Viewer Mail: Which Perfumes Make Guys Go “Grrr”?


Speaking of "sexy” (per your last Perfume Pen Pals),
I am just curious as to which perfumes actual guys think are sexy. I want to buy something that says, "Hello kind Sir, could you please be a dear and f$&! me...."

What do real, hairy, sweaty, smelly guys like? Is it the sweet candy-ness of a Victoria's Secret perfume or something more spicy-ish? I like certain perfumes but some guy friends of mine say they are too "old lady / grandma.” Thanks for your input on this!!


Stefanie, when it comes to encouraging a fellow to f$&! a lady, one needs to spend exactly zero dollars on perfume. Especially you, with those proper debutante manners of yours. “Kind Sir,” indeed!

But I smell what you're spraying, here: you want to cut through the horse pucky and PR bumf and line up some sure-fire hornifyin' fumes. 'Cause it's always fun to have your beautiful perfume trigger a Dance of the Seven Veils in a guy's head on your behalf, while all you're actually doing in real life is standing there, innocently engaging in demure small talk.

The problem is, asking menfolk “what is a sexy perfume?” will get you as many answers as asking them “what is a good food?”. Not only are there generational differences (as you've experienced with those uncultured galoots calling your lovely perfumes “too grandma”), but on top of that, there are endless variations on preferences, all formed by personal tastes and experiences.

One person's “obvious” sexy perfume can be a big fat “huh?” to another. Take the man who once tweeted me rather testily, “I don’t like perfume on anyone. What’s wrong with a light smell of strawberries for the ladies?”

Uh, sure -- you mean the light smell of strawberries that comes as a factory preset on the FemBot XD5000? FemBot's vinyl skin is soooo lifelike, too.

In Fruit Dude's version of the world, the most desirable women don't wear perfume. They simply naturally exude the smell of strawberries. Or perhaps they've tucked a Little Trees Car Freshener into their lingerie drawer?

On different tack, did you see Junelady's comment on the last post about how Armani Acqua di Gio triggers Pavlovian lust in her no matter who wears it, owing to imprinting from an old AdG-wearing flame? The take-away here is: whatever random fragrance an early beloved wore, wins! Which is an exceedingly hit-or-miss way to try and strike a person's olfactory fancy.

Jeez, all you're trying to do is to work a little “to smell me is to love me” mojo on attractive strangers, and it turns out you're up against what saucy Dee Dee Cox wore back in the 8th grade. Or what Great-Aunt Bernice used to spray on her truss to disguise the smell of joint liniment.

Before we twist our brains into a Krazy Straw trying to second, third and fourth-guess what real, hairy, sweaty, smelly guys like in a perfume, let's ask said guys to try this thought experiment:

Scarlett Johansson walks up to you in a club, drenched in Youth Dew/Mitsouko/Clinique Elixir/Grandma Perfume of Choice. She smiles tentatively and asks if you know the name of the song that's playing. Do you

a) shrug, irritated, then turn away. Dang, Scarlett smells like my Nana!

b) try not to make cartoon “Ka-HOO-gah” eyes while attempting to absorb “” Oh, she was wearing perfume, you say?

It's b), duh. Point being, if Wolfie is on your wavelength, he's already digging the You Pu-Pu Platter, perfume and all. Your favorite perfume is now his favorite perfume.

So let's review. Actual guys find the following perfumes sexy:

a) Strawberry ones.

b) Whatever saucy Dee Dee Cox wore in the 8th grade.

c) Whatever the pretty lady currently talking to them is wearing.

Which is an elaborate way of saying “everything”. And before I waste any more of your time, Stefanie, I'd like to throw it over to any blokey blokes out there (and the women who love them) to name names on their favorite hubba-hubba fumes.

