For being one of the most recent sub genres of perfume the Gourmand sector has been in danger of becoming a cliché. It has gone from delightfully decadent to boringly banal in what seems record time. Too many releases throw together some fruit, some sugar, some spice, and drench it all in vanilla. Maybe one different ingredient, or two, but the result is the same; a seemingly endless assembly line of bland vanilla cupcakes. Thankfully Claude Marchal owner and creative director of Parfums MDCI does not believe in corporate constructed pablum. His vision is of a gourmand that is like a hand-made cupcake which makes the boring other ones seem even less appealing. That is what Les Indes Galantes achieves.
The name comes from the ballet heroique composed by Jean-Philippe Rameau. One of the nice things about some of the names of perfume is I learn something new. This is a work and composer I am completely unfamiliar with. Wikipedia tells me he was the foremost French opera composer during the Baroque period and he played a mean harpsichord. There is nothing about the fragrance which connects to this in any way I can discern,
M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian on their third fragrance for Parfums MDCI. This is the first Gourmand for MDCI and it is only the second in Mme Zarokian’s young career. That relative freshness at approaching a perfume like Les Indes Galantes might be the reason it feels so different to me. Many of the same familiar levels of this type of fragrance are present but M. Marchal and Mme Zarokian take a different tack throughout Les Indes Galantes.
Citrus and berries is a well-worn opening. Mme Zarokian takes the orange and the raspberry but she enhances the tartness of the orange with a good amount of bergamot. The raspberry is elided of much of its juicy berry character by the use of almond restraining that exuberance. This makes the top layer a tug of war between bitter and sweet. In the heart the spices arrive. The three Mme Zarokian chooses are cinnamon, clove, and coriander. In a lesser perfume the cinnamon would lead the way. Mme Zarokian inverts that thinking with the coriander and clove on top and the cinnamon providing a simmering warmth underneath. In the base here comes the vanilla and benzoin but Mme Zarokina turns it exotic with a set of unusual notes to turn the boring into beauty. Labdanum, leather, and heliotrope all provide contrast on top of the sweet.
Les Indes Galantes has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
It is so striking when something different in an overextended sector comes along. Les Indes Galantes is like seeing gourmands with new eyes. I can only hope for another lovely cupcake from Claude & Cecile sometime in the future.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.