Viewer Mail: Help Me Smell Like Un Homme Fatal

Dear Katie,

I am a man who loves wearing -- here's the rub -- "femme fatale" fragrances. We're talking Tom Ford Black Orchid, Dior Poison: dark, heady, thick, baroque, bewitching, mysterious. These fragrances generally seem to be fruity florals, which I especially like with a little "repulsion" -- animal and indole with my fruit and flowers really light me up. As you may have noticed, I also like some sweetness -- not just fruit but decadent, luscious chocolates and vanillas as well.

The problem is, most fruity florals I find are more, as you put it, "sorority walk of shame" than femme fatale, and sadly I know of little beyond contemporary mainstream fragrances. Of course, I am open to fragrances outside the fruity floral and gourmand genres.

As Sandra Cisneros wrote in The House on Mango Street:

In the movies there is always one with red red lips who is beautiful and cruel. She is the one who drives the men crazy and laughs them all away. Her power is her own. She will not give it away.

Any suggestions on how I can smell like that?


Chris -- Repulsion is the key, here. Perfumes that frogmarch you right up to the brink of gagging while still foghorning their bold beauty across the oceans. Black Orchid would seem to be the total package for you: with its fermented chocolate, mushroom and berries, it's a spew stew prettied up just in time by tropical florals and comforting woods. There's really no need to look any further.

But since when has “need” had any place in the fumehound's vocabulary? Let's get you lined up with some more beautiful and cruel perfumes, stat!

With Black Orchid as your North Star, you can confidently steer your ship towards three more of Tom Ford's offerings. His Private Blend Velvet Gardenia (“gardenia and lead”, Pen Pal Dan Rolleri calls it) will keep you topped up on fermented florals with a dollop of stinky cheese.

Private Blend Noir de Noir addresses your chocolate needs more directly with a riot of chocolate, rose, saffron, patchouli and a certain nuttiness. Rita of Left Coast Nose calls it “man candy”, which is perfect, but I think the rose, sweetness and claustrophobic thickness of NdN also allows it to pass as femininely fatal.

The third perfume under Ford's purview for you is Gucci Rush, with its bleachy fruity poppers-meets-creamy-jasmine disco freakout. The red red lipped lovely wearing Rush is writhing in an explosion of strobe lights and smoke machines in the middle of the dance floor.

Here are five more femme fumes:

LesNez Manoumalia -- sexily smothering tropical allure.
Guerlain Mitsouko –- overripe peach and mossy mystery.
Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie -- intimately unwashed flowers and hay.
Agent Provocateur -- rose, saffron and jasmine naughtiness.
Mona di Orio Nuit Noire -- its orange blossom-and-hindquarters blend is jolie laide for some, and just plain ol' laide for others.

And this from Pen Pal Dan:

Well, Chris says heady and thick, and I think Fracas. And back to indole, let's not forget my latest find, Nasomatto Nuda. You've got a sample of that, KP. Spray a tiny bit on. Or maybe wait until right before shower-time. Luckily for me, it's always right before shower-time so I can be more reckless with my spraying.

Unable to match Dan's busy shower schedule, I was nervous about trying Nuda. I squinted my eyes and squirted my hand. I sniffed and unsquinted. This thing is a wonder!

First thing on the skin, Nasomatto Nuda does an fascinating slalom between earth, gas, blue-veined cheese and an almost-mildewy washcloth. Within ten minutes, the gack factor evaporates and Nuda is a heavenly puff of jasmine, still indolic, but without Nuit Noire's large intestine.

Fumies, help "un homme fatal" out. Your best "beautiful and cruel" perfumes for the gent, if you please.


  1. Serge Lutens Arabie and, Parfumd d'Empire Aziyade would both fit the bill I think. Perhaps not as flowery but still with a massive dose of fruit and skank:)

  2. Besides the Tom Fords you mentioned Katie, I'm thinking there are a few Lutens that may fit the bill, namely A La Nuit, Cedre and Datura Noir.

    They've all got sweetness in spades, indole for days and more than a hefty dose of that femme fatale vibe.

  3. Julia, you're bringing the spicy fruit, and Spike, you're bringing the indole raunch. This is starting to get interesting....

