The Smell of Romance

As a life-long lover of perfume, I’ve come to expect a lot from my fragrances. I believe in the magic that they behold to transform my mood, make me feel alluring, bring back an instant sensory memory from my past, or arouse the curiosity of those around me as they catch a whiff when I drift by. When I want to create an aura of romance, I reach for scents that speak to my emotions. Here, I share with you some of my latest favorite potions to set the stage for love!

BOIS DE PARADIS by Parfums DelRae, is one of the most incredible fragrances I’ve ever encountered because it amazingly captures the smell of candlelight on skin! The potent mix of honeyed rose, tart blackberries, pulpy figs, golden resinous amber, and velvety woods mesh together in an accord that hints at candles melting as the flame reflects on sweet, pristine flesh. The genius here is that this scent melds with your chemistry and becomes part of you – a seamless, invisible veil that doesn’t smell perfumey but evokes clean sensuality with a tinge of forbidden fruits & rare spices. Even the name speaks of the pleasures contained within – Woods of Paradise – and this one is not for the faint of heart. Results, guaranteed!


When I think of romance, I often associate it with luxury – fine wine, premium chocolates, luxurious fabrics. The most luxurious fiber of all to me is cashmere – I can’t get enough of it. And I think I have a serious addiction because I’ve added at least a few cashmere sweaters to my collection every winter for the last fifteen years! It makes me feel safe, pampered and loved – and what can be more romantic than that?

I want that same luscious cocoon to envelop me with a fragrance, and am on a constant quest to find a scent that can bring me the comfort of a soft, four-ply cashmere wrap. I’ve found it in ANVERS 2 by Ulrich Lang. The notes of bergamot, lime, lemon, black pepper, wild basil, rhubarb, cypress, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, lily, cedarwood, sandalwood, mimosa, vetiver, tonka, bean, vanilla, amber, musk, olibanum, and oak moss are an intricate tapestry of masculine and feminine that work together in perfect harmony to make the wearer feel supremely LOVED!


Traditionally, the rose has always been considered a symbol for romance, and in recent years I have come to appreciate the way perfumers have combined it with other elements to create some of the world’s most exquisite perfumes.

CATERINA DE MEDICI by i Profumi di Firenze, is taken from Catherine de Medici’s personal secret 16th century formula found in a Renaissance manuscript that was unearthed after the Florentine flood of 1966. This spectacular blend dominated by Damascus rose, lily of the valley, and the regal purple iris of Florence served Catherine de Medici well – she was a seductive beauty famous for her many devoted lovers, and that speaks volumes!


What I love about Byredo Parfums ROSE NOIR is that it utilizes rose in a such a completely modern and unique way… you can’t even tell the primary note is rose! This is a dark, blackened damascena rose, sensual with the bite of grapefruit, a dusting of freesia, and dirtied up with musks and feral mosses against soft skin. Whenever I wear this I get compliments from men and women alike. Anoint yourself with this and you may find yourself in a dangerous and twisted tryst.


MITSOUKO, the legendary masterpiece by Guerlain, is a perfume that comes with its own built-in love story! Mitsouko, which means ‘mysterious’, is the story of an impossible passion. Mitsouko, a beautiful Japanese woman and the wife of a Japanese Admiral, is secretly loved by a British officer. In 1905, when war breaks out between Russia and Japan, Mitsouko awaits with dignity the outcome of the battle, gathering strength to overcome her deep and unspeakable longing. This is the saddest of romances – that of unfulfilled love…

What intrigues about Mitsouko is that it was created in 1919, yet still smells modern today. A spicy floral and a true chypre, Mitsouko has often been characterized as one of the world’s most exquisite perfumes. It actually took me years to be able to appreciate it properly, and now I can’t live without it. I’d have to say that I experienced a rite-of-passage the day I began to understand the power of Mitsouko. It is sophisticated and highly feminine, with a sensuous edge that keeps evolving in the dry-down. This is a fragrance for a woman, not a little girl.

The perfect fragrance to be married in – the embodiment of true romance!


One of the all-time great fragrances that no one seems to know about, AIMEZ MOI by Caron is a precious and well-kept secret among fragrance lovers. A complex blend of violet and anise, this feels like a vintage scent, but was actually created in 1996. It is lush, heady, and potent, and every time I smell it, it never fails to conjure up all sorts of romantic images for me. Currently, when I wear it, I imagine a masked ball in Venice where I’m dancing with a mysterious stranger… with endless romantic possibilities, only bound by my imagination…


The gold-standard for white florals, FRACAS by Robert Piguet is perhaps the world’s most beautiful mix of tuberose and gardenia. It was created in 1949, and set the stage for all the myriad white floral concoctions that followed. And it still has a cult following today. This is a perfumer’s perfume – whenever you ask a perfumer which fragrance they wish they’d created, the always say ‘Fracas’! Loved by men, women, children, and adorable small animals, you’ll always be the most popular girl in the room when doused in Fracas. This one will be in my rotation for life.

Available: SPAfumerie, 900 2nd Ave and

As soon as you spritz on LADY SHILOH, by Hors La Monde, you can see the future. The intoxicating heart of aromatic Indian jasmine nestles with the powdery softness of violet, and together they blend with the bright citrus of bergamot and tangerine and a nocturnal patchouli accord. The aroma moves from lightness to dark and back again, as if in a never-ending dance. Wear this to mesmerize and render a man helpless – an invitation to love as if there was no tomorrow. The ultimate femme fatale fragrance!


EMOTIONNELLE, by Parfums DelRae, may be the most aptly named fragrance of all time.

The luscious top-notes of melon, tangerine, bergamot, and ylang ylang melt into a luminous and smooth drydown characterized by violet leaves and flowers, jasmine, rose, iris, cedarwood, vetiver, labdanum, amber & honey. At once sensual and gourmandise, Emotionnelle satisfies a variety of appetites and stimulates the soul. As the fragrance evolves on your skin, it goes through varying layers, a flutter of delicious evocative smells ranging from the early transparent melon to a smoky base that lingers far into the feverish night.


There’s something very romantic about having something made just for *you*, personal and unlike anyone else’s. It captures your essence, it becomes your signature, and lets the world know that you have arrived. When two of my very favorite companies came together in a collaborative union to produce a bespoke scent, I was intrigued, and suspected I would like it. And yes, AEDES DE VENUSTAS BY L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR is a perfect marriage of two creative forces: L’Artisan Parfumeur, the famed French niche perfumery known for producing beautifully composed scents, and Aedes de Venustas, the niche fragrance store in NYC with an unparallel selection of innovative and hard-to-find brands housed in an extraordinary jewel box of a shop that looks like a theatre set.

Well, as it turned out, it was one of the few times I have experienced love at first sniff! An intoxicating brocade of Japanese incense, leather, tonka bean, cardamon, musk, and patchouli with an effervescent gingery top-note poised on a peppery, anise field, I have had strangers lean in close to me to ask what I’m wearing. This is what to wear if you want instant love and adulation. I must have a small vial in my purse at all times in case I crave a fix!

Karen Dubin is the founder and Director of Sniffapalooza, an international event-based organization for fragrance enthusiasts. Sniffapalooza celebrates fragrance as an art.

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