15 Love Potions Put to the Test by Martha Editors With Swoon-Worthy Results
Fragrances concocted to smell beautiful—and arouse desire—were worn by our staff to help you find a romantic option for the big day or every day.
Can perfume make another person fall more deeply in love with you? Some studies have indicated that men are most attracted to fragrances that smell more like desserts than flowers. Other scents incorporate warm aphrodisiac notes intended to promote feelings of affection. We sent editors out into the field armed—or shall we say spritzed—with various fragrances concocted to behave as so-called love potions to test these theories and find the most alluring ones. Here, all the results.
Black by Comme des Garçons
Senior editor Julie Vadnal fell hard for this black pepper, leather, and subtle licorice eau de toilette the second she took off the cap. She says, "It smells expensive, exotic, different … like a mix between church incense and the woods. And this Catholic-born outdoorsy girl loves it."
The Response: Her guy friends felt just as enthusiastic about the unisex scent. "I think it's kind of hot when a woman wears cologne," one said before promptly spritzing some on himself and spending the rest of the evening breathing it in. If men like to wear it, then they'll definitely be drawn to a woman wearing this woodsy blend ($100, comme-des-garcons-parfum.com).
Lavanila Vanilla Lavender
Made from pure essential oils, natural botanical extracts, and organic sugar cane alcohol, this fragrance blends powdery Spanish lavender with base notes of warm Madagascar vanilla. Assistant style editor Colleen Banks found the scent very sweet at first spritz, but as the day went on the fragrance became warmer and more romantic.
The Response: Like a bee to honey, her boyfriend was instantly drawn to the vanilla aroma and did not find it too sweet, even upon the initial application ($58, lavanila.com).
CB I Hate Perfume 7 Billion Hearts
Inspired by the romantic notion that out of 7 billion hearts on the planet, one inevitably beats for you, perfumer Christopher Brosius crafted this comforting scent composed of fine vanilla absolutes from Tahiti and Madagascar mingled with smoky resinous notes. While wearing it, assistant digital producer Taysha Murtaugh thought the smokiness stood out the most in this fragrance, reminding her of incense or patchouli.
The Response: Her boyfriend thought she seemed more mysterious but also asked if she had been around spicy food, a different result from the donuts comparison she usually gets when wearing her typical vanilla-based scents ($135 for 30 ml, cbihateperfume.com).
Demeter Licorice, Popcorn, and Chocolate Chip Cookie
Demeter is the go-to for spot-on single-note fragrances that range from classic to wacky. We tested the scents that replicate some of men's favorite treats in the hopes they would fall for the literal aroma of food.
The Response: Special projects editor Anthony Luscia gave Licorice a try and reported that several men told him they liked the way he smelled. Senior photo editor Muzam Agha wore the alluring scent of Chocolate Chip Cookie and was asked if he was hiding sweets in his pockets. When associate style editor Katie Covington wore Popcorn to a friend's birthday party, she ironically sat next to a popcorn machine. "My boyfriend was a little extra handsy," she reports. Alluring? Possibly. Delicious? Definitely ($39.50, demeterfragrance.com).
Bond No. 9's "Bleecker St."
With the tagline "Art, fashion, seduction, and dessert in liquid form," this eau de parfum combines the edible—vanilla, cassis, caramel, cinnamon, and thyme—with the sensual—patchouli and musk, in an ode to New York's Bleecker Street. Assistant editor Becky Mickel found the "spicy, decidedly feminine" scent enticing and noted that the perfume's jasmine, patchouli, and vanilla notes are also found in her signature scent, Chanel Mademoiselle.
The Response: Despite liking the fragrance, Mickel's boyfriend didn't notice the subtle aroma. Her advice? Buy a smaller bottle to carry around for reapplication ($205, bondno9.com).
Philosophy Falling in Love
Sparkling blackberry, jasmine, warm vanilla, and lily of the valley combine with the goal of creating an effervescent fragrance to send hearts aflutter. Digital editorial intern Aliyah Guttmann was instantly enamored by the light, natural quality of this fresh, feminine scent.
The Response: Powerful perfumes can be off-putting. Guttmann's boyfriend was drawn to this clean scent because it smelled like her and not like "perfume" ($48 for 2 oz, philosophy.com).
Crafted and bottled by hand in Brooklyn, New York, perfumer Anne Serrano-McClain makes each of her perfumes with love. When creating this fragrance, she wanted to capture the fireworks and rush of the first time she fell in love. The result is a blend of Japanese yuzu citrus, French sweet basil, and Chinese magnolia, with a dry down of gunpowder and templewood.
