Chocolate, Violets, Bread : A Call for New Gourmands

My grandmother’s Easter bread is a lacy confection of butter and sugar. Glazed with chocolate and decorated with flowers, it looks like a Byzantine mosaic. Redolent of bitter cacao and violets, it doesn’t just smell good. I realize with a thrill that it smells like a complete perfume–the top note of violet, the heart of hazelnuts and wheat, and the lingering backdrop of musky chocolate. Take this idea, refine it into an accord–a combination of several perfume notes that becomes more than the sum of its parts–and voila, you can use it to create a new gourmand genre. Sounds fanciful, but this is how perfume is made.

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On the face of it, it seems as if the gourmand genre has captured every dessert, from crème brûlée (Aquolina Pink Sugar) to cupcakes (Vera Wang Princess), from rice pudding (Tommy Hilfiger True Star) to raspberry macarons (Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire). You can have your chocolate with cinnamon (Pacifica Mexican Cocoa), with caramel (Thierry Mugler Angel), or with honey (Tom Ford Noir de Noir).

The selection seems endless, until you notice that the majority of gourmand accords are riffs on popular French and American patisserie. Not to mention that the bulk of today’s gourmands owes its existence to the patchouli-cotton candy accord made familiar by Mugler’s Angel. Since the majority of perfumers and creative directors are American or European (usually French), their background influences their inspiration and palette. Since the biggest perfume markets are the North American and European, the tastes of these consumers get the most attention.

As the perfume business becomes increasingly more corporate and far-reaching (find me the land where Coty has feared to tread), the olfactory idea of “mouthwatering” is narrowed down to cotton candy and vanilla custards. Browse the lists of regional top sellers, and the same Lancôme La Vie est Belle, Thierry Mugler Angel and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle show up time and again. Big beauty groups are perfectly placed to popularize their products through clever marketing, but to draw inspiration from new sources requires a completely different approach, and here they fail. One product doesn’t fit all, despite their best efforts.

I love the gourmand fragrance family, and I reach for Angel and Pink Sugar whenever I want utter indulgence and fun. What frustrates me about today’s gourmand offerings is the narrow focus. Crème caramel is swell, but I want to experience perfumes inspired by Asian, Iranian or Latin American flavors. It’s not the exoticism I’m after, but diversity. The incredible richness of the world’s cuisines is exciting, and when you have all of the ingredients and information at your fingertips, there is no excuse to stick to the same collection of accords.

For instance, Indian burfi, cardamom and chickpea flour fudge, would be an ideal candidate for a gourmand with its toasty, caramelized, spicy profile. I imagine a Bengali rice crepe stuffed with brown sugar and coconut, all accented with jasmine, as a new tropical gourmand. Or a Persian pilaf flavored with apricots and saffron for a novel twist in a woody oriental. Or closer to home, a smoky dried fruit used in Ukrainian uzvar. I long to smell these smoky, incense-like plums in a fragrance: as a nuance in a patchouli rose, mossy chypre or violet cedarwood.

Perfume marketeers love to remark that people just “want to smell good”and that such notes are “too unusual for an average American buyer.” Enough with this nonsense already is all I can say. People certainly want to smell good, but they also crave an emotional charge, excitement and fantasy. Now that we have been bombarded by the endless Angel clones for 20 years, it may be hard to imagine that this lush gourmand was anything but the norm at the time of its debut. So, go ahead, thrill me!

If you search long enough, you can find gourmands with a difference. They mostly exist on the fringes of the mainstream.  Arquiste Anima Dulcis concocts an ancient bitter chocolate recipe, lacing it with animalic notes and dark spices. Hermessence Vétiver Tonka has a hint of walnut brioche, with a touch of caramelized fruit. The salty notes of vetiver make the whole thing addictive. Tom Ford Noir Extreme is inspired by kulfi, an Indian caramelized milk and rosewater ice cream. Kilian’s Intoxicated reinterprets a cup of Arabic coffee spiced with green cardamom. Guess Seductive Homme–disregard the anodyne name; it’s more fresh than sultry–has a terrific milky cardamom fillip in the top notes.

Or take a different approach and try Guerlain’s Shalimar, Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue and pay attention to the edible accents that hide in their classical, so familiar, forms–smoky vanilla, stewed peaches and candied anise seeds. Mouthwatering and still distinctive.

So, imagine that you’re a perfumer with a brief to design a new gourmand fragrance. What would you create? (Also, if you have your favorite “unusual” gourmands, please share. We always love learning more about this underrated category.)

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, paski, Ukrainian Easter breads and uzvar, dried fruit compote.

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180 Comments

  • LB: Your idea is great! It sounds EXACTLY like a Pierre Guillaume perfume (Parfumerie Generale.) He does sophisticated sweets and chocolate-y perfumes, and he also loves wheaty notes. Seriously, I hope he’s reading this, because I want to sample this perfume. April 15, 2015 at 7:20am Reply

    • Victoria: He had a perfume I liked very much, a mix of hazelnuts and chocolate. I don’t remember its name, but I think that it was discontinued. April 15, 2015 at 2:58pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: What mouthwatering pictures! You cannot buy something as good as this, you have to be an excellent cook yourself. And what an interesting article. I hope some perfumer will read it and be inspired, notably by that smokey plum. But this perfumer should also find a company for realisation and marketing.
    I still regret the strong plumnote in the vintage Femme.
    Your article reminded me of the banana in Sirah des Indes.
    I guess nobody would like to smell of my favoured eating…frites..herring…salmon..tomatosauce..I cannot think of composing a perfume after my taste.
    Btw: La Petite Robe Noire reminded me not of macarons, but of sweet black cherries, am I wrong? April 15, 2015 at 7:45am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Maybe Serge Lutens could do something. After all, he and Chris Sheldrake created Arabie and Bornéo 1834 already. April 15, 2015 at 8:01am Reply

      • Victoria: Oh, yes, Borneo 1834 (which also inspired Chanel Coromandel) is a great abstract gourmand. April 15, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

      • solanace: Agree! Chris Sheldrake is the gourmand lover’s best friend. April 16, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

    • Becky: I get a cherry cola vibe from the LPRN EDP. 🙂 April 15, 2015 at 9:27am Reply

      • Victoria: That version is especially cherry like to me too. April 16, 2015 at 5:05am Reply

    • Mary P.: And I get sour cherry from LPRN, which is a fruit that I dearly love 🙂 April 15, 2015 at 12:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I made it using my grandmother’s recipe, but she decorated (and made the rest of the Easter dinner). Yes, you can’t find this kind of pastry in stores. It takes more than 48 hours to make. The closest thing would be Italian panettone.

