Modern Classics Gourmands and Lolita Lempicka

Among some perfume lovers gourmand fragrances are the equivalent of chick lit, somehow seen as pleasant, entertaining but a guilty pleasure nonetheless. Although the fragrance shops are full of boring blends that smell like candy factories, this genre is far from dull and embarrassing. Not only do the sweet accords have a long tradition–visit the Osmothèque and ask to smell Parfums de Rosine’s Le Fruit Défendu, a banana sundae extravaganza from 1916, they also can be as complicated or as simple as a perfumer’s imagination allows. To defend this maligned genre, I bring to you the next installment in the Modern Classics series, Gourmands and Lolita Lempicka. My new FT column is all about indulgence and pleasure, without a shade of guilt.

Lolita Lempicka arrived in the wake of Angel in 1997. It is a perfume for those who want to avoid the jejune prettiness and cloying sweetness of many gourmand fragrances, while offering an indulgence. The heart of Lolita Lempicka is a clever pairing of patchouli (a nod to Angel) and iris. In a brilliant twist, the cool character of iris inflects all layers of the composition, rising like a soft mist over the confection of liquorice, Amarena cherries and praline. To continue, please click here.

The previous fragrance in the Modern Classic series was Serge Lutens’s Féminité du Bois.

Please let me know about your favorite gourmand perfumes. Do you have any sweet fragrances that are appropriate for the warm weather?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin.

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77 Comments

  • Tamara K: I’ve been wearing LL ever since it launched and to me it’s best sweet perfume. Funny that, because I normally don’t like anything sweet. July 19, 2017 at 9:02am Reply

    • Victoria: It was my own gateway to gourmands. July 19, 2017 at 10:38am Reply

  • Ann: Wonderful article! I am new to perfume, and Lolita Lempicka has been ordered, based on your previous review, and is on its way to me now 🙂

    Any layering suggestions for LL? July 19, 2017 at 10:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you like it! Your question is interesting. I think that a light iris solifloral would be good to enhance the violet-iris note in LL. On the other hand, it’s such a complex perfume that layering it might be difficult. July 19, 2017 at 10:39am Reply

      • Ann: I love angel, and my husband really loves licorice so I’m feeling pretty confident this is going to be a home run…you recommendations have been spot on for me thus far! July 19, 2017 at 10:59am Reply

        • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear it! Please let me know who you like Lolita Lempicka. July 21, 2017 at 7:00am Reply

  • Austenfan: I have an incredibly sweet tooth in perfume, far more so than in food of drinks. I love Lolita Lempicka while with Angel it’s only ever been admiration.
    A perfumer who does great sweet perfumes is Patricia de Nicolaï (as you well know). Her Kiss me Tender is such a great balancing act between sweet but just not too much so.

    I actually enjoy some of my sweeter perfumes more in hotter temperatures, I’m thinking of a number of Lutens creations, Chergui being a case in point. It’s as if the faster development of the fragrance makes them soar even more. July 19, 2017 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: What works really well for me in the warm weather are white florals, even sweet ones. I agree, the heat speeds up the development. For instance, Lutens’s Un Lys is a much more interesting perfume in the summer.

      And Nicolai’s gourmands are exceptional.

      By the way, did I mention how much I liked Geert Mak’s book on the disappearing villages in the Netherlands? I also read his new one about travels around Europe, and it’s just as excellent. July 19, 2017 at 10:42am Reply

      • Austenfan: You know I’ve never even tried Un Lys, although I have tried a good many Serges.

        Geert Mak is such a good storyteller. I enjoyed his book about Europe a lot too. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed them as well. July 19, 2017 at 12:10pm Reply

        • maja: Un Lys is excellent in the heat, I agree. Big white florals work for me too during summer (apart from maybe 24, Faubourg – there is something in it that bothers me when the temperatures rise) July 19, 2017 at 5:02pm Reply

          • Victoria: 24, Faubourg has an amber-musky note that turns too animalic in the heat on me. July 21, 2017 at 7:12am Reply

        • Victoria: I recommending giving it a try, especially in this weather. It’s a fresh lily with a vanilla base, but as it develops, it becomes warmer and darker. Very interesting.

