Viewer Mail: Help Me Find a Chainsawing Scent

Hi Katie,

I was hoping you could offer some recommendation for my perfume-virgin boyfriend. I love the way he smells after chainsawing a tree (with the lingering exhaust smell), but I am afraid that replicating this scent would be environmentally detrimental in the long term.

I also really like the smell of incense on him (Comme des Garçons Avignon is great), and he recently found he likes the earthy, grassy smell of vetiver. I think any fragrance for him would have to wear close to the skin since he is so used to smelling au naturale.

By the way, I have tried Le Labo Vetiver 46 and Tauer Perfumes Vetiver Dance on myself, but neither seem to be right. I would appreciate your brainstorming.


What is it with the trees around here? Sara from the last Viewer Mail wanted to smell like her favorite tree, and here you are, Emma, getting out the chainsaw. Luckily for your boyfriend – and the trees – he doesn't need to pull the ripcord every time he wants to enjoy some pleasing inhalants. There are a surprising number of fragrances that play on the appealing nuances of gasoline and exhaust fumes.

I explored some of these scents in an earlier Viewer Mail, "I Want to Smell Like Chinese Air Pollution."

One of my recommendations there, Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline, might fit the bill with its peaty truck exhaust and incense. The readers' suggestions for that post are spot-on as well.

I asked my Perfume Pen Pal Dan to weigh in, since he's particularly good with the intersection of esoteric and cockamamie, and he had this to say:


Y'know, I'm loving Gravel ("A Man's Cologne".) It's such a cool scent, supposedly unchanged since '57 (according to the perfumer), which seems hard to believe when you smell it because, while it's definitely masculine, it smells post-modern, almost like one of those CdG Synthetics, Tar or Garage maybe.

At first, it smells a little like your hands after you've just put gas in the tank. Which, to me at least, is an excellent smell. I think that smoky grassy smell of vetiver kind of reads as gasoline.

The perfumer came up with the "gravel" concept because he thought it would make men more amenable to wearing fragrance. Sometimes life is just that simple.

The problem is it's not very available, as far as I can tell, only in one online shop (for a very pricey price). But, yeah, it's a great choice for your gent.


My take is that Gravel smells like slightly sweet, slightly burnt hair. It's soft and a little powdery. It's lemon-y, then frankincense-y, then sandalwood-y. I'm shocked that it's from 1957, because it's true that it smells absolutely contemporary.

But if you want a hit of pure petrol, you can't beat the hit off the top of Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia, though at a some stage it pulls out of the garage and reconfigures into a kin of Bulgari Black.

My top suggestion for a gas-inflected, close to the skin scent is Donna Karan Fuel for Men. A puff of petrol lingers over intensely desiccated apple and cool, strokable leather. Fuel for Men shifts gears on the skin, fluctuating between sweet gasoline, brooding ashiness and buttery sandalwood. It's foxy.

Fumies, can you gas Emma out with your suggestions for petroleum pleasures?


  1. I am excited to plug one of my favorite masculine scents! Although it isn't a petroleum scent per se, I think you might try Andy Tauer's Lone Star Memories. It is very smoky and woody, but with a hint of diesel and some green notes. It calls to mind camping by a highway. I recommend dabbing rather than spraying to keep it a little more subtle. :)

  2. the one the only Dior Fahrenheit. It's a petrol paradise. 23 years old and still going strong. It's been reformulated a few times. So if you remember it from long ago and didn't care for it, smell it again. It's been tamed down.

  3. I could never recommend Tauer's Lonestar Memories. I think it is a interesting exercise in perfumery, but I find it totally unwearable. It reminds me of the smell of a newly opened can of Skoal original chewing tobacco.

  4. I have no recs for this other than what's been said upthread already, but I'm taking notes as well, because I think my jones for metal scent might be filtered through these responses also. And I'm definitely out to find Gravel.

  5. I'm really horrible at making recommendations, but the two that come to mind are Passage d'Enfer and Nasomatto Black Afgano.

  6. You must try some CB I Hate Perfume scents for him! The line was one of the first big finds when my boyfriend started exploring scent, and I think Greenbriar 1968, in particular, could be what you're looking for. Here is the description from the web site:

    "It is blended with Sawdust, Fresh Cut Hay, Worn Leather Work Gloves, Pipe Tobacco and a healthy amount of Dirt. There is also a faint whiff of cotton overalls covered in Axel Grease..."

    They also make plenty of incense and grassy scents, though I'm not so sure about vetiver. A few other favorites on my BF are Under the Arbor and CB93. So that he can sample quite a few, I believe The Perfumed Court still has deals on 5ml decants of the scents and maybe even sample packs. There is also a seller on the Scent Splits Wiki selling 5ml and 10ml decants of a good amount of CB scents. Not affiliated with either, just want to get you in the right direction.

  7. You guys already covered all the "gassy" scents I know, so I'll put one of my favorite Vetiver fragrance out there - Lalique Encre Noire. On me it's sorta dark and smokey yet crisp, almost "fresh" (without smelling like I just got out of the shower) and it wears fairly close to the skin.

    If your BF likes the smell of pancakes (or maybe you like the idea of your BF smelling like pancakes) I might also suggest Sables by Annick Goutal - maple syrup and gasoline - a strange combination, but it works none the less.

    Good luck.

  8. Try some Neil Morris! Burnt Amber is very smoky. Also, has anyone else tried the new Indie SlumberHouse? Yu might like, though somtimes medicinal on me....

  9. Try Guerlain's Vetiver on him, as it's the reference men's vetiver...AnnieA

  10. Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes!! These suggestions will all serve to make Emma's boyfriend petrol/vetivery six ways to Sunday.

    I second the note of caution around Lonestar Memories...and Stefush's recommendation to dab not spray is sound.

    I'm always happy to see Fahrenheit pop up - I love that one....

  11. Peter Peter nothing could be sweeterJune 07, 2011 12:22 AM

    How about Etat Libre D'orange Fat Electrician? Smoky vetiver and motor oil with a fuzzy vanilla finish. Wait, don't run away...

  12. Can I just add DSquared's Rocky Mountain Wood? It's not very smoky, but it does have that lumberjack allure.

  13. Good-n-woody suggestions all, and I particularly embrace the notion of "lumberjack allure."

  14. Serge Lutens Chene should fit the bill just perfectly! To me it's the smell of fresh oakwood, smooth, woody sweetness with just e teeeny bit of turpentine.

  15. ChĂȘne is a fine suggestion, Julia! That one wasn't on my radar for its flammability factor, but now that you've pointed it out, I can see (smell) clearly now.


  17. Comme des Garcons Artek Standard may be what you are looking for. It smells like the scent of new construction lingering in the air. Cut wood and metal. It doesn't really smell cologne-y or perfume-y. It is much more the scent of a place, wood + industry. Clean and new, but not like soap in the least. A new place as opposed to freshly washed.

    For something much darker and more industrial, try Oliver Durbano's Black Tourmaline. Turpentine, smoke, asphalt, old telephone poles and railroad ties. Did I mention it's dark?

    There have been a lot of good suggestions. Among the names I am familiar with, Fahrenheit (generic men's cologne, sports car interior, rubber, gasoline), Encre Noire (wood, grass, smoke and salty ocean water), and Chene (freshly planed wood) strike me as particularly strong possibilities.

  18. Fahrenheit (Dior) -

    Generic men's cologne that Jean-Paul Guerlain considers one of the three or four greatest masculines ever made.

  19. Ooh, the beautiful Fahrenheit! I don't consider it generic in the least.

  20. rfk -- for the thumbnail sketches on all the wood'n'petrol possibilities. Very comprehensive!