      I also smell black cherries in La Petite Robe Noire. April 15, 2015 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Gil: You had me salivating at the screen, Victoria! I suppose it never occurred to me that the gourmand fragrances we know are so limited, but you’re absolutely right. There is a wonderful dessert I’ve had in Israel called Kanafeh: “a neon orange pastry with a crust of shredded phyllo dough or semolina filled with soft goat cheese and drenched in syrup.” (Wikipedia) It’s absolutely delicious and would make an ideal fragrance. April 15, 2015 at 8:48am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re making me hungry, Gil! I love kanafeh, which I get from a Lebanese shop in Brussels. They flavor theirs with orange blossom water. April 15, 2015 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Sandra: I have tried , and have always failed to make Muhallabiah pudding (with out the rice). I even make the rose water with tried petals a friend brought me back from Jordan. I also grind my own cardamom seeds. The pudding never gets thick- which really upsets me!
    I love the smell- makes me think it would be a great perfume.
    For gourmet tea spice I love Journey Woman April 15, 2015 at 9:19am Reply

    • Sandra: Today I am wearing Quarter Latin my Memo and its a good gourmet Tonka bean with amber April 15, 2015 at 9:48am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re probably not adding enough rice flour or starch, whatever you’re using. What proportions did you follow?

      Also, I agree, it would make a great perfume, a creamy, milky rose with cardamom. April 16, 2015 at 5:02am Reply

      • sandra: I do one cup condensed milk to one cup whole milk and 3 tablespoons of corn starch. Any suggestions? April 16, 2015 at 11:44am Reply

        • Victoria: My recipe is more along these lines:
          http://www.food.com/recipe/balouza-muhallabia-fragrant-milk-pudding-186404

          I haven’t tried condensed milk in the recipe, just plain milk, but I imagine some condensed milk would be delicious. April 17, 2015 at 2:44pm Reply

          • Sandra: I will give this recipe a try! Thank you very much April 18, 2015 at 7:11am Reply

            • Victoria: Hope that it will work. If your pudding is too thin, you can always dilute a small amount of starch in milk and add it to the mixture. Put it back on fire and stir well, while checking the consistency. April 19, 2015 at 8:26am Reply

  • Aurora: This is a wonderful article Victoria, so well argumented, accompanied by these simply scrumptious photos, I don’t know how perfumers could resist you and not listen to your plea! Your grandmother is an artist too!

    Like you I deplore they don’t get more adventurous with their gourmands.

    My favourite gourmand? L’Instant Magique with its almond biscotti note. I must confess it’s the Guerlain I find easiest to wear. And naturally they had to go and discontinue it; La Petite Robe Noire doesn’t work for me alas, it goes all synthetic on my skin. April 15, 2015 at 9:22am Reply

    • Aurora: Oh, how could I forget my new favorite Sables discovered thanks to the traveling box. April 15, 2015 at 10:15am Reply

      • Victoria: So glad that you found something new to love thanks to the project! 🙂 April 16, 2015 at 5:13am Reply

    • Victoria: She is! 🙂

      Gosh, I loved L’Instant Magique and was getting ready to buy a bottle when it got discontinued. Such a pity. April 16, 2015 at 5:04am Reply

  • Becky: I’ve always wanted a perfume that smells like Asian seseme candy. Ambre Narguile has a similar honeyed vibe, but I feel it would need to amp up the toasted seseme. April 15, 2015 at 9:26am Reply

    • limegreen: Becky — Ha, didn’t see your comment, I was writing my comment (below) just as you posted yours! We are both on a sesame vibe.
      It’s not sesame candy but there’s a touch of it in the new diptyque. 🙂 April 15, 2015 at 9:33am Reply

      • Becky: I think we’re on to something here! April 16, 2015 at 10:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: That would be a good idea. Sesame note was used in Armani, but the effect was too subtle. April 16, 2015 at 5:05am Reply

  • limegreen: (mouth watering as I write this)
    Hear, hear, more diversity in gourmand interpretations would be great. 🙂
    Thank you for such a stimulating post! I now wonder if I do not “care” for gourmands as a general rule because the ones I have access to, they smell mostly the same, so I don’t venture to sample more.
    I had to try the new Diptyque Florabellio is lovely (conjuring osmanthus, not osmanthus soliflore), it’s not gourmand per se, but the drydown is a touch of sesame (and coffee grounds, not heavy like an espresso bar scent).
    My impression was of the “sesame biscuits” Lent cookies (with a taste of Greek coffee) we had in Athens — they were for Lent because they were not very sweet or rich with butter. It’s a new perfume smell for me, and maybe a new perfume genre is opening up for me!

