Valentine’s Day Fragrance : Seven Romantic Notes Part I


What fragrance should I wear/buy for Valentine’s Day? This question remains one of the top reader queries I get around this time of the year (although nothing beats the good old “what turns wo(men) on?”) The fact is that there is no perfect fragrance that would suit all moods and all personality types. At the same time, some notes have distinct romantic connotations because of their sensual quality. Rose is the first one that comes to mind; however, since this topic has been covered extensively by me and others in the past (for instance, please see my article “From White to Red, From Chaste to Seductive: Many Faces of Rose”), I decided to look for a fresh approach. I chose seven notes which are undeniable sensual and aphrodisiac and which provide an endless source of fascination. Of course, while the list below strongly reflects my own preferences, I am eager to hear your thoughts.


A clue to the identity of a beautiful brunette depicted in a painting by Caravaggio was none other than a branch of jasmine she is clasping to her breast. Jasmine, a symbol of love and sensuality since ancient times, identified the woman as a courtesan, rather than a married donna as she was long perceived to be. Inhaling the potent aroma of jasmine—the scent of flowers melting into hot skin, of animalic notes under the rich apricot glaze, one cannot but be moved by its power.

Although nothing can rival the scent of jasmine in the warm evening air, one can seduce oneself and others with fragrances like Serge Lutens A La Nuit (opulent, balsamic jasmine), Annick Goutal Songes (romantic, multifaceted jasmine,) Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse (jasmine as smouldering and yet distant as a Hitchcockian blonde,) Van Cleef & Arpels First (ravishing classic.) If you are new to exploring rich floral notes, I would particularly recommend L’Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse Aux Papillons, which is as light as a spring breeze (and to this day remains the top seller for L’Artisan).


Leather, honey, spice and flowers, the scent of saffron possesses an amazing voluptuousness. When I prepared my Valentine’s Day dinner last year, saffron received its due in shrikhand, an Indian rosewater and saffron mousse. I love the way saffron lingers on the palate, revealing all of its beautiful facets.

When it comes to perfume, a unique musky-leather note of saffron has more of a supporting role. In a gorgeous Ormonde Jayne Ta’if, it rounds out the opulent rose and tempers the sweetness of dates and honey. However, smell L’Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant and discover what a beautiful prima ballerina saffron can make—it combines depth and complexity with an unusual lightness. Needless to say, one can hardly resist it.


The Sandal Tree as if to prove,
How sweet to conquer hate by love,
Perfumes the axe that lays it low
.” Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet.

The scent of sandalwood is unlike that of any other wood. Milky and creamy, it recalls the aroma of skin as well as rose petals. It evokes velvet and the color red for me, while it immediately puts me in a serene mindset, which is ideal for a romantic evening.

Sadly, natural sandalwood has been so overharvested as to place it out of the perfumers’ reach (with very few exceptions). Most of the fragrances are now formulated either with sandalwood aroma-materials, which can be spectacular (such as Givaudan’s Javanol) or Australian sandalwood, a material which possesses little of the Indian sandalwood’s beauty. Nonetheless, I am still charmed by Corso Como (a rosy, velvety sandalwood), Diptyque Tam Dao (drier, cedarwood accented fragrance), and Lubin Idole de Lubin (rich, yet translucent rendition liberally embellished by spices). For a classical femme fatale fragrance, few can rival the gorgeous Chanel Bois des Iles. Moreover, a comment below reminded me of how much I love Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore, a striking rich sandalwood with a delicious spicy overtone. I can only blame the jet lag for omitting it. Finally, Costes roomspray and candle are a wonderful way to infuse your ambience with the mysterious aroma of sandalwood.

Please see Part II of Romantic Notes.




  • 2scents: Your sandalwood selections are all my favorites, too. I feel warm, sensual and relaxed just reading about these “romantic notes”! I love “therese” and “safran troublant”, too. February 8, 2008 at 11:43am Reply

  • March: These were lovely! And romantic. And now you’ve made me want to run off and layer saffron with jasmine, which will either be interesting or very, very wrong …. I wonder if I can find my decant of L’Artisan Safran? Hmmm…. February 8, 2008 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Robin: Am going to see if I can guess any of notes 4-7, V. Meanwhile, great picks for today’s list. February 8, 2008 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Dusan: V, great picks in an interesting format! You inspired me to wear a sandalwood perfume today. Joining Robin in guessing the other notes… February 8, 2008 at 12:31pm Reply

  • Dusan: V, great picks in an interesting format! You inspired me to wear a sandalwood perfume today. Joining Robin in guessing the other notes… February 8, 2008 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Dusan: Oh, sorry for the double post. February 8, 2008 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: Oh, that Caravaggio painting is wonderful! How tragic that it no longer exists.

