me to smell it; smell it I did, and there was no repulsion, only strange attraction. And I'm pretty much focused in on tuberose, incense and the tail-swish of civit. You've created a monster.

  11. I'm so jealous flittersniffer has PG L'Ombre Fauve, I've been wanting to try that for ages but the PG choir only let intimate customers get close to it, boo!

    All your readers smell hawt, Katie!

    As a teenager I loved Guerlain Samsara for all occasions, be they romantic or tormented in nature. I don't have a sexy 'fume at the moment... but after reading the comments here I'm keen to try Party in Manhattan and Musk to Musk. Also, I entered in your giveaway, so hopefully I'll be irresistable soon, hehehe.

    Tell us your saucy scents, pleaaaase!


  12. I just remembered Bvlgari Jasmin Noir and AP Strip. They are kind of sultry, stopping short of outright hoochy.

    Katie, I did create a monster, didn't I, with the Nuit Noire? Am not sorry we are divided by a large ocean and nine states (at a rough count). : - )

    Nadine, I only actually have various little sample vials of L'Ombre Fauve, which I use sparingly - it is hard to come by, I agree.

    Off to vote for the Prada...

  13. flittersniffer, Bulgari Jasmin Noir is another firm fave of mine.

    Nadine - some of my successful business transactions have been assisted by Le Labo Labdanum 18, Musc Ravageur, and Bruno Acampora Musc.

    And I'm about to spring a new one on my unsuspecting business partner: Amouage Attar Asrar.

  14. Ah, "business" fragrances - lovely euphemism ;)

    I find I need to weigh my own interpretation of sexy against that of my peers (early-to-mid-20's) if the scent end is going to have any positive influence on a romantic encounter at all. *My* idea of sexy would include sensuous orientals with a dirty streak: Gucci EDP (*waves hello to bradamante), Chergui, Mona di Orio Jabu, Bal à Versailles... Most of which would get me nose wrinkling at best.
    I refuse to wear air-headed, bottle blonde fruity florals, so I usually compromise: Dark Amber & Ginger Lily is a nice one. Versace Crystal Noir. Reminiscence Musc. Safran Troublant. All excellent, of course, just not my idea of sexy. :)

  15. Though I fear being scorned for asking this: does anyone else like Black XS For Her by Paco Rabanne? It's the sexiest of 'em all to me... though my boyfriend finds it a bit naff, and I do loathe that bottle... Do tell!

  16. Arachne - you mentioned Mona di Orio Jabu - but for full-on filth, what about her Nuit Noire? I've been digging that one. And I sure love Bal à Versailles!

    emilie - Ah the ridiculous scorn of a fume nerd! Y'know, I've not smelled Black XS for Her, but I know plenty of folks enjoy the woody-rosy-vanilla and fruit-filled ride. It sounds like a low-ball version of By Kilian Liaisons Dangereuse, and woo boy, is that a gorgeous scent!

  17. I have a spray sample of Black XS in a sealed sachet. It is in my box of stuff to include as extras in swaps (in this case unsniffed), but I may breach the flow pack now and give it a go!

  18. Everyone, please do let me know what you think if you meet up with Black XS, I'm on the fence about buying a full bottle, blasted student poverty life!

  19. Hi Emilie, just conducted a test on Black XS, which I have 'timely ripped' from its sachet. I am 30 years the wrong side of my student days, so please take my view with a pinch of salt, but I have to say I find this a bit too sweet and berryish, and it slightly gets up my nose, which could be the patchouli in the drydown or some kind of powder that bothers me.

    If I was going for the "sexy student on a budget" look I'd consider Kate Moss Velvet Hour, which also has a seriously naff, budget sci-fi movie bottle, but which is surprisingly silky and elegant - and super cheap. Vera Wang Rock Princess is a bit edgier than regular Princess, and also nods towards Goth style, so that might be another one to try (though possibly dearer?).

    Just my twopennyworth!

  20. Oh, Flittersniffer!

    Thanks for breaking into your stash in order to give me your opinion!

    Hihihi, yes, I suppose Black XS does come from the trashy-esque, cheapish family... and still I love it. I haven't tried any of the others you mentioned (because I'm a snob and usually only go for much cooler stuff) but will give them a chance.

    I usually like quite dark and strange notes, leather, smoke, incense, juniper, opoponax... Maybe I AM a goth!

  21. Ah well, if money were no object, I'd say try Black Rosette by Strange Invisible Perfumes. There's lots out there to suit your style, but the niche stuff doesn't usually come cheap, sadly! : - (

    Anyone else got something approximating to a "budget niche Goth 'business' scent" rec?

  22. emilie - If we're talking leather/smoke/incense on a budget, why not check out the cheap yet effective delights of Molinard Habanita? And L'Occitane has a myrrh, incense and patchouli perfume called Eau D'Iparie.

    And you can't walk two paces in the land of dark and strange without running into Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - affordable and as gothic as no mother's business.

    And I do like to push my beloved Bulgari Black, found inexpensively online and filled to the brim with strange, leathery vanilla.

  23. hey Katie
    did I tell you I am in love with your youtube videos. I am. Thank you so much for what you do.

    My go to fragrance is
    Etro Messe de Minuit

    I love smelling like I just got out of church

  24. Hey artterium - you are most welcome! Messe de Minuit, huh? I've been vaguely stalking that one for years, since I love smelling like coughety-cough incense. I probably have about 10 different incense perfumes, but I haven't quite opened myself up to MdM's possibilities yet.

    I think my next incense purchase will be Cartier XII L'Heure Mysterieuse.

  25. Hey KP
    As far as current "business" scents go, BPAL's "Smut" is pretty damn filthy in a boozy kind of way, (Yay for Goth niche!) and tried and tested.
    Currently testing out Agent Provocateur, and wouldn't you know, it has that Pissy Granny Knickers thing going on with it. Doesn't mean I don't like it, but WOW it's a bit intense.

    So glad I didn't try this on for a day at the office... ;)

  26. Sarah, I do love how Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab fragrances live up to their names!

    Agent Provacateur took me a few years to "get", and now I love it. I embrace the overripe intimacy of it.

    In fact, I just bought the "Diamond Dust" version which is a titch more amped-up than the original - a bit more full and fruity, somehow. But the company swears it's the same smell, just with added sparkles. I feel there's more to it...

  27. Katie
    yes, I want to get the DD version too. Luca Turin also rates it higher than the original and I'm intrigued now. Pity samples are rarer than hen's teeth.
    Also, *waves finger* you've got me into By Kilian in a big way. My Back to Black sample is fast disappearing, and today I'm wearing Taste of Heaven. I'm starting to realise that as well as my beloved vanilla/vertiver/musks, I'm a total lavender fougere tart! (Now I must stop sniffing my wrist and get back to work.... )

  28. Sarah - yep, it was Tania Sanchez's comments in "Perfumes: The Guide" that compelled me to seek out DD, and by gum, she's right - it is better. It's Agent Provacateur in a push-up bra.

    By Kilian enjoyment is an expensive habit to have. My Perfume Pen Pal Dan loves that Taste of Heaven, too.