Three things I want to get out of the way right from the start: Cruel Gardenia doesn't smell of gardenia, it doesn't smell "like a Guerlain" and I love it. Now more about each of these shocking declarations.
What it smells like. According to Guerlain,
"Essence of damask rose with hints of peach and neroli create a refreshing initial burst of florals. Gradually, the scent of gardenia develops with the grace of violet, warmed by ylang-ylang from the Comoros and white musks. These lingering notes, present from the beginning, form the backbone of the composition. Essence of Tonka Bean sustains the white musks and moves into a sensuous note of vanilla and sandalwood."According to my nose, the scent begins with a cold, almost aldehydic whiff of absolutely not sweet neroli, with the subtlest of fruity-rosy hints. My first -excited- thought upon smelling the top notes is, "heavens above, is this going to be a chypre?!" (And as far as I am concerned, the chypre vibe is present in the scent, much to my delight.) The delicate powderiness of violets that manifests after a couple of minutes contributes to the very "classic" or even "retro" feel of the composition. One might say that violet is a very "Guerlain" note, but it doesn't smell Guerlain-like here. In fact, nothing in this understated, coldly-elegant scent does. Wearing Cruel Gardenia, I cannot shake the feeling of having on a Chanel fragrance. Despite the name, it does not remind me of Chanel's Gardenia (or does in a way that, like the latter, it does not smell of gardenias at all); its alluring combination of almost masculine harshness and infinitely feminine softness actually makes me think of Chanel No 19.
Coming back to the scent... after violet, a note appears that is not really ylang and definitely not gardenia, but something abstractly white and creamy. A flower that doesn't exist but should, because it smells so sublime. Despite the declared vanilla and sandalwood, the base notes maintain the non-sweet and failry cold feeling of the composition; if anything, the perfume becomes a little greener, on my skin. I would sum up my impressions in three words: Classic, Couture and Chanel. I am deeply in love with Cruel Gardenia, and am incredibly happy that Guerlain produced a perfume so timeless, so ageless, so void of any trendiness, so exquisitely elegant...even if it doesn't smell like a Guerlain at all.
To inquire about the availability of Cruel Gardenia, please contact Jason Beers at Bergdorf Goodman, (212) 872-2734.