I'll kick it off with an exchange I had with an actual guy, Perfume Pen Pal Dan Rolleri:


I love what vuvie wrote about Burberry Brit Sheer on MakeupAlley:

“So for all the guys who love the way I smell and couldn't wait to undress me, here's what's making you stupid:

yuzu, mandarin, pineapple leaves, lychee, grapes, peony, peach blossom, sweet pea, nashi pear, white musk and amyris wood.”



The poor saps on Basenotes are still searching for the one perfect scent that will make women want to undress them. (I think it's now a permanent subject in the male section.)

It's so much easier for women. Maybe it has more to do with being a woman. Maybe she's giving Burberry too much credit.

My favorite scent on my ex was this supposedly scentless gel she'd wear on her face at night that smelled like peat moss. No yuzu in that, I'm pretty sure.


Sex Robot via


  1. Okay, here's my opinion - and this is a guaranteed lock if a woman wants to get busy with me. Ylang Ylang will automatically get me interested in you.

    I wear it myself because I like being in a slightly lusty frame of mind. There's nothing like the scent of it in all of perfumery, and it's the epitome of what great sex should smell like. Delicious, exotic, full-bodied and supple.

  2. If you already have a partner (and aren't just looking to snare one), he may have definite opinions about which of your perfumes is sexier. One of the perfumes my husband finds sexiest is mine from the olden days (Cabochard--that imprinting thing), but another is a new one: Tolu by Ormonde Jayne. He asks me to wear it for him. Luckily he has good taste.

  3. Similar to what Katie said, I definitely recommend liking what you smell like before you go out on the hunt, so to speak. Otherwise, you're not going to be in the mood to tango, and no one else will want to, either.

    That said, my own hairy guy likes sex-in-the-bakery scents (like Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Mme Moriarty, Misfortune Teller) for Business Time. However, that's what I reach for when I want to feel sexy, and I think there's a direct correlation there.

    But then, he also really liked this lotion I had once that made me smell like feet. I can't even tell you what that was about.

  4. funny that you mention Tolu by ORmonde Jayne - my husband's favourite is Osmanthus by ORmodne JAyne (so much better than any of the other Osmanthus perfumes that feebly tried to copy!)- it's got this positive happy-go-lucky chipper nature which also has a healthy slap of allure.

  5. Well I always thought it was obvious, foody vanilla perfumes like Organza or very clean cotton scents that got the guys going. However reading your article Katie and everyone else's comments I think it's pretty clear there is no one single fragrance/note that will guarantee to have men falling at your feet. Having said that maybe Escentric 01 by Escentric Molecules would be worth a try for Stefanie what with all the pheromones, or perhaps Frederic Malle's Musc Ravageur.

  6. This is definitely personal/generational. But these days, I hear a lot of ladies say that they get compliments from men when they wear white florals.

    My own homme always compliments me when I wear NR for Her (orange blossom & musk) or Belle en Rykiel (sort of a more subtle version of the sweet patchouli Angel theme, with lavender and heliotrope). He also loves when I wear flannel shirts. Go figs.

  7. Thanks everyone -- a lot of food for thought -- or smells for schtupping -- here.


    I really like your ylang-ylang suggestion. I guess that's because I really like ylang-ylang. I, too, find it delightfully insinuating: a little sweet, a little sweaty. Back when I was a one-bottle woman, there was a year or so when I only wore Aveda Love, an ylang/sandalwood perfume oil.

    For more naughty ylang-ylangs, it's hard to top LesNez Manoumalia and Penhaligons Amaranthine. Oh! And then there's that great tuberose/ylang thang Histoires de Parfums Tubéreuse 1.


    All this ylang talk seems to be confirming your white floral findings. And I do believe your NR for Her is right in the pocket for an easy, beautiful, man-pleasing scent. It's nuzzly and musky without being "baby powder", and the orange blossom lends a feminine lilt. I favor the EDP, myself.

    I haven't encountered Belle en Rykiel. That might be hitting the spot as a feminized masculine, the way Angel and Coco Mademoiselle do in their own ways.

