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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Perfume Review: Guerlain Cruel Gardenia

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.

39 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh - now I am guessing at what this smells like, and not just aimlessly pining...the chypre, the hint of greeness gives me hope! And I too wear Chanel a bit better than Guerlain - but I so enjoy smelling them! Thanks for a great description!
BBliss

10:57 PM EST  
Blogger Beth Gehring said...

For some reason, the whole time that I was reading your post (which was wonderful I might add!) I could not help but have the feeling that I was having a glimpse into the world of the winter fey folk. Something about the concept of a flower that "doesn't exist but should" makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck! Is this available..can you even get samples?

11:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Marina, I must echo what Beth said about a flower that "doesn't exist but should" - now i am crazy to try this one! It sounds like it's "me" for sure. Green Floral? Check. Hint of Chypre? Check. Gardenias? Check. Cool and classic? Checkmate! Thanks for the lovely description.

11:27 PM EST  
Anonymous LizS said...

Interesting review, I tried it and it completely turned on my skin. did smell like gardenia, a little green....then soap scum? ick get it off. sad, because I had to call back and change the preorder. Metalys (came out at the same time) was sooooo much better on my skin. This is definetly something I will re-try to see if it works again...(fingers crossed!)

11:39 PM EST  
Anonymous Billy D said...

People seem to be seriously loving this one (with a small minority, like lizs, seriously hating it) which I'm all too happy for. Maybe Guerlain will go in a better direction for it's next large-scale release and steer clear of another Insolence. And maybe they'll release Chamade pour homme for me!

12:05 AM EST  
Blogger kamala said...

hmmm, i'm thinking this perfume isn't for me. i adore the classic guerlains, and i also adore heavy, half-rotted gardenia smell - and apparently this fragrance has neither. oh, well. :-(

wonderful review though, as always!

12:10 AM EST  
Blogger Gaia, the non-blonde said...

I'm very very afraid. Not sure of what: that I'd like it, that I'd hate it? A Chanelish Guerlain? Does it mean that I'm going to Bergdorf this weekend?

1:18 AM EST  
Blogger Beth Gehring said...

Oops...I ask you about availability and I in my haste and excitement completely forget to read the bottom of the post. I will call Bergdorfs tommorrow!

2:25 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Uh oh. You made no mention of the dreaded white musks. Instead, everything you mentioned has sent my cc running off, begging for mercy (it's still hurting from that olfactionary tumble and the new Neil Morris addiction). The only question now is can I wait for my sample to arrive before I have a little chat w/ Jason.

5:39 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

BBliss,
If all that sounds good to you then I think you are bound to love it.

7:16 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Beth,
I don't know. I have a feeling BG goes in and out of stock with it. I would call Jason and be very nice to him :-)

7:17 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Donna,
Checkmate indeed. I think you will love it.

7:17 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Lizs,
Sorry to hear that!
Metalys is too...Guerlain for me, i could never wear it successfully.

7:18 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Billy,
Chamade Pour Homme is available at BG, no? Or are you hoping for a wider release? That would have been great.

7:19 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Kamala,
No, to my nose, this was neither, sorry. :-)

7:20 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Gaia,
That's exactly what it means :-)

7:20 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Beth,
do let us now if BG is in stock on this!

7:20 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

L,
I think white musks is this obligatory note that is declared (and is used, I suppose) everywhere. They are not strong musks by any means, here.

7:21 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Hmmmm. . .verrrry interesting. I guess it's a must try (sigh)!

7:25 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Here's the hard part-
I got my reasonably sized decant [ 1/2 oz.] yesterday, and it's probably enough for me.

I agree on the 'Chanel-ish Guerlain'aspect.
While it's beautifully done, very lovely indeed-
It's neither lasting enough, or indolic enough for me.

I'm a fussy bitch-
If I'm channeling my sequestered Southern Belle chazerei,
I want to positively reek of indoles.
And bleu cheese.
And God -knows-what else.

To my shame.
SIGH.

Fantastic writing, you purty thang, you.

8:02 AM EST  
Anonymous Therese said...

I went to Bergdorf's last week, hot to try Cruel Gardenia. Unlike you, I was disappointed. It was neither cruel nor gardenia to me. The scent was fleeting, not Chanel enough, not Guerlain at all. Disappointment sits hard with me though. I did fall in love with and buy Liu!

8:49 AM EST  
Anonymous donanicola said...

Now, see here I am a Guerlain girl at heart but I do love Chanel 19, green and chypre so something tells me I should haul *ss to TPC for a sample. Love that photo too. Thanks Marina!

9:35 AM EST  
Anonymous sweetlife said...

Lovely and very funny review, Miss Columbina. From the varied reactions, I'm wondering how this would have fared with a different name--one of those, great-but-was-expecting- something-else, scents. What would you have called it? Or would you keep CG?

Come to think of it, I think the Marina project perfume should have had dibs on that name!

11:41 AM EST  
Blogger kamala said...

oh, the perfume project, that's right - cruel gardenia would've been perfect!

how about "ravishing gardenia"? ravishing goes with leather, doesn't it?

:-)

1:07 PM EST  
Anonymous Lizs said...

yes, i think chamade pour homme is available, and it was GOOOOOOD!

2:27 PM EST  
Anonymous Leopoldo said...

I love it when you're in love!

2:54 PM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I don't know why I haven't even worked up the urge to try this one yet. I will eventually. By & large, I've found all of the L'Art & whatever line from Guerlain to be not quite as thrilling as I'd hoped. Nice, even very nice, but not thrilling.

3:01 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

J,
It is a must-try :-)

7:13 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Ida,
You know, I think I love them for the part that they did not go the indolic route but rather chose a uber-groomed, super-urbane approach.

7:14 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Therese,
Congratulations, Liu is wonderful!

7:15 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Nicola,
I am not a Guerlain girl at all (sadly), that's why I am so happy with this :-)
Please, let me know what you think when you try it.

7:16 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Alyssa,
I think I would keep the name. This "gardenia" here is not kind-hearted or soft. She is aloof, cold...belle sans merci. A typical Chanel girl, in fact :-) (in my understanding of what a Chanel girl is like)

7:17 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Kamala,
You know, it would have been quite perfect actually, although it is shaping up to be a very different scent from this one. I love the word "ravishing" :-)

7:18 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Lizs,
Great to know!

7:18 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Lee,
I love it too. But it will lead to heartbreak, undoubtedly :-) Somehow.

7:19 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Robin,
Here is the thing, I find NOTHING all that thrilling anymore. So sometimes I think: maybe it's not the new releases that are not interesting enough, maybe it's me being a ...what's the word I am looking for. Jaded? I don't know.
I think you might like this one.

7:20 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I adore this fragrance, I wonder why the notes do not list gardenia. This is a real winner. Wonder why Begdorf only got 25 bottles, strange, but a fabulous and expensive fragrance. Not a Guerlain gal but love Gardenia, which does not seem to be in the notes??LOVE IT.

9:31 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Dear Anonymous,
Notes are never a real indicator of anything :-) I am glad you love CG too.

9:37 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

This reads so lovely..

10:39 PM EST  

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