Life & Culture

Sweet scents for a fruitful new year

Just as we eat apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year, the perfumes we wear can be symbolic, says Viola Levy


The idea of renewal and the promise of a sweet new year has never been more gleefully anticipated, after the events of the past few months. And just as we eat symbolic sweet foods for Rosh Hashanah, there is a way we can mark the occasion with our perfumes too.

Just like with food, there’s something about fragrance that wraps us in a security blanket and makes us feel everything’s going to be OK — and nothing achieves that quite like the sweet kind of scent known as a gourmande. One of the lesser-known fragrance families, gourmandes are particularly suited to the colder seasons — the scent equivalent of coming in from the cold and tucking into a giant slab of honey cake. And while the name “gourmande” is relatively new, the scent itself is not — as James Craven, perfume expert and archivist at Les Senteurs explains.

“We can trace many gourmande scents back to ancient times — timeless perfumes to wear and fragrances to use in rites of magic and religion,” he says. “Some of the very oldest perfumes with which ancient man daubed himself were mixes of honey, ginger, sweetened wine, cinnamon and dried fruits such as raisins and dates.”

A key ingredient in gourmande perfumery is vanilla, which James notes, “came into high fashion just short of a century ago in the shape of Guerlain’s oriental classic Shalimar — characterised by a massive overdose of vanillin. Then for many years after, vanilla-based perfumes trended towards the sweet and creamy, even syrupy!”

As you might have guessed, gourmandes feature confectionary-based notes like caramel, chocolate, coffee, amber and vanilla. They might sound sickly, but any gourmande worth its salt (or sugar, we should say) should be wearable and non-cloying, rich enough to cut through the cold but not steal the show entirely.

Angel by Thierry Mugler 
( is probably the most well-known gourmande on the beauty block. Launched in 1992 — a time when supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell ruled the runways — it oozed a no-holds-barred glamour that gave the wearer some supermodel shine of their own. Despite its name, Angel is a far cry from angelic — its main candyfloss accord is combined with earthy patchouli, giving it dark, smoky undertones. Love it or hate it, this fragrance definitely makes an impact. (Just don’t spray it too liberally before you walk into a restaurant.)

Equally glamorous, the newly launched Lipstick Fever by Juliette Has A Gun ( is like dipping your nose into a vintage makeup bag. It pays tribute to those sweet scents that lipsticks and mascaras are often infused with, (think iris, violet absolute and raspberry), while patchouli and cedarwood add warmth and help anchor it on to the skin.

For a less dizzying sugar high, Los Angeles by Gallivant ( may be your olfactory cup of tea. “With this perfume, I wanted to capture the colours of southern California,” founder and creator Nick Steward explains. “A particular sunset over the Pacific. And a certain bubble-gum breezy optimism.” The fragrance is certainly that, with all the understated charm and glamour of a Molly Ringwald movie; it’s soft and wearable while the tuberose and narcissus notes lend it enough chutzpah to carry over into the evening.

Some fragrances we rely on more than others, to lift us out of the doldrums when there’s a cloud hanging over our head. Unue — Jeroboam’s latest offering ( — is one such scent.

Its secret lies in the heart of Egyptian jasmine, an ingredient so alluring, Queen Cleopatra apparently used to scent her ships with it. Cheery pineapple and pink berries give it a piña colada-like appeal, but without the maracas and mini-umbrellas.

Last but not least is Annicke 6 Eau de Parfum (, which was apparently inspired by a very glamorous Frenchwoman that the perfumer met in a very glamorous French ski resort, for whom he decided to create a very, very glamorous perfume.

All that glamour doesn’t go unnoticed in this heady concoction that comes waltzing in with rose, cinnamon and a special toffee-amber accord.

These gorgeous gourmandes will help raise the spirits this Rosh Hashanah, and so will these cheery words from Nick Steward: “I have a sweet tooth, so I’m especially looking forward to honey cake (homemade by my colleague), with cinnamon and ginger. Here’s to simple pleasures!”


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