Amy Maclin (O's executive editor) and Sasha Solodovnikov were a happy couple—but they sensed a whiff of trouble: They couldn't agree on perfume. Which was odd, because they like the same kinds of smells in general, like the sea, cut grass and soap. The problem is that the light, fresh notes (citrus and sheer florals) that Amy is drawn to, Sasha finds pretty...but not sexy. And the heady notes (musky and animalic) that are alluring to Sasha send Amy running for a gas mask. Their dilemma is not unusual; men and women commonly have different responses to scents. In fact, men's responses can be somewhat bewildering. In a study at the Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation in Chicago, men found the odors of black licorice and doughnut arousing, as well as the combined odors of pumpkin pie and doughnut.

So we knew we faced a challenge. But, determined to keep Amy and Sasha's love alive, we took their problem to master perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who had a potential solution: a fragrance that starts out light (for Amy) but then turns a little darker and sexy (for Sasha) in the drydown—the smell that lingers on your skin after the scent has evaporated a bit. Kurkdjian suggested 12 fragrances he thought might do the trick.

So on a bright Monday morning in the O offices, Amy and Sasha submitted to a scent intervention. We separated them; then, Sasha patiently sniffed each of the 12 fragrances, finally deciding on five he'd want to smell on his wife. Amy sampled his picks to find at least one that appealed to her, too. There was tension—and a lot of scent—in the air....

Sasha and Amy sniffing their way toward some common scents.

The 12 Contenders
  • Bobbi Brown Beach ($74 for 1.7 ounces;
  • Dior Escale à Portofino ($98 for 4.25 ounces;
  • Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey City Blossom ($100 for 3 ounces;
  • Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Eau de Toilette ($102 for 3.4 ounces;
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis Forte ($275 for 2.4 ounces;
  • Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood ($300 for 2.4 ounces;
  • Narciso Rodriguez for Her Eau de Toilette ($106 for 3.3 ounces;
  • Narciso Rodriguez for Her L'Absolu ($123 for 3.3 ounces;
  • Paloma Picasso ($90 for 3.4 ounces;
  • Tom Ford Neroli Portofino ($300 for 3.4 ounces;
  • Viktor & Rolf BonBon ($165 for 3 ounces;
  • Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb ($165 for 3.4 ounces;

    The Sniff Test

    Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis Forte
    Bergamot, lemon, jasmine, rose, wood, musk

    Photo courtesy of Maison Francis Kurkdjian

    Sasha says: It's light.... I can barely smell it. [Holds the scent strip under his nostrils, snorts deeply, pauses] When I get a good whiff, I really like it.
    Amy says: Oh, I find this very heavy. And to me, heavy is not sexy.

    Viktor & Rolf BonBon
    Tangerine, black currant, orange, orange blossom, jasmine, peach, wood, caramel

    Photo courtesy of Viktor & Rolf

    Sasha says: Yes, I would like this citrusy, orangy smell on Amy. But the bottle is strange [narrows his eyes suspiciously].
    Amy says: Cute bottle—shaped like a bow! [Sniffs, then crinkles her nose] Smells like a flower arrangement that's about to go bad.

    Narciso Rodriguez for Her L'Absolu
    Jasmine, musk, amber, sandalwood, patchouli

    Photo courtesy of Narcisco Rodriguez

    Sasha says: For some reason, this reminds me a little bit of a Ping-Pong ball. Which I like.
    Amy says: Is this musky? I know musk is supposed to unleash my primal powers of attraction. [Sighs] Whatever.

    Bobbi Brown Beach
    Jasmine, sea spray, mandarin

    Photo courtesy of Bobbi Brown

    Sasha says: Subtle but also kind of complicated—crisp, sweet, flowery, a little tangy. The more I sniff it, the better it gets.
    Amy says: What does this make me think of? Oh, it's baby lotion.

    Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Eau de Toilette
    Lotus, freesia, cyclamen, rose water, peony, carnation, white lily, musk

    Photo courtesy of Issey Miyake

    Sasha says: Hmm, perfect! This is a dark night full of stars. Deep and sexy. My favorite!
    Amy says: This one is so light and clean. Does that count as sexy? I would definitely wear it. Yeah, I like it a lot!

    The Passion Potion
    So L'Eau d'Issey Eau de Toilette it was. "Intensely sexy," Sasha said. "Fresh and soft," chimed in Amy. And they found it mutually alluring. Kurkdjian was pleased, and unsurprised. "L'Eau d'Issey is bright, airy and breezy, a true floral fragrance," he said. "Yet, the base is complex, with woods, amber and muskiness that give it sexiness and mystery." In other words, just the right formula for one couple's conjugal bliss.

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