Gourmands are perfumes styled off of foods and sweets. Despite being somewhat maligned in the high brow fragrance community, they’re pretty well-represented in my collection.
There is one explanation that can be applied to both statements, which is that gourmands are easy to appreciate. After all, everyone likes food (a suspicious statement coming from an ex-anorexic, but here me out). Food scents are comforting because food is security. And you would be hard-pressed I think to find a fragrance appreciator who doesn’t have at least one tasty perfume of which they are fond (My Mom might not actually, so I might need to take that back).
Another reason gourmands are generally frowned on is that there has been a long-running furor for them in the mainstream, which has led to increasingly derivative fragrances with less and less quality.
But obviously there are still a lot of gourmands, both mainstream and otherwise, that have a lot in their favor, being high quality, inventive, and… well, yummy.
What follows is a short list of the six most straightforwardly gourmand fragrances in my wardrobe.
And by straightforward I mean I’m not counting veiled allusions to chocolate or honey, but rather fragrances for which I can point out pretty exactly analogous dishes or cultural cuisines.
And I’m not including fruity fragrances. Not because I don’t eat fruit (I eat a lot of fruit, thank you. I even have a personal watermelon in my fridge at the moment), but because traditionally they belong to a different perfume genre. And because this division makes for a more comprehensive list.
Reglisse Noire, 1000 Flowers:
Réglisse Noire literally translates as ‘black licorice’, so you get no prizes for guessing what this smells like. I always find that the smell of licorice is particularly appropriate for dry days, specifically autumn and less humid parts of summer. This one is a bit sheer for winter months, it doesn’t really pack the coziness you would want on below-freezing days. It’s got some nice herbaceous facets going on as well.
Bois Farine, L’Artisan Parfumeur:
Odd as it sounds, Bois Farine is undeniably a bread and peanut butter scent. The story of the launch is that Jean-Claude Ellena was inspired to create the fragrance after a trip to the Reunion Island forest and an introduction to an indigenous white aromatic tree whose blooms smell like flour. As expected, the fragrance is powdery, lightly toasted, nutty, a tad salty, a tad sweet. Yes, it is quirky, but the scent of skin has some definite similarities to the scent of flour (or at least my skin does, I don’t know about you), so it blends kind of perfectly. Especially because, like most L’Artisans and most of Ellena’s fragrances, it leans in a more gauzy direction. And I like very few perfumes that have savory aspects, so this recommendation is very meaningful (whereas I like everything licorice 😛 -but Reglisse Noire is my favorite). In any case, this one is definitely worth a try because it is like nothing else.
Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes, Etat Libre d’Orange:
Okay perhaps I lied unintentionally because this also leans savory. And it’s also a bit of an oddity- but perfect for summer, so seasonally appropriate (in my hemisphere). Anyway, it smells like Thai food- a mild curry, to be precise. It opens with a bright and zazzy lime, while the heart is all about tropical coconut, sharp and fresh ginger, steaming rice, and spicy green cardamom and shiso leaf. You may think I’m crazy now (honestly it’s always a possibility and if i were I wouldn’t know it) but it all works surprisingly well. Especially on the beach. In fact, I wouldn’t really care to wear this during any season but summer, and even then it really does open up best outdoors. But take my word for it; there come balmy days when there is nothing so appealing as being a steamy and tropical bowl of coconut rice.
Loukhoum, Keiko Mecheri:
There are so many perfumes that you may be completely at a loss as to which one(s) to try or buy, and for that I couldn’t blame you. I was lucky enough to have the choice made for myself when I ended up (completely by chance) with two generously sized spray samples of Loukhoum by Keiko Mecheri and Loukhoum Parfum du Soir by the same. I’ve been wearing them up slowly but surely for a few years and I now maintain that they are the best of the best loukhoum fragrances- and so familiar to me that I would probably be put off by any other. And no, there is really no significant difference between the original and the Soir flanker.
Obviously it smells like lokum/Turkish Delight, which you may have had or may remember from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe fame. They’re flavored gel confections commonly flavored with rosewater, orange, lemon, or mastic, generously covered in powdered sugar. And sometimes they even have chopped nuts and fruits and things. This scent is most evocative of the powdery sticky rosewater delicacy- one of the most traditional.
Unknown Pleasures, Kerosene:
It has little to do with the fragrance, but I find perfumer and Kerosene founder John Pegg’s story so original- he has been interested in scent all his life (something w have in common) and when he made the switch to independent perfumer he also brought his knowledge of automobile factories into his line’s packaging and display.
Unknown Pleasures is my great favorite from Kerosene, for the simple reason that it smells (and makes me smell) like lemon meringue. Light, lemony, and fluffy, but with the sweetness cut but an Earl Grey tea and bergamot accord just this side of overwhelming. For no reason I can point to, this fragrance has always been more ‘summer’ to me- perhaps because of the way it feels like pastels, or the citrus notes, or the way it melds perfectly with humidity and even rain. And don’t worry about it being cloying. Think tart.
Mahjoun, DSH Perfumes:
Like KM Loukhoum, Mahjoun belongs to an already well-populated genre on the fragrance map. I find this one to have more facets and thus more interest than the others it’s also thicker and definitely the one on this list that is best for deep winter wear. Mahjoun is described as being based on a luscious dessert- a Moroccan delicacy- and I would say that’s right on target. In my experience it’s closest to a fruitcake, but a bit too spicy and unfamiliar (god I don’t want to say exotic) for that to be right. It’s fruity (dates and fig), honeyed, nutty (hazelnut and almond), and spicy (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and cardamom). It’s super luscious and golden, and very ambery- in fact it leans so close to being an oriental that I wavered over including it in this list, but when I saw that I didn’t have any decidedly winter-focused fragrances (with the possible exception of Loukhoum, but even that is pretty versatile), I knew I had to let it in.
It’ll have to satisfy me until I can actually get to Morocco in person.
Tendre Madeleine, Laurence Dumont:
This is the big cheapie of the bunch (I think- my memory is that I didn’t pay for my bottle). Laurence Dumont has an expansive range and I can guarantee that this is the highlight (without having ever tried any others). You may be familiar with madeleines, particularly if you’re familiar with French baking and/or Proust. Madeleines are small shell-shaped sponge cakes, flavored with almond and lemon zest. Delightful thing to have with coffee or tea (ask Proust)- or in the case of the fragrance, a delightful thing to wear on crisp fall days. I swear my most ratty turtleneck sweater is permanently scented with this, or was until it was too ratty and I couldn’t even wear it for gardening any longer. So I do recommend madeleines both to eat and wear as fragrance.
You may have already heard of this as a ‘dupe’ for the offensively expensive Lira by Xerjoff- having tried both I can tell you with complete confidence that Tendre Madeleine is better- it’s crisper and more clearly defined. It also lasts better. I can only imagine buying Lira if you like that ridiculous packaging, and even that strains credulity. Tender Madeleine is also better than another so-called dupe of Lira, Molinard’s Ils d’Or, which has a particularly synthetic lemon note- it always gave me a headache when I was testing it.
More of the perfumes I like are what I think of as ‘abstract’ gourmands- fragrances with a food facet that don’t seem edible on the whole. These can be both more innovative and easier to wear (because you don’t feel completely like a delicacy)- but maybe not as comforting.
What are your favorite gourmands? Do you agree that everyone can find a gourmand to love?