  8. I have to say that I'm completely clueless as to what men like in perfume on women - I have yet to have a man comment on the scents I've been wearing over the years. Whether that speaks to me having poor taste in perfume and good taste in men with good manners or whether I could wear bug spray and I would still be completely irresistible, I have no idea. And yes, it's ok to lift an eye brow at this point...

    These days - being slightly on the desperate side - I'm considering getting Acqua di Gio for myself - then there'll be at least one happy person in the room - me.

    Any opinions on AcG as a unisex perfume?

    Katie, I defintitely perceive Stella Rose Absolute as less salty than Stella - but definitely rosier, like you said, a darker red shade of rose. I find it more classically feminine than Stella, but I suspect that some might also find it a bit less modern and trendy than Stella. I don't care. I also love Chanel No. 5 eventhough I'm deemed ancient on that count.

    I wore my sample of Portrait of a Lady over Christmas, and I really liked it - so beautiful, but I'm not sure that I'd love it more than I love Rose Absolute. More comparisons are necessary before a final verdict. I also finally got around to wearing my Jubilation 25 for women sample - and maaaaan, that was gorgeous! A sweeter, deeper take on Chanel no. 5. But will anyone find it sexy, that's what I want to know!

  9. Katie, BeR is great -- and dirt cheap on the Internets. If you're anti-unsniffed purchase, I could send you a sample. Backchannel me if you're interested!

  10. Nina,

    Tolu! That's so funny, an earlier draft of my answer to Stefanie included a mention of Tolu, which my own husband spontaneously complimented when I wore it recently. (The fact that Tolu attracted his attention at all is noteworthy because I seem to flit through a gabillion perfumes on a daily basis.)

    I thought of it when I read Stefanie's word "spicy-ish". Tolu is a very lush and rich spicy scent, miles away from sharp, arid, "masculine" spices. Tolu creator Linda Pilkington told me that it's the one from her line she wears to perfume conferences/sales events. I imagine because Tolu is subtly distinctive in a crowd, and very "I want more of that!"


    Your husband is hitting both the Ormonde Jayne and white florals fan clubs with Osmanthus!

  11. Anne,

    Hahahahaha..."lotion that made me smell like feet"! I'm now lost in the forests of speculation: was the lotion's scent a stab at realistically cheesy gardenia? Rubbery tuberose? Funneeeeeee....

    Amen to the whole "you've gotta love your own perfume first" concept. It's impossible to legislate for what the as-yet-unmet man of your dreams is going to respond to, smell-wise. But it's a cert that he'll pick right up on the ease and self-confidence you'll exude, helped along by the subtle sillage of your favorite fragrance.

    Sex In the Bakery is very effective sub-genre of hornifyin' perfumes. There's a reason why strippers famously wear cotton candy body sprays. This fact has been confirmed by my correspondence with club dancers, along with field and Internet research. Here's an edifying thread I turned up last night:


    The above link backs up your foody/vanilla observations. And clean cotton has its fans, too. Fans who will not be going for spicy-ish and/or ylang-ylang.

    I've been wearing Not a Perfume, the latest Juliette Has a Gun release, and that one strikes me as a very appealing "clean" perfume that emanates a lovely "I just naturally smell like this" niff. Certainly one to try if you're not inclined to showy Queen of Sheba displays of smell.

  12. Tara,

    Malle Musc Ravageur is a doozy of a musk, one that the Basenotes Boys often cite as a chick magnet, but as is often the case with perfume, the magnet works both ways. I always get an appreciative "you smell GOOD" from fellows-other-than-my-husb when I wear my MR oil.

    After being all coy in my answer to Stefanie, if pushed to proclaim some boy-teasing scents, I can vouch for the efficacy of musk-based perfumes. In my case, Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely, Bruno Acampora Musc and Annick Goutal Musc Nomade have all elicited favorable responses from men.

