Rethinking Gourmand : Savory Fragrances

Does gourmand have to be only about cotton candy and caramel? In my article for the Financial Times Magazine, I explore whether there is room on the perfume counter for different flavors, including salty, piquant and savory.

savorygourmand

Most savoury gourmands aim for a subtle illusion – the tangy darkness of olives, the green sharpness of coriander leaves or the musky warmth of basmati rice. Fittingly, the biggest savoury gourmand launch came in 2010 with Womanity (from £38.50 for 30ml, second picture), another Thierry Mugler creation. The composition is built around caviar and fig, the briny nuance pushing against a backdrop of roasted hazelnuts, musk and woods. Like Angel, it provoked polarising reactions, though not the same level of infatuation. To continue, please click here.

Do you have any salty or savory favorite perfume? Today I’m wearing Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fils de Dieu, which fits the savory theme well.

Photo via FT

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83 Comments

  • Lizzy K.: A wonderful mix of salty and savoury, I highly recommend Shay & Blue Salt Caramel. Based on Charbonnel et Walker’s Sea Salt Caramel Truffles, smells exquisite! December 4, 2015 at 7:12am Reply

  • Nick: I think savoury is still a very novel ground in perfumery, but it is gaining momentum. I simply get these hints from the caramel-fleur de sel and saffron in Dries van Noten, or a salty vetiver in Encre Noire? Maybe a bit of kelp and raspberry in Carthusia Corallium. The savoury accords can give an interesting character to the otherwise familiar genres.

    I am thinking of violet, fleur de sel, butterscotch, sandalwood, and vetiver in, say, an imaginary composition called ‘Guérande’. December 4, 2015 at 8:17am Reply

    • Victoria: The most approachable savory notes are subtle, like the ones in Dries Van Noten you mention. Of course, Stilton cheese makers released a Stilton perfume, but I doubt that will enter into the mainstream to compete with La Vie est Belle. December 4, 2015 at 10:40am Reply

  • Alice: Great article! I didn’t realize how many salty perfumes I liked until I read it. Or, maybe, I should say, savory. Do you notice any savoriness in Kenzo Jungle? It’s more sweet than salty, but there is a note that makes me think of Indian curries. December 4, 2015 at 9:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you mean Jungle L’Elephant? They also had Le Tigre. L’Elephant does have a strong cumin note and lots of other spices, so to me it’s a gourmand. I do see what you mean by a savory note. December 4, 2015 at 10:43am Reply

  • Rosie: side note: 1992 was more than *20* years ago, not more than 30! December 4, 2015 at 9:19am Reply

  • Natalie: I’m wearing Fils de Dieu today too! It’s my TGIF perfume. 🙂 Can’t wait to read your article. December 4, 2015 at 9:19am Reply

    • Victoria: One of my top favorite perfumes! 🙂 December 4, 2015 at 10:45am Reply

  • Marc: Not new, a classic but great: Eau d’Hermes. Smells most savoury to me due to cumin. What I’d love to find a good picholine olive note in perfume. December 4, 2015 at 9:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Eau d’Hermes does have lots of cumin to my nose, so there is this lusty, animalic note. As for an olive accord, I have smelled a number of them over the years, but they are very hard to use in a formula. Slumberhouse has a Pear + Olive perfume, but I haven’t tried it. Profumi di Pantelleria Corallo has an olive accord, but it’s overloaded with so many marine notes that the effect is lost. December 4, 2015 at 10:47am Reply

      • Sarah: I don’t know if it’s intended…. AG Eau du Sud smells like black olives with herbs de provence. December 4, 2015 at 11:33am Reply

        • Sarah: Annick Goutal December 4, 2015 at 11:33am Reply

        • Victoria: Interesting! I need to try it and see if I can get the same effect. December 4, 2015 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Scented Salon: Salty gourmands are not my cup of tea. I am a sweet lover all the way. What I most enjoy is the way Guerlain does salty: they add the note to sweet compositions which temper all the sugar. Right now, I am wearing Rose Nacree du Desert: there is a very comforting salty note in that, as well as its sister Encense Mythique d’Orient. My all-time favorite perfume, Mon Exclusif, also has a salty butter note which diversifies the overly sweet character of the scent.

