The amount of jargon to familiarize yourself with if you want to get into perfumes must seem overwhelming to the initiate.
Eau de toilette, eau de parfum, chypre, fougère, oriental, sillage…and that’s just scratching the surface.
And now gourmand! Just what is a gourmand perfume, anyway?
Just like the word “gourmet”, “gourmand” relates to food. A gourmand perfume is a perfume that smells “edible”, featuring notes like chocolate, vanilla, caramel, almonds, fruit, coffee, tea, and honey.
Let’s take a deep dive into the delicious domain of gourmands.
What Is a Gourmand?
As I mentioned previously, a gourmand is a genre of perfumes which smell “edible” and contain ingredients like chocolate, vanilla, caramel, coffee, and so on.
Though most gourmand perfumes are sweet, there are some perfumes out there (which you, dear reader, may kindly investigate on your own) that offer a more savory experience. Demeter Perfumes, for instance, has created some mouthwatering fragrances such as BBQ, Beetroot, Celery, Chipotle Pepper, Fiery Curry, Lobster, Rye Bread, Stringbean, Sushi, and Pizza.
Nah, I’m good.
Where Does the Word “Gourmand” Come From?
The word “gourmand” is derived from French, and is closely related to the word “gourmet”.
In English, “gourmand” actually refers to something other than perfume.
According to Merriam-Webster, “gourmand” refers to, “one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking”, which was the original definition of the word, or, “one who is heartily interested in good food and drink”, the more modern definition.
As a gourmand myself (perhaps, unfortunately, fitting both definitions) with quite the sweet tooth, I’ve always been drawn to gourmand perfumes, which could be said to be “desserts in a bottle”.
A Brief History of Gourmands
For most of perfume history, gourmands did not exist, at least not in the realm of mainstream perfumery.
Female oriented perfumes were usually chypres, orientals, or florals, and male oriented perfumes were almost invariably fougères, chypres, or orientals. Perfumes of neither gender were generally very sweet.
All that changed in 1992, when Thierry Mugler, a musclebound French fashion designer with a penchant for sci-fi, released Angel, a blockbuster success that brought gourmands into the limelight.
Angel, a bombastic, outrageous, and deeply polarizing scent, was practically bursting at the seams with gourmand notes: cotton candy, melon, pineapple, mandarin orange, honey, red berries, blackberry, plum, apricot, peach, chocolate, caramel, and vanilla, along with the characteristic Mugler patchouli DNA.
Some despised it, but Angel’s runaway success started a gourmand wave that rippled throughout the fragrance industry and remains to this day.
Since then, almost every designer brand on the market has released a gourmand fragrance – Lolita Lempicka’s Lolita Lempicka in 1997, Dior’s Hypnotic Poison in 1998, Lancome’s La Vie Est Belle in 2012, Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium in 2014, and many, many more.
Semi-Gourmand vs. Gourmand
There is a distinction that should be carefully made. Not every fragrance which contains vanilla, chocolate, or honey can be said to be “gourmand”. Rather, a fragrance being gourmand is determined by the degree to which that fragrance smells like a food item.
Some perfumes are what could be said to be “semi-gourmand”, meaning that they feature gourmand notes, but don’t become overly edible. Fragrances like Xerjoff’s Naxos (honey), Chanel’s Coromandel (white chocolate), Tom Ford’s Cafe Rose (coffee), and Christian Dior’s Fève Délicieuse (vanilla, cherry, praline, caramel, milk) fall into this category.
Personally, this is how I prefer my gourmand perfumes.
Then, there are the more heavy duty, foody gourmand fragrances, which fully commit to giving you an unapologetically edible perfume experience.
Fragrances like Thierry Mugler’s A*Men Pure Tonka (coffee, licorice, chocolate), Imaginary Author’s A Whiff of Wafflecone (ice cream, syrup, whipped cream, caramel), or Montale’s Chocolate Greedy (cacao, vanilla, coffee) fall into this category.
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the super hardcore gourmands, but if you want to smell like cupcakes, there are perfumes out there that will give you that experience.
Most gourmand perfumes on the market will be the aforementioned “semi-gourmands”, though some mainstream designer brands have dipped their toes into full-blown gourmand territory.
