No. 18 (Chanel)

Many accuse the rose of smelling musty and old-ladyish, like Grandma. This is because they have never met the Big Bad Wolf. She (you heard me!) would never be caught dead in Granny's nightdress-- not when Little Red's riding hood suits her so much better. Thus disguised, this devastating louve-garou plays herself off like a regulation Rose Red-- but even those who have misplaced their monocles (I'm talking to you, Jakob Grimm) can tell the difference through their noses.

This rose, first off, appears to enjoy a good cigarillo now and again. A rich tobacco leaf scent clings to her satiny red petals-- a suggestion owed to the predominance of ambrette in No. 18's formula. Ambrette seeds are produced by the Abelmoschus moschatus, a fine upstanding plant formerly of the Hibiscus genus but lately incorporated as its own separate botanical hamlet. (Beware the alternate-side parking ordinances!) In the good old days, ambrette took the lead among tobacco flavorings, so it works here as a broad hint even in the absence of an actual fat cheroot.

And the skin scent!  No flower on earth could possibly smell so animalic, could it? From time to time, as you lean in close to pull apart those tightly-layered petals, something gorgeously mammalian springs out, blowing Big Bad's cover to pieces. Again, it's the ambrette at work-- musky, but also salty, like fresh sweat; sweet, but also acid, like sarcasm from a lover's tongue. But truly it's the roses (those cliches of delicate womanhood!) that provide Big Bad's best disguise. They act as a lure to the unwary, drawing us in so that this lithe huntress can pick us off at her leisure.

Watching the she-wolf play among the showy blossoms is a hypnotic pleasure, to be sure. She charms with her frisky energy, her sleek warm-blooded femininity. But fascination at times verges on infatuation. This masquerade is fun, but enough's enough, you want to say. Come out, come out, wherever you are. You find yourself following, going further and further to pick up her trail, losing yourself in her wilderness...

Better bring breadcrumbs. You know how these stories tend to end.

Scent Elements: Ambrette seed, iris, rose