4 January 2018
Sex sells. Sex also smells, and some perfumers have dedicated their life’s work to capturing the whiff of a good shag. We’re talking Eau de arousal here, the subtle way of trailing procreation in your wake and getting nostrils twitching.
“We smell with the most primitive part of our brain,” explains master perfumer Roja Dove. “When you smell a desirable fragrance on someone, the hormone balance in your body is stimulated, and you subconsciously become more attracted to them.”
We got Roja, plus three other fragrance connoisseurs, to talk us through the naughty-AF notes in question, and to reveal the secret Barry Whites of the fragrance world…
1. Sweaty Skin
Unless gentle missionary in an air-conditioned room is your bag, there’s going to be a bit of slick skin involved in making the beast-with-two-backs. ‘Extract of costus, an unassuming herb, smells of very sweaty, slightly oily hair,’ explains fragrance expert at Olfiction, Nick Gilbert. ‘It reminds me of those weekends when you first meet someone and don’t leave the bedroom apart from to answer the door for the Deliveroo driver.’ We hear ya! Master Perfumer at Firmenich, Honorine Blanc, points out that you can’t actually smell ‘wet’ or ‘salt’, which is why synthetic notes such as cascalone were created to give fragrances that unmistakable aquatic whiff. Oakmoss is another favourite for leaving a damp, earthy, creamy trail. So that’s moistness covered (yuk!), but what does actual skin smell like to the pro nose? ‘For me, a mixture of salty, sweet and spicy musks in carefully considered doses,’ explains Honorine. Nice.
2. 50 Shades Of Waheey!
Even for those who don’t have a Red Room in their basement, the smell of leather screams sex. ‘It’s the scent of the stable,’ says Reek Perfume founder Sarah Sheridan. ‘Think, Mr Darcy out for a ride and then coming back to Pemberley to have his way with you.’ Some leather-laced juices err on the delicate side; the powdery, suede-y leather of the inside of a handbag, for example. Then there’s the orgasmic freshly-tanned end of the scale. ‘One of the raunchiest fragrances I’ve ever sniffed smells of naughty leather and rooms with wipe clean surfaces that have never seen natural light,’ reveals Nick. (It’s by Laurent Mazzone, check it out in our fragrance selection below).
3. Skanky Animal
No, we’re not talking muddy Alsatian. It’s that indescribable smell of unwashed human – a little bit filthy and a little bit wrong, but in the correct doses and blends, raw and arousing. ‘Hyraceum is the petrified pee and poo of the desert hyrax,’ says Nick. ‘It smells of both of those things in its absolute form, and therefore like the less savoury but undeniably human scents of sex.’ Civet is another popular poopy note and, needless to say, it’s not for everyone. ‘I wouldn’t spend my time with someone who wore heavy civet,’ says Honorine. Noted. Like granny lavender, don’t discount innocent-looking florals either. ‘No ingredient in perfumery is as narcotic as Tuberose,’ claims Roja. ‘It smells like very, very hot flesh after you’ve had sex.’ Because white flowers lack any colour, they need something more to attract pollinators.’ They all contain a particular molecule that we as humans produce in our private areas called indole,’ Roja goes on to explain. ‘So, when the brain thinks it is smelling flowers, the subconscious is actually smelling sex.’ Your finest bunch of fanny flowers, please.
4. Bed Sheets
Usually associated with deep sleep or your gran’s potpourri, it turns out lavender has a secret minxy side. ‘It’s the smell of rolling around on clean bedsheets,’ says Sarah. ‘It’s also the smell of medieval sex – laundresses were hugely underpaid and often moonlighted as sex workers.’ Honorine uses lavender in many of her scent creations because it’s a predominantly masculine note, and when included in female scents, smells like a woman’s skin after a man’s skin has rubbed against it. ‘It’s easy to overdose on notes when trying to create a sexy fragrance,’ she says. ‘But sensuality doesn’t need to be shocking or dark, it can be approached in an elegant way and deliver subliminal messages instead.’
5. Essentially, Spunk
Linden blossom is the little white flower you smell at the beginning of summer and wonder why something isn’t quite right about it. The thing that’s not quite right? It smells of semen. ‘There are no two ways about it,’ says Nick. ‘Linden blossom is spunky, and when you smell it on the breeze, you are either reminded of sex or innocent enough to not know.’ If you’re the latter, you probably shouldn’t be reading this story… don’t tell your mum.