The Appeal Of Stinky, Sweaty, Slightly Offensive Fragrances

I've always been a fan of somewhat "difficult" fragrances.
Publish date:
January 26, 2015
perfumes, guerlain, yves saint laurent, musk fragrances, serge luten

I'll never forget the time a ninth grade classmate told me I smelled like, "a weird grandma." I was wearing my beloved Opium by Yves Saint Laurent.

The spicy, Oriental fragrance, with its notes of pepper, coriander, incense, and amber, is definitely heady, especially when compared to more recent iterations of the scent. But I've always been captivated by perfumes that tend to wrinkle the noses of passersby.

My most recent "difficult" fragrance obsession is Serge Lutens Serge Noire, which entered my universe last fall. I spritzed it on my wrist and was horrified by the smell of straight up B.O. But, for some reason, I couldn't stop inhaling. I was hooked. There was something so animalistic about it. And as the scent slowly dried down, it softened to notes of cinnamon and amber.

Described by Serge Lutens as "incense stirred by the smell of burnt wood," I had to investigate Serge Noire further. Online reviewers at described the scent as "dirty," "like gorilla armpit odor," "like strong tikka masala," and "burnt soup." Still, the overall consensus was that people loved it.

Perhaps the reason people like stinky perfumes is because research shows that we're most attracted to the natural smells of potential partners. So scents that attempt to mimic things like musk, pheromones, or anything that smells like, ahem, body odor, is going to grab us by the nostrils and reel us in.

With its incredibly modern, unique, and unisex 1889 fragrance, Jicky, Guerlain was one of the first companies to understand this need to up one's animalistic ante. The scent's base note is civet musk, a glandular secretion produced by the animal of the same name. People gobbled up this sexy new breed of fragrance, and have been doing so ever since.

Case in point: Etat Libre D'Orange Putain Des Palaces, which translates to "hotel slut." With rose absolute, violet, leather, and "animal notes" (as they politely put it), the scent is meant to recall a powdered up and femininely fragranced lady of the night. One Fragrantica reviewer described the potential wearer as, "All dolled up in her leather bondage gear and heavily baby powdered to prevent chafing." Think of it as taking the subtlety of dabbing oneself with musky oil and turning it up to an overt 11.

Will I ever wear Putain Des Palaces? I'm not exactly sure. While "French hooker" is occasionally something I go for with my perfume choices, I don't know if I can douse myself in something so literal. For now, I'll stick to my bizarre-o love affair with Serge Noire, even if it means that people will think I smell like a sweat lodge.

  • Do you have a weakness for stinky, sweat perfumes? Which ones?
  • If someone told you your perfume smelled rank, would you stop wearing it?
  • Which scents (or tastes) turn you off?