Back to Black (****) by Kilian should be used with caution, as it gives a loud and clear message. The kind of message, that, in my opinion, should be sent only when one is willing and has the opportunity to take the horizontal position.

Writing about sex is difficult: if one is explicit, vulgarity is round the corner and most metaphores are silly, such as “he opened her flower”, or cryptic, such as “he put it inside”, without ever saying WHAT went inside WHAT! Painting it or representing it in a fragrance is even harder.

In Back to Black (****) by Kilian the only direct allusion to sex is in the subtitle “aphrodisiac” (By Kilian is the only fragrance line with subtitles, like a French movie). The name, of course, is inspired tho the song by Amy Winehouse, which is actually about a painful breakup. But she sings about being dumped in a voice so husky and sweet that it makes you just want to….

The nose who formulated Back to Black, Calice Becker, expressed the inital spark of attraction with bergamot and spices, the sweetness of desire with honey and the sensual delight with tobacco and oliban. She didn’t need any of the smells that nature uses to express sex: no flowers, that are plant’s sexual organs, nor secretions form animal’s private parts, such as castoreum, civet or musk. Yet, Bak to Black is the sexiest thing I ever smelled.

Note to  nutty animal rights activists: to make the fur in the picture they skinned the very last family of green beavers (Castor maentolatus) in the world. Romano Ricci is a very bad man.

Mad Madame (***) di Juliette Has a Gun is a very rare case of a figurative perfume, that manages to represent sex with class. It’s a castoreum and tuberose bomb. All flowers basically say “Hey you, insect, come here and impollinate me”, but tuberose directly grabs the insect by its neck. Castoreum is a secretion of beaver’s anal glands, that communicates a “come on” to their little furry friends of the opposite sex.

Castoreum poses two issues:

1) It’s practically forbidden by IFRA regulations, but there are excellent artificial surrogates.

2) Pure castoreum is not suitable for the civilized world, something between fecal and obscene.

Romano Ricci, the nose and creator behind  Mad Madame managed to insfuse the fragrance with class, thanks to a combination of rose, jasmin and white musk that results in a porn version of Chanel n°5. It’s like a classic tailleur of the maison, with the skirt shortened of three inches, worn with nothing except a visible guepiere and red pumps.

Castoreum also stars in Sexual Healing (*) by Mark Buxton. His intent was exactly to make an explicit figurative perfume. “It’s the way you should smell after a good night with your man” he told me.  But it doesn’t work as well as the song by Marvin Gaye that inspired it. I think Buxton went over the line, trying to make  it wearable and made it insignificant, perhaps adding too much osmanthus, a weird flower that smells of apricot. The only intimate thing it evokes to me is a detergent.