Gourmand perfume – if you´d like to watch the fur fly, just stick a bunch of fragrance nuts in a room and describe something as “foody.” Descriptions of a particular fragrance as “gourmand” or “edible” can provoke heavy disagreement. If I smell Serge Lutens Santal Blanc and get a note vaguely like custard, and all you get are cedar shavings, you might think I´m nuts. You can have a fragrance with a dominant food note that isn’t foody. Fendi Theorema smells strongly of orange, for instance, but isn´t remotely gourmand. (Quick, someone – argue with me!)
Patty and I had fun coming up with the list of gourmand perfume for this post. Our first draft list was, frankly, nauseating. Some gourmand perfume is so sweet they make our teeth hurt. Eventually we wound up with a workable list, and then I waited until Patty was overwhelmed by her return from Paris and stuck her with the horrifying gave her the more interesting part of our list, which she´ll be covering tomorrow, and we love her for doing it!
The gourmand perfume we´re sniffing today – L´Artisan Bois Farine; L´Artisan Fou d´Absinthe; and Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale.
L´Artisan Bois Farine (“wood flour”) has a wonderful story behind it involving homeslice Jean-Claude Ellena´s encounter with a rare flowering tree in the Reunion Islands, and its flower that smells like, well, flour (read the blurb on LuckyScent here.) Notes are white cedar, gaiacwood, sandalwood, white iris, farine flower, fennel seed. Bois Farine is one of those scents I want desperately to work for me – look at those notes! – but it often smells flat and bitter, almost like stale beer, so I borrowed some skin for this review. On a normal person, Bois Farine smells weirdly enchanting. The cedar was less pronounced on my defenseless children than it sometimes is; the farine flower and fennel smell like rising bread dough, and the floral notes add a deliciously odd counterpoint. On Diva it is breadier and smells peppery; on Enigma it is heartbreakingly, delicately sweet — I can almost feel the crunch of fennel seeds in my teeth, their sweet sugary flavor and scent reminiscent of (but milder than) aniseed. I’ve read a number of references to a smell like peanut butter, and I don’t get that at all. It is a flowery bread (or a bready flower.) I think of it as Santal Blanc’s younger, less difficult sister. It´s a gourmand perfume probably not for everyone, and that´s just dandy.
In contrast, Fou d´Absinthe is a tall, deliciously bitter quaff of a fragrance. With notes of absinthe, star anise, dry pine, cistus, angelica flower, blackcurrant buds, clove, ginger, nutmeg, patchouli, pepper, pine needles, fir balsam, Fou d´Absinthe is (so far as I can recall) the first of the recent spate of absinthe scents (which now includes Black Fig & Absinthe, Absolument Absinthe, and probably others.) This is a great time to be an absinthe fragrance, now that the long-banned beverage has recently been legalized for import to the U.S., spawning a mini-industry of absinthe theme parties and absinthe-related drinkware. I haven´t tasted absinthe, but its comparison to the anise-flavored drink ouzo has mostly killed off any interest … where were we? Oh, yeah – this is a great scent. It´s stronger than a lot of the L´Artisans, and falls I guess at the more “masculine” end of the spectrum, being absent any conspicuously sweet notes. After the flaming-alcohol opening, there´s half an hour or so of woods, pepper, and a faint musky note, and this phase, while not exactly hairy-chested, is something that definitely smells borrowed from the men´s aisle. Then it becomes more green and balsam-y, and after that I´d call it easily unisex. It´s the sort of cool, refreshing scent its notes imply. I am insanely grateful to get no anise.
Do I find it particularly “foody?” I can´t decide. It´s almost more … forest-y. Or garden-y. I think the woods render it too cologne-like to really conjure a gourmand concept for me. I love it, but I don´t want to drink it.
Finally, Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale provides me with an excellent crow-eating opportunity. First off – it smells like spiced vanilla, not fish, and I´m not researching the inspiration for that goofy name. Maybe my nose was off; the first few times I got vanilla (okay, a very nice vanilla) but none of the spice-fest everyone else was raving about. Then I threw more on and – wow! Really, really pretty. Notes are: citrus, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, Madagascan vanilla. The citrus serves not as some jarring lemon-y contrast note, but as an additional tart note in the spice mix. For me, Sushi Imperiale sparked my current mini-interest in vanilla scents (along with Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille). Sushi is a nice counter-demonstration to the general nastiness of Sephora´s gourmand perfume section with its fear-factor level of sweetness. Sushi doesn´t mow you down with a truckload of wood-pulp extracted vanillin (hey, where did you think it comes from?) It´s not dry, precisely, or smoky – but there´s a subtlety to it that´s hard to describe. Yeah, it´s a warm blanket of a comfort scent, but I could smell this on an Armani-suited, male trial lawyer and not burst out laughing. There´s something sort of honey/tobacco about its spiciness, making it closer in feel to Chergui or Esteban Sensuelle Russie than, say, a CSP vanilla. There´s also something sophisticated about it; maybe the simplicity of the scent? Sillage Monster Alert: is it just me, or does a little of this go a very long way?
So … let´s have a food fight. Do you consider “gourmand perfume” and “foody perfume” to be sort of synonymous, or are you one of those people who write “gourmand perfume but not really foody” and mean it? How foody do you consider these scents? Are you feeling the love for foody scents in general, or does the idea disgust you? Finally, should we take all the really, really sweet gourmand perfumes, no matter how elegantly done, and bury them in one of those underground nuclear-waste storage sites?
Next month´s Scent Club: Holiday Scents! For your olfactory delight I think we´ll be reviewing CB I Hate Perfume´s Winter 1972 and Gingerbread, Caron Nuit de Noel, Fendi Theorema, and Guerlain´s Aqua Allegoria Winter Delices.