    Another note which I have been learning to love is the bitter note. The dry woods of Sycomore have that bitter edge which is superb for classic and minimalist non-sensual perfumes. December 4, 2015 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I also like these kind of effects the most. In general, a classical Guerlain accord is the very definition of a gourmand with a twist–iris, rose, tonka bean, balsams. I often think of Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue as the best kind of abstract gourmands, perfumes that evoke something delicious but that don’t smell edible. This is different from the modern gourmands like La Vie est Belle that smell like a dessert. Now, nothing wrong with smelling like a cake or wanting to smell like a cake, of course. Sometimes that’s exactly what hits the spot. December 4, 2015 at 10:51am Reply

      • Scented Salon: Smelling like a cake: delicious. My kind of thing. Lutens Five o’Clock smells like a ginger spice cake. I’m sorry I don’t have it anymore.

        My favorite holiday cake spices are nutmeg, ginger, clove and cardamom. Any suggestions for perfume?

        I already have Winter Delice, which hits the spot but the pine note keep things forresty. December 4, 2015 at 12:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: Have you tried Kenzo Jungle or Parfum d’Empire Aziyade? Those two instantly come to mind. December 4, 2015 at 3:38pm Reply

          • Scented Salon: I had both of those and they are perfect holiday spices. December 5, 2015 at 11:44am Reply

            • Victoria: 🙂
              There is also this post with lots of suggestions:
              https://boisdejasmin.com/2010/12/spicy-gourmand-fragrances-perfume.html

              I also liked the new Sisley Soir d’Orient. It’s more of a classical chypre, but it has a delicious spicy note. December 5, 2015 at 11:47am Reply

              • Scented Salon: Soir d’Orient is in my collection. It is heavy on the rose. I also just discovered Obscuro and Nanban. December 6, 2015 at 10:25pm Reply

                • Victoria: You’re a rose expert. 🙂 December 7, 2015 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Anne Sheffield: Another beautiful article Victoria! Thank you.
    I didn’t really know what was a salty gourmand until your article and I guess my favourite is Eau des Merveilles. I find it very comforting, almost skin like.
    Reading list of notes I guess I would enjoy womanity too. But I would never ever try or buy this perfume, I hate the bottle, and if it doesn’t look good on my drawer… It can t smell nice on me…. 😉 December 4, 2015 at 10:37am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t like the look of the bottle either. At all. I decanted perfume into a plain atomizer, and this works better for me.

      Womanity shower gel is excellent, by the way. I didn’t expect it to be anything special, but I like it even better than perfume. It’s more subtle, but you still get the salty-milky notes. December 4, 2015 at 10:54am Reply

  • Sarah: Thank you for an interesting article. I liked your reference to Eau des Merveilles as a salty perfume. I also used to wear Sel de Vetiver. But it doesn’t smell the same to me anymore, reformulated? December 4, 2015 at 11:31am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m not sure, because I haven’t tested it recently. So many perfumes get reformulated these days that this wouldn’t be surprising. December 4, 2015 at 3:25pm Reply

  • irem: Yesterday I was browsing through your archives and read through the top sellers in France lists (and comments) for the last few years. All the talk of gourmet fragrances their made me take out my mini bottle of Angel and wear it last night. It smells so good, I’ve put on some today as well. For some reason Angel smells really good on my skin and I get complimented often. I’ve had several friends whom I made a sample because they loved Angel on me, but most reported it did not smell good on them.
    When it comes to actually wearing Angel, though, I am always self conscious. I am worried it is a trashy fragrance, I tell myself I aspire for a more polished style. I know it sounds silly, but somehow I cannot get past it. Maybe I need to do something about it.

    As for other gourmet fragrances, I tried many but liked few, if any. Most the Angel clones I find harsh (Coco Mlle is a nightmare on me). I would single out Lolita Lempicka as the best, but it does not smell good on me at all. And the salty ones, I’m sorry, but I am not ready for them as perfume. As much as I love salted caramel ice cream, in fragrance it does not work for me. December 4, 2015 at 11:35am Reply

    • irem: Self reply: I’ve tried Coromandel as a polished and elegant version of Angel, but it does not work for me. I’ve tried hard but no love. It is earthy and brown, while Angel despite all its weight has an ethereal quality befitting the light blue juice and name. December 4, 2015 at 11:51am Reply

      • Victoria: No need to search further! I actually don’t think that Coromandel is all that sophisticated. It’s a great fragrance, but it’s not an overly refined and effete thing. This is exactly its appeal, though. December 4, 2015 at 3:33pm Reply

    • Bastet: There is nothing wrong with loving Angel – if it smells good on you, wear it with pride! December 4, 2015 at 12:00pm Reply

      • Anne Sheffield: I agree with this. If it smells good on you, go for it. Have you tried Ambre des Merveilles??? Could be the polish gourmand you re after??? December 4, 2015 at 12:56pm Reply

