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As beauty products go, fragrance is intensely personal. Smell triggers our associative memory to recall past relationships we’ve formed between scents, events and emotions—like, say, the smell of freshly baked brownies and the joy you felt as a little one scoffing them in your nan’s kitchen—making it possible to be transported back in time with a sniff of something familiar. This goes some way towards explaining why you can be drawn to certain notes that your best mate or partner can’t stomach, and vice versa. But there are a few exceptions to this rule—aromas that are universal in their appeal. These scents, like vanilla (it’s been shown to reduce anxiety), rose (first used 5,000 years ago and still going strong), and citrus (studies suggest the smell alone boosts positivity) largely transcend individual preferences. All three are regularly called out as among the most “attractive” when worn by others. (Interesting to note if you’re looking to spend this Valentine’s Day plus one.)
While we’re yet to discover a romantic perfume with a 100% success rate, formulas that feature the aforementioned ingredients (vanilla, rose and citrus) as main players are a great place to start. Anything involving sultry sandalwood, creamy musk, honeyed amber or skin-tingling spice is equally worth a look in. Beyond that you might like to get casual with a few candidates before you settle on the one for you. (Hot tip: A Mecca team member can help you select options to road-test.) Whether you’re after a fragrance to memorialise the heady first days of a fledgling relationship, something that says, “I’m feelin’ myself”, or just a straight up olfactory aphrodisiac, you’ll find something below.
Keep reading for our edit of the 10 of the latest and greatest romantic ‘fumes on shelf.
Is Elle Woods still your sartorial hero? Take our word for it—you’ll love this syrupy scent. Like an expensive fruity cocktail garnished with caramelised almonds, it’s sweet with a capital S. Bonus: 100Bon’s entire range is vegan, made from natural ingredients, and completely sustainable.
Described by the brand as an “English rose dressed in a black leather jacket”, this modern floral is equal parts soft and suggestive. (Picture said English rose wearing a lacy cami underneath her jacket.) Built on a base of black cherry, centifolia rose and spicy peppercorn, it’s perfect for an evening date.
So-called for Maison Baccarat’s signature ruby red crystal, it’s as luminous as its namesake. Packed with a lush blend of Egyptian jasmine (prized for its delicate fragrance), balsamic cedarwood and saffron, it starts off sugary, developing a skin-hugging warmth and complexity over time.
Who’d have thought a perfume intended to conjure up visions of ye olde craftsmen building violins could inspire such appreciation? It’s woody (surprise) but not monotonous. You’ll smell smoky church incense, maple syrup and an interesting varnish note. Wear it to a whiskey tasting or a burlesque club.
Valentine’s Day can be one of the trickiest days to gift a loved one—even if that loved one is yourself. This sextet of scents from Byredo makes things easy. It includes brand favourites Rose of No Man’s Land (luscious Turkish rose meets woody papyrus); Black Saffron (think leather, violet, raspberry); Blanche (like freshly laundered sheets); Gypsy Water (fresh yet seductively woody); Mojave Ghost (an outrageously sexy floral); and Bal D’Afrique (sultry, with neroli, musk, and Moroccan cedarwood). Editor's note: Byredo La Selection Valentine will launch on the 5th of February
Made with a deft hand, this artful blend of narcotic jasmine, creamy musk and lotus is almost aquatic. It’s also unlike any fragrance you’ve used before, because it comes in gel form. Wild, right? Based on hyaluronic acid for added skincare benefits, the formula is alcohol-free—perfect for sensitive types.
Jasmine can smell anything from virginal to lusty depending on how it’s blended. This pick falls into the latter camp, offering up a sensual bouquet of white flowers cut with zingy citrus and spicy neroli. For the sophisticate in your life, who knows extravagance when they smell it, this can’t be beat.
Dry and leafy, it’s all smoky black tea, ripe fig and aromatic vetiver. Not your average “romantic” pick perhaps, there’s no rose, vanilla or fruit, but it has a tactile quality that’s undeniably alluring. If you want to fend off compliments everywhere you go, this spritz is just what your ego ordered.
There’s a good reason this intoxicating fragrance holds cult status. It’s seductive—really seductive. It’ll remind you of suntan lotion, with hints of fresh melon, green eucalyptus, and coconut cream. As it evolves from chaste to sultry, you’ll get buttery white flowers—with tuberose on top[em dash]and all the sensuality of musk. TLDR: wear this on a first date, and you’ll be all but guaranteed a second.
Sweet ’n’ sour, like a tropical fruit salad infused with honey and lime, it’s evocative of island days. You’ll smell frangipani-steeped Monoi oil, guava, grapefruit and papaya—basically, a vacay in a bottle. Technically a unisex scent (all the better for sharing with your beloved), it’s free-spirited and fun.
Words by Lisa PatulnyFebruary 2019
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