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perfumes that will satisfy your sweet tooth


It all started rather innocently: I went with a friend to check out the second location of Toronto’s Bobbette & Belle—a pastry shop that trades in all things sugary. Once inside, after waiting in line to get in, I saw what all the fuss was about: row upon row of pastel-hued French macarons in pistachio, salted caramel and cassis; towering cakes filled with airy chocolate ganache, lemon curd and cream cheese icing; and an endless display of dreamy vanilla, chocolate and red velvet cupcakes topped with fudge, lemon and mango-passionfruit frosting. But it was the delectable smells of creamy toffee and buttery croissants wafting through the air that pushed me into sensory overload. “It’s all too much,” I told my friend in a Willy Wonka-esque reverie, taking in the pastries that had me swooning even before the first bite. I wanted to eat everything that was making the shop smell so good.

The delicious smell of those treats could very well belong in your new perfume bottle. In the fragrance world, perfumers first tapped into our sweet cravings with an olfactory category called gourmand, used to describe scents that smell like dessert. Now, a new crop of gourmand-inspired fragrances has arrived, seemingly more edible than ever. To wit: Nina Ricci Les Délices de Nina, with an accord of strawberry candy and a note of white caramel; Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Eau Fraîche, with pistachio, apricot and lemon; Valentina Pink, with juicy strawberry, blackberry and praline; and Lancôme’s La Nuit Trésor, with lychee and praline. The common thread in these fragrances—which are often rounded out by light florals, woods and musks—is an unabashedly addictive quality. It’s the “edible” aspect of gourmand scents, explains Olivier Cresp, a co-perfumer of Nina Ricci Les Délices de Nina and the nose behind the game-changing gourmand Thierry Mugler Angel. “[It] is used to create fragrances which draw you in again and again, making some utterly irresistible,” he says.

What differentiates today’s confectionery-inspired scents from patchouli-laced gourmands like 1992’s Angel and 2005’s Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (both of which remain top sellers) is that they’re neither too cloying nor too heady, giving them broad appeal. In Valentina Pink, blackberry keeps the sweetness in check. “[It] brings out the sparkling, sour and astringent side, which provides freshness,” says Daphné Bugey, who created the scent with Fabrice Pellegrin. But Valentina Pink is still an addictive fragrance. “It reminds us of delectable desserts, mainly through the pleasure they bring.”

The ability of gourmand scents to trigger memories and create Proustian moments (like the madeleine that instantly transported the writer back to his childhood) might help explain their allure. As it turns out, we’re partly hard-wired to be drawn to scents, explains Dr. Johan Lundström, a faculty member at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “We like certain smells because we have a positive association with them,” he says. “One of the universally liked smells is vanilla. Some studies suggest that this [preference for odours] has been learned in the womb,” and posit that a fondness for certain smells, like sweetness, is partly innate. Lundström also points to a study from Germany in which babies who were fed vanilla-flavoured formula developed a preference for vanilla in foods later in life. Further, he notes, candy, chocolate and cakes are deeply linked with our pleasure centre. “When parents want to reward their kids, they give them candy and cakes,” he says. “There is a strong association with pleasure, a good time and a happy family. That, of course, spills over into sweet smells.”

And just as all desserts are not overly saccharine, neither are all scents. Sensuality is at the heart of Lancôme’s La Nuit Trésor, which introduces black rose into its blend of lychee, vanilla orchid and praline and is described as the first “aphrodisiac gourmand.” It recalls the seductive quality that made Angel so irresistible (so enticing, he’d want to lean in for a bite). Tangy notes have also entered the dessert-inspired scent equation. “Today, other types of gourmands are less sticky, and we can find new combinations mixing sweet and sour,” says Marie Salamagne, co-perfumer of Les Délices de Nina. Salamagne, a sweet lover herself, looked to Fraise Tagada—a strawberry-flavoured candy beloved in France—for Les Délices de Nina. “I liked the acidulous side of this candy that blends with and accentuates the top [notes] of Nina,” she says. “[Nina is] a fragrance reminiscent of childhood, which makes us smile and transports us to another world.”

It’s no surprise, then, that smell is vital to a pastry chef’s bag of tricks. “It is one of the most important things to consider,” says New York-based pastry chef Dominique Ansel, better known as the man who launched a thousand Cronuts. “A sweet-smelling dessert can make your mouth water without even tasting the item. You are led by your nose as much as your tongue.” Whether the topic is perfume or pastry, sweeter words were never spoken.

Cakes by Nadia & Co.

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