Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Keiko Mecheri Gourmandises always makes me think of trying rose rahat lokum for the first time in Istanbul. Amid the marketplace, with its diverse noises, rapidly spoken sentences of bargaining partners, endless stream of people, clinking of cups containing dark tea, smells of cumin, fenugreek and grilled kebabs, the sensual sweetness of rose scented delicacies stands out as a vibrant memory. Whether it was really the most amazing thing I have tasted hardly matters.
Gourmandises, created by Yann Vasnier in 2004, is a fragrance that embodies both a concept of travel via scent and of abstract dessert. For all of its sweet notes (praline, bitter almonds, rose jam), it is not a conventionally gourmand fragrance. It does not smell of any particular dessert, but its dark sweetness with a somber, rich rose note hints at the presence of a mouthwatering confection. It opens up on a lush red rose heated by the sun. Rose petals are then immersed into sugar syrup, which is underscored by saffron. Saffron is what conjures a vision of jalebi, a North Indian dessert of golden fritters soaked in saffron syrup—a delectable interplay between crispy exterior with the soft spongy center. Shedding its radiant sweetness, Gourmandises caramelizes into a darker, spicier composition.
The drydown offers a whisper of my memory of rahat lokum, its sinful sweetness folded into the opulence of rose. Creamy richness embellished with sugared rose petals and bitter almonds is very enticing. Suddenly, I envision myself in Poona shopping for a sari—the rolls of brocaded silk and lavishly embroidered georgette are unfolded in quick succession. Next door is a halwai shop, the scents of its sweet offerings reaching the fabric store. Sumptuous color of silk, shimmer of gold embroidery, fragrance of almond fudge and rose syrup soaked milk balls are blurred in a mélange of sensory images that both overwhelm and mesmerize me.
Gourmandises is certainly a sweet fragrance, however what keeps it from becoming cloying is a beautiful medicinal tinge of saffron. A small amount suffices to be embraced by this comforting and sensual composition.
Photo: rose rahat lokum, lannicesnyman.com.