Girlie pink and darker red perfumes for Valentine's Day

Pink and red perfumes that may make your valentine swoon include Balenciaga Paris, Robert Piguet Fracas

Many of us identify holidays with specific colors. If Halloween glows orange and Christmas is pine-needle green, then Valentine's Day smacks of red and pink — which makes this an appropriate time to explore the most opulent pink and red perfumes on the market today.

What is a "pink" perfume, you ask? It's an unabashedly girlie fragrance, a scent that is pretty and floral and puts one in the mind of crinolines and lace, and parasols and satin.

Perhaps the ultimate pink perfume is L'Artisan's Drole de Rose, a retro floral blend of violets, rose, anise and powder that would feel old-fashioned if it weren't so darn appealing and didn't wrap the wearer in the most radiant, 21st century veil. Balenciaga's Paris adds a modern flair to violets and roses, and Stella McCartney's Stella offers a woody ambery powdery variation on the rose theme.

Need a little fruit with those florals? Nanadebary's aptly named Pink adds a tart note to the lily, jasmine and bergamot party. Each time I spray it on, my mouth waters like I'm biting into my favorite sour gummy candy, Katjes' Johannisbeeren from Germany, which contains black currant pulp.

As we move from pastel to hot pink, we bound up the perfume Richter scale — and Robert Piguet's Fracas sits at the top. Created in 1948 by French perfumer Germaine Cellier, who enjoyed flouting social norms and created some of history's most daring, iconoclastic fragrances, Fracas is a giant valentine of tuberose. It is pretty much a soliflore, which means it's not leavened with other notes. What you get with Fracas is a radiant blast of the small white flowers that aren't really roses at all (you might want to think of them as tiny bombs of desire). This is haute perfumery at its finest, and everyone should smell Fracas at least once in their lives. You'll either love it or run screaming from its narcotic haze forever after. If you've smelled Madonna's Truth or Dare, Kim Kardashian's first perfume or Michael Kors' Michael, you've smelled tuberose, since all of these share DNA with Fracas.

But what if the fleshy glory of pink is lost on you, and nothing will do but coral red lipstick and a fire engine perfume to match? Comme des Garcons, those masters of post-modernism, have a line of perfumes called, simply, Red (they include Sequoia, Harissa, Palisander, Carnation and Rose). Some are fairly linear, but others are as complex as anything that Corsican genius Francois Coty schemed up a century ago. (The notes for Palisander, for example, include red cedar, red chili peppers, saffron, myrrh.) And while some of the perfumes mentioned higher up tilt toward girls, the Commes des Garcons line is avowedly unisex.

Almost every perfume line today features a rose, so take your pick. Among the standouts: Les Parfums de Rosine's Rose d'Amour, Juliette Has a Gun's Lady Vengeance, Annick Goutal's Rose Splendide; Guerlain's Nahema, Frederic Malle's Une Rose and Lipstick Rose, and British niche firm Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if, an ethereal concoction in which rose is paired with spice and saffron.

Starchy British cologne lines are making florals palatable to modern men in offerings such as Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet and Czech & Speake's Dark Rose.

For the man or woman who wants to cast a darker shadow, there is L'Artisan's Voleur de Roses, in which rose is paired with patchouli. But the darkest rose of all is Montale's Black Aoud, in which blood roses are twined with the medicinal earthy facets of aoud, a substance harvested from the heartwood of aquilaria trees in Southeast Asia. Black Aoud is a gothic valentine of a perfume, one that Bram Stoker might have envisioned, and perhaps that's the blackest red of all.

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