Lauren and Kai test fragrance

Lauren Iannotti, O senior editor, and her husband, Kai Schrimpf, computer scientist

Kai, a former decathlete, likes a strong, masculine scent—even on a woman. "Something robust," he says. "Vanilla is nice, but nothing too sweet." Blindfolded, he sits a bit hunched forward in his chair, elbows on the arms, as if he might spring up and dash out of the room at any moment. He sniffs Avon Extraordinary. "This one smells like a Swedish sauna. Yes, I like it!" Then, after a good hit of Estée Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude: "I like this very much; it has a strong, woody smell. My dad is a carpenter, and when he cuts wood this is what you smell. But then again, I don't want my wife to remind me of my father." About Vera Wang Sheer Veil: "This I like. I don't know why exactly, but a Caribbean beach comes to mind." He sniffs Lancôme Hypnôse: "Very soft, faint, subtle. It wouldn't scare me away if I met a woman who was wearing it," he says. "Which I won't," he adds hastily, nixing the fragrance. Alien by Thierry Mugler arouses a warm response: "Beautiful; it reminds me of Lüneburger Heide, an area in Germany known for big flower fields."

Enter Lauren. She's sprayed with Extraordinary. "This is...okay," she says. After a spritz of Sheer Veil, she declares it "too rosy for me." She tries the Alien. "I love this!" she says, "I love it! What is it?" "It's called Alien," says Kai. Lauren kisses him. "How perfect," she says. "Kai loves sci-fi. I'll be his little alien."
Stefanie and Tom test fragrance

Stefanie Manning, O executive marketing director, and her husband, Tom Manning, financial director

Tom, buttoned-down and proper, likes a "clean smell, nonlingering. If you're in an elevator with a woman," he says, "her scent should get off when she does." He seems kind of nervous. "I'm afraid I'm not going to be very articulate about this," he says. But it turns out he's quite sure about what he does and doesn't like. Aqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi: "I like this, but it's too light." Avon Extraordinary: "Too strong." Clinique Happy to Be: "Fruitier than I like." Cacharel Promesse: "Yes! Clean!" he says, probably influenced by the sparkling top notes of mandarin and bergamot. Euphoria Calvin Klein: "Good! Not overpowering." Jo Wood Organics Amka Body Dew: "I'm sorry. Can I say that I don't like that smell?" Vera Wang Sheer Veil: "That's good." Tom sniffs a dozen more before coming back to Euphoria, Sheer Veil, and Promesse.

Enter Stefanie. "This should be interesting," she says, in a bright, slightly challenging way. "Tom tends to go for a stronger scent than what I like." She sniffs Euphoria and pulls away slightly. "Too sharp for me!" Then Sheer Veil: "This one's okay," she says, neutrally, waving her wrist around and sniffing it again. She's spritzed with Promesse. "Oh, mmm, this one's great," she says, almost sighing with pleasure. Smiling at Tom, she says, "I'll be happy wearing this."

Derryale and Africa test fragrances.

Derryale Barnes, O chief of research, and her fiancé, Africa Booty, computer support technician

Africa is confident about what he likes. He settles into the chair, allows himself to be blindfolded, and awaits the first scent strip. "I go for fragrances that make me feel amorous. Light florals do it for me," he says. He sniffs Bulgari Au Thé Rouge: "This is nice; smells a little like...tea. But I'll pass." He sniffs Fantasy Britney Spears: "Halfway between a Christmas tree and cotton candy. Not for me." Amiably sniffing his way through several more fragrances, he stops at one he says smells so strange, it's "almost alien." (It is Alien, an unusual mix of amber, woody, and floral notes by Thierry Mugler, but he didn't know there was such a fragrance.) Shaking his head and moving on, he gets to Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo: "I like the slightly fruity smell. Yes, this one." Clinique Happy to Be: "I love the clean beginning of this scent. Then it gets more floral, but it's still very nice. Yes." And (the ever-popular) Vera Wang Sheer Veil: "Sweet, soft, floral, and it smells really clean and fresh and pretty. Yes!"

Enter Derryale. She's sprayed with Happy to Be, makes a noncommittal face. Africa winces. After a minute, she sniffs again. "Actually, I like it," she says. Africa wipes his brow. Derryale sniffs Blu Mediterraneo. "Not bad. Very subtle. In fact, a bit too subtle for me," she says. Africa squirms in his chair. Derryale is spritzed with Sheer Veil. "Oh, I really like this one," she says. "Soft, lightly floral, not overwhelmingly sweet. I do like this one!"


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