        • Victoria: Aurora mentioned L’Elixir des Merveilles, which is another great variation. December 4, 2015 at 3:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: As others said, if you like it, go for it. I’m not sure why gourmand like an Angel isn’t compatible with a polished style. I think that it’s an interesting fragrance, with a distinctive character. If it smells good on you, then it’s another reason to wear it and enjoy it. Plus, at this point Angel is already a legend. It inspired a whole new perfume family. December 4, 2015 at 3:29pm Reply

      • irem: You are absolutely right of course. After some soul searching I have found that the issue is not really the lack of polish. The issue is more that Angel is such an attention getter, mostly from men. The very first day I wore Angel (I was a grad student back then) the professor whom I was helping to grade his exam, an older and very proper men, sniffed the air and asked me what perfume I was wearing, remarking “Very seductive. I’ll get my girl friend a bottle of this”. It might sound very politically incorrect in today’s US college environment. But it was some 15 years ago in Europe, and it was a very civilized conversation. I still cherish the memory.
        I work in a very male dominated field, and Angel gets too much attention. I think this is the main reason why I feel self-conscious wearing it. I usually go for something like Cristalle EdT, cold and un-inviting, but beautiful nevertheless.
        I will wear more Angel though, not necessarily during the day or maybe very discreetly – it has monster sillage. I will start with the weekends and with a few dabs at night.
        Thanks for your encouragement! December 5, 2015 at 11:46pm Reply

        • Victoria: It makes sense, of course, and yes, Angel is an attention getter. There are many occasions when I don’t want my perfume to wear me or to announce my presence, but rather to be something more intimate and personal. For such moments Angel won’t work, because nomatter how little you apply it, it has a huge sillage. So, you can save it for off work days or the evenings. December 7, 2015 at 2:22pm Reply

    • Solanace: I love Angel, too, and occasionally wear it to work. We should walk the Angel Pride Parade. But still, I feel you pain. Not silly at all! I know I’m not alone when I rely on 31 Rue Cambon or Guerlain Vétiver on a hard work meeting counting on it’s trustworthy empowering habilities. Finding a fume that says something about your abstract thinking skills AND is yummy and delicious, man, that’s the quest. My current approach, specially in the colder months, has been to look for tobacco notes. Chergui, Fumérie Turque or Back to Black, they all have a bitter edge that says I’m not playing around, but are nice, sweet and warm for my own enjoyment. On another direction, Nez à Nez Marron Chic is a raw cocoa and iris composition that is delicious and yet a bit austere. And then, of course, there is Shalimar. Is Shally your friend? December 6, 2015 at 1:03pm Reply

      • irem: Thanks for your comment Solanace. Shally is one of my best friends 🙂 I have a small flacon of the parfum. It is heaven. December 6, 2015 at 10:01pm Reply

  • Sandra: This article and these comments just make me hungry.
    🙂 December 4, 2015 at 11:50am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I ended up eating some chocolate with salt flakes, because all of this talk of salted caramel and olives made me hungry. December 4, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

  • Bastet: Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan smells very savory to me – it must be the Italian herbs. I love to wear it when I’m cooking because it compliments the food smells. December 4, 2015 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: I see what you mean! I get a strong oregano note right at the top. December 4, 2015 at 3:34pm Reply

  • Lilian Oyen: I think that must be L’instant Magic form Guerlain.
    I also have Guerlain L’heuse bleu.
    Gourmand that wat I think whit vanille December 4, 2015 at 12:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: L’Instant Magic was one of my favorite variations on L’Instant, especially for the almond-anise notes. December 4, 2015 at 3:35pm Reply

  • Clover: I have always loved Womanity and find it refreshingly different from so many mainstream finds. I’m so glad you mention it in a positive light. I enjoy savory gourmands and hope more companies pick up the trend. It just seems like a door wide open to the creation of unique scent combinations (maybe even with blue cheese haha!). Another perfume that has a savory edge, at least to my nose, is Tom Ford Noir de Noir. I really like how the truffle and wine-like sharp notes work with the warmer floral ones. December 4, 2015 at 12:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Womanity is a very interesting perfume, and it’s one of the few launches in the past few years that really tried to do something different. It didn’t quite succeed to attract enough people, but apparently it has its own very strong following.

      I liked truffle in Black Orchid, and while I was testing the new Eau de Toilette version, I noticed that this note is now stands out more. December 4, 2015 at 3:37pm Reply

  • Tara C: Arabie – does that count as savoury? I think that one and Eau des Merveilles are my favourites in this category. December 4, 2015 at 12:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: It counts to me, because the sweetness aside, it has a big savory component–salty spices, toasted notes. Lutens’s Jeux de Peau would also count as a savory gourmand for me.

