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Scent-sual Seduction

Fragrances that make the first move.

Scent-sual Seduction
Trunk Archive

What makes a seductive scent? For me, it’s a scent that mirrors the carnal urge itself: the pull to inch closer, the heady high, the intoxicating, contradictory combination of the intimate and the unknown. I think the sexiest scents parallel Jennifer Lawrence’s show-stealing scene in American Hustle, where she claims that “Historically, the best perfumes in the world, they’re all laced with something nasty.” Later, she explains why her husband doesn’t leave their toxic relationship: “He must want it because he keeps coming back for it. It's like that perfume that you love, that you can't stop smelling even when there's something sour in it. [He] can't get enough of it.”

That’s what makes a standout sexy perfume: one that both attracts and mystifies I set out to find scents that have a little something extra, that dissonance that creates the seductive tension, the olfactory version of the crooked smile or odd dimple that turns a merely attractive person into the rest of your evening.

While I was off in the clouds trying to figure out what the orgiastic final perfume from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer smelled like, my friend had the much more workable idea of breaking down the perfume attributes ideal for various romantic settings. Obviously, a good restaurant perfume should be intimate; it shouldn’t overpower the food but it might inspire someone already close to get closer. A bar perfume should be fun, with a moderate projection suited for a crowded space, and a lingering sillage that compels the hottie at the bar to follow you back to your table like a cartoon smelling a pie. A club perfume should be big and bold, with hefty projection and dance-proof longevity, a fragrance that complements sweat, pheromones, and sticky floors.

Using these metrics, below are the best “come hither” scents for every third-date scenario (or second, or first, or seventeenth—we at Coveteur aren’t in the business of enforcing chastity etiquette). So go forth, my pretties, and bump those uglies. (Almost all scents listed are unisex.)

The Restaurant

Jane Parfum Oil

This newest offering from niche brand Modern Vanilla is one of the most sparklingly original scents I’ve tried. What seems at first like a simple green gourmand immediately gives way to the bold yet delicate smoky-floral scent of Earl Grey tea. Inspired by parfumeur Erika Kuhn’s glamorous grandmother—whose signature look was pink lipstick and blue jeans—Jane smells like an intimate countryside tea party from a Jane Austen novel, the spicy white floral accords accompanied by notes of antique wood and fresh cut grass. I picture wearing this for a summertime happy hour date, sipping St-Germain cocktails on a vine-covered patio. The longevity isn’t intense (fingers are crossed for an extrait), but the portability makes it perfect for adding an extra layer once you’re ready to bewitch your date into leaning in closer. (This is the one scent featured here that skews more feminine.)

The Modern Vanilla

Oud in Acacia

This gorgeous scent starts the night sweet and ends it spicy—just like you do. Scents of Wood is a fascinating brand that doesn’t treat the alcohol in perfume as an unfortunate necessity but as an opportunity to add another dimension to fragrance. Made with alcohol aged in acacia barrels, the scent takes on a warm, honeyed, and incense-like fragrance. Oud in Acacia opens with the sweet scents of immortelle and violet-suede orris and mellows out with seductive oud and vanilla. The unexpected ingredient that lends the scent its spicy-sweet, earthy quality?Carrot. This scent is tailor-made for candlelit dinners and sharing secrets over a decadent dessert.

Scent of Wood

Born From Fire

While you’d be forgiven for thinking this scent was of the smoky variety, it’s anything but. Created to capture the scent of the black sand beach of Honokalani in Maui, Born From Fire simulates the essence of the lush, volcanic archipelago that inspired it. Like a book you can’t put down, Born From Fire hooks you immediately and intrigues until the end. The plushness of rose and amber, the depth of vanilla and burned sugar, and the spice of black pepper and vetiver are all easily identifiable. However, one mysterious note had me hooked—a combination of cashmere and saffron, a pairing that creates a sensual softness that seamlessly melds the other ingredients. As seamlessly as, perhaps, this perfume will transition from restaurant to apartment.


The Bar

Hip Hop

A rare and gorgeous combination of moody depth and fruity notes, this is the scent that turned my “I’m just not a perfume guy” friend into a believer. With a beguilingly simple opening of fresh berries, Hip-Hop quickly turns pulpy, smooth, and decadent. Plummy black currant mixes with cognac, subtle cacao, masculine white musk, and velvety, animalic ambroxan—perfect for a steamy summer night out. Inspired by the hip-hop music of the ’90s, this scent feels like watching the sunset from a rooftop party in late July, listening to your coolest friend’s expertly curated playlist, and noticing a slight chill in the air—a.k.a. the perfect opportunity to offer your sweater to the hottie next to you, which you can only pray smells this good.