          There have been many good books on Europe lately, although many have been depressing. Mak’s travelogue/history is probably one of my favorites. July 21, 2017 at 7:07am Reply

          • Austenfan: It’s a pity that his Century of my Father does not appear to have been translated into English. I preferred it to his book about Europe and it would make a great read for anyone interested in Dutch history.

            Europe does seem to invite some depressive writing, doesn’t it.

            I will try Un Lys if I come across it, I’ve been meaning to for a while. I’m not a huge lily fan, but I do find them very interesting. July 21, 2017 at 7:47am Reply

            • Victoria: I read a review that mentioned this book of his and praised it, so I hope that it will be translated. He’s a fine writer and a sensitive observer. July 21, 2017 at 4:56pm Reply

              • Austenfan: I did discover a German translation, but there might be less of in interest in the English world for a book about the Netherlands in the 20th century. I remember he discusses Indonesie in some detail, I think his father used to work there at some point.
                Jorwerd is his most poetical book though. July 21, 2017 at 6:01pm Reply

                • Victoria: I can go for the German translation then. That helps. July 24, 2017 at 10:23am Reply

  • Jeanne: I’ve loved Lolita Lempicka for years. My sister, who never wore any perfume, loves this one. The bottle is gorgeous too. July 19, 2017 at 10:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, yes! The bottle is a true bijoux. It must be my favorite perfume packaging. July 19, 2017 at 10:44am Reply

      • maja: I just had to go tmy my “caveau”, pick it up and spray a little bit now. So good and it must be the cutest bottle in the world. July 19, 2017 at 4:57pm Reply

        • Victoria: Several other brands tried to imitate it, but none came close. July 21, 2017 at 7:11am Reply

  • Bastet: Lolita Lempika L is a great summer gourmand. July 19, 2017 at 10:58am Reply

    • rosarita: L is a summer favorite of mine, too, in hot weather it has a salty caramel note that I don’t get as strongly in cold weather. Prada Candy is another one I like in the summer, it smells a bit more sophisticated than, say, Pink Sugar (although Pink Sugar is a perfect choice for someone else, I’m sure!) July 19, 2017 at 3:37pm Reply

      • maja: Oh, wow, I never thought of wearing it in summer. You have inspired me to try it tomorrow. July 19, 2017 at 4:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love L. Too bad that it was discontinued. July 21, 2017 at 6:57am Reply

  • Lily: Gosh, this almost convinces me to try LL. I tend to associate gourmand with fruit which I can’t do much of on my skin, and heavy sugar is hard to bear too. The only thing I currently love that comes close to gourmand is E&J Nirvana Bourbon, which is such an amazing vanilla extract scent, tethered by enough of a cedar base to not feel like a walking cookie. Maybe something some gentleman wants to take a bite of anyway but in a different sense! 😉 July 19, 2017 at 12:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s true that gourmand perfumes have been about fruit and sweet notes, and some like Lancome’s La Vie est Belle are over the top. On the other hand, today there are so many choices that one can find something interesting. July 21, 2017 at 7:04am Reply

      • Lily: Got my sample of this last week and finally tried it today. Ooooooh it’s nice. Very different from everything else I have. This might be going on my Christmas list 😆 September 26, 2017 at 9:35pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: I had a near fatal encounter with Angel two weeks ago. My mother was visiting us in Berlin, and since I had to take an exam in Prague during her stay, we took her with us. On the bus there, I suddenly smelled a huge cloud of Angel in the air. My mother had sprayed on her perfume in the bus! I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who became ill. And I normally like Angel (in tiny doses and open air).

    Mitsouko is more my style. It took me a long time to appreciate it, but now it’s my husband’s favorite perfume on me. (Would still never spray it on in a bus though) July 19, 2017 at 12:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: Now that would be my nightmare too, and I love Angel! July 21, 2017 at 7:04am Reply

  • Geri Ethen: It is so interesting that some choose sweet perfumes when it is hot. I turn to woodsy or citrus flavors and have enjoyed 2 perfumes that you recommended recently: Vent Vert by Balman and Aqua Allegoria by Guerlain. I think I want a sharper note in the heat, finding sweet perfumes rather cloying. July 19, 2017 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Some gourmands have sharp notes to offset the sweetness, and it makes for an interesting contrast. Of course, summer in Belgium is not like summer in the south of Spain or in NYC for that matter. If the weather is very hot, I skip perfume altogether. July 21, 2017 at 7:05am Reply