      One of my favorite savory gourmands was Issey Miyake Feu d’Issey, but it has been discontinued. December 4, 2015 at 3:40pm Reply

      • Lindaloo: Feu d’Issey, oh yes! I had never smelled it before it was discontinued, but recently recognized that unique bottle at a thrift store. By the time I got home, the scent in the bag was amazing. More than wearing it, I love using it a calming influence when I’m agitated, so it sits in a wooden box on my coffee table ever ready to be sniffed.
        I feel very lucky December 4, 2015 at 7:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re very lucky! It’s so hard to find, since it wasn’t around for very long before it was discontinued. Wearing it is like being wrapped in a warm cocoon, and yet, it still has a bold, distinctive character. December 5, 2015 at 11:10am Reply

  • rainboweyes: I’m not familiar with many savoury gourmands but if I was to choose my favourite, it would definitely be Aedes de Venustas with its rhubarb, tomato, hazelnut and berry notes. As for salty notes, my great love is Sel de Vetiver by TDC. December 4, 2015 at 12:25pm Reply

    • orsetta: Sel de Vetiver is gorgeous!
      I was going to put it on the list but noticed you’d already done it 😀 December 4, 2015 at 3:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: I liked that perfume too. The combination of rhubarb and tomato leaf is very good. It actually made me realize that rhubarb and tomato could pair well in a savory dish. December 4, 2015 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Domestic Goblin: When I am in the mood for rice, I would opt for Kenzo Amour. Not the most complex or sophisticated fragrances, but it is warm and comforting… 🙂 December 4, 2015 at 12:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s also one of my favorites. I also liked a flanker named Amour Indian Holi, rice pudding with a scattering of rose and frangipani petals. December 4, 2015 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Neyon: I really don’t think it’s because savory notes are necessarily less liked; I think sweet scents are more popular because whereas savory flavours are associated more with hearty meals, sweet flavours are more with desserts/treats which is why people generally feel they are more wearable in a perfume.
    Also I think that while everyone has different skin chemistry, sweeter scents tend to be more often flattering to one’s natural odour than not, whereas if a savory scent doesn’t suit, the result can be quite unpleasant.
    I believe it’s hard for any savory note to become as loved as some of primitively addictive sweet notes that are most loved in perfumery like vanilla, rose and chocolate – they are just so classic and undeniable.
    I personally like herbaceous notes like thyme or oregano which are delicious; and feel Molton Brown’s Pink Pepperpod and Black Pepper fragrances are gorgeous. December 4, 2015 at 1:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your comment is very interesting. I think that it has to do with the familiarity and context. There are many countries where overly sweet perfumes like the ones enjoyed in the US or France aren’t popular, and it’s mostly because they aren’t familiar. But even in Europe 20-30 years ago overly sweet perfumes weren’t liked to the extent they are now. Angel wasn’t an instant success, quite on the contrary. December 4, 2015 at 3:59pm Reply

      • Neyon: Yeah, probably the way that sweet fragrances can be marketed as well – more girliness, glamour and ‘addictiveness’ to lure people in! December 4, 2015 at 4:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: I didn’t think about this part, but you must be right. December 5, 2015 at 11:08am Reply

  • Aurora: A lovely article, with an unusual subject, and you smell great! Some of the perfumes listed I haven’t tried yet so I make a note of them.
    Love Eau des Merveilles which you describe so well, and even more l’Elixir with its ‘sticky’ quality that I find quite unique. Also I get quite a lot of salt from Reveal so maybe it qualifies as a savoury gourmand. December 4, 2015 at 2:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! 🙂
      Reveal does have a nice salty edge. I mentioned earlier the new version of Tom Ford Black Orchid. The EDT seems less sweet to me, and there is a hint of salt too. December 4, 2015 at 4:01pm Reply

  • Lilian: Now I think foor goud land savoury.
    I waar many timers Arabië from Serge Lutens en many also a scent likje Rousse and Chene December 4, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for mentioning Chene. A very good fragrance. December 4, 2015 at 4:02pm Reply

  • orsetta: thank you, Victoria, it’s been a good exercise to think about *other* gourmands.

    I am one of die-hard fans of Womanity, and i also love the the Taste of Fragrance flankers – yummy without overbearing sweetness.

    For salty, i am happy to see Sel de Vetiver mentioned in one of the earlier comments.

    Something different that also comes to mind is Diptyque’s Virgilio – this is as herbal as can get: basil, basil again and loads of other crushed or cut herbs – love it! December 4, 2015 at 3:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Someone referred to Virgilio in the comments as a salad perfume–basil, lettuce leaves, lots of pepper and green olive oil. This is how I think about it now too.