    Then again, there was the time when out and about, I sampled a spritz of i Profumi di Firenze Vaniglia del Madagascar and most unhappily reeked of vanilla-scented Windex. Desperate to get home to a shower, I was hurtling through the rest of my errands when a male cashier at Radio Shack announced how "beautiful" my perfume smelled. I couldn't help giving him an incredulous look, which was awkward given the circumstances. I did manage to mumble a begrudging "thank you".

  13. Junelady,

    I've not made a personal acquaintance with Acqua di Gio, but if it fluffs your feathers, I'm sure you can carry it off just fine.

    I'm voting for you having good taste in men with good manners, with a side vote for you being completely irresistible.

    Especially if you wear Jubilation 25 - that shizz is way sexaaaaaaay. But perhaps not to the 20-something clerk in Radio Shack.

    Which brings up another point: targeted man-slaying through the medium of perfume. If you're true to the scents you actually love to wear, it's part of the whole signal you send out through your style and your smartness. Ideally, you attract friends and lovers based on the real you, and not a vanilla-Windex facade. Unless vanilla-Windex is the real you, of course!

    But back to Jubilation 25: I find it a couture version of Dior Diorella, a perfume I wore in my early 20s. And J25 is certainly ripe and womanly. But in a way that might not compute for callow youth.

    Thanks for your elaboration on Stella Rose Absolute. I've danced around it for a while, but now may have to pounce on a bottle.

  14. Over the years, I seem to remember reading articles saying that men seem to enjoy smelling lavendar and licorice. I would imagine vanilla would be a good choice.

    And these suggestions in no way narrow your search....

    Just follow Luca Turin's advice and smell like bacon.

  15. I enjoyed reading this post and all the responses. I agree with some and disagree with a few. Namely, I detest vanilla scents and if I was of a mind to entice a gent for some canoodling, I would steer clear of vanilla both for me and him. (Are there male vanilla fumes? If so, don't wanna know!) But I SO agree that if you love the scent you are wearing and projecting, then you are going to be attracting the responses (hopefully) that you are seeking from the type of guy (or whoever) you are looking for. Fume is great way of saying "Look at me (and take a sniff)" and be as demure or bold as you wish. I like a scent that doesn't shout but rather announces itself a bit more politely. Let them find out about the tiger later.

    So like that perfect LBD that makes you feel strong/confident/glam/sexy/fill-in-the-blank when you wear it, the perfect fume is going to make you feel all of the above and will attract the response you want whether it is "funny business" or just a "you smell nice".

    And I think the guy who testily queried "why can't woman just smell like strawberries? Well, I think his best plan is to buy a stack of those strawberry car air fresheners and turn them into earrings for his fave gal. Then when he leans in for a sniff of her neck, he will smell the smell he so adores. But I think his gal is going to look alot like Plastic Pat, pictured above.

    BTW, is Linda Pilkington any relation to Karl Pilkington?

  16. Nora,

    I would rather wear Anne's foot-smelling lotion than a licorice or lavender perfume - yick! I'll betcha a million Good'n'Plentys that the research for that particular finding has holes galore. Those smells are just so...arbitrary. Check out Dan's and my discussion on it here:


    Oh baby, there's a brave new world of 'nilla fumes for the fellas since the last time you checked. They try to butch 'em up with tobacco or rubber, but they're vanilla, all right.

    I like the concept of a LBD perfume. I may have to expand on that in future.

    Haha, Karl Pilkington! I was just watching "The Ricky Gervais Show" tonight! I love Karl. Just when you think he can't get any more ill-informed and ridiculous, he comes out with an absolutely, irrefutably profound observation. And I'm fascinated by how deadpan and unimpressed he is by everything, while still exhibiting an active curiosity about the world around him. It's so odd that these two aspects co-exist without canceling each other out. I'd love to hear his take on perfume.

  17. My other half would prefer me to wear nothing - in the way of perfume, I mean - or freshly washed nothing for preference. For out of the "gabillions" of scents I have thrust under his nose for an opinion over the past three years of this hobby, the ONLY one he ever said (with a rising inflection of surprise) was "okay, actually" was SJP Lovely. And that was because it smelt like soap.