      • Geri Ethen: How interesting, Victoria! Do you have any examples of the sweet/sharp contrasts in the same perfume? I’d love to learn about this!
        I’m from Oregon where “hot” is much cooler than elsewhere in the world! July 21, 2017 at 10:35am Reply

        • Victoria: Parfums de Nicolai Sacré Bleu is one. Also, Marc Jacobs Daisy and Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir. All three are different, but they have this balance of sweet and sharp I’m talking about. July 21, 2017 at 5:05pm Reply

          • Geri Ethen: Thank you, Victoria! I will investigate these perfumes at my next opportunity. July 21, 2017 at 8:14pm Reply

  • Fliss: Unknown Pleasures by Kerosene. Vanilla lemon waffles! Just gorgeous is the summer. Happy to send you a decant if you’d like to sample it 🙂 July 19, 2017 at 2:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I’ll make a note to try it. I’m sure I can find a sample, but I appreciate your thoughtful offer. July 21, 2017 at 7:07am Reply

  • Nick: Hello, Victoria. First, I am a tad curious about those pralines…

    My favourite gourmand perfumes tend towards the oriental side. I like a spritz of Santal Majuscule for its creamy rose petal effect of sandalwood and cocoa-like patchouli; Un Bois Vanille for its dark vanilla character with plenty of embellished layers; Dries van Noten for its patisserie ambience mixing savoury saffron, creamy sandalwood, and a warm hug of Cashmeran; Coromandel for its delicious patchouli, vanilla, benzoin, and musk. On very dry, hot days, I also find Sables to be reminiscent of sandy beaches and dry hay. A recent discovery is the fruity cassis and rose backed by the Guerlinade of Chamade. And, of course, the chilly iris-violet versus warm oriental notes of vanilla, myrrh, incense, and patchouli of Dior Homme is simply addictive, like a complex cocoa powder. Along this line is also Valentino Uomo, whose sweet violet note is amped up so that it feels brighter and sharper; in fact, it could even be an excellent flanker of Dior Homme. You see, I have a sweet tooth! July 19, 2017 at 4:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: The pralines are by Pierre Marcolini. Addictive stuff!

      Sables is exceptional, and while I didn’t think of it as a gourmand, you’re right, it can be an abstract gourmand with its twist on the bitter and sweet notes. July 21, 2017 at 7:09am Reply

  • maja: I love Lolita as well and have gifted two bottles to a younger and an older relative and they both loved it and wear it often. It is contagiously beautiful. 🙂 July 19, 2017 at 4:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a beautiful gift too. July 21, 2017 at 7:11am Reply

  • Alicia: After all these years still my favorite gourmand. I am not inclined towards the genre, but LL has a sophisticated complexity that entices me. Besides, I love that bottle; I wouldn’t be without it on my counter. July 19, 2017 at 5:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Out of all Angel’s children, Lolita is the most interesting one. July 21, 2017 at 7:13am Reply

  • spe: While I do enjoy Angel, it’s the camphorous, minty (?patchouli) element that intrigues me the most.

    L’ Heure Bleue is probably the sweetest perfume I own. Or perhaps Jasmine Imperatrice Eugenie. Or Hypnotic Poison.

    Recently I received a sample of Max Mara and enjoyed it. That seemed a touch sweet.

    The gourmand category generally doesn’t excite me. It’s probably why I’m not especially drawn to Guerlain but do very well with Chanel. And I don’t find LL as amazing as most others do and have no idea why I don’t really appreciate that fragrance. The Defendue flanker was nice though. July 19, 2017 at 5:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: There need not be any reason. We don’t all have to like what the other one does. One might even dislike gourmands, which is ok. The only thing that I disagree with is the tendency to view people who like gourmands as somehow less sophisticated. But it’s perfectly ok to dislike fragrances that are too sweet or too heavy. July 21, 2017 at 7:15am Reply

