Perfume Pen Pals: Porny Perfume - What is Smut?


I just looked up a perfume on the Invisible Magnet blog and got caught up in a "you should wear the opposite of your natural smell" conversation. Which turned out to be misremembered.

But it's an interesting concept (even if it doesn't exist), because supposedly, men smell sweeter than women and the onion smell that Invisible Magnet Liz says is her natural scent is supposedly the natural scent of most women. Which, I guess, is why sweeter scents might work better on them. Though I love those sweet By Kilians on me, sweet as I already am. I might be off my rocker, but I'm convinced I pull off Love and Liaisons Dangereuses more successfully than any person on the planet.

Katie, what does "slutty" smell like? Seriously. Is it that musky, civety smell in Le Labo Oud 27? Or the unclean sweaty smell of Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie or The Party in Manhattan? Sitting here with my sweet bottle of Love and feeling good about my innocent self, I really don't know.



Scent psychologist Avery Gilbert says that women's skin smells like onions, and men's like cheese. But one of my lesbian girlfriends authoritatively asserts that lady-parts smell like cedarwood. So am I to understand that when I douse myself in cedar-y Shiseido Féminité du Bois, I'm a walking "Hello Kitty"? With an overlay of onion skin? Sounds hard to digest.

Yeeesh -- get a room, Mr. Cheese and Ms. Onion!

When this same friend sampled my Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba, she opined that it smelled like semen. Why does my unconscious want me to smell like a sex hunter who lives in a Winnebago?

As for slutty: Agent Provocateur and Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles both share an unwashed-in-close-quarters smell. But The Party in Manhattan really is the ultimate Sex-Hunter-in-a-Winnebago smell.



Are you sure it's your unconscious? Because once you've put the words "sex hunter in a Winnebago" to something, you're clearly quite conscious of it.



"Smutty" is my shorthand for my Le Labo Labdanum 18 animal-butt roll-call. But if you're going to split beaver hairs, I'd say it isn't as smutty as Bal à Versailles, Agent Provocateur, or The Party in Manhattan.



Not to beat you over the head with this, but to me, The Party in Manhattan smells sweaty and a little dirty. But that animal-civet smell isn't quite the same thing, right? I know you probably think I'm joking, but I truly don't know. I feel like I'm always outside this subject. Everyone refers to sexy, smutty perfumes and I can't quite identify what they're talking about.



I guess the definition of smut in perfume is a variation on the famous definition of porn: you know it when you smell it.

My friend Alison used to wear Vivienne Westwood Boudoir, which she describes as "pissy granny knickers". She said that men always seemed to go wild for it. I'd say when a fragrance smells smutty or "personal", it has a civet/indolic jasmine thing going on, and/or a honey/urinous tang. Sweaty helps, too.

"Do I smell hawwwt?"

Party in Manhattan is probably more of an olfactory statement than a perfume anyone can wear, so maybe that should stand apart from the others on my list. All the others are different combinations of, as the Brits coyly say, "front bottom", combined with, as my English friend Alan coyly and redundantly puts it, "back bottom".



That actually helps. Thanks. Though I'm never sure of this indole/jasmine thing. Because when I smell jasmine in a perfume, it just reminds me of jasmine, the same jasmine I'd smell at 5 a.m. doing my paper route as a kid. Even something as potent as Serge Lutens A La Nuit. Which is crazy jasmine.

Luca Turin said something along these lines, that the connection is over-made, that when the compound comes with shit, it smells like shit, but when it comes with flowers, it smells like flowers. (Which I think is due to the lower concentration of indole in flowers.)

But pissy and honey/urinous I've definitely smelled. Those sweet Etat Libre d'Oranges specialize in it. But I only think "smutty" when I read how smutty various perfumes smell, not when I actually smell them. It's like I'm Margaret Dumont and I'm missing all the jokes.


Fumies, talk dirty to me. What are your smutty scents of choice?

Onion chutney grilled cheese sandwich via
Sexy civet via


  1. I think I've mentioned this before on here, but I'm a guy...and I wear Boudoir!!!

    It's definitely naughty, but I can't comment on the lady-parts connection.

  2. whipsmart84, I think the person wearing the fragrance always adds the final twist to the perception of the scent. You're probably blowing people's minds.

  3. Kingdom by Alexander McQueen comes to mind for me, although on my skin it's not nearly as filthy as others have made it out to be. When I wear it there's a sexy morning-after feel to it combined with the florals and vanilla, a hint of what went on the night before instead of a full recap of the events. It's slutty, but it's subtle about it.

    It's a shame it's discontinued and so difficult to find for a not-insane price.

  4. Spike, I've still not managed to try Kingdom - I'd better hop to it. "Full recap of the events" is a nice way to sum up the TMI perfumes out there.