    I think some traditional Chinese “sweets” with roasted sesame would be great for diversity. There’s a classic dessert soup with “sweet rice flour (mochi) balls filled with roasted black sesame paste” and the “soup” is a little of the starchy water that these balls are boiled in, sprinkled with dried fragrant osmanthus blossoms. If one had a lot of dried osmanthus blossoms, then the blossoms are also mixed with the sesame filling, but that’s a real luxury. It seems only possible for those who have osmanthus growing in their yard and then dry a lot of blossoms (and I mean a lot). April 15, 2015 at 9:31am Reply

    • Sandra: Have you ever dried Joirney Woman- lots of osmanthus April 15, 2015 at 11:25am Reply

      • limegreen: Yes I love Journey Woman and will make my sample last as long as I can! I have a lot of osmanthus fragrances . It’s sort of a quest. One of my favorites is Osmanthe Yunnan. Do you have a thing about osmanthus too? April 15, 2015 at 6:42pm Reply

        • sandra: Yes! I do have a thing for it!
          Lets share our osmanthus perfume findings April 15, 2015 at 8:28pm Reply

          • limegreen: Oh, goody!
            Have you tried Florabellio?
            Osmanthe Yunnan is osmanthus and tea and Florabellio is osmanthus/floral and sesame coffee!
            Nicolai Fig Tea is a pretty good osmanthus, believe it or not. Providence Perfumes Osmanthus Oolong Tea is dark and lovely osmanthus absolute (not the light blossom)
            How about your finds? 🙂 April 15, 2015 at 9:20pm Reply

            • Sandra: Sunshine by Amouage is also good..
              Memo has Inle, nice but not with the $ on a full bottle .
              If you like leather Daime Blonde by SL

              My fav is Journey Woman April 16, 2015 at 2:06pm Reply

              • limegreen: Yes, Daim Blond is very nice! I will have to give Sunshine a sniff and thanks for the intro to Memo Inle. Not familiar with this line. 🙂 April 16, 2015 at 3:16pm Reply

                • sandra: Let me know what you think! April 17, 2015 at 7:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Many Chinese sweet snacks would make excellent perfume accords–chestnuts and honey, pears and osmanthus jam, almonds jelly and lychee. In fact, one perfumer who has explored some of the most unusual gourmand ideas so far is Vietnamese, Loc Dong. He created Euphoria by Calvin Klein, which uses many unusual tropical fruits, but it’s still based on the Angel-like idea of patchouli and cotton candy. At any rate, perfumers don’t lack imagination; it’s the brand managers who stick to the tried and true. April 16, 2015 at 5:09am Reply

      • limegreen: A pear osmanthus perfume would be gorgeous!
        L’eau d’Hiver has an almond note that does make me think of almond jelly, or at least really fragrant almond extract. 🙂 April 16, 2015 at 9:56am Reply

        • Victoria: There is another fragrance that does an almond note well, Castelbajac, but it might be discontinued. April 17, 2015 at 2:36pm Reply

          • limegreen: Thanks!, and by Marcel Roucel! It is discontinued but may be available elsewhere. April 19, 2015 at 12:20pm Reply

            • Victoria: He is another perfumer genius. April 20, 2015 at 9:28am Reply

  • The Scented Salon: My goodness, there are so many good gourmands that come to mind. I dislike Angel for its excess but well-known beauties like Gourmand Coquin, Spiritueuse Double Vanille, Aoud Gourmet and others prove that sweet does not have to be boring.

    Some lesser know “dessert” perfumes are Aziyade, which smells exactly like uzvar (spice and dried fruit) as well as Sahleb, which smells like rosewater pudding. Delicious!

    Laura Mercier has a good range of gourmands that smell delicious and are nicely priced. Also, Perfumes by Terri carries mouthwatering scents that smell like boozy vanilla extract, burnt creme brulee and rose confit.

    I could go on and on. My all-time favorite gourmand is Ambre Narguile and its cousins Oajan, Helium, Or du Serail and Sacre Tabac Sucre. April 15, 2015 at 9:43am Reply

    • Victoria: Who makes Sahleb?

      Love your other ideas! April 16, 2015 at 5:10am Reply

      • Karen: Such wonderful memories of delicious sahlab when we go to Turkey, yummmm. A perfume that captures it’s fragrance would be wonderful. April 16, 2015 at 7:59am Reply

        • The Scented Salon: Yes I drank it there too. Well, more like slurped it because it is so thick. Totally delicious in a perfume. April 16, 2015 at 9:02am Reply

          • Karen: You probably know this, but the ingredient that makes sahhlab what it is is powdered orchid root. Cheaper brands will use a thickner such as corn starch and sweetner/sugar, but real sahlab uses an orchid from central Anatolia. April 16, 2015 at 5:45pm Reply

            • Hannah: I want to try real sahlab so badly. I’ve had it before, but I’m 99% sure it was a fake sahlab because I think you can only have the real thing in Turkey due to trade restrictions? What I had was still good tasting, though. April 16, 2015 at 6:16pm Reply

              • Karen: It is really delicious! I know there are different varieties here – around Northen Va/DC area there are numerous Turkish markets, but the best variety I’ve had was at a pastry shop chain in Istanbul (the name of which escapes me). If you can get to the Mediteranean Bakery in Alexandria, they carry high quality goodies and they should have it there. It’s really more of a winter time drink in Turkey, but no reason why you can’t have some now! April 17, 2015 at 5:33am Reply

        • Victoria: I love sahlab too. Such a rich musky, violet-like aroma. April 17, 2015 at 2:27pm Reply

      • The Scented Salon: Ayala Moriel. April 16, 2015 at 9:01am Reply

  • Michaela: Well, that’s a cake! 🙂
    Another vote for diversity in the gourmand genre.

    Me… I may try linden blossom, or maybe honeysuckle, with honey. Think of a tisane made of linden blossoms. Rose jam is another scent I would love to capture in a perfume, and felt it in some attars.

