Perfume Review: Chanel Gardenia
Jan Moran calls Gardénia a “polished” scent, and that describes it precisely, Gardénia is soft, smooth, and refined. There are no loud notes, no sharp corners, just white floral silkiness. Gardénia was created for Chanel by Ernest Beaux in 1925 and re-released in 1993, when, according to Luca Turin (Le Guide), a note (unspecified but reminiscent of Dior’s Poison) has been added to the formula, rendering the scent unrecognizable. Gardénia I am reviewing is not vintage, but even this reformulated version is so incredibly beautiful that I cannot imagine how much more stunning it could have been. Please comment if you are lucky to know the old version!
According to the aforementioned Jan Moran, Gardénia has top notes of absolutes of jasmine, gardenia, orange blossom, and tuberose, heart notes of clove, sage, pimiento, and base notes of musk, patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver. The rumor has it that there is actually no gardenia in this scent, and that is what my nose tells me as well. The most prominent note on my skin is orange blossom, very alike the one in Rosa Flamenca by Les Perfumes de Rosine; in fact, these two scents smell quite similar to me. However where in Rosa Flamenca orange blossom is accompanied by rose and is rather sweet, in Gardénia it is made greener by jasmine note and sage. That is not to say that Gardénia is a green or herbal scent, not at all, there is a little greenness somewhere in the beginning of its middle stage, but the velvety tuberose note is also apparent and it warms and softens considerably what could have been a much sharper scent. I really do not smell much (if any) patchouli in the drydown, just a little woody sweetness of sandalwood and some light musk.
The softness of this scent amazed me, somehow I expected something more heady and perhaps aldehydic from the scent created that many years ago; I was prepared to make an effort to “understand” this fragrance. I was resigned to only be able to admire it from the distance, as I do with Chanel No 5. Yet, as the other two Rue de Cambon scents, Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie, Gardénia is incredibly easy to love and to wear. Still, there is something “old world” about this scent, perhaps that very softness and smoothness adds a touch of grace and style, a touch of that indefinable something that whispers rather than shouts glamour. Laugh if you must, but Gardénia always makes me think of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and the 1974 movie based on the book. The young, glamorous and exotic Countess Andrenyi (Jacqueline Bissett) would have worn this perfume so well, as would the rich, charismatic Princess Dragomiroff (Wendy Hiller), and even the composed, aloof Mary Debenham (Vanessa Redgrave). Gardénia is to me the epitome of inconspicuous luxury that is taken for granted and is never over the top, of natural elegance, of taste and discretion.
Gardénia is available from chanel.com or gloss.com, where 0.5oz of Parfum retails for $160.00 and 3,3oz of Eau de Toilette for $82.00. Of the three Rue de Cambon scents it also seems to be easier to find online in places other then Chanel and Gloss, for example, perfumeshop.com is selling 1,7oz of Eau de Toilette for $65.00.