Before working for a fragrance and flavour company for several years, I had often wondered why cherry-flavoured candy tasted nothing like the real thing. It turns out that just as perfumers have their classical accords to create the scent of rose, amber or jasmine, so do the flavourists. The cherry accord, for instance, is based on a compound called benzaldehyde, which has an almond-like scent, and since the molecule is present in cherry pits, it inspired the cherry flavour most of us recognise from sweets, liqueurs and cough syrups. Even if it lacks the tartness and floral accents of real fruit, today’s flavourists are bound by public expectations to keep to the classical cherry accord. Anything else may not register as cherry to many people.
Perfumers, on the other hand, especially those working for niche brands, have fewer limitations. A fragrance I’ve always found delightful for its cherry notes is Serge Lutens Rahät Loukoum (£170 for 75ml EDP). The composition is inspired by Turkish delight, a confection flavoured with rosewater and almonds, but the perfumer Christopher Sheldrake balances out the gourmand sweetness with a cherry accord that evokes the sensation of biting into ripe red fruit. The almond notes are wrapped in vanilla and musk, creating a soft, velvety impression, while the cherry gives it freshness.
Even more pronounced is the cherry accord in Lolita Lempicka (£35 for 50ml EDP). In fragrance, cherries can be suggested by a variety of materials, but creators often turn to the tonka bean. Its scent evokes both almonds and cherries, and in Lolita Lempicka, perfumer Annick Ménardo relies on this luscious ingredient to accent her gourmand composition. She whips up creamy iris notes and layers them with cherries, praline and liquorice for an irresistible effect.
Tom Ford Lost Cherry (£218 for 50ml EDP), by contrast, gives wood centre stage. Ford’s choice of name banks on shock value, but the perfume is sophisticated and charming. It opens on a bright accord of black cherries, but it darkens almost instantly to sandalwood and burnished spices. Rose and jasmine are used as a soft accent, bridging the richness of fruit and the dryness of wood. Perfumer Louise Turner then adds a salty note of vetiver to tone down the sweetness and give the fragrance an alluring complexity. It smells good enough to eat.
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.