    For some reason I find this sad.

    PS I am glad you wrote "Grrr" and not that famous MUA default of "2Grrls".... Now that would be an interesting scent. : - )

  18. Wow, so many nice thoughts on what kinds of scents men prefer that I don't know where to start writing without being repetitive...

    First of all, I agree on 100% with "you should wear what you like", that's nothing better than that to put you in the mood during a "hunt". In my opinion, men tend to prefer gourmand scents in women, but this is not a rule.

    Anyway, when the subject is "my own hairy guy", he is always in the mood... even when I am smelling like hamburgers or ashtrays. Sometimes I wonder if he would still be turned on if I rubbed a dead animal carcass all over my body, LOL



  19. Ha ha, Katie, I am glad you sensed the 'tongue-in-cheek'-iness of my Karl Pilkington comment. I, too, am a fan of the Ricky Gervais show. The sincerely absurd and deadpan comments made by Karl on any topic crack me up. And how he has to get all the back story before he will even respond to a question, such as when he was asked about doppelgangers, is a hoot.

    Can't wait to read your thoughts on the concept of a LBD fragrance.

  20. I always laugh when people discuss "what kinds of scents do men/women like", as if no such thing as personal preferences existed. I just wear whatever I damn well please. My guy almost always enjoys the way I smell: not sure if I subconsciously "trained" him this way or what, but...

    Even generational differences aren't a given. My boyfriend is 20 and his favorite scents on me are heavy on spices, woods, and resins, the sorts of conconctions that should theoretically register as old lady or even old man if current trends are anything to go by. If I innocently spritz on some random "sexy, flirty, young!!!" scent at the mall, ESPECIALLY one that smells like strawberries, he's liable to hiss that it smells like "diabetes".

  21. thiswildelectricity,

    What you said.


    No to dead animal carcass. But maybe yes to Amouage Opus III - have you tried it? Could be another violet success story for you.


    All hail Karl!

  22. I'm in the "wear what makes you feel alluring and you will be" camp. And lately I've noticed people noticing perfume I'm wearing, especially men. In these days of scent paranoia, I think it can be a way of being different, standing out. I've also noticed that people stand closer and linger a little. Not a scientific survey but just something I've noticed.

  23. Anyhow~It's a great conversation opener to have WITH men. Some have no clue whatsoever, but others have interesting things to say, memories and hopes. BUT not that strawberry guy.

  24. Dear Katie--

    My apologies to Stefanie, 'cause I'm about to bust in and change topics, but your next giveaway should be like, "Win a chance to spend two hours with me talking about perfume!"

    'Twould be preferable to many giveaways. Talking to someone in person about smellies would be a lot of fun, but most people are not down with it.

    Or, shoot, lots of you. I'd like to talk about smellies in person with lots of you.


  25. I thought Tanya Sanchez had nailed this one: the scent that drives men crazy is bacon.

    Actually, fresh-baked bread does that for me, and pizza too.

    Oh, on a woman, you mean? Anything, really. My woman smells good at all times, with or without perfume on.

  26. Dear Olfacta,

    "I've also noticed that people stand closer and linger a little."

    You know, since reading Katie's blog, I've definitely overcome my shyness and spoken up when someone is wearing a perfume that smells nice. It's also a good way to learn about fragrance in general. I've still got a lot to learn!


  27. Vanessa,

    I'm secretly on your SO's side about not wanting my other half to smell of anything in particular. But that's just because I want to be the only one in close proximity peacocking with perfume.

    Speaking of perfumes that smell like soap, I've been loving one from Penhaligon's recently called Castille. It's really gorgeous! I can't even believe I'm saying this, as one who usually spits out "soapy" as an epithet. I'm gearing up to do a review of this one, to try and figure out how Castile "turned" me.