  • Martha Bello: Hello Victoria, I follow your blog, your FB and your Instagram! I love them. Please let me ask you an important question: I loved very much the old Ivoire by Balmain. Today I cannot recognize it. What other perfume would you recommend to substitute it? Thank you so much and congratulations for your excellent work. It is so poetic and sophisticated. July 19, 2017 at 6:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that it’s changed so much that it won’t be the same. What do you like about it? It’s impossible to find another Ivoire, but perhaps, if you explain what you enjoyed about this perfume, I can pick a fragrance with similar characteristics. July 21, 2017 at 7:17am Reply

      • Martha Bello: I was searching the web about Ivoire so as to answer your question and I found what Pierre Balmain said to explain his creation:
        « C’est le nom que j’ai donné à un rêve. Le nom d’une femme à la beauté souveraine, parée d’une soie très pâle. Je l’ai croisé un instant au pied de l’escalier de l’opéra avant qu’elle ne disparaisse dans la nuit. Il me reste en mémoire son chapeau et son parfum… »
        I guess for me too, Ivoire will remain in my memory, as I really cannot describe it!
        Thank you so much for your reply Victoria. July 22, 2017 at 6:01am Reply

  • Tara C: I am a gourmand person, both in perfumes and foods. Some of my favourites are Fève Délicieuse, Traversée du Bosphore, Rahat Loukhoum, Lolita Lempicka, Hypnotic Poison and Gourmand Coquin. Can’t wear Angel at all due to the fruit note. July 19, 2017 at 6:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: I have a friend on whom Angel smells so fruity that I almost don’t recognize it! And some say that perfumes don’t change on skin. July 21, 2017 at 7:17am Reply

  • behemot: As of gourmandy scents, I really like Chanel “Coromandel” and Parfumerie Generale “Brulure de Rose”. Lolita is very nice, too. I really liked Montale “Rose Elixir”, with hint of strawberry- the more sophisticated version of original Miss Dior Cherie, when my daughter had a bottle of this fragrance during her junior year in college.

    In the Summer, MFK “Aqua Vitae Forte”, citrusy with sweet sandalwood and touch of cardamon, and Keiko Mecheri “Peau de Peche” (peach and sandalwood) are the two “sweeter” fragrances that come to mind. I also like some white florals in the summer. July 19, 2017 at 11:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: The first version of Miss Dior Cherie was so much fun. That combination of strawberry and popcorn was unlike anything else I’ve tried. July 21, 2017 at 7:18am Reply

  • Notturno7: Thank you, Victoria. I haven’t used my bottle of Lolita in more then a year but whenever I do, I love it. I bought it after reading the raving review in the Guide and I’m glad I own a bottle.
    Like you, I crave white flower scents more in the summer, Songes, EL Tuberose Gardenia, Sarrasins, Fracas, Lys Mediterannee , Tuberose Criminelle – which hits the spot every time and I love that menthol note, Narcisso in white cube bottle.
    As gourmands, I enjoy Coromandel, Lolita, Angel, Coco Noir extrait. I have a bottle of Lou Lou but haven’t used it in a long time. Might be perfect now in the summer.
    I have a question.
    I never tried Jolie Madame in perfume version before but recently I bought a vintage 1 oz Jolie Madame extrait. It smells like leather and violets but it feels like that it should be even more rich and leave more of that oily shine on the skin like some extraits do.
    Am I mistaken? It’s lighter in color then Miss Balmain tiny extrait that I have and my Jolie Madame smells like it’s closely related to Miss Balmain, like it has a same woodsy base.
    Jolie Madame extrait bottle was unsealed but full so I made me wonder if the seller diluted it to fill up the bottle.
    I know you have few bottles of JM probably.
    My bottle smells good and vintage but stays very close to the skin and has small sillage, to my nose 😉. Is that how vintage JM smells like? This is the only bottle that I’ve managed to try.
    Thank you! July 20, 2017 at 4:12am Reply

    • Victoria: My Jolie Madame extrait is not that pale, and it does smell rich. Perhaps, yours is just not that vintage. July 21, 2017 at 7:19am Reply

      • Notturno7: Thanks for your reply, Victoria.
        My Jolie Madame extrait is the color of cognac, orange brown with some red. Reminds me a bit of Tuberose Criminelle but it’s little less red. July 22, 2017 at 4:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s the right color. The Osmotheque’s newly compounded version was lighter, as I recall, but it’s normal for the juice to oxidize. July 24, 2017 at 10:41am Reply

