I have been a devoted fan of the Annick Goutal line from the very first time I tried it at my local perfume shop. To me they represented the best classic traditions carried on in modern formulations. Some are ethereally light while others pack an intense punch of depth and sensuality. My favorite among the latter category is Gardénia Passion.
The 1983 Goutal chypre-floral fragrance called Passion is a very fine perfume in its own right, a complex floral bouquet of great sophistication. (Not to be confused with “Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion,” which had to use the full three-word name after a brush with trying to use the “Passion” name, which turned out to be copyrighted by Annick Goutal, and it is an inferior scent.) I actually had a hard time choosing between the two when I decide to purchase my first bottle many years ago. The 1989 gardenia version won me over. Passion is a lovely composition based on tuberose and jasmine; Gardénia Passion “kicks it up a notch” with the addition of gardenia and orange blossom.
You might think that such a fragrance would be overwhelmingly sweet, but it’s really not. For one thing, the jasmine accord is extremely animalic and deep rather than bright, and though while it is intensely redolent of white flowers, this fragrance remains elegant and refined throughout its development, as it is comprised of very high quality ingredients, and it shows. It really is more of a tuberose scent than gardenia to my nose, but the orange blossom accord gives it a pleasantly soapy and slightly green quality that keeps the headiness (somewhat) under control. There is a subtle citrus note, and something else green and sharp hiding at the bottom of this perfume; lots of oakmoss, which I can never get enough of. This last also ensures that Gardénia Passion has unsurpassed endurance on the skin. It has a weightier base than some other white floral scents and thus is not all float and shimmer; it maintains equilibrium between the sweet flowers and the austerity of the oakmoss.
Gardénia Passion is one of those perfumes that transforms the wearer in unexpected ways. Suddenly you feel powerful, sophisticated and sexy all at the same time, and you feel ready to take on anything the world has to offer. (However, I would not suggest wearing it to work unless you own the company; otherwise the line between the boardroom and the bedroom could become a little bit blurred.) If your skin tends to amplify white floral scents, as mine does, this one could become quite strong in a closed room. Of course, that should not stop you from wearing it for any other occasion outside of the office. I wear mine to the grocery store or a night on the town with the same abandon. I find it to be equally suitable for cold or warm weather. It has enough substance to assert itself in winter, while not becoming cloying during humid summer heat. Now, bear in mind that I am speaking as one whose tolerance of this class of fragrance is very high; your results may differ.
I feel that Gardénia Passion is a true modern classic that will stand the test of time. It has been around for almost twenty years now, and it is still very popular. It seems to hit just the right note of white floral richness without being too loud or overbearing, a veritable Platonic ideal of perfumery. I plan to still be wearing it when I get old, and when I put it on I will be transformed into a Grande Dame instead of just an old lady. That is the magic of Gardénia Passion. I will go so far as to liken it to film legend Sophia Loren; undeniably sensuous and yes, passionate, yet somehow always dignified and never the least bit vulgar.
The Annick Goutal line is widely sold in better department stores such as Nordstrom, in perfume boutiques, and from online fragrance discount merchants. Gardénia Passion comes in Eau de Parfum, which can be a little hard to find, and in Eau de Toilette. The most popular Goutal scents, including Gardénia Passion, are also available in bath and body products. The body cream and shower gel in this scent are just outrageously good.
Image credits: Gardénia Passion bottle from fragranceX.com. Photo of actress Sophia Loren posing for the famous Pirelli Calendar in 2007 at age 71, from newsamericanow.com.