  5. I love Boudoir! I used to wear it, but I actually found it to smell quite love gasoline, right?
    Libertine was really beautiful too. I can't find Vivienne Westwood scents in Western Canada though, so I've settled for Jean Paul Gaultier 2 as my "smutty" fragrance of choice. I would love to get to a big city fragrance counter and smell some of the lovelies you talk about. You have me dying to have By Kilian's Back to Black, and I haven't even smelled it yet! What's your opinion on By Kilian's other fragrances? Worth paying shipping to have a sample?
    Anyhoo, love the blog and videos!

  6. dmhickman, I own "Libertine" as well as "Let It Rock," which Tania Sanchez adored. It's a dirty freesia that VW was wise not to "gender."

    Funny that you mention "Gaultier 2." It calls to mind the original "Joop!," created by none other than Martin Gras, the nose behind...


    Katie, I also adore Marc Jacobs' "Fig." The milky, sperm-y splash lasts as long as you want it to.

  7. have to agree with so many mentioned above. I do think those big white florals/orangeblossom frags- like Carnal Flower, Boudiour command attention. Definitely, sex is on the brain. The Bal a Versailles could be sexy. When I wear it, it seems that I really should be in bed with someone sniffing my skin. Is it post-sexy? Regardless it is an intimate scent. I really haven't worn it "out", but I do think that this can provide my opportunity to walk up to some lovely, while doused in BaV, and ask "Do I smell naked?"

  8. I love Putain des Palaces, Muscs Kublai Khan, and Nasomatto Nuda. But I only think the first one actually smells smutty and slutty. The other two just seem to have that reputation.

  9. Can't say I'm a fan of B2B as it just smells of old urine to me. I think my current preferred 'fragrance with questionable intent' is Black Orchid. Everything else I've tried has left me smelling dirty in a bad way. If I really want to get that 'possibly had a good seeing to just now' smell I'd much rather forego my morning spritz and build up an odeur naturally, maybe with a couple of strategic dabs of a good musk oil to help things along the way.

  10. Funny, your statement about Party in Manhattan as an olfactory statement, because, of course...I wear it! Not very often. With great care. And never when I might, ahem, offend anyone.

    But ratcheting it down a notch, I wear many of the usual suspects. Bal a V, (getting a perfect vintage bottle is always fun), LL Labdanum, Musc Kublai Kahn (which eventually goes all sweet and tame), TDC Rose Poivre (rose and knickers) and others. Kitty mentioned Nasomatto Nuda which is a marvelous jasmine that starts with an eye-opening indolic blast before settling down into a rather intimate, skin-hugging, warm jasmine.

    I would be remiss if I didn't mention my tiny little decant of vintage Piguet Visa extrait. Just a drop or two and I'm happily enveloped in civet and who knows what other animalic notes. A smut rating of 10!

  11. I have to go with Bal a Ver too. Neil Morris' Midnight Tryst reminds me of...well, a midnight tryst!

  12. I had problems for a while determining what exactly smutty/dirty perfumes were supposed to smell like. I just wasn't sure what everyone was talking about. I did get the sweaty cumin though from the start.
    Eventually, I learned to like "smut" and now I proudly wear Courtesan. :)

  13. Maybe I'm not the best person to talk about smutty perfumes, I tend to run from them... the sluttiest thing I allow myself to wear, once in a while, is SL A La Nuit:) But the smuttiest, dirtiest and perverse fragrance I know is not within the niche realms... it's Gucci Rush!

  14. dmhickman,

    Now that you bring up the By Kilian line, I think it's one of the few ranges where I could happily wear every single one of them (I could count Amouage and Maison Francis Kurkdjian in there, too). The BKs are opulent without seeming too crazy-busy on the skin.


    The VW line is hard to get ahold of in regular outlets here in California. My "to sniff" list is getting longer and longer.

    And I do believe your "ad-copy" for Marc Jacobs Fig would find favor with Marc Jacobs himself.


    What a provocative opening line: "Do I smell naked?"! *files away for future use*

  15. Kitty VH,

    Putain de Palaces really hits the bullseye for smelling of carnal shenanigans hastily spritzed with a fancy perfume.

    amber j,

    Haha - "building up an odeur naturally", wink-wink! Oh - perhaps you mean just slowly marinating in your own skin smell. Either way, musk oil will bring out the flavors.

    That's a good point that you mention: one person's "enjoyably intimate" is another's "did you just pee yourself?". (Dan swears up and down that Malle's Une Rose smells like U[ri]ne Rose on him.)

    TF Black Orchid is a wonderful choice for the naughty brigade.

  16. melisand61,

    As I was posting this Pen Pals installment, I was wondering what your comment was going to be, because you've got an unslakable thirst for rated-X perfumes.