      Taste of Fragrance flankers were very good, weren’t they! December 4, 2015 at 4:03pm Reply

  • SilverMoon: Speaking of salty perfumes, I think that salt in a floral composition can be beautiful (perhaps more so than in a gourmand where it is more predictable). I am thinking about Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel. Really love it both in summer and in the early autumn. Somehow it reminds me of cooler beaches – beautiful, wild, wind-swept beaches with a hint of flowering gardens nearby hanging onto cliffs.

    The rice notes in Fils de Dieu is certainly another perfume I really like, and have commented on it before. December 4, 2015 at 4:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also like the combination of salty accords with florals. For instance, Arquiste’s Boutonniere smells like a salty gardenia to me. Or Frederic Malle’s Lys Mediterranee. December 5, 2015 at 11:07am Reply

      • SilverMoon: Victoria, Lys Med is one of my favourite perfumes. Nothing seems more pleasing in the summer. However, I have never thought of it as salty – I am going to have to spray and check right away!

        I don’t know the other perfume at all, but will try to locate it here in the UK. I imagine I shall like it, given the others you think are similar (not to mention I love Gardenia). Many thanks. December 5, 2015 at 11:28am Reply

        • Victoria: Arquiste is a relatively new niche line, and almost everything is excellent. The only downside is that it’s expensive, but the fragrances are of very high-quality, last well and offer something interesting. So, it’s worth smelling.

          Lys Med makes me think of sea breeze. December 5, 2015 at 11:43am Reply

  • Liliane: I have still another go of masterpiece from Grossmith shem-el- nessem. ..
    It’s in the same style like l’heure bleue. December 4, 2015 at 4:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, very much like L’Heure Bleue. It’s one of my favorites from Grossmith. December 5, 2015 at 11:08am Reply

  • Old Herbaceous: Thank you for writing this! I don’t care for the sugary, dessert-like fragrances that are everywhere. I loathe Angel, to be honest, though I acknowledge that many love it. I am eager to try Jo Loves’ new series of truffle-inspired fragrances, starting with Red Truffle 21, as I find the aroma of truffles to be truly swoonworthy. December 4, 2015 at 8:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t yet tried this line, but I agree that it sounds interesting. I have lots of favorites in the sweet gourmand family too, but it’s always interesting to see how the theme can be twisted. Not every gourmand needs to be tooth achingly sweet, and the salty accords, whether in a gourmand or another style of perfume, are intriguing. Contrasted fragrances are always more interesting and memorable. December 5, 2015 at 11:14am Reply

  • Maria: So, today I went to the JAR boutique in NYC! It was pretty magical and also, the moment I smelled Shadow, I thought of this post, as to me it smelled primarily of hot sauce and other foods. (My non-perfumista sister blurted out: “People buy this? It smells like food.”

    The other tragic discovery is that JAR discontinued Bolt of Lightning, which was the one scent I really wanted to smell. December 5, 2015 at 6:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t believe they discontinued Bolt of Lightning! It was one of their best perfumes. December 7, 2015 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Elena: I am just popping in to say thank you for recommending Fils de Dieu to me over a year ago! It has become one of my absolute favorites, and one that is SO easy to recommend to others as well. This article and all of the comments are making me crave my 5 O’Clock au Gingembre and Arabie decants! And speaking of savory, I am crossing my fingers for more of your wonderful recipes and ideas for homemade gifts now that it’s December. The cranberry chutney with herbs from a couple of years ago has become part of my winter repertoire now. December 5, 2015 at 8:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy that Fils de Dieu has another fan! 🙂 5 O’Clock au Gingembre and Arabie are definitely among the most interesting gourmands, especially if you like spicy notes.

      I have several recipes in my drafts, so I will share something sweet and very easy to make next week. December 7, 2015 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Tiffanie: I love scents that are delicious, but I don’t like to smell like sweets. The savory scents in the Financial Times article and in the comments here are inspiring me to try something new. I love the salty, tangy, zesty Eau des Merveilles. Fils de Dieu du riz et des agrumes has my attention now. I love the name and adore the lime and ginger together. Thank you, Victoria! December 5, 2015 at 11:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Fils de Dieu and Eau des Merveilles are by the same perfumer, by the way, by Ralf Schwieger. He has a knack for interesting pairings. Hope that you like these perfumes. December 7, 2015 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Mariann: Not a big fan of gourmands, but I do like salty notes, Adore Eau de Merveilles and Sel de Vetiver! Am happily jotting down all the names of things I haven’t tried yet for my next big sample order :). December 8, 2015 at 4:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you will like them. I love a touch of salt in any context, food or fragrance. December 9, 2015 at 10:23am Reply

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