Some years ago, during a period of intense dating activity, I haphazardly selected a first-date perfume that, to use common idiom, drove men wild, turned men on, made men mad with desire. I was never one to deliberate over a perfume choice, other than to question whether the strength of something was appropriate for close quarters, so my choice of a date perfume was a random, last-minute one.
What was this magic brew?
I will have to string you along a bit longer, while I take an excursus into the topic of what perfume do men like (and what perfume do women like) and what is the sexiest fragrance. I’m going to knock that last one flat and say that the sexiest fragrance is the one that makes you feel attractive and confident, fun and engaging. It should work to enhance your personality, rather than to drag it down.
I will warn you that my use of heavy Orientals seemed to send out a vampy message that, along with my tendency to observe rather than to act, caused men to circle around me and go talk to the girl with the big smile and the flowery, feminine perfume. After a while, I stopped wearing Yves Saint Laurent Opium on dates. It was too easy for me to project the “dangerous” languor of that fragrance’s advertisements. Opium I’d save for wearing when someone really knew me and wouldn’t be scared off by what I too-often heard was my “mystery.”
Compliments came my way from white florals, in particular jasmine, and not just on dates. Breezy jasmine is a smell people seem to respond to with enthusiasm. The two most frequent compliments were “nice” and “pretty.” If you think those adjectives run counter to making a statement about personal allure, think again. I had a number of “nice” and “pretty” girlfriends whose dating schedules rivaled those of Major League Baseball but whose perfumes were certainly not heavy hitters—Keiko Mecheri Jasmine is one that comes to mind, or Le Labo Jasmin 17.
Amber was another “success” note with me, so long as it was applied sparingly. Amber can be smooth and seductive by nature, especially when leaning towards the gourmand. It’s said that men respond to vanilla and to sweet spice and baking smells, so a good choice might be Hermès Ambre Narguilé with its honey, cinnamon, and apple-pie aromas. Cult favorite Anne Pliska is a far simpler blend but no less appealing with its orange/amber/vanilla combination.
As for the fragrances that make me to swoon on men, I will give you two notes: cedar and musk. Nowhere do these come together as happily—for me—as in Serge Lutens Bois et Musc. The smoothness of the lightly animalic musk over the warm, pungent cedar is olfactory bliss for me. But I also adore sandalwood, and by far my favorite is Maitre Parfumer et Gantier’s Santal Noble, which to my nose smells like a sandalwood cake with coconut on top. Years ago an assistant of mine answered as many questions from women about his fragrance (Joop!) as he did about our merchandise. As polarizing as a note can be, herbal and earthy patchouli can always turn my head, especially when worn by an artistic type. A good example of this type of fragrance would be Reminiscence Elixir Patchouli, which has all of my favorite notes (patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, musk) rolled into one.
What I don’t like is exactly what is popular now: ozone, clean/cool water, marine. And I haven’t had many compliments on the laundry musks myself. Simply smelling clean is the exact opposite of the Middle Ages, when bodily raunch (perhaps nowadays best expressed by Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khan) was a powerful natural attractant. Such light modern musks are to me the equivalent of a lack of feature or personality, a white wall. If they get someone’s engine revving, then I haven’t met him!
So what was my magic brew, chosen at the last minute because I realized I hadn’t applied any fragrance? What was that fragrance that had my date wide-eyed with excitement, that made his eyes sparkle and his body fidget? It was none other than Aquolina Pink Sugar. But wait! you say. I’m not a teenage coquette, trying to land the most popular boy in school! I’m an adult woman with grown-up tastes, I can tell wines and cheeses apart and I have learned to play a mean hand of Bridge. What on earth would I want with Pink Sugar?
I will tell you: utter bewitchment. And I still wear it on special occasions, because that first date turned into a lot more.
Do you have your own scented love potions?
Photography by Suzanna Mars, via flickr, all rights reserved.