    Kenzo Jungle, though not a gourmand, seems very mouthwatering to me, with all the spices and pastry and dried fruit there. April 15, 2015 at 9:49am Reply

    • Erry: I agree. All I get from Kenzo Jungle is spices with a bright opening. It kind of remind me of an Indonesian traditional drink “bandrek” that uses ginger, cinnamon, anise, cloves and other spices, although it is sweeter and creamier with palm sugar and young coconut meat. April 15, 2015 at 11:09am Reply

    • Victoria: A good linden tisane fragrance is in order. A very underrated note. April 16, 2015 at 5:11am Reply

      • Austenfan: With some chestnut honey! April 17, 2015 at 2:41pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Favourite gourmands? The almond and vanilla in Hypnotic Poison. And the dark coffee in Angel Le Goût du Parfum. April 15, 2015 at 9:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Hypnotic Poison is terrific! April 16, 2015 at 5:12am Reply

  • Julie Zamborini: Oh! Violet cedarwood! What a nice idea. And I’d blind buy the Bengali rice crepe with sugar, coconut, and Jasmine no questions asked! April 15, 2015 at 10:28am Reply

    • Victoria: If you have a violet cedarwood craving, I definitely recommend Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois and Estee Lauder Sensuous. There is also Tom Ford Plum Japonais, but it’s very expensive (and not sure if it rivals Feminite du Bois), April 16, 2015 at 5:14am Reply

      • Anne-Catherine: Hi Victoria, feminite du bois, my Luckyscent since it was launched is such a beauty and a memory for all the most special days in my life. I could write a book about it and all THE different ways I wore it when it was available from shiseido as an eau de parfum, eau timide, perfume, the brilliant perfumepen and the bodyveil,… IT has always been in my wardrobe untill two years ago when I bought plum japonais. Plum japonais is very Nice too if iT likes to behave like feminite. Sometimes it’s very linear and smells more like a bitter licorice. Then i’m dissapointed. But when it behaves well, it’s like a modern version of feminite. Then it also gives THE sensation you just had a bath, I think iT has a bit of heliotrope in it. I tried to figure out why it behaves So differently, i’m almost sure it’s due to THE temperature or humidity. When it’s cold, it’s more like licorice, more fdb during spring. I prefer feminite du bois, even in its reformulated version. April 16, 2015 at 12:21pm Reply

        • Karen: FdB layered over L’heure Bleue is gorgeous – adds depth and warmth. April 16, 2015 at 1:21pm Reply

          • Anne-Catherine: Thanks for the tip Karen! I don’t know l’heure bleue yet, but next wednesday it’s my birthday. A reason to justify going to place vendome to discover it, iT sounds gorgeous reading Victoria’s review. Justify: iT should be a guiltfree pleasure… April 18, 2015 at 7:20am Reply

            • Karen: Fun! And happy (early) birthday! Give it a try – I’ve written before that I wore it as a teen (!!!), and can only assume it was because an impossibly chic SA at Garfinkles must have recommended it. Definitely not a fragrance most teens would have worn! (Although the Guerlain SA at Saks was saying that many young women are buying Jicky and the older classics) Post your impressions – it’s always fun to read how a perfume works or doesn’t work. April 18, 2015 at 9:28am Reply

              • Anne-Catherine: Hi Karen, I’ll tell you about my impressions. Lol with your experience with the SA. Here in Belgium we have the same problem. If you want to buy a perfume in a mainstream perfumeshop, just make sure you will be your OWN guide because every time they end up advising you Coco mademoiselle! No wonder we only smell coco mademoiselle on the street. There are a few exceptions, like parfuma in Antwerp. April 19, 2015 at 9:14am Reply

              • Anne-Catherine: Hi Karen, yesterday I managed to go and find l’heure bleue and layer it with Fdb. Pure french woody sophistication and they like to play with each other. Sometimes i get a powdery fdb, then the violet in fdb is emphasized, sometimes l’heure gives fdb a beeswax note… It’s like the bold fdb becomes more feminin. Thanks for the tip! I enjoy it a lot! April 26, 2015 at 3:02am Reply

        • Victoria: For all of my initial infatuation with Plum Japonais, it never grew into a real love for me. I like it, but I rarely crave it. April 17, 2015 at 3:31pm Reply

          • Anne-Catherine: You are right, plum japonais might be exceptional, it’s not worth its price or 5 stars. It’s my first and only Tom ford purchase, before I had sworn never to buy any of it, because it’s too expensive and for me the package and ads are over the top, too glamorous, at the limit of being vulgar even. But I love his film. I like True lust being a chameleon, as it not only develops during THE day but can also act differently because of THE weather. But with plum japonais if it’s a linear licorice, it doesn ‘t justify the price. April 18, 2015 at 7:28am Reply

            • Victoria: Sorry that it was such a letdown. Yes, on me, it’s quite linear, without many layers. April 19, 2015 at 8:27am Reply

              • Anne-Catherine: I remember I hesitated between fleurs de chine and PJ. Woody notes are my favorite and PJ is a good perfume after all, but iT won’t stay in my wardrobe after finishing the bottle. Good for my wallet! April 19, 2015 at 9:18am Reply

                • Victoria: At that price it better be perfect! April 20, 2015 at 9:27am Reply

                  • Anne-Catherine: And to me feminite du bois is perfect, nothing compares to fdb, but of course that’s only my opinion. April 20, 2015 at 10:03am Reply

                    • Victoria: Oh, I completely agree, Anne-Catherine. I haven’t found anything that compares. April 20, 2015 at 11:51am

  • Julie Zamborini: My daughter is a big fan of Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Vanille Abricot. Tropical and delicious, affordable. April 15, 2015 at 10:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, that whole line is a lot of fun. April 16, 2015 at 5:15am Reply

  • spe: Vetiver Tonka or l’heure bleue is as far as I can go into gourmand territory. I find most gourmands tiresome and occasion specific (kind of like a histrionic coworker). They’re not broad enough to capture what I need in a fragrance and don’t resonate emotionally with me. Whew!

    But the Easter bread looks exquisite! April 15, 2015 at 10:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Fair enough! I also can’t wear gourmands every single day, but of course, they have their place. It’s not a coincidence that in time of stress or economic crisis, sales of sweet oriental perfumes (that’s where gourmands belong) increase. April 16, 2015 at 5:16am Reply

  • Elisa: I really love Intoxicated!

