Gourmand is a fragrance family I love for its instant mood booster potential. At the same, many contemporary high-calorie blends can test the limits of one’s tolerance for sweetness, and if you’re looking for a luscious, but not cloying, treat, the options can seem limited. One of the good lines to explore for abstract gourmands is Parfums de Nicolaï. Its founder, Patricia Nicolaï, is an heir to Guerlain’s tradition (a house famous for its trademark accord of vanilla, tonka bean and other delicious notes), both as a granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain, Jacques Guerlain‘s brother, and an innovative perfumer in her own right.
Kiss Me Tender, her take on the candy-smelling plant, heliotrope, could have been inspired by Guerlain’s Héliotrope Blanc (1870). It’s a dessert of vanilla and almonds, but the pastry illusion is kept in check by the realistic jasmine, orange blossom and ylang-ylang.
Kiss Me Tender is simple, achieving its effect with few bold accords. Before the alcohol even has a chance to evaporate from your skin, you’ll notice a sweet, woody note of vanilla beans, which will be the constant leitmotif. What happens when you combine vanilla and orange blossom, as Nicolaï does next? If you grew up eating French marshmallows, there is a similar impression in Kiss Me Tender that will make your mouth water for the following hour or so.
While at first the marshmallow in Kiss Me Tender is so clear that you can almost envision biting into a white, pillowy square, the sweetness is tempered by spicy orange and green anise. Their hints are delicate, but they’re enough to blend the edges and dilute the sugar. Kiss Me Tender won’t change dramatically over the course of its development, but as floral notes become deeper, it also moves between a white bouquet and a delicious morsel.
In my perfume wardrobe, Kiss Me Tender reappears the moment the days get shorter and colder. It has a bubbly, lighthearted personality, and its opulent layers feel warm and enveloping. The combination of vanilla and white flowers is not only gourmand; it’s also sunny and tropical, a perfect fantasy during our grey Belgian winters. Kiss Me Tender is one of the few truly seasonal perfumes I have, but what it lacks in versatility, it makes up for with its big character.
The sweetness and character of Kiss Me Tender are in between Kilian’s Love and Annick Goutal’s Songes. It’s more nuanced than the former and more one-dimensional than the latter, but like both, it’s carefully balanced and has a distinctive (and very long-lasting) presence. So, if you like your candy and want to smell like it too, Kiss Me Tender is a guilt free pleasure.
Since I’m always curious to try more gourmands without loads of sugar, I’d love to hear about your favorites.
Parfums de Nicolaï Kiss Me Tender Eau de Parfum includes notes of heliotrope, anise, almonds, fresh hay, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang ylang, cloves, cinnamon, woods, musks, vanilla. Available as an EDP of 30ml/$60 and 100 ml/$130. In the US, it’s sold at Luckyscent and Beautyhabit.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin