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M says... Use your scents; Trying to ensnare the man of your dreams on Valentine's Day? Your choice of perfume could enhance your pulling power no end...

Byline: Text by Suzanne Archer.

Perfume has long been linked with sex. Casanova sprinkled ambergris (a wax-like secretion from the intestines of the sperm whale, in case you were wondering) in his hot chocolate of an evening as it was known to be an aphrodisiac. And it's generally a synthetic version of this rare raw material we now use in many modern fragrances to give skin a warm, musky scent. The Kama Sutra talks of the power of fragrance to `fan the flames of love' and Chinese courtesans used to dine on musk-flavoured food so they sweated fragrantly when making love. `After all, our sense of smell was originally developed not only to escape danger and source food, but to help find a mate,' says Roja Dove, Professeur des Parfums and one of the world's experts on fragrance.

Animal attraction

Surely there are more appealing materials than whale's vomit to add pulling power to fragrance? Actually, not that many. Traditionally, it's animal materials such as civet, castoreum and musk (best not to ask exactly which part of the cat, beaver and deer they're extracted from) that give a fragrance its sensuality, because they have a similar chemical structure to our own sexual odours.

Musk has almost identical properties to testosterone, which powers our sex drive. Thankfully for the animals involved, most of these ingredients are now reproduced synthetically. You'll find musk at the base of Ralph Lauren Glamorous (from pounds 41), Michael by Michael Kors (from pounds 49; call 020-7563 8800), Grand Amour by Annick Goutal (from pounds 39; Selfridges or call 0870-837 7377) and Hugo Deep Red (from pounds 29).

Sweet sensations

That custardy, vanilla smell is another guaranteed winner in the seduction game - when Nicole Kidman mixed up a home-made fragrance, its heady vanilla scent apparently sent Robbie Williams into paroxysms of pleasure. `Vanilla is known as an aphrodisiac in every civilised culture - most men love it,' says Roja Dove. So it seems you're on to a sure thing on Valentine's Day if you wear Jean Paul Gaultier Classique (from pounds 37.50), Jean Desprez's newly revived cult classic Bal a Versailles (from pounds 42.50; call 020-7630 9400) or Carolina Herrera Chic (from pounds 26.50).

Babe in the woods

Finally, what about florals - surely the most romantic of fragrances? Romantic yes, but a flowery fragrance is the last thing to inspire lust - he may like it but it will probably remind him of his mother or granny, claims Dove. So while tuberose, jasmine and ylang-ylang make you feel all silky and sexy, the object of your desires could feel overpowered by the cloying sweetness of it all.

`Instead, many men seem to really love the smell of the "chypre" family of fragrances on a woman's skin - woody, mossy base notes that are much more earthy,' says Dove.

So off you rush to the perfume counters and cover yourself in Ysatis by Givenchy (from pounds 26.75; call 020-7563 8800), Paloma Picasso (from pounds 28) or Miss Dior by Christian Dior (from pounds 22). And keep your eyes peeled later in the year for Donna Karan's new scent Black Cashmere - it's one of a new breed of "leather chypres" which Dove predicts will be the next big thing.

10 sexy sprays

We blindfolded a few men (missus!), then waved some of the most `sensual' perfumes in the world under their noses to see which turned them on - or off...

Guerlain Shalimar (from pounds 23; call 01932-233874).

`This reminds me of your great aunt who serves cherry brandy at Christmas.' Quentin

`I'd imagine someone wearing this to be caked in make-up.' Richard Sex score: 2/10

Chanel No 5 (from pounds 36.50; call 020-7493 3836).

`This smells clean and fresh but not at all sexy - it reminds me of soap.' Duncan

`A drag queen, with bouffant hair: overbearing, overpowering, dated.' Jake

Sex score:3/10

YSL Opium (from pounds 34.50; call 01444-255700).

`I love this - it's sexy, dark, elegant and classy.' Jake

`I'd disappear off to the bedroom immediately with a woman who was wearing this.' Quentin

Sex score: 8/10

Sisley Eau de Soir (from pounds 43; call 020-7491 2722).

`This smells sophisticated and older - I definitely think an expensive meal would be involved.' Paul

`I really like this one. It's very feminine - it makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.' Quentin

Sex score: 6/10

Calvin Klein Obsession (from pounds 19.50; call 020-7361 4400). `Too familiar - I would probably call her by the wrong name in the throes of passion.' Paul

`I like it but it could go from nice to awful in seconds, it's quite an overpowering scent.' Duncan

Sex score: 6/10

Gucci Eau de Parfum (from pounds 26). `Now this is sexy. It's very naughty, kitchen table stuff. This one could drive me crazy.' Jake

`A total neck nuzzler. It's very distinctive but I see it as more romantic than sexy.' Quentin

Sex score: 7/10

Armani Sensi (from pounds 39; available from 1 March).

`Nice and fruity. If the wearer matched, and she asked me, I might take this relationship further.' Paul

`This is a teenage girl who's trying to be her mum. It's too sweet.' Duncan

Sex score: 5/10

YSL Nu (from pounds 39; call 01444-255700).

`She's sexy, she's vampish, she's confident. It smells French to me.' Richard `Cheap make-up mixed with Selfridges beauty

hall. Far too sickly and powdery for my liking.'


Sex score: 6/10

Agent Provocateur (from pounds 39; call 0870-727 4169 for mail-order).

`Trying too hard. A very unsubtle fragrance and I imagine someone clingy wearing it.' Quentin

`This is mildly arousing - an outdoorsy, sporty sort of smell.' Richard

Sex score: 4/10

M's choice...

Dior Addict (from pounds 23).

`This smells nice - like vanilla which I really love, so I'd probably want to lick her all over!' Paul

`Very sexy but you'd definitely have to work hard to get her.' Duncan

Sex score: 8/10

Tricks of the trade:

Your fragrance hot spots

l If you're a behind-the-ears kind of girl, forget it. `It's the worst place to wear perfume because there are so many sebaceous glands in that area which will interfere with the smell,' warns Dove.

l Instead his top spots are behind the knees and around your ankles (apparently, perfume rises with heat), under your collarbone, the inside crease of the elbow, or around the navel - a custom of the Far East.

l `Hair is also a very good carrier for perfume because it's so porous, so spray your scent on to your brush or comb before you use it,' says Dove.

l Finally, add one or two drops of your favourite scented bath oil to your sauciest lingerie when hand-washing it. Gorgeous-smelling hair, skin and lingerie - what more could a man want?
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 8, 2003
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