Seduction Scents

Valentine's Day isn't the only time of the year romance is in the air -- especially if that air is filled with the scent of a come-hither perfume. I packed a few of the boldest “open for business” fragrances into my scent satchel and paid a call on Erica Fox and Raoul Martinez at the Fox 5 San Diego Morning Show. The topic: “Seduction Scents.” Enhancing your smell definitely enhances your appeal. The question is: who are you appealing to? The man who wants his ladeeez to smell of strawberries is not going to be smitten by my bawdy barnyard of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour le Soir and Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur. And that's just as well. Nothing like relying on “o-dar” to send and receive messages about who you really want to put a tiger in your tank. Make like the flowers and bees and hone in on specific targets by wearing smells that broadcast you-ness, and only you-ness. Even allowing for natural diversity in what flies our freak flag, smell-wise, there are classic sexy perfume ingredients with a universal appeal: “Your skin but better” fragrances: animalic cocktails of musk and amber and sandalwood. There's an old Moroccan tradition where brides-to-be flavor their food with musk before the wedding, so that every pore, every little nook and cranny, is perfumed with musk. Lucky groom! Foody fragrances: perfumes that are sweet with vanilla and chocolate, which are aphrodisiacs whether eaten or smelled. White florals: indolic “glow-in-the-dark” blooms like jasmine and tuberose are seductive because they smell overripe and physical. Rose perfumes: the classic flower of romance. Roses have aspects of wine and fruit in their smell -- a seduction picnic sure to end in “splendor in the grass!”
I chose my love potion fragrances for their dramatic expressions of different facets of hornifyin' raw materials. It didn't occur to me until later that they are all -- with some give and take -- perfectly unisex in their appeal. Get ready to bust a gusset:
With its saffron, rose, vanilla and sandalwood, “Disturbing Saffron” is an unusual variation on a gourmand. And sexxxaaaayyyy....hoo boy. Put it this way: in ancient Rome, the expression “sleeping on a bed of saffron” referred to a long hard night of making whoopee. Safran Troublant is $135 for 100ml from L'Artisan and I prefer the oil version of this concoction of musk, spices, sandalwood and vanilla -- it's quieter, more personal. What's the point of wearing a sexy scent if your target can smell it from across the room? In that case, there's no need for them to come closer! Musc Ravageur starts at $85 for 30ml from and
This delicate dance of orange blossom and musk is my concession to the large segment of fumies who prefer to cloak their animal nature until push comes to shove. As it were. Castile starts at $80 for 50ml from and The blend of cumin, ylang-ylang, rose, honey, incense and sandalwood is a little “B.O.”, a little “uh-oh!” Or as news anchor Erica would have it, “a forest-y tree.” (She must've picked up on the incense, right?) Whatever, all I know is that Absolue PSL smells like it's started the monkeyshines without you. Playing catch-up has never been so frisky! Absolue Pour le Soir is $185 for 70ml from and


  1. "Splendor in the Grass" - one of the best movies ever

  2. Bloody Frida,

    I love how urgent and desperate and hyperventilating Natalie Wood is at all times.

  3. She was brilliant in that film; and also in "This Property is Condemned" which I saw when I was in my later teens and profoundly affected me. Oh, did you ever see "The L Shaped Room"?

    You have such a better nose than I; I'm still gloriously stuck on L'Air de Rien - and desperately looking for something to kick me in the ass and hyperventilate me.

  4. BF,

    Loved those, and also "Inside Daisy Clover." Now want to rewatch all of them.

    "Gloriously stuck" on a perfume ain't a bad place to be.

  5. :) not a bad place to be at all - I'm thoroughly enjoying it - esp after watching Last Tango again

    Oh, and add Baby Doll to that queue!

  6. Baby Doll is such a disturbing classic. And "Last Tango" is on standby to be watched - have never seen it.

  7. Baby Doll is wonderfully disturbing - just a few years ago, I saw (because my son showed me) that that house was for sale in Mississippi. You have no idea how much I wanted to buy that (but I'm always broke)

    Last Tango is a film like others that perhaps one needs to have watched at an earlier age to be drawn to it. Kinda like some bands...speaking to you at a certain point in time. But if you happened into that realm at that time and place....

  8. Katie and Frida, when I read "splendor in the grass" I didn't think of a movie, never heard of it - shame on me, but Emily Dickinson's poem where a "narrow fellow in the grass" makes an appearance. Not so innocent, that one, after all, hah?

    On a random note, I love cumin in fragrances - it gives such depth to a scent, and depth is seductive, I think.....

    But I'm wondering about roses. I love rose scents these days, but I suspect that people my age and where I'm at tend to associate rose notes with something grandmotherly ("-maternal"?) -in which case the seductive aspect might only exist in my head. What's your experience with other people's perception of rose notes?

  9. I love scents with lots of animalic notes, but I suspect that these are just "my taste" and don't necessarily say "sexy" or "wow" to many people. (In fact, I think that many people just look at me in puzzlement...or perhaps take a polite step back if I've overapplied.)

    But I have noticed that my male friends react to vintage Femme parfum and vintage Chanel No 5 when I wear them. They are so different, but they get compliments and nice little sounds from men. Like "mmm, you smell good". I suspect that 1) my male friends are similar in age to me, and thus remember and appreciate the scents and 2) these fragrances simply suit me.

    I love Musc Ravageur. Why haven't I tried Castile? It sounds fabulous.

  10. Oh man Musc Ravageur - first musky scent I've actually liked. (thanks for the rep at Barney's Boston for forking over many FM samples for me this past weekend!)

    I think another reason why musky/oud/patchouli-based scents work for Teh Sexy is that, especially in the isolation of winter time, anything that reminds us of the closeness of another person is immediately attractive.