    So it figures that you're the one saying "not so fast" re my pronouncement that The Party in Manhattan" isn't a perfume anyone can really wear.

    Your hit parade of indecent perfumes is helpful and inspiring. I've only ever worn brand new Bal à Versailles - are your vintage bottles noticeably different/better? I may have to truffle one out.

  17. ~elise,

    Haven't encountered NM's Midnight Tryst. Sounds like that one lives up to the name, unlike By Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses, which, gorgeous as it is, smells nothing of petticoats being interfered with.


    I'm keen to track down Worth Courtesan, especially after reading March's illuminating analysis on Perfume Posse:


    When you'd commented on my New Year's post about A La Nuit, I did thing that was a tad skanky for violet-y you! But we all have many sides, don't we ;-)

  18. Rocha's all its cumin glory...YES!
    Patou's knickers in a pretty way.
    Musc KK...personal body scent, a male way.
    Bal a quite smutty to me. Skanky, yes.

  19. A "smut" is great!

    I'm with Sabrina in not being drawn to most scents that are generally held to be smutty in some way, notably anything with indolic white flowers or civet. On the smutty-ometer where 10 is full on MKK and L'Air de Rien-type "filthy slop" (as my father used to term even the tamest physical displays of affection) and 1 is virginal blandness, I am probably about a 4. If I did want to vamp it up at a party, say, I would probably go with Ormonde Jayne Ta'if or Damien Bash Lucifer #3 (sensual sandalwood) - or I might just take off my coat.

  20. Heliotrope Tree House,

    Re BaV: ah, so now we're grading "skanky" up a step from "smutty", are we? It's so hard to keep this stuff straight....


    I'm so pleased this post has provided another opportunity for you to bring up your father's opprobrious term for cuddling, "filthy slop". I'd say that's the step beyond "smutty".

  21. Katie, I have no idea how come I ended up with a large decant of this but I would be more than happy to share it with you (I don't really use it often, only when I want to feel incredibly intelligently cool and sexy). Now that I wrote that, I realize I should make myself feel like that more often, I wonder why I don't...

  22. Katie -- The Party is Manhattan is unwearable? *blink blink* But I find it very wearable and very enjoyable, in a similar vein as L'air de Rien, Bois d'Orage and Kouros. Though somewhat heavier . . . not as heavy as Mona di Orio's Nuit Noire, however, which I do consider to be a statement and rather difficult to actually pull off.

    And what about Kurkdjian's Absolue pour le Soir? Do you file that in the smutty/skanky genre? Because it has a serious blast of animal to it that I adore but which others find almost scandalous.

    Come to think of it, I have a feeling I'm riding shotgun in your Winnebago of Love. And here I thought I just smelled good.

  23. nathan,

    I made that "The Party in Manhattan is unwearable" proclamation before Nuit Noire and Absolue Pour le Soir came into my life, and I'll just bet that I'm woman enough for it now. I think you could be right that Nuit Noire is even more of a pewie-dewie fest than PiM.

    It just goes to show that there are no absolutes in perfume appreciation. The goalposts shift with each new one you smell.

    Absolue PLS does indeed feature a robust barnyard element, but there's something about the amber that makes it comforting rather than scandalous to me. But I probably wouldn't have said that a year ago!

  24. Smut! Give me smut and nothing but! My cousin once told me that my skin smells like fresh laundry, so maybe that's why I go for the skank. The smuttiest fragrances I wear are Rochas Femme, Bandit, and Bal a Versailles. Mariella Burani is pretty sexy, too.

  25. Patty,

    "Smut and nothing but"! Yeah! It's funny that you're overcompensating for your naturally fluff-and-folded-smelling skin.

  26. Hi Katie,

    I finally got a small amount of the current EDP of Feminite du Bois, and I totally disagree that it smells like Brazil-if-the-World-were-a-woman's body.

    It's totally addicting, and I get stewed prunes right off the bat with no sweaty innuendos. Much more amazing to me than the current SLs I have like Sa Majeste, Tubereuse Criminelle & Iris Silver Mist.

    But wait a minute- as I am typing this, the sweaty note comes barging into my little sniffing party that cumin?

    P.S How's the little sniff-athon with the little samples I sent you? I hope you're not sniffed-out such that you have no time for them. All are supposedly legends, save the Flora Danica, a victim of the '82-'83 recession and the about-face towards perfume bombs right about the time Giorgio Beverly Hills debuted.

    Like how the amazing musical 'Chess' was elbowed into obscurity by 'Cats' because they debuted at about the same time.

    1. "Chess" - now there's a musical I haven't thought of...ever!

      Flora Danica is too a legend, at least for me, because I remember my sister loving it at the time. She also had a Flora Danica umbrella, I seem to recall!