When did we develop our insatiable craving for sweet perfumes? I could point to Thierry Mugler’s Angel, the grandmother of all gourmands; launched in 1992, this bonbon of cotton candy, bitter chocolate and patchouli still graces bestseller lists the world over. The success of Angel (£52.50 for 25ml EDP) inspired several generations of fragrances redolent of crème brûlée, caramel and rice pudding, from Chanel Coco Mademoiselle (£52 for 35ml EDP) to Kenzo Amour (£33.75 for 30ml EDP), and the boundary between fragrance and flavour became nebulous.
While Angel set the modern trend, sweet accords are as old as the art of perfumery itself. Many classics have accords that tease with their subtle references to desserts without venturing too far into pâtisserie. For instance, the combination of peach, roasted almonds and cinnamon in Guerlain Mitsouko (£72.50 for 75ml EDP), created in 1919, suggests an extravaganza worthy of Escoffier, while the moss and woods add an abstract, distinctly non-edible effect.
Lolita Lempicka (£79 for 100ml EDP) 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. Joined by violet and green anise, the iris steers Lolita Lempicka into brighter, fresher territory, while vetiver adds a crunch of salt to the voluptuous drydown of roasted almonds and musk. The effect is striking – sweet and refreshing, yet smouldering and sophisticated – and although Lolita Lempicka is marketed for women, its contrasting composition crosses the gender boundary with ease, making for a seductive masculine perfume.
The perfumer responsible for this marvel is Annick Ménardo, who also made the smell of rubber and smoke in Bulgari Black (no longer available) and Le Labo Patchouli 24 (£120 for 50ml EDP) seem alluring. As she plays with the candied accord to make Lolita Lempicka satisfy cravings for sweetness, she takes a page from the “abstract gourmand” vintages to give a more complex, unpredictable character to her creation. The result is a modern classic.
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog boisdejasmin.com since 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher.