If there is anything I love on this good and green Earth more than perfume, it’s food. I’m serious, it’s surprising that I even manage to find the time to write about perfume, what with the endless hours I spend stuffing my face with sweet treats and savoury delights. I just love food so darn much! Of course, my two loves can converge and when perfume meets food, one can guarantee that true magic is going to happen.
In this post, I’m going to take you on a tour of one of perfumery’s newest and most decadent genres – the gourmand. Gourmand perfumes are fragrances that display foody notes, which can range from dark chocolate to candy floss. The domain of the gourmand is a diverse and delicious place that is home to a plethora of sweet treats, savoury snacks and almost-edible delights that offer the ultimate form of comfort fragrance.
Here you’ll find three fragrances that represent the evolution of the gourmand genre, from the classic to the modern, and to the contemporary. Think of them as the past, present and the future of the genre, mapping the early beginnings of the flagship fragrance that started it all right up to the renegade masterpiece that sets the trends for today.
The Classic Gourmand
I’ve talked about Thierry Mugler’s Angel at length and on many separate occasions, but seeing as it was the very first gourmand perfume – the fragrance that spawned a genre, it would be criminal not to include it here. Created in 1992 by perfumer Olivier Cresp in collaboration with Thierry Mugler, perfumer Yves de Chiris and Vera Strubi, the Head of Mugler Parfums at the time, Angel was an entirely new composition that took inspiration from Mugler’s childhood. It aimed to capture all that was the essence of Mugler, spanning his love for stars, the colour blue, delicious treats and dipping things in chocolate.
Angel pairs a slew of decadently delicious treats, such as; chocolate, caramel, praline and candy floss, with a striking, and angular patchouli and vanilla accord, plus a fresh dewberry accord up top. The result is a polarizing fragrance that smells inedible and delicious all at once. Angel is a perfume of contrasts, it’s both masculine and feminine (I see it as a 10 ft. tall drag queen dressed head to toe in Mugler), sweet and bitter, and easy to love and easy to hate. It is the olfactory personification of Mugler’s designs, sculpting in scent, the idea of structured shoulders and waspish waists.
Perfumer Olivier Cresp says that he created a genre with Angel, and he really did. Before Angel there were no gourmand perfumes, and since there has been a veritable onslaught of demi-Angels – clones or variations on her theme. But Angel is often imitated and never duplicated – you simply cannot beat the Queen.
The Modern Gourmand
Guerlain have often been dubbed the patisserie of the perfume world. Starting with Jicky in 1889, they have a serious knack for injecting vanilla and fruit notes into compositions to create the idea of olfactory desserts. One of their most notable is the thoroughly modern La Petite Robe Noire – Guerlain’s fragrant ode to the most classic of fashion items: the little black dress.
Modern gourmands tend to display a wide range of fruit and berry notes, and La Petite Robe Noire is no exception. Here the tartness of cherry is paired with licorice, rose and smoky black tea to create a delicious fruit pastry that has depth, darkness and richness. What I love most about La Petite Robe Noire is how fizzy and ditzy it is in the top notes. It grabs attention with a cloud of effervescent citrus, but this fragrance is more than just a pretty dress, it also has brains and beauty by the bucket load.
For other Gourmand Guerlains, one can pretty much pick out anything from the house’s back catalogue, as most have a sweet, foody edge. Highlights include Insolence, a haze of pink berries, vanilla, violet and iris, and Shalimar with its deeply resinous and smoky vanilla.
The Contemporary Gourmand
Most gourmands opt to celebrate the sweeter side of life, displaying notes of fruit, chocolate and caramel to cater to those perfumistas with a sweet tooth. I can happily be considered as one of those perfume lovers with a penchant for all that is full of sugar, but it is also incredibly refreshing when a brand comes along with something that turns the genre entirely on its head and showcases a fragrance that is anything but a sweet dream.
Etat Libre d’Orange is a French house that has a habit of subverting familiar fragrance genres, giving well-tread territory a strange twist by doing something outrageous like taking the mick out of all perfumes that try to be sexy by making a perfume that actually smells of ‘shenanigans’ (see: Secretions Magnifiques). Their gourmand, Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes (Son of God of Rice and Citrus Fruits – quite a mouthful, yes) is that rare thing – a savoury gourmand. Where Angel and La Petite Robe Noire champion sweetness, this fragrance somehow manages to take thai food and make it work as a wearable perfume.
Fils de Dieu opens with a mouthwatering lime note, accompanied by the deliciously distinct tones of coriander. Underneath this fresh opening there are notes of coconut milk and steamed rice, all of which come together to give the impression of a delicious green thai curry – and before you think that this sounds like something you never want to smell like, I must tell you that you are wrong. Fils de Dieu shouldn’t work as a perfume, but it does. Perhaps this is down to the castoreum in the base (an animalic extracted from the butt of Beavers), or maybe it’s the leathery-amber, or maybe it’s just a whole heap of magic – who knows! Make this one the gourmand you save until last – it’ll be worth the wait and will never fail to surprise.
If you want another unusual gourmand from Etat Libre d’Orange then check out the “immortal ginger” of Like This, the brand’s collaboration with actress, Oscar winner and ethereal Queen, Tilda Swinton. Everything edible and orange (ginger, maple and pumpkin etc.) has been put into this strange, autumnal and phenomenal gourmand. Try it.
Join the Discussion!
What is your favourite gourmand/foody perfume?