  4. I'm not sure now, can I recommend "feminine" perfumes, as opposed to masculines being fatale to women?
    Anyway, I was going to recommend Mona di Orio which I already see on your list. :)
    How about then, MFK Absolue pour le Soir, some of the Amouage feminines as well?
    Btw, Aziyade and Cedre are really good choices (I have bottles of both). :)

  5. Hi Ines! Yes, to clarify, Chris is interested in women's perfumes. And seeing you here reminds me of that decant of Worth Courtesan you kindly sent me - Courtesan hits florals, sweetness, chocolate and decadence. Another good one to add to the "to sniff" list.

    Double yes on Amouage feminines! How about Lyric Women and Jubiliation 25?

  6. My suggestion would be something heavy on the tuberose. That would be really interesting on a man, and perhaps most often better than on a woman. I think a male body chemistry would be able to match that note better.

  7. Hi Katie,

    If he wants indoles, and it's open to try something not fruity or gourmand, I'd say a SL a La Nuit... at least to my nose, it's the dirtiest jasmine ever (and I love it!).



  8. I don't have much to offer here, as stanky frags don't do it for me, but I still want to party with you freaky people, SO....

    I'm going with Byredo's Accord Oud. Not necessarily baroque, but definitely no sorority girl either. Plum, Oud and to my nose anyway, the scent equivalent of getting your bells rung by the secret crush of your choice. This is the only scent I've ever worn that should be sold with a demure pair of tongs - it's that hot.

  9. I was thinking Nuit Noir right away too! And how about Histoire's Tuberose #3...I believe that is the skanky one! and I always turn toward Bal a Versaille for some extra tough stuff. Uncle Serge's Cedre is a great choice as well! and lastly I'll throw in TDC Jasmine Nuit!

  10. For sweet skank I suggest Hermessence Vanille Galante. Katie's suggestion of Manoumalia reminded me of Penhaligon's Amaranthine, something I would *love* to smell on a man. Chris, you sound like just the kind of guy who could wear it.

  11. If he doesn't mind some rose action, I'd suggest Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady...there's a sexy bit of raspberry crush to go along with the rose and cover Chris's fruit craving. I know you like this one too, Katie...dontcha think it would smell sexxxay on a guy (especially "un homme fatal")?!!!

  12. I totally agree with Spike about the Lutens. I personally would stay away from Noir de Noir but that's because I think it smells heavily of dried cow manure, not chocolate - uncool, Mr. Ford! Frederic Malle Portrait is good instead because it's claustrobic and sweet and powdery but not poopy. Also, I would love to have a man wear Fracas but maybe that's not dirty enough for Chris.

  13. I recommend L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant, and Hermes Elixir des Merveilles (which I can only wear every so often because it's too, TOO much a lot of the time).

  14. It sounds like Angel would be right up this guy's alley, but since that's a little "common," how about one of the A*men flankers? I love Pure Malt equally on me and on my homme fatale.

  15. These are all marvelous suggestions, freaky people (as Stefush puts it.) I dig them all, and wouldn't have thought of the Safran Troublant that emmasyrup submits. Good call!

  16. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone - I'm really excited to try them all out! Please excuse the long comment...

    I should've added that I'm after "femme fatale" fragrances because, though I do wear a few, the stereotypical masculines are not usually to my taste. Citrus and dry woods, yawn...

    Mona di Orio Nuit Noire came up more than once (Katie, Ines and Elise) so I'm hyped to smell it.

    Several suggested fragrances that I already enjoy - Amaranthine (Suzy Q), which is *gorgeous*, and several of the Serge Lutens (Julia, Spike, Sabrina, Elise). Now I really want to try more Tom Fords and Lutens. I said "thick," but "claustrophobic" really captures what I'm after, which the Tom Fords and Lutens tend to be.

    Junelady, N and Jake: Turns out I love heady white florals like jasmine, tuberose and gardenia and I already wear Fracas, so we're on the same page. Oddly, although tuberoses are generally thought of as hyperfeminine and diva-tronic, several have told me I smell masculine when I wear Fracas. One person thought I was wearing aftershave and one told me it was "soft!"

    Suzanne, it's a shame Frédéric Malle named it "Portrait of a Lady" because I think it works perfectly fine on men too. I once passed by a very big, very butch man at the mall and swore he was wearing it, or something like it - and it really worked for him.