    Speaking of jasmine, I’m currently enjoying it in MDCI Enlevement au Serail. Perhaps I’ll wear that on Valentine’s Day! February 8, 2008 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Marina: The way you write about saffron brings back the memory of my former infatuation with it 🙂 Will wear a saffron scent today, in your honor 🙂 February 8, 2008 at 10:05am Reply

  • Jennifer: I admit you description of Saffron is making me want to break out my sample of Saffron Troubalant for today. February 8, 2008 at 10:59am Reply

  • sweetlife: Lovely post, V! And I am so eager for your travel tales…

    I’m wearing Safran Troublant right now, in preparation for writing a bit about it, and am so pleased to see that you get that same sense of complex lightness from it. And Ta’if is a truly romantic scent. Rose and saffron — how can that ever be wrong?

    I have a large decant of Corso Como on the way — it’s the only sandalwood that truly works for me, but I adore it–from the way the dog is barking it may have just arrived! February 8, 2008 at 4:00pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Oh how magical! It really *did* just arrive — I will have to wear it for my “date” with my DH tonight. February 8, 2008 at 4:11pm Reply

  • Aline et Valcour: I have a Santal de Mysore by Serge Lutens bottle, do you know if it ‘s made out of real natural Mysore sandalwood, is it a combination of natural and synthetic? Serge Lutens claims the Mysore sandalwood is the purest.
    I saw this documentary last year (on the french channel TV5 Monde) about saffron, the rarest and most expensive spice in the world. The purest comes from the Atlas mountains in Morrocco, its production is extremely limited, 90% of saffron sold in morroccan saouks is fake.
    Do you think perfumers use real natural saffron or most likely not? February 8, 2008 at 4:19pm Reply

  • minette: in my jasmine category are amoureuse by parfums del rae, a la nuit, jasmin de nuit, ysl in love again jasmin etoile, s.t. dupont orazuli, s by scherrer, carolina herrera, jardin blanc, une haie fleurie du hameau, and a lovely vial of jasmine oil from givaudan. for saffron, i would add agent provocateur to saffran troublant (not on skin). i tend to like my sandalwood mixed with other things, but for a predominantly sandal-scent, tam dao is my choice. i also respect the art of shaving’s sandalwood, though. haven’t tried the corso como on skin, but it’s nice on paper. the idole i found surprisingly rough and heavy – on paper. February 8, 2008 at 7:45pm Reply

  • Bryan: I’ve missed you Victoria and what a lovely return. Your words are as romantic as the subject. I foolishly neglected Sandalwood’s romantic charms….until now of course. Thank you. February 9, 2008 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Madame M: Thank you for the education and welcome back! February 10, 2008 at 3:13pm Reply

  • judith: Miss you, V! Wonderful piece–it makes me (like M) want to wear jasmine once more! February 11, 2008 at 8:18am Reply

  • Judith: Sigh. I meant saffron. I DO wear jasmine, but I gave up on saffron for a while (except with rose, where I love it)! February 11, 2008 at 8:19am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Marina, thank you! I am growing more and more in love with saffron, both in fragrance and in food. I am trying to guess what you are wearing. 🙂 February 11, 2008 at 9:03am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Jennifer, I love that fragrance. It is very comforting and warm, yet sheer and easy to enjoy. February 11, 2008 at 9:21am Reply

  • Maria: Great article! What do you think of Annick Goutal Le Jasmin? February 12, 2008 at 11:08am Reply

  • Tarn: I’m new to this site, and I am very much enjoying your articles and reviews. It’s very nice to find a place where people feel the way I do about perfume. Thank you!

    I only have one perfume which is (I think) based on saffron – Agent Provocateur (the one in the pink opaque bottle). I find it a little sweet on some days, on others the underlying spiciness shows through and cuts the sweetness. I have no idea why that is – changes in my skin chemistry from day to day?

    My favourite sandalwood is a small bottle of Kiehl’s Indian vintage sandalwood oil. I’ve had it years, I don’t think they sell it any more. I wear it alone, or layer other scents (particularly rose or jasmine) on top. April 3, 2008 at 8:03am Reply

  • teddyjane: There is this ice cream shop in Hollywood called Mashti Malones that serves the most incredible saffron rose water ice cream …this post reminded me it’s been to long since I had some…he also serves blood orange, creamy rosewater, saffron pistachio and my all time favorite orange blossom made straight from the flower itself. I suppose if you mixed orange blossom with saffron rose you would have something quite close to an edible version of this post, I’m taking some liberties saying orange blossom and jasmine have similar scents and taking up the notion that sandalwood has a rosy scent to it but I don’t know…aphrodisiac icecream? April 6, 2008 at 7:53pm Reply

  • Clarissa: Valentines long gone – but I do find jasmine very romantic. Enjoying wearing Orris Noir from Ormonde. The fragrance opens up with a blast of pepper. It then settles into a gently spiced, dry iris touched by jasmine, a fresh, herbaceous note, and an unexpected boozy edge. Drydown very woody. The whole effect puts me in mind of lying on deep, dark purple silk. Exquisite. One for romantics. April 28, 2008 at 10:12am Reply

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