The Response: "The yuzu and florals remind me of Hong Kong on a hot summer day—walking up and down centuries-old steps with trees growing through them and past Buddhist temples and modern design boutiques," says Katie Covington. While Covington appreciated the complexity of citrus blended with a spicy base note, her boyfriend's olfactory palette produced a more simple reaction: He commented that it smelled like fresh laundry ($45 for 9 ml perfume oil, mcmcfragrances.com).
Chloé Love Story
This feminine fragrance seeks to capture the allure of a carefree woman, and is inspired by a clandestine midnight meeting in Paris. It is blended with fresh orange blossom and jasmine, the flower of happiness, and includes a base note of warm cedar wood to ground the scent.
The Response: Colleen Banks quickly became obsessed with this fragrance and its romantic, floral aroma. She felt fresh and clean while wearing it and the fragrance caught the attention of a PR girl at a press event. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, found the scent too floral ($75 for 1 oz, sephora.com).
Penhaligon's Love Potion No. 9
No need to brew your own magic love potion. This elixir opens with top notes of creamy tarragon, bergamot, and lavender. The dry down reveals sweet carnation and a blend of cedar, spice, and vanilla for a scent that is mysterious and faintly masculine.
The Response: This fragrance got two thumbs up from Taysha Murtaugh's boyfriend, who preferred it above all the others she tested ($125, penhaligons.com).
Atkinsons Love in Idleness
This intensely feminine love potion puts the Grasse violet flower and violet leaves front and center. Like something out of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, it is a perfect marriage of ethereal floral notes and woodsy chypre. Patchouli and moss come through in the dry down.
The Response: At first blush, associate digital editor Lyndsey Matthews found the scent saccharine, but she warmed up to it as it dried down. Her boyfriend found it fresh, light, and appealing ($210, barneys.com).
Nasomatto Narcotic V.
Crafted in small batches in Amsterdam and inspired by female sexual power, this fragrance is captivating for its mystery. No ingredient lists are provided with the intention of creating completely unique, indefinable scents.
The Response: Aliyah Guttmann felt more mature while wearing this fragrance and said it complemented her natural scent without being too overwhelming. She had sprayed some in her hair in the morning and when she let her hair down at the end of the day, she was happy to find that the scent was still lingering, and as strong and sexy as that morning. Her boyfriend loved the romantic perfume, acting more affectionate during their date ($185, barneys.com).
L'Artisan Parfumeur Amour Nocturne
Crafted by master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, this eau de parfum combines cedar with the scent of hot milk and caramel. Gunpowder and orchid make a surprising appearance and round it out
The Response: Taysha Murtaugh felt more alluring and attractive while wearing this soft, musky scent. Seemingly simple at first spritz, she found the fragrance grew complex. She was especially drawn in by the milky, almost coconut quality of the perfume, which reminded her of the coconut lotion her boyfriend loves ($205, artisanparfumeur.com).
Tom Ford Black Orchid
This bottle's Art Deco design is a good indicator of the elegant fragrance within. Black truffle, ylang, fresh bergamot, and black currant give it drama, while lotus wood, patchouli, incense, vetiver, and vanilla bring both richness and balance to the seductive scent.
The Response: Though not the type of scent she would normally choose, "I felt glamorous in an old-school 1940s or even sultry 1920s flapper way," Katie Covington says. A coworker complimented Covington on the perfume, saying it had a classic aroma. Executive digital editor Jennifer Hirshlag says the fragrance is powerful, but not overempowering, imparting a sexy scent that her husband immediately commented upon as being sophisticated, nodding with his approval ($75, tomford.com).
A woody, musky base topped with tender floral notes, this feminine eau de parfum is intended to ignite attraction.
The Response: True to its mission, this perfume caught the attention and affection of Lyndsey Matthews's boyfriend. Her favorite of the three she tested, Matthews liked it just as much, saying the sultry scent was perfect for a night out ($96, bloomingdales.com).
With its modern mix of sandalwood and florals, including orange blossom, jasmine, gardenia, and amber, Pure Poison combines the daring and the delicate to "reveal the seductress within."
The Response: Despite its dangerous moniker, Julie Vadnal was really into the fruity and spicy notes in this lusty love potion, as was a friend, who squealed (yes, squealed), "Ooo, I like this one!" ($92, macys.com).
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