    I’ve mentioned it before, but Mahjoun is an unusually exotic gourmand with spices, dates, honey and all kinds of delicious Middle Eastern things. Very rich, no fruitchouli in sight.

    Also, Aomassai is a weird salty hazelnut gourmand. Coze, too — patchouli interpreted as hot (as in spicy hot) chocolate. April 15, 2015 at 11:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Aomassai is an interesting perfume, and it makes me think of my grandmother’s spice cupboard where she also stores vanilla sugar, coffee and tea. April 16, 2015 at 5:18am Reply

  • Austenfan: Diptyque did some interesting “gourmand” fragrances when they first started. Virgilio is like a bouquet of herbs while L’Autre seems to be more about spices. Very abstract though and probably not uniformly pleasing.

    Reading your post I remembered the discussion you had with Denyse about Manoumalia, where she suggested that using a French structure but olfactory input from other continents might be the way forward for perfumery. ( I hope I remember correctly) Great post, and there can never be too many smoky fragrances. April 15, 2015 at 12:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s been done for at least 10 years, if not longer, in the Middle East, leading to the rise of the so-called French-Oriental or French-Arabian style of perfumery. Most of it is not that interesting, at least not when compared to the traditional Middle Eastern blends. I remember in Oman seeing a shop called the Swiss-Arabian Perfume, which essentially took Givaudan and Firmenich’s bases and added local ingredients. But this is still a limited idea, because the French perfume structure itself needs innovation. Just consider that the last major innovation in the perfumery structure happened in the 80s with Sophia Grojsman’s “see all facets at once” compositions. April 16, 2015 at 5:24am Reply

      • Austenfan: “What I find interesting in this is that clearly this fragrance draws on non-Western olfactory codes despite its French structure. To me this is a possible way forward for creative perfumery.”

        That is the exact quote.

        Don’t you think that part of the problem is the fact that perfumers don’t have room to breathe? On to the next launch etc. I don’t know as I am not too familiar with the industry. When Cleese was interviewed on Dutch TV he mentioned that he and the Python team more or less had carte blanche to find their own feet in making TV. And later as well. He needs emptiness to become creative. Just my 2 rambling cents. April 16, 2015 at 6:04am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, that’s how I understood this.

          The number of projects and the pace of launches is partly to blame, but many perfumers do have terrific ideas. When you’re truly creative (but, of course, not all perfumers are), you will find time to work on new ideas. Plus, so many projects are what Sophia calls “perfumery by numbers”–take a GC formula of a well-known fragrance, adjust the top note or something in the middle, make sure it’s no budget, mix and serve. Not very glamorous. The main problem is that the brands are not willing to take risks and launch without market testing creations to near death. April 16, 2015 at 6:16am Reply

          • Austenfan: Which is another point Cleese made. These days the Beeb (amongst others) is no longer willing to take risks and has focus groups and what have you. He also said that when you do something original in comedy few people get it at first, which must be similar with perfume.

            On another note, your Easter feast looks wonderful, the pink decorations included! Do daffodils grow in Ukraine? I mean are there daffodils? April 16, 2015 at 7:10am Reply

            • solanace: I wish I saw that interview. I deeply love Cleese and Monthy Python. Watched The Meaning of Life for the n-th time not long ago, and it still amazes me how good it is! April 16, 2015 at 2:39pm Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, there are daffodils here, many different kinds. But I haven’t seen them blooming yet, because it’s still a bit cold. I can’t wait for blossoms! April 17, 2015 at 2:26pm Reply

              • Austenfan: My garden is smelling of them right now. I was just thinking looking at the pictures of your grandmother’s garden how well daffies would look there! April 17, 2015 at 2:41pm Reply

                • Victoria: We need to plant them again, especially since we have so much space. But my grandmother can do only so much in the garden, and my visits don’t always overlap with the planting times. I’m hoping to plant some summer flowers next week. April 17, 2015 at 3:41pm Reply

                  • Austenfan: I could always get you some bulbs, they need to be planted before the frosts set in. I plant mine in early November,but I imagine they would need to be planted a little earlier in Ukraine.
                    After that they need very little maintenance. April 17, 2015 at 3:51pm Reply

                    • Victoria: Thank you so much! I would love to spend the fall here, to see leaves changing color and to plant spring flowers. Today I spent most of the day whitewashing trees. The garden looks so festive already, even without blossoms. April 17, 2015 at 3:57pm

  • Robert H.: I was fairly iffy about gourmands in general until I discovered Perfumes By Terri, a small boutique line from California. Her gourmands turned me around with their complexity and subtle notes. Now I can’t get enough! April 15, 2015 at 2:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds great! I haven’t tried this line. April 16, 2015 at 5:24am Reply

  • Hannah: I’ve wanted a burfi perfume for a while. I really hoped the Indian pastry in Mohur would be more pronounced; I actually expected it to be a gourmand. But that wasn’t even their intention so I suppose I can’t complain too much.

    If I were to release a gourmand, it would be based on condensed milk!!
    I think sesame could be used more in perfume. I’d like to see more chestnut as well, but I’m not sure it works very well. April 15, 2015 at 2:38pm Reply

    • Annikky: I am a devoted fan of condensed milk. And caramel. And condensed milk with caramel. April 15, 2015 at 3:15pm Reply

    • limegreen: A few years back Jo Malone had a limited series Tea Collection and besides ‘teas’ they had 3 accompanying perfumes to go with the tea: Lemon, Mint, and the third was Milk and Honey,
      the Milk and Honey was exactly condensed milk! April 15, 2015 at 9:37pm Reply

      • limegreen: Sweet Milk (not Milk and Honey) April 15, 2015 at 9:41pm Reply

        • Hannah: Yes, I wanted to try it but then it was gone :'(. Demeter has a Condensed Milk but I don’t know if it’s good or not. April 16, 2015 at 2:02am Reply

          • limegreen: apparently lots of people love condensed milk, too! April 16, 2015 at 1:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Mohur is not much a gourmand, I agree. It reads on me as a big, rich rose with lots of dark woods and sandalwood, especially.

