Gardenias are said to be the perfumer’s best bet at capturing the US feminine market. We in the Sates love our gardenias, and if you can just concoct us a good one, we’re your customers forever.
There’s some truth to the rumor. All sorts of niche perfume companies have tried to crack open the American feminine market with gardenias, but only Annick Goutal succeeded with Gardenia Passion*, and such venerable houses as Guerlain have struck out with non-gardenia gardenias such as Cruel Gardenia. C’est la Vie.
But most of the houses persist in trying to get one on the market. Almost everybody takes a swing at gardenia. The trouble is, gardenias are hard to get right. Mals over at The Muse in Wooden Shoes recently did an exhaustive list of gardenias and pretty much nailed the ones that are gardenia, but what about the gardenias that aren’t ?
Unfortunately they outnumber the real gardenias. I have trouble detecting much real gardenia in such classics as Isabey’s Gardenia, and find very little in the current batch of new gardenias. Gardenia Rattan, the new Lauder gardenia is very watery and has little gardenia creaminess. In fact that “seawater” note that Gardenia Rattan begins with pretty much drowns any gardenia, jasmine or tuberose remaining in the formula. Basically if you like gardenias this is one to avoid.
Kai which was a cult perfume only a few years ago because it was supposed to be all gardenia and just about nothing else is not gardenia either. The trial size I sampled recently was uncomfortably green to begin with and then settled down to a very chemical approximation of white flowers. I know Kai is a warm weather classic in the States, but honestly I think you would do better with any number of other perfumes. Kai just isn’t gardenia.
Most troubling to my mind are the high end gardenias that are nowhere near the fresh mushroomy/ devonshire creamy/ celadon greeny scent. I know that some perfume companies like to have their little tease naming perfumes for ingredients undetectable to the average human nose (Le Labo) but what about that dependable house Chanel? Their gardenia still doesn’t smell like gardenias to me and periodically I go and have a sniff just to make sure the situation has not changed. As far as I can smell it has not. Chanel is still a watery slightly fruity rendition with coconut oil residue on my skin. A mash up of white flowers and for $160.00 a bottle, I’d rather smell gardenias on a plant or in a corsage.
Then there’s Creed. Their 2012 Fleurs de Gardenia is a fine bouquet fragrance but not specifically a gardenia one, and considering the name, and that it costs north of a $150.00, I’d call that a fail. When I smelled Fleurs de G. the fragrance was generically floral with pink pepper in the beginning, but no gardenia. Some people smell peony there, but I could not smell anything at all, not even peonies, after half an hour.
There are gardenias out there but the trouble is that the best of them: Jardenia and Epic Gardenia from Strange Invisible Perfumes cost the earth. So the wealthy can smell of gardenias if they choose-what about the rest of us?
What’s your favorite affordable gardenia? * Oddly Gardenia Passion is a passionate tuberose, I don’t smell any gardenia.