Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
In my 10 Perfumes I Should Love … But Do Not, Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum occupies the top spot. It contains everything I should enjoy, but the end result smells like a cross between a cheap almond candle and a cleaning product. It is also one of the most popular Lutens fragrance. One of the reasons I finally decided to write this review is to hear the views of those who love this fragrance and gladly wear it. Since all of us perceive fragrances slightly differently, perhaps I am missing something. As things stand however, Rahat Loukoum, inspired by the Turkish confection, is not much of a delight for me.
Created in 1998 by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, Rahat Loukoum is one of the most obvious gourmand fragrances in the Serge Lutens collection. Almond and rose serve as the main themes for this composition, and in principle, this should be an irresistible duo, especially when wrapped into the warm vanilla and musk. The immediate impression of Rahat Loukoum is the bright cherry sweetness, which makes me think of biting into a maraschino cherry and finding that it has an almond inside. This juicy, delicious impression is the only reason I still have a bottle of Rahat Loukoum. I love this sleight of the nose trick, even though it lasts but for few minutes.
Then Rahat Loukoum begins to fall apart. First I realize that it no longer evokes a delicious sweetmeat, but rather a brightly colored cough syrup. As the almond notes become sweeter and warmer, I cannot shake off the association with scented soft soap. The worst stage for me is the drydown, which is musky and sweet to the point of cloying. If you have ever tasted Turkish delight, you might know that sensation of the soft, sticky mass sticking to your teeth as you try to eat it. This is exactly what Rahat Loukoum replicates in olfactory terms—long after the almond and rose are gone, the opaque heft of musk stubbornly clings to the skin.
To be fair, the association of almond and cherry with functional products may not be the same for everyone, but if you are contemplating a blind purchase of Rahat Loukoum it is something to keep in mind. Serge Lutens has another almond accented composition in the export range, Louve, which is similarly sweet and nutty but easier to tolerate for those who are not found of rich musky notes. Neither fragrance, however, can compete with Castelbajac by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac (red bottle), a perfume that smelled like marzipan and acacia flowers. Playful and delicious, it was nevertheless airy and refined. Although discontinued, Castelbajac can still be found online at reasonable prices.
Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum is part of the exclusive range available from Palais Royal Shiseido. It includes notes of aldehydes, almond, cherry, hawthorn, Turkish rose, heliotrope, white honey, vanilla, tonka bean, balsam and musk.
Sample: my own acquisition