          • Notturno7: Thank you so much for confirming the color of Jolie Madame extrait, Victoria!!! You’re the best 😊❤️
            This bottle is vintage, too and it has some residue on the bottom as it’s been used and I got it already open.
            I’m feeling so much better now 😇🌸 July 24, 2017 at 8:27pm Reply

  • Carla: When I was in my early 20s I felt like I had “made it” as an adult when wearing Angel. I felt bold and powerful wearing such a strong scent. I hope I didn’t wear it to work too often! I don’t think so because as I recall I also had a big bottle of Eau de Cartier on my dresser and I think that was my everyday scent. (Sigh of relief for my colleagues.)
    Love this FT série! July 20, 2017 at 7:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I remember days when my signature was Tresor, and I didn’t spare it either. 🙂 July 21, 2017 at 7:21am Reply

  • Helen Frost: The nose behind Lolita (Annick Menardo) has collaborated with a niche brand on a new fragrance last year: Close-up (Olfactive Studio).
    Superb example of the genre and very Annick July 20, 2017 at 2:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m glad to hear that it’s another new launch from Olfactive Studio. July 21, 2017 at 7:23am Reply

  • January: Summer gourmand: Creed Virgin Island Water. Reminds me of piña colada. July 20, 2017 at 2:48pm Reply

  • January: Another discovery: Byredo Mojave Ghost. If they had sherbet fountains in the oases of Mojave desert this would be it. July 20, 2017 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Le Critique de Parfum: So-called “perfumistas” dismissing sweet fragrances are simply wrong.

    Close-minded perfume aficionados are like newbies dismissing “old ladies” perfumes.

    Many gourmands are creative and technological marvels. July 20, 2017 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Familiarity breeds contempt, I suppose. There are many boring gourmands on the market, but then again, there are many boring perfumes in all the genres. July 21, 2017 at 7:24am Reply

  • Aurora: Banana sundae it made me laugh and shudder (I had to take a banana flavored formula as a child and hated it). This series is so exciting and so informative.

    My current gourmand loves are the original Omnia for its soft spicy, milky gorgeousness, it really does smell of chai and a perennial love Guerlain l’Instant Magique – properly Magic but I don’t like this mixing of French and English – with its sweet almond which would could have been too sweet – the way Carita is – if it weren’t for the citrus notes which make it perfection. I must admit to owning an Angel, the liqueur de parfum, aged in wood barrel it seems, I take that with a grain of salt. It’s one of my ‘big perfumes’ that I wear only at home. July 20, 2017 at 4:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I love Omnia. That peppery note against the fruity-ambery accord is so delicious. July 21, 2017 at 7:25am Reply

  • Amalia: I’m dreaming of SHISEIDO’s Féminité du Bois. My first fragrance with my own earned money, ages ago! July 21, 2017 at 4:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Now that one is a marvel. July 21, 2017 at 7:25am Reply

  • Karina: I really miss your old in-depth reviews of new perfumes. July 21, 2017 at 6:12am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: I am with Karina. July 21, 2017 at 6:32am Reply

    • Victoria: After 10 years of writing reviews of new perfumes, I need to take a break. But if I come across a new fragrance that excites me, I will, of course, write a review. July 21, 2017 at 7:29am Reply

  • Madtowngirl: My favorite gourmand fragrance and one of my longest perfumes loves is Casmir. I usually think of it as a fall or winter fragrance. It’s a compliment getter almost every time I wear it but it has to be applied with a light hand. I’ve never tried it in the summer, it would have to be a day with no humidity or that sweetness would make me queasy.
    The latest gourmand that I smelled and instantly loved was Dame’s Earth Mother.
    I’m loving this new series Victoria. July 21, 2017 at 8:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Casmir is one of my favorites too. It’s a comfort perfume for me. But I agree with you, it’s not right for a hot, humid day. It’s too sweet for that. July 21, 2017 at 5:03pm Reply

  • Richard Goller: Another worthy classic and so well captured, Victoria. Looking forward to your next modern classic. R July 22, 2017 at 11:26am Reply

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