    Elise, I love Angel! It has elicited more compliments on me than any other fragrance. Strangely, it is also the only fragrance to have given me a headache...

    Katie: Guess what? I already love Mitsouko and the feminine (and masculine too!) Amouages. They are lovely and a little gross, so they are perfect! Manoumalia and Une Fleur de Cassie seem so perfect, too…

    Again, thanks for the help, everyone! As a token of my gratitude, I want to suggest Dior's Hypnotic Poison - it's more foody than skanky, but it has a luscious, creamy vanilla drydown.

  17. Chris -- So pleased we're all on the same wavelength, here. I figured you were already hip to Hypnotic Poison's charms, since you'd mentioned Poison. And might Mugler's Alien be one for you, too? And Bulgari Jasmin Noir edp?

    More on the niche tip: your sweet claustrophobic florals cravings might be soothed by Guerlain Attrape Coeur.

  18. Chris: Happy we managed to hit the spot(-s). I've never thought of tuberose as hyperfeminine, and I am definitely a lover of floral fragrances. Personally, I perceive tuberose as a fleshy (bordering on meat eating)note, and I would much (as in MUCH) rather smell it on a man than on a woman.

    I feel really encouraged and uplifted by this post: We can wear what we like and "bending the rules" makes life a little bit more interesting.

  19. I recently got a sample of Malle's Cassie and I can't smell a thing! What's wrong with me?

  20. "Nuda is a heavenly puff of jasmine, still indolic, but without Nuit Noire's large intestine". This made me smile, having recent memories of testing Nuda, and distant memories of trying Nuit Noire that are sadly all too vivid. As you know, this one computed as "plain ol' laide" for me.

    But to be objective about it all, both sound perfect - or certainly contenders, as does Amaranthine mentioned by Suzy Q. Velvet Gardenia, meanwhile, always struck me as the perfume the women - or, now you mention it - *the men* might wear at the sinister parties (and I am being generous here) featured in John Fowles' The Magus. It conjures up writhing limbs, not all of them attached to torsos.

  21. lang, I could understand someone not picking up something ethereal like LesNez L'Antimatiere or Escentric Molecules Molecule 02, but Une Fleur de Cassie is pretty emphatic. Perhaps your skin already smells like sweaty flowers and you're just used to the aroma? Or more likely you're anosmic to it, which Cassie-phobes would say is a blessing.

    Vanessa, trust you to turn innocent fragrance talk into a gorefest. We can never forget that you are your father's daughter - the man who referred to amorous cuddling as "filthy slop."

  22. I think some BPAL could fit the bill. Santa Muerte has a overripe, almost vegtal rot about it that along with cactus flower and rose make for a lovely, juicy, skanky smell.

    Zombi, Zarita, and O could also work.

  23. Vanessa, and here I thought that Amaranthine was a nice enough slightly banana smelling fragrance (a good thing in my book) that could be perceived as, if not outright sexy (probably not), then at least playfully feminine and engaging. But I'm grateful, I think, because Amaranthine just became even more interesting to me, not less. And should I re-read John Fowles - is it worth it, does his writing still hold water...? I think I'm a bit scared to find out, either way.

  24. Maggie, thanks for the BPAL suggestions. I need your specialist knowledge there - so hard to keep on top of all of those!

  25. It is a very overwhelming collection. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I can narrow down many of the scents because they contain patchouli, or incense notes. Even with that filter, I feel like I have barely made a dent in the catalog. I choose to focus on notes I really love, like white rose. Beth's white rose is amazing.

    I have abandoned bpaling for a little over a year because I need to work my way through what I have. But I still check out the Weenies and Yule offerings.

  26. Count me among the Cassie-phobes: I'm on a hay kick and tried my sample today, but I can't get past the urinal-bomb (not even a cake!) of the opening to even figure out how I feel about the rest of it.

    I wonder if Chris has tried Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis? It's not skanky, but I think it definitely fits the "claustrophobic" bill in the very best way.

    Maggie, what are your BPAL must-haves? I want to try something from that line, but don't even know where to begin. It's like one of those restaurants where the menu is spiral-bound.

  27. hi Katie, 10 month late but my fatal scent suggestion is the georgeous Ambra di Veneza (via Aedes)and also for something seemingly tamer Le Labo Rose 31. Cybele

  28. Cybele, it all adds to the data base, so thanks for your contribution.