    Boo hiss on scent paranoia. Hooray for scents that encourage lingering.


    Now that is a GREAT conversation-starter - good thinking! Just as you say, the topic encourages deeper thinking and revelations than the usual party chit-chat.

    "But not that strawberry guy" cracked me up.

  28. Nora,

    I appreciate your kind remarks! It's funny to think of offering myself as a "prize" in a giveaway.

    It's very nice to hear that reading KP Smells has nudged you to pipe up with the fume talk with strangers. And why not? They've taken the trouble to smell nice, and I'm sure they appreciate having their taste singled out. I know I do!


    You are correct - it is indeed Tanya Sanchez on record as id-ing bacon as THE "drive men wild" scent. But the trouble with smelling bacon (or bread, or pizza), is that all you can think about is bacon. All thoughts of amorous canoodlings are shoved to one side until bacon/bread/pizza needs are met.

  29. I asked my husband to weigh in on this, and the question distressed him.
    "I don't know! You tell me!" said he with gesticulating hands.

    He responds well to Agent Provacateur, but Once, as I was walking past him he grabbed me and pulled me close murmuring, "Do you smell like toast??"

    There it is, ladies and gentlemen! The smell that makes your man go Grrr is Toast!

  30. Dee, I think Maroc pour Elle smells like toast, after the bubblegum opening wears off. Maybe you should look into it! :)

  31. Musc R works as does Vivienne Westwood Boudoir (but used very sparingly) the thing is you have to be in the mood to handle that it works- so I think what was said before is true- there's no use in wearing a super sexy scent if you aren't feeling super sexy that day- and perhaps it works when you are because feeling super sexy made you reach for that bottle

    Strawberry is gross though sorry

  32. Hmmm, as I recall, I wore a strawberry oil in the 70's and my then-fiance LOVED it. It was ok for me. Not hideous and was quite strawberry-ish and not in a bad way. I actually preferred another fruity fragrance called Love's Baby Soft Lemon which I think has long disappeared from the scene. My sis found some for me a few years back and I enjoyed it very much. I also had a Love's Baby Soft Musk which was my FAVE and he hated it so it was relegated to the shelf of unworn scents. It was a light, fresh scent and I never could figure out what he didn't like about it.

    I have tried and worn other fragrances that include musk but none have been as light as that one. Now I feel a bit like I need a Viking helmet with the horns when I overspray one of them. Not to say it's a bad look, just not want I want to sport on a regular basis!

  33. Dee,

    That's funny about your husband being at sixes and sevens when asked to pinpoint a sexy scent. He couldn't even pipe up "toast!", so busy was he with his nervous gesticulating hands.


    That's such an interesting observation about Maroc pour Elle. Now I want to track down that toast!


    I can vouch for Musc Ravageur, and my fume-o-phile friend Alison always swore by Boudoir (though she's since moved onto Etat Libre d'Orange Fat Electrician, and from men to women...)

    I totally agree with your "mojo dictates the perfume choice" analysis. You really have to live up to some of those vampy fumes - you can't let them wear YOU.


    You're coming up with some good ones: first the LBD perfume, and now the Viking helmet perfume!

  34. thanx! I would "laaaaaaa" in an operatic tone, if I only knew how to spell it! (at least I don't have to actually sing it!)

  35. HAHA! I need to be careful when reading your blog at work. I'm scrollin'... Katie Perry and Betty Page, ok move along... scrollin'... cat butt crochet, hmm, I don't think people can tell right away... scrollin'... AACK!! Sex doll smuggling raisins!!

  36. Melissa,

    "Sex doll smuggling raisins" - funneeeeeeee!

  37. i need woman no robote Anonymous00

  38. Thank you for this fun post. I agree that this is very subjective territory we are entering into. But I have heard with a moderate level of consistency that men really enjoy the foody scents, vanilla being a perennial favorite note. Even if this doesn't get a guy instantly aroused, smelling edible can get the ball rolling.