Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum : Perfume Review

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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

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25 Comments

  • Suzanna: I have a soft, sweet spot for RL, since it was the first Lutens I tried. I enjoy a squirt or two every now and again, but not in public where it might be mistaken for fabric softener (more and more I avoid fragrances that might be associated with dryer sheets, fabric softeners, laundry detergents, pantiliners, baby oil/powder, or feminine hygiene products–the line is thin).

    I had trouble with Castelbajac as well, but I agree that it isn’t as dense! December 5, 2011 at 7:07am Reply

  • karin: Your post inspired me to test this one out this morning. I’ve had a small decant of it for months, and still hadn’t tried it. First blast is cough syrup! After an hour, it’s now smelling like musty baby powder? Another SL fail for me. The only one I like that I’ve tried is Bois de Violette. Guess SL is not my house… December 5, 2011 at 9:24am Reply

  • karin: Oh, and I love Castelbajac!!!! December 5, 2011 at 9:25am Reply

  • Victoria: The line is very thin! At times, functional products even smell better than the fine fragrances. December 5, 2011 at 12:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: Bois de Violette is one of my favorites too. A beautiful fragrance! December 5, 2011 at 12:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am so disappointed that the whole line is discontinued. December 5, 2011 at 12:33pm Reply

  • Elisa: I haven’t tried this one, but I hated Louve so I’ll be staying away.

    Have you tried DSH Mahjoun? It treads on similar territory, though it’s based on a Moroccan sweet rather than a Turkish one. It’s extremely rich with almond and rose notes as well as figs, dates, honey, spices and so on. Very gourmand but very delicious in small doses. December 5, 2011 at 1:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds delicious! I have not tried it, but I am adding it to my list to sample. I love fig and dried fruit notes in fragrances.

    Some prefer Rahat Loukoum to Louve, but to me, both are equally unpleasant. RL is perhaps even worse, because of its sticky, heavy musk base. December 5, 2011 at 1:40pm Reply

  • Elisa: I suspect you would like it — it has a very chewy texture like dried fruit, and an incense-y base. December 5, 2011 at 1:48pm Reply

  • karin: I know! I had a small spray sample of it a few years ago. Now I wish I had purchased a bottle when I had the chance! Just read on Fragrantica that it was created by Maurice Roucel? Didn’t know that! All the more reason to miss it. 🙁 December 5, 2011 at 3:18pm Reply

  • Tom: Interesting.. You hate it for the exact reasons I love it. If you want to get rid of yours let me know! December 5, 2011 at 4:36pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Victoria – In response to Elisa’s post, I second trying Majoun. It’s one of the few “exotic” gourmands that I truly love. Simply delicious! December 5, 2011 at 4:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: It was created by Roucel. I wonder what happened to the formula after the whole line bit the dust.

    You can still find it online time to time. December 5, 2011 at 5:02pm Reply

  • behemot: I used to like Louve, but after a while, there was something in its drydown, which bothered me… I found a sample of RL 3 days ago and applied some of the fragrance to my wrist. I am glad I did not put any more. Irritating, strange, unpleasant. At least on me.
    I have also tried Koukum by Keiko M. No success. December 5, 2011 at 5:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: Keiko Mecheri's Loukoum is so cloying on me that even in the name of fair experiment I cannot test it properly. Another fragrance that sounded great on paper. December 5, 2011 at 5:07pm Reply

  • Ari: A bold statement! I also thought that Rahat Loukoum smelled cheap, particularly because it reminded me very much of Carol’s Daughter Almond Cookie and a variety of other (significantly less expensive) almond scents. I do like Louve- it reminds me of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo! December 5, 2011 at 5:49pm Reply

  • behemot: Of course I misspelled Loukum. Sorry.
    Anyway, Loukum on me was much worse than SL RL. December 5, 2011 at 6:15pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: i only smelled it off a wax sample and my feeling was no! toooo sweet. December 5, 2011 at 7:54pm Reply

  • Rhisch: I so wanted to like RL. I love that chewy fake cherry smell,But it sticks to my sinuses and makes me feel like I’m running out of oxygen. It’s like how a bad Singapore sling tastes but smells….. You know what I mean?? December 5, 2011 at 8:50pm Reply

  • Victoria: That sounds even better!! December 6, 2011 at 9:50am Reply

  • Victoria: I have been giving away decants of it, so I probably have only a little bit left anyway. Just enough to enjoy the top notes. 🙂 December 6, 2011 at 9:50am Reply

  • Victoria: I will definitely look for it. It sounds interesting and I am all for exotic gourmands. December 6, 2011 at 9:51am Reply

  • Victoria: It is even sweeter on me in the liquid form. December 6, 2011 at 9:52am Reply

  • Victoria: That does not sound good at all! December 6, 2011 at 9:52am Reply

  • Victoria: That’s just it–one can find other less expensive almond fragrances. Almond Cookie is a good suggestion, and while it is sweeter and more buttery (RL is sweet and musky,) the almond note in it is very nice. December 6, 2011 at 9:54am Reply

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