Sex sells. This is the undeniable truth of the perfume world, and the rest of the world know it. Like everything else sex-ed up, it seems logical that sex in a bottle would sell. Sex is the exact diametric opposite of all that gourmand and sweetness, a perfect complement to complete an individual’s scent portfolio. No wonder then that perfume houses all over the world, both the old and new, have all started developing their own perfumes to pay homage to this very niche and eccentric market.
One has to think why out of all human memories or activities, it is sex that has to be the main theme for these prized concoctions. All perfume scientists all over the world seem to be in agreement that there is a connection between scent, sexuality and human connection – though the exact science behind that is still very much up for discussion.
Sex and scents go all the way back, even before the development of these highly technological bottles that claim to spritz sex appeal all over the place. Even before these pheromone-based products, there are already multiple studies on science of smell and sex. One of which is The Compatibility Gene by Professor Daniel Davis. In this book, the professor explains how the sense of smell affects how we judge a prospective mate.
It comes as no surprise then that some scents would capitalise on sex. As early as the 20th century, famed perfume houses, like that of Jacques Guerlain, already demanded that a few of the house’s perfumes smell like “the underside of his mistress”. This gave birth to some of the brand’s most iconic fragrances like Jicky, Shalimar and Mitsouko.
A few other designers followed suit. Thus, we now have Tom Ford’s Black Orchid smelling “like a man’s crotch”, Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan suggesting of female arousal, Alan Cumming’s Cumming…well, smelling like one, Etat Libre d’ Orange’s Secretions Magnifique suggesting a squirting penis, Hermès’ Eau de Hermès intimating a masculine anus, and Roja Dove’s Roja Dove Number 3, which evokes the image of a salty aftermath.
Nothing tells the tale of the knickers scents better than Vivienne Westwood’s famed Boudoir. It is like brewing a woman’s private parts in… well, her boudoir and letting it reach a sensual scent point that rewards you with images of the female genitalia in its most glorious state.
And then there are those who take sex to the next level, like Orgie, just one of the 15-scent tribute created by Christoph Hornetz and Christophe Laudamiel to the famous Süskind’s novel Perfume. Perfumes can practically emulate the entire sexing process. In recent memory, Alexander McQueen summed up the entire process for us with Kingdom. It smells of sweaty, dirty sex with a hint of body odour to complete the montage.
Alexander McQueen’s discontinued Kingdom is far from being the only strange one of the bunch. His employment of cumin, a spice in curries that can only suggest either of bad odour or really, really dirty socks, is not the only weird ingredient that has been put use in a bottle of sex.
Many perfumers have included animal ingredients, from glands to vomit, in order to achieve that “spray” element in knocker scents. There’s the droppings of the civet cat; the castoreum, a leathery by-product from the genital gland of the castor beaver; ambergris, the vomit of a sperm whale that floats ashore; and the musk deer’s sheet gland which gives off that to-die-for musk.
Further, in order to make the scents more complex, it is also no secret that infant excrement or human hair may be added to the mix. Very sexy, indeed.
Sex sells and rightly so. Enough to make perfume designers employ noses that are masters in smelling nether regions and unwashed knickers. Perfume designer Laudamiel even commissioned a perfume scientist to develop the “virgin” smell as inspired by Süskind’s Perfume, a project which involved two young female virgins, a polymere needle and a dash of apricot, nuts and sea breeze. How did they fit sea breeze in a bottle, you ask? Who knows? What is clear is that if you don’t have at least one sex in a bottle then that will probably explain why you don’t have anything going on in your boudoir.