      I also would love to see more chestnut notes. April 16, 2015 at 5:27am Reply

  • Annikky: This article says everything I think, only much better. Aziyade is probably the closest to a gourmand that I own, although I like Angel and it’s flankers a lot, even the sugar one.

    And to inject some nordic austerity to the discussion, I nominate kama with kefir and honey for the next gourmand bestseller. April 15, 2015 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t met an Angel flanker I didn’t like. I even like some of them better than the original.

      Another nordic gourmand that needs to be popularized is a cardamom bun. Or saffron and cardamom bun. Seriously, nordic desserts are underrated, not just in perfumes. April 16, 2015 at 5:30am Reply

    • spe: We had kama for the first time in Estonia last summer. It’s refreshing and delicious! April 16, 2015 at 9:43am Reply

      • Annikky: Glad you liked it! Some people find it a bit unusual, but it’s a nice alternative to very sweet desserts. April 17, 2015 at 7:45am Reply

  • Tati: Love this article! There is a Middle Eastern drink served in the summer that would make a wonderful perfume inspiration: jallab. It is made with grape molasses, dates and rose water, then smoked with Arabic incense, especially frankincense. Golden raisins and pine nuts are floated in it. April 15, 2015 at 3:45pm Reply

    • sandra: I will take one! April 15, 2015 at 8:26pm Reply

      • Karen: Seriously, me too! April 16, 2015 at 8:03am Reply

    • Victoria: Tati, your idea is brilliant! I can already smell this perfume. Hope that someone could make it for us. April 16, 2015 at 5:31am Reply

  • Ann: You write so beautifully, Victoria.
    Thank you. April 15, 2015 at 4:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your nice words, Ann. April 16, 2015 at 5:31am Reply

  • rainboweyes: The description of the cake made me think of Equistrius – not a real gourmand, I think, but just gourmand enough for my taste 🙂 April 15, 2015 at 4:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can see what you mean! 🙂

      My grandmother and I considered to try another cake recipe soon–a white bean cake, which takes of chestnuts and hazelnuts. April 16, 2015 at 5:32am Reply

  • LaDomna: I love my gourmands! From simple but delicious chocolates and vanillas to the more unusual ones! Though I guess I am more fond of the latter category… My signature is the surypy sweet sherry wine of Slumberhouse Zahd. I am also deeply in love with the caramelized dried fruit gingerbread of TF Tobacco Vanille and the burnt sugar creme brulee of Perfumes by Terri Douceur Brulee- But, for all their unique features, these are all still firmly in the western European sphere. On the more exotic end I really enjoy all the various takes on turkish delights like ther KM Loukhoums and SL Louve. I also enjoy tropical fruits and coconut like the coconut daiquiri Creed Virgin Island Water, the coconut banana of PdF Vittoria Apuana or the tropical fruits of CSP Vanille Abricot.

    But if I were to create a gourmand perfume myself I would go in a different direction. I love gourmands that toe the line, that are intensely sweet and gourmand but that also have other elements. I would for example love a gourmand perfume inspired by shisha bars. I imagine a concoction of shisha tobacco, really fruity and moist but still strong on the tobacco, some dates, some spices, some candied nuts, some honey… April 15, 2015 at 5:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Another wonderful idea for a perfume. Sweet cherry tobacco and spices would be interesting. Have you tried Serge Lutens Arabie? It doesn’t have the tobacco part, but all else is there, including honey. April 16, 2015 at 5:33am Reply

  • Jennifer C: I love the Middle Easter spice mixture za’atar. I think it’s mostly sumac, thyme and sesame, with the sumac giving it its tart, lemony flavor. I’ve kind of wanted to base an idea around this accord, maybe with saffron and cedarwood, and maybe a wheat note. April 15, 2015 at 6:50pm Reply

    • Jennifer C: I’m hungry, and reading this post isn’t helping..lol. I want to try all these things people are mentioning, like burfi and bandrek and jallab, all of which sound delicious. April 15, 2015 at 6:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Even better, a savory gourmand idea! April 16, 2015 at 5:33am Reply

  • Ariadne: Oh brudda! I am trying to shed my winter hibernation weight and these gorgeous cake pic’s are leading me astray!
    I can tell when a cubicle mate is enjoying a breakfast with eggs doused in Tabasco and I would try create a gourmand perfume that has that element. It might go with chocolate or musk. At any rate it would be quirky! April 15, 2015 at 7:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I can imagine that it would be quirky.

      All of the delicious things people are mentioning made me race to have another slice of cake. April 16, 2015 at 5:34am Reply

  • AndreaR: I’d like a fragrance that smells just like that gorgeous Easter bread topped off with a bit of beeswax and incense. April 15, 2015 at 8:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, that’s even better! April 16, 2015 at 5:34am Reply

  • Andy: Hmm…I think maybe I’d enjoy a gourmand perfume based around the scent of a plum tart, maybe like a Zwetschgendatschi. It’s perhaps a bit more prosaic a scent than many described already, but it’s a very particular fragrance to me, one that many here probably know and love. As the heat softens the ripe plums and they begin to swell and stream those rubescent juices, this great tart aroma rises forth, one that makes my mouth water instantly. And then the buttery, egg-enriched crust begins to color, permeating the space with the scent of goldenness, at least that’s how I think of it. Together, the two aromas are among my favorites to rise out of the oven in the whole calendar year.