Whatever floats your boat, it’s certain that there’s a gourmand perfume out there for you.
Five Recommended Gourmands From My Collection
As an enjoyer of gourmand perfumes, I’ve tested tons and tons of them over my years of being a fragrance enthusiast.
I’ll say right off the bat that there are two gourmand perfumes I can absolutely recommend but that I do not currently own: Dior’s Fève Délicieuse and Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille.
Fève Délicieuse is a beautiful and classy blend of chewy tonka beans, vanilla, sour cherry, milk, and woods, with an aromatic brace of lavender and mint up top to keep things from getting too cloying and sweet.
Spiriteuse Double Vanille is one of the best vanillas on the market in my view, a rich Bourbon vanilla with incense, cedar, ylang-ylang and rose. It’s intoxicatingly good.
Unfortunately, I don’t own those fragrances at the moment. However, I can wholeheartedly recommend these five that I do.
5. Montale Intense Café
Key notes: rose, coffee, vanilla, musk
A delicious blend of vanilla, roses, and coffee, Intense Café can best be described as a creamy vanilla latte with a shot of rose syrup. This is a big love for me, but seems to get a polarized reaction, since most people go in expecting a stronger blast of coffee.
This ain’t that – if you don’t like roses, stay away. But if you’re looking for a delicious, gooey gourmand rose fragrance with lashings of coffee, look no further.
4. Hermès Ambre Narguilé
Key notes: honey, cinnamon, rum, tobacco
The delicious and oft-imitated Ambre Narguilé, first released in French brand Hermès’ exclusive Hermessence collection in 2004, is a classic for a reason. A glorious mix of honey, cinnamon, rum, tobacco, caramel, sesame, and resins, Ambre Narguilé smells like a baklava dripping in honey syrup eaten while smoking shisha and sipping tea.
Of course, it’s done in that perfectly blended, oh-so-classy Hermès style, which keeps it from ever being too much.
3. Arabian Oud Resala
Key notes: oud, chocolate, rose, vanilla
I won’t lie to you – at least 75% of the reason I bought this fragrance was the bottle. But the juice inside certainly does not disappoint. If you like Lancome’s Oud Bouquet, Maison Francis Kurkdijan’s Oud Satin Mood, or Jo Malone’s Velvet Rose & Oud, this is in the same vein, just with far more potent performance and a more authentic Arabian character.
This is a deep, rich, 85% dark chocolate mixed with vanilla, a supple, clean oud, saffron, and rose. A real beauty that lasts and lasts.
2. Xerjoff Dolce Amalfi
Key notes: quince, cloves, apple, tolu balsam
One of the most unique and wonderful gourmand fragrances I’ve ever encounter, Xerjoff’s Dolce Amalfi is a delicious mix of quince, a kind of fruit related to apples and pears that is widely eaten in the Mediterranean and Central Europe, apple, spices, incense, and a rich chord of vanilla, tolu balsam, amber, and tonka beans.
What’s even more amazing is that it smells like spicy gelato and Juicy Fruit bubble gum executed in the most luxurious and refined way possible. Yes, it smells like Juicy Fruit! And ice cream! But there’s also a boatload of spices in here that keeps things comfy, classy, and never blasé.
This is a gourmand you can wear in the summer, and it wouldn’t be out of place in any other season, either. One of my favorite perfumes ever, period.
1. L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea For Two
Key notes: lapsang souchong tea, gingerbread, tobacco, spices
A truly marvelous, sweet and spicy gourmand fragrance, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Tea For Two is a cozy blend of smoky lapsang souchong black tea, tobacco, cinnamon, star anise, gingerbread, honey, and vanilla. The opening is spicy and zingy, but it becomes smoother and warmer as vanilla and honey do their magic.
On cold winter days trapped inside the house, there’s nothing better than a mug of your hot beverage of choice, a roaring fire, a good book, and a few spritzes of Tea For Two.
The Final Word
So to recap:
A gourmand perfume is any perfume which smells “edible” and uses notes like vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and caramel. Some perfumes are “semi-gourmand”, meaning sweet but not too sweet, while others fully commit to smelling like a food item.
So, if you’ve got a sweet tooth and want to smell delicious, look no further than gourmand perfumes.