What does sensuality smell like to you? Some say it’s the powdery-earthy skin scent of musk, while legend has it that Cleopatra harnessed the hypnotic prowess of roses as her weapon of seduction. Then there is the sharp sweetness of jasmine, which is known as the perfume of love in several cultures across the globe. But certain noted noses, who have created some of the world’s most intoxicating scents, think the answer lies with a particular synergy of olfactive families: the animalic, oriental gourmands. Best served warm, these are spicy, saccharine, savoury and almost good enough to eat (or drink), and leave both the wearer and people in their trail both deeply satiated and craving for more.
It’s akin to sipping cognac. First, a sweet, oaky elixir swirls around your palate. Then, its full-bodied warmth trickles down your throat as the aftertaste of caramel and a hint of exotic fruit linger on your lips. It is this heady rush of sensorial moreishness that By Kilian’s latest fragrance, Angels’ Share, seeks to encapsulate. Inspired by the evaporation of liquid in oak barrels as if ‘la part des anges’ or ‘the angels’ share’, this golden elixir tantalises the senses by opening with cognac oil, a blend of oak absolute, cinnamon essence and tonka bean absolute, enriched by notes of sandalwood, praline and vanilla for a creamy, long-lingering finish.
“All the senses have a connection with the brain,” says Céline Manetta, consumer science manager for global innovation at International Flavors & Fragrances. “However, neuroscience shows that the sense of smell is specific as it connects directly to a particular brain area: the limbic system. The limbic is a well-known brain structure, very deep in the brain and is involved in emotions and memory. This is why we say that odours are powerful cues to evoke emotions and old memories,” she explains. When it comes to the science behind the aphrodisiacal prowess of scents, Manetta adds that “sensuality and seduction are core emotions for fragrances. Indeed, sexual arousal is controlled by a primitive structure in the brain, linked to the limbic system, that is highly connected to the sense of smell.”
When it comes to such mouth-watering scents, Kilian Hennessy, founder of By Kilian and heir to the house of Hennessy, sums them up as “sexual pleasures meets oral pleasure”. “Sweet gourmand notes are very much represented by vanilla, and mother’s milk has undertones of vanilla. That is why those ‘gourmand’ notes are so universally satisfying and reassuring,” he adds. Vanilla, it seems, has a delectable, aphrodisiacal charm that has seduced noted noses from Hennessy and Frédéric Malle—with his iconic oriental masterpiece, Musc Ravageur—to Juliette Has A Gun founder, Romano Ricci, who recently launched a gorgeous perfume inspired by lipstick. “Vanilla, jasmine, ginger, patchouli, sandalwood… all these are known to have great powers of attraction and provoke aphrodisiac reactions,” describes Ricci. At least three notes on that list form the intoxicating melody of Lipstick Fever, a floral-fruity fragrance with a patchouli and vanilla absolute drydown that you would love on your lips. “Animalistic notes like musk, ambroxan and amber have the power to awaken our instincts and to transport us without being able to explain it. These are also my favourites,” Ricci adds.
Moving into more piquant territory is Byredo’s latest addition to its Reine de Nuit collection. With the Moroccan city of Tangiers in mind, Ben Gorham concocted Tobacco Mandarin, a spice-laden, smoky- citrus fragrance with delectable top notes of mandarin, coriander and cumin, enriched with leather, resins, woods and intoxicating incense—calling to mind both erotic and spiritual rituals of far-flung lands. But the most decadent of olfactive desserts, however, is served by the Ambre Sultan himself, Serge Lutens. Described as the taste of sin, La Couche Du Diable’s obscenely full-bodied recipe features a balsamic oud accord, spiked by narcotically sweet cinnamon and leathery cistus jam, while a melange of tangerine, rose, amber, saffron and musk adds facets of sumptuous flavour for a slow-burning veil of amorous, eye-rolling redolence.