Zernell Gillie

Sparkling Jo 

Inspired by inimitable queen Josephine Baker, Sparkling Jo encapsulates the bubbly freneticism of the champagne-soaked Roaring Twenties. Boozy top notes of champagne, juniper, and bergamot give way to cognac-y ambrette, sparkling ginger, and fizzy pear. As the night wears on, this effervescent Charleston of a scent settles into a slow dance of musk and oakwood, while the intoxicating funk of ambergris keeps you coming back for more. This fragrance is both bold and delicate—the olfactory equivalent of a champagne tower—and will make any prospective lover the Gatsby to your Daisy.


Dark Vinyl Musk

This scent smells like it was somehow distilled from leather armchairs, mahogany paneling, Japanese whiskey, and Miles Davis on vinyl. Smooth rose and sandalwood yield to the smoky, leathery notes of incense and styrax. The full-bodied base notes of amber, labdanum, and musk exude undeniable sex appeal. The combination of wood, smoke, and a subtle sweetness evoke a well-balanced whiskey cocktail. Dark Vinyl Musk is guaranteed to class up any dive bar, and pairs particularly well with a dark corner booth for two.


The Club

Fat Electrician

Inspired by a beautiful gigolo who ultimately became a run-of-the-mill, middle-aged electrician, this scent is an ode to the ephemeral nature of beauty. Top notes of black pepper and smoky-sweet, lemony elemi resin fade to warm cedar and woody-citrus Haitian vetiver. A nutty accord of chestnut cream and bitter caramel opoponax accompany a surprising note of herbaceous olive leaf. Rounded out by comforting vanilla and spicy myrrh, Fat Electrician feels like it solidifies as it dries, settling as a fleshy, pheromonal scent that smells personal and pleasantly carnal. Etat Libre d’Orange likes to push boundaries (Secretions Magnifiques, described by one reviewer as “rotting anus,” comes to mind), but Fat Electrician, while surprising and unique, is as wearable as it is sexy.


Cherry Punk Extrait

Cherry is trending hard, and while there are a million scents out there, Cherry Punk is one of the rare fragrances more complex and seductive than it is simply sweet. Inspired by the British punk movement, Cherry Punk smells like a combination of a heavy leather jacket and sticky Amarena cherries. The sweet, spicy, and smooth head notes of cherry, saffron, and Sichuan pepper give way to a heart of violet and a moody base of patchouli, tonka, and black leather. My notes say, “Maraschino smoke; fresh, juicy, gritty.” Cherry Punk smells like a painfully handsome rocker offering you a cigarette on the dirty sidewalk outside the club, the scent of spilled well drinks wafting from behind a tattooed bouncer.

ROOM 1015

Sin & Pleasure

What’s in a name? Sometimes, all you need to know. This offering from Korean brand BTSO tells us exactly who she is and holds nothing back. Indulgent, yet perfectly balanced, fresh and rich, sweet and sexy, Sin & Pleasure starts with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rush of lush white flowers and heady ylang-ylang before settling into notes of sweet, fruity almond, deep caramel, and warm rum. Sin & Pleasure maintains the longevity of its lighter notes as well as the deeper ones, a sustained clash of saccharinity, earthy oud, and light, minty patchouli. Dance all you want; this spellbinding scent will last longer than you do.


Bonus: The Shower

Darkwave Utopia

Okay, so you’ve gotten someone into the shower—are you sure your Irish Spring or powdery Dove body wash is the right scent to set the mood? To ensure that getting clean gets dirty, consider Baude NY’s scent-centric body wash in Darkwave Utopia. Inspired by that special Y2K combo of suburban angst and optimism, Darkwave Utopia smells like freshly cut grass, black hair dye, chlorophyll, and adrenaline. My first thought upon smelling was that it must be how Zoolander smelled; ironically, the ingredient that I loved but couldn’t identify turned out to be gasoline (RIP Meekus). Sweet and streamlined yet outrageous, Darkwave Utopia will have you feeling like the shower is your teenage bedroom and you only have ten minutes with your partner before your mom gets back from picking up your brother’s göt2b hair gel.

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