    Oh, and I love your grandmother’s pig-shaped sprinkles! What fun! April 16, 2015 at 12:11am Reply

    • Hannah: Weird, I know the word Zwetschgen, but I had never heard of Datschi so I looked it up. I know the cake as Pflaumenkuchen. Which is shorter and easier to say. Is it commonly known as Zwetschgendatschi in regions of the US? I never heard of plum cake at all until I went to Germany. I don’t think it’s really a common thing in the DC metro area. April 16, 2015 at 1:57am Reply

      • Victoria: It’s a Bavarian word, from what I understand. I’m a bit obsessed with plum desserts, so when traveling in Bavaria, I looked for the classical Bayerischer Zwetschgendatschi, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’d love it in a perfume form. April 16, 2015 at 5:37am Reply

        • rainboweyes: Yes, Zwetschgendatschi is the Bavarian version of Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake).
          What about poppy seed cake as a perfume? That would be delicious! April 16, 2015 at 4:56pm Reply

          • Victoria: Oh, poppyseed cake would be a fabulous gourmand accord, like a darker, moodier almond. April 17, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

            • Austenfan: And wouldn’t Moody Almond be a great perfume name? April 17, 2015 at 3:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, please! Your description, Andy, made me envision a slice of cake so clearly that I could smell it. It was one of my favorite things to eat in Bavaria. L’Artisan used to have a candle scented like a plum cake, and I remember saving out of my student allowance to buy it. But what a disappointment–a candle had no throw at all.

      We couldn’t figure out if they were kittens or piglets, but either way, they are very cute. 🙂 April 16, 2015 at 5:39am Reply

  • Karen: Wonderful article, photos and comments! Vanilla, rose, chocolate, sweetened walnuts…. either in a pastry or to wear! I frequently just open up my jar of vanilla beans to smell – then usually go put on a drop of Shalimar extrait… April 16, 2015 at 8:07am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. Glad that you liked it. Ah, sweetened walnuts! That’s another flavor that begs to be made into a fragrance. April 17, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

      • Karen: Thinking of pastries when we were in Budapest! April 18, 2015 at 9:31am Reply

        • Victoria: Budapest coffeeshops aren’t even rivaled by those in Vienna. April 19, 2015 at 8:28am Reply

  • solanace: This is such a great article, Victoria! It’s awesome that you got to spend some time with your family, and your gramma’s bread looks (and almost smells, because you write so well) delicious. I am here thinking of Nez à Nez Marron Chic, a sultry cocoa-iris that I find addictive, distinctive, complicated, a little Guerlain-like… it hits many sweet spots (including being sweet) and is quite unusual. And long lasting, too.

    As for the brief… Cupuaçu is an Amazonian fruit that smells very, VERY boozy, and is usually paired with cream in desserts. I’d love a gourmand inspired by cupuaçu mousse. And I think it could appeal to many gourmand lovers, because it smells so good and complex. Or a perfume with a cocoa fruit note, not the roasted bean, but the greener-smelling flesh. Or coffee flowers. (Enough of caipirinhas, though! It’s too easy an inspiration, a cliché, really. There are so many delicious and exciting, new things here to be explored.) April 16, 2015 at 9:14am Reply

    • rainboweyes: Oh, interesting to see that Cupuaçu is an edible fruit! I only know Cupuaçu butter which I use as a hair treatment sometimes.

      What do coffee flowers smell like? April 16, 2015 at 5:00pm Reply

      • solanace: A bit like coffee, but they are white flowers and have that somewhat heady thing about them. And a little green. (I feel so useless trying to describe the scent, sorry.) April 17, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

        • Victoria: Your description is evocative, though! April 17, 2015 at 3:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your brief is a lot of fun! Everyone I know who visited Brazil raved about fruit there, including many interesting varieties we don’t get here.

      I also would love to smell coffee flowers. April 17, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

      • solanace: Yes, the ubiquitous and varied fresh fruit juice, usually in 400 or 500 ml glasses, is something I love here. April 17, 2015 at 3:05pm Reply

        • Victoria: I used to find this in Spain too, but I miss it in Brussels. April 17, 2015 at 3:38pm Reply

  • Katy: Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! All of these ideas are great! I would like a fragrance that smells like Taro Boba Tea! April 16, 2015 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes! I’d love that one too, Katy. April 17, 2015 at 2:41pm Reply

  • BellaRodriguez: This article came at the perfect time as I was pondering my next gourmand purchase. I might have to put a few of the above mentioned on my list.My last purchase was a delectable fragrance called Boleyn by a niche perfumer on Etsy. It had notes of caramel, french vanilla, dark chocolate, labdanum, spice, frankincense & patchouli. April 16, 2015 at 5:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: The list of notes alone sounds delectable! April 17, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

  • Anu: Hi Victoria, This is my first post but I have been lurking for a couple of of years now. I have learned so much about enjoying perfumes from your blog. A big Thank you!! Now my question…I was wondering whether you or your wonderful readers could suggest a perfume that smells like “Greek butter cookies”. I think they are called “kourobiedes”. I happened to visit a local Greek bakery this past holiday season and the most beautiful aroma was wafting throughout the store. When I politely asked about it the owner offhandedly said, “Oh it must be the greek butter cookies”. Anyway, since then I have looked high and low but haven’t found anything that approximates that heady aroma. Any suggestions would be much appreciated! Sorry for the rambling post. April 16, 2015 at 6:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Anu, welcome! Your comment is delicious, and you made me crave these crumbly, buttery cookies. But I really can’t think of a single perfume that comes close. Anyone else?

