Oh, mama, do I love a good gardenia perfume. It’s like a holy grail perfume search for me. Gardenia is a tricky flower from which it is practically impossible to extract perfume. It’s been done recently, but very rarely, and is prohibitively expensive. So most gardenia perfumes you smell these days don’t actually have any gardenia in them, they’re more of an approximation. This is also tricky because one of the most intoxicating things about gardenia is how the actual flower smells, and when it smells.
The gardenia flower smells the most beautiful just before it starts to turn brown, and then continues to smell stronger and more amazing as the flower dies. That’s it right there – the beginning of the death of the blossom. It’s the hint of an earthy, almost mushroom-y, “rot” that makes gardenia so beguiling. This rot contributes to the character of the perfume I find. The more rot, the more carnal and almost dangerous it smells. The discontinued Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia had an almost blue cheese accord buried under the flower, and it may be one of the sexiest scents I’ve ever smelled. So sexy and intense it was practically unwearable, to be honest, and I suspect that’s why it’s discontinued. And the thick almost illegally intense Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire, which is equally mushroomy and almost syrupy. These are not gardenia perfumes for amateurs, but perfume junkies should search out samples of these pieces of art. You won’t regret it.
Like beauty on the edge, wild and untamed, the gardenia is no prim flower. It’s a carnal flower (Frederic Malle knows this) and even the Victorians used gardenias in their secret flower code communications. The gardenia usually indicated a budding ecstasy, usually a new and passionate love, meant to tell the recipient “I’m in love with you”. Elizabeth Taylor was known for her love of the legendary and elusive Tuvache Jungle Gardenia* and she wore it like a sexy jungle cat stalking her prey.
I had the chance to try some niche gardenia perfumes and honestly, gardenia lovers, these need to be on your radar.
Dame Perfumery Gardenia Soliflore is an incredible photo-realistic gardenia scent that blew me away on first sniff. Like seriously a “nose buried in a lush bloom” realistic. I got my bottle when I was in Florida where the weird politics are balanced out by sublime weather and flowers from heaven. We have some gorgeous gardenia bushes around and I often would pluck a blossom for the house, digging my nose in and wishing for a simple true gardenia scent. Well, wish no more because Dame Perfumery Gardenia Soliflore is just that. It has the green, wet stemmy bit that makes me want to chew my wrist, it’s so yummy. Then the unmistakable scent of those thick, waxy white petals with a hint of cheesy mushroom, but just a soft hint. It’s more floral, fresh and green than earthy, and beautifully wearable. I can’t decide whether I prefer the perfume oil ($35 USD, 10ml) or the edt ($65 USD, 100ml) as they are both gorgeous. The oil is more concentrated yet smells true to the edt. I LOVE using the edt on my hairbrush, for luscious locks that smell so yummy! And the price is right.
Sarah Horowitz Perfect Gardenia might be my favourite gardenia scent right now. It’s a soft floral gardenia, with a tiny bit of earthiness on the top notes. It’s got a bit of a camphor thing going on when you first spray it, and it gives Perfect Gardenia an interesting and fresh edge. What I love about this one is the musk that peeks through in the dry down. Sarah Horowitz is famous for her Perfect Veil, which is one of the loveliest clean musk perfumes ever, and I feel like she uses this influence in the base of Perfect Gardenia. It gives it a sexy 70s vibe that I obviously adore, and makes it effortless to wear. I love the eau de parfum ($60 USD, 30 ml) but have not tried the oil, which I’m sure is also soft and sexy. This one is a big compliment getter as well. Yummy. I got to try Perfect Gardenia from Scent Trunk, who also sell this perfume in Canada. Scent Trunk is a great way to sample a fantastic array of perfumes you may never otherwise get to try.
I had the chance to try a new perfume from Juan Perez of The Exotic Island Perfumer. He is a lover of gardenia and has great respect for the beauty of this blossom. His perfumes are beautiful, and I was honoured to be able to try his Gardenia Absoluta. Right now he is selling samples of it at his Etsy Store as it is not officially launched yet. When it is, his 50ml bottles will retail for $125 USD, which is quite reasonable for hand blended artisanal perfume. Juan tells me his own description of Gardenia Absoluta as simply “a very fresh living gardenia with an elegant touch of tropical woods”. Of every gardenia perfume I’ve tried, this one is the most masculine. The woodsy notes add a depth to this perfume and make it something a guy could carry off easily. There are some soft citrus notes that do add a freshness to this gardenia, and the sandalwood base is warm and beautiful. As Gardenia Absoluta dries down, the fresh dewy gardenia shines through. This is the perfect gardenia perfume for someone who wants something a little different, as it’s less floral and sweet than most gardenia scents. He will be launching it soon, but getting a sample from his site is a great way to try this!
What are your favourite niche gardenia perfumes? What else should I try?
*I have a “medium vintage” version of Jungle Gardenia and it is a thin, sad and screechy disappointment. I still hope to get my hands on some real juice. Don’t bother with anything recent and reformulated. It will just make you sad.