When characters in a fairy tale venture into the woods, you know they’re in for a lifechanging adventure. The same could be said of Estée Lauder’s first foray into the woody category with its latest scent, Sensuous.

“Woody notes are seeing a renaissance because women are more confident and experimental in expressing their fragrance tastes,” explains Karyn Khoury, senior vicepresident of corporate fragrance development worldwide at Estée Lauder. “In 2000, florals captured 72 percent of the fragrance market in the United States; by 2007, this had dropped to 51 percent.”

Khoury’s goal — one she had nurtured for the past four years — was to reinvent woody fragrances for women. She wanted a scent that wasn’t dark or masculine, and it had to be sleek, modern and sophisticated. To create the woody note, or warm accord, the perfumers used “wood welding” — a furniture-making technique in which different woods are melded together using intense friction instead of nails or adhesives. The fragrant molecules that were released when pine and guaiac were put through this process were captured to create Sensuous’ unique note. “There is a sleekness that is quite modern,” explains Khoury. “It doesn’t have the dryness or darkness one usually associates with wood.”

To complement this signature note without over powering it, Khoury asked the perfumers to create a feminine accord that would be floral in nature but unidentifiable. “You know how when you walk into a greenhouse there is a floral atmosphere but you can’t pick out one specific scent? That’s what I wanted,” explains Khoury. There are hints of jasmine and magnolia, but the specially designed Ghost Lily accord-which is the perfumers’ interpretation of “a shadow of a lily scent” — creates a muted yet intriguing floral impression. For an added touch of mystery, says Khoury, they blended in a luminous accord, which has hints of black pepper and honey.

Although Sensuous is the company’s first woody fragrance for women, Khoury believes that it has the potential to become an iconic scent. “I think Mrs. Lauder would have loved it,” says Khoury. “She appreciated things of quality and beauty, and she loved doing what was unexpected. She was a very sensual person and a bit of a flirt. She loved being a woman; she adored handsome men, and she loved life.”