      But while you’re looking for a new gourmand, I recommend Nicolai’s Vanille Tonka, one of the best vanillas with a smoky almond twist. Kiss Me Tender from the same brand, Parfums de Nicolai, is a marshmallow, but it’s really well-done and not cloying at all. April 17, 2015 at 3:43pm Reply

      • Anu: Thank you Victoria! Now that I think about it Kiss Me Tender does have some of that warm enveloping feel. Off to spritz some from my decant. 🙂 April 17, 2015 at 5:29pm Reply

  • marlene: I wear JoMalone’s “Gingerbiscuit” and when I do I feel as if I have just walked out of a bakery. Aromatic and sweet,a gourmand type of perfume that may not suit everyone. I will certainly miss it when my bottle is dry,as it was a limited edition scent. April 17, 2015 at 1:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I think it was a part of their tea collection, and I remember some other perfumes in the same line were really nice. Hope that they will get reissued at some point. April 17, 2015 at 3:35pm Reply

  • Aisha: Nothing new to add, other then I think I just gained 20 pounds reading your post and then all the comments. 🙂 April 17, 2015 at 9:53am Reply

    • Austenfan: Just opening the blog increases my weight! April 17, 2015 at 11:20am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 But you can spritz something sweet and delicious (Nicolai’s Vanille Tonka?) and satisfy the craving. It works for me. Not always, but occasionally it does. April 17, 2015 at 3:37pm Reply

      • Austenfan: My stomach will only be fooled for so long! April 17, 2015 at 3:57pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s a very short term fix, and sometimes it might even backfire. April 17, 2015 at 4:00pm Reply

  • nori: I don’t know if someone has suggested it, but a smaller italian line, L’erbolario has a line (including a perfume) called Dolcelisir. If my memory serves right, the opening is plum and rum, spiced heavily with cinnamon, dusted with cocoa, and not that sweet. The drydown is sweeter (caramel, tonka and benzoin), but not sticky. I think it is worth a try, although it is not strictly a gourmand. April 17, 2015 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: I have never seen it. Sounds interesting! April 19, 2015 at 8:20am Reply

  • Teddee Grace: Why are you just writing about perfume?! Your ideas for fragrances sound intriguing. Go for it! April 17, 2015 at 6:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t find blending perfumes as interesting as thinking about them and coming up with novel concepts. April 19, 2015 at 8:22am Reply

  • Raquel: Love this beautiful article Victoria and also the comments. I just hope this fragrances could become a reality soon. Have you consider the idea of creating a fragrance? Maybe a small amount…my english is not very good. April 17, 2015 at 9:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your English is very good, Raquel!
      I have enough technical background to put together a fragrance, but as I was commenting to someone else, I prefer to work behind the scenes and come up with concepts, new combination, research materials for perfumers to use, rather than blend things myself. April 19, 2015 at 8:25am Reply

      • Raquel: Thank you Victoria, I really enjoy reading this blog. April 19, 2015 at 12:44pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m very happy to hear it. 🙂 April 20, 2015 at 9:29am Reply

  • elisa p: I love the photograph. Gorgeous sweets! My favorite goumand is Dries Van Noten which reminds me a bit of Angel which I never quite loved. I would like to rework Traversee du Bosphore and intensify the rainwater and nutty aspects and deepen the honey/nougat. As it is, it’s a bit too transparent for me. I also recently had a black tea panna cotta and pine nut biscuit dessert which I would love in a fragrance. April 18, 2015 at 9:52am Reply

    • Victoria: The dessert sounds perfect. I can just imagine how great this combination can work in a perfume–smoky tea, milky sweetness, resinous-nutty accent, and maybe, a touch of honey. April 19, 2015 at 8:29am Reply

  • Iodine: Such an intersting article and inspiring comments, thank you V.
    I was in Florence, a few day ago and tasted a gorgeous chestnut creme caramel- the nutty, smoky, powdery scent of chestnut flour and the slightly bitter caramel note were such a great combination! I’d love it on my skin.
    As other suggested, YOU could compose those fragrances! 🙂 April 18, 2015 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re torturing me with that description! Chestnuts are among my favorite ingredients, desserts or savory dishes. Pairing them with bitter caramel sounds heavenly. April 19, 2015 at 8:30am Reply

  • Rachel: Oh! that is a beautiful cake! Will you by chance be posting a recipe? 🙂 April 18, 2015 at 3:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Several people asked me already. Translating and writing up this complicated recipe will take some time, but I will try to get to it soon. April 19, 2015 at 8:34am Reply

  • Teresa: I don’t know what my ideal gourmand would be, but lately I have been craving dark, rich coffee/chocolate scents. Dry, not sweet, with a touch of vanilla and spice.

    My two current favorites are Olympic Orchids Seattle Chocolate – dark chocolate with vanilla and woody notes, and House of Cherry Bomb Coffee Amber Vanilla – bitter coffee, vanilla, amber, chestnut, and oud. Both are rich and yummy. April 19, 2015 at 12:58am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Anima Dulcis by Arquiste for a bitter chocolate scent, but I’m still waiting for something else. Another bitter chocolate scent I love is Lutens’s Borneo 1834. April 19, 2015 at 8:35am Reply

      • Teresa: Thanks for the recommendations. I expect the Lutens will be difficult to find, but I’d love to track down a sample. April 19, 2015 at 1:02pm Reply

        • Hannah: My favorite chocolate is Coze by Parfumerie Generale. April 19, 2015 at 2:24pm Reply

          • Teresa: Thanks, Hannah. I just received some PG samples but haven’t tried Coze yet. I’ll get right to it! April 19, 2015 at 4:13pm Reply

        • Victoria: I hope you can find it, because it’s really beautiful. April 20, 2015 at 9:30am Reply

  • Kris: There are only a few gourmands that I really like. Mist of them are too sweet for me. I adore Coromandel, though, and I’m madly in love with Amouage Memoir Woman, which I consider a gourmand. The absynthe top notes drift off into something like the dark, smoky gingerbread that they make at the Gramercy Tavern in New York, all with that lovely Middle Eatern style incense base that Amouage does so well. I would love to try gourmands based on more Eastern desserts. I think toasted rice, coconut, and either tuberose or rose on a sandalwood and incense base would be amazing. April 20, 2015 at 7:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I really need to try Memoir Woman, since it got mentioned a couple of times. Incense gourmand already sounds great. April 22, 2015 at 11:13am Reply

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