    Oh, and Fox News anchors are epically stupid no matter where they broadcast from. That wasn't television, Katie; that was daycare.

  11. Melisa, I'm thrilled to read that you have favorable experiences with no. 5 and Femme. I don't own vintage versions of either, but I'll allow myself to assume that also the newer versions fall into the "mm, you smell good" category. At least I think that I smell good when I wear them. So far so good.

    I have the same suspcion in relation to animalic notes which I also like, and I fear that the dominance of fruity and ozonic notes of the past couple of decades have rendered e.g. rosy and animalic scents ancient and stuffy in many people's minds. It seems that "fresh" is the only really favorable adjective when it comes to perfume in many instances.

    Oddly, the perfumes that some people refer to as "fresh" are anything but fresh in my mind, if fresh means light and clean smelling. I suspect that "uhm, this smells nice and heavy and deep and sweaty" is, linguistically, simply a faux pas. So when something smells agreeable, it smells "fresh" by defintion. Fresh is good. Smells associated with the human body are not.

    End of rant.

  12. I have also missed out on Castile along the way - sounds more "me" than that Dirty Bertie one from Maison Kurkdjian, which I didn't care for on my skin (though I have never smelt it on a man).

    Loved the horseplay with the blindfolds and the throwaway reference to nine and a half weeks (if I heard right?). Erica could pass for a dark Kim Basinger, come to think of it!

  13. Ok, this is kinda fun. I wore Chanel 22 (vintage) to work today, I've gotten some nice, um, attention from it. I would never have pegged No. 22 as a seductive scent. Just a lovely, incense-y floral aldehyde, right? I think it's the vintage versions that do this. Nitromusks maybe?

  14. Katie, you seriously need your own half hour or better yet, hour long show! I get so tired of seeing you rushed!

  15. Junelady,

    I take your point about the rose=grandma association. And in soliflore form (ie Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose/Penhaligon's Elisabethan Rose, both of which I love and wear), I'll grant you that they may lack the required mystique to qualify as a hubba-hubba fume.

    But a rose folded into a deep oriental is another matter altogether. A rose mated with incense, musk, sandalwood and/or oud lends curves, creaminess and calories to a "desire me!" scent.

    I love your comment about "it's fresh!" being the all-purpose civilian response to any perfume that is remotely tolerable. I've never thought of that, but now that you've pointed it out, I think you're right!

  16. melisand61,

    You getting "mmmm!" feedback from "unfashionable" perfumes is a great example of the old "never mind the trends - wear what suits you" advice. It goes for clothes, hair, makeup...and perfume. Especially perfume, I would think, since it's such a personal expression.

    I think the fact that a snootful of Femme or Chanel No. 5 *doesn't* say "sexy" to some (usually younger) people is more to do with the fact that Americans are increasingly out of touch with "real" human smells. The olfactory aesthetic in this country for sanitized and deodorized.

    The same goes for food. Every time I visit the UK, I'm always struck by how "milky" the milk tastes, how "buttery" the butter is, how "stinky cheesey" the cheese is. Things are allowed to have their rightful smell.

    Interesting result on the Chanel No. 22!

  17. Kathy,

    Sure, I'll take your offer of a TV show! And yeah, this segment sure got squeezed at the end. I'd planned a fuller discussion of why certain smells register as "sexy", as well as more time with the perfumes I'd brought.


    Har, you did hear correctly - I threw out a "9 1/2 Weeks" ref. Although I see Anchor Erica as more of a "To Die For" Nicole Kidman-type.

    It's funny that you took my "dirty birdie" as "dirty Bertie". The latter would apply if I'd had Bertrand Duchaufour's Amaranthine to hand.

  18. Katie, I like the fact that you brought along some really interesting and unpredictable scent choices. Like others I will be checking out Castile - sounds good. BTW you looked fabulous in that dress!

  19. tara,

    Thanks, I love my red dress. And I thought flame-tressed Erica looked stunning in her red sweater and lipstick. I felt a bit "out-redded" when I turned up and saw her.

    I'm really excited about Castile. It's really fresh and clean and uplifting, and I'm shocking myself because "fresh and clean" are not the usual perfume adjectives that get me remotely excited.

  20. Sensual, seductive fragrances are my absolute faav-or-ittte! My top five are Carnal Flower, Musc Ravageur, Spirtuese Double Vanilla, Musk Kublai Khan, and now Richwood (which has this sexy Sandlewood accord that is amazing). I was raised very conservatively, so I think this is my way of busting out, even as I maitain my staunch appearance.

  21. Geordan,

    Your list hits every entry on my classic sexy perfume ingredient list: your-skin-but-better, white florals, foodie fumes, and even a smidge of rose in your Richwood, which I can't wait to try after reading up on it! Sound like it might be one for me, too.

  22. Katie,

    I really hope you like Richwood. I'm not a huge patchouli fan, and when I first tried it, I thought, "Oh, no." But, it develops into creamy goodness. Just delicious.


  23. Katie is Kenzo Amour Indian Holi a sexy parfum. Do you like this parfum ?

  24. Katie, I found it funny when you were describing how a fragrance makes you feel. I expected you to say dynamic and vibrant and you popped out with "vibrating" ha! oh, reaallllly????

  25. A7la,

    Amour Indian Holi is a nice take on "fruity", where the fruits are gentle and blended into musky softness.


    Haha - I was reaching for something to describe that feeling of pulsating with one's own hotness.

  26. Katie, Isn't that on the side of a box somewhere?

  27. Hahaha - and now my captcha was hothon - - hot hon. sheesh!

  28. ScentsofSmell,

    Captcha knows a "hot hon" when it sees it!