Saturday, April 21, 2007

A La Nuit by Serge Lutens & Gardenia Rain by Ava Luxe : Perfume Reviews

I keep returning to Greece every summer. I begin my trip by going to the mountains and I end my vacation by going to an island, a different one each year. I revisit countless tastes and smells each time, tastes and smells that mean so much to me, intertwined as they are with colorful memories. I plan to visit many of those memories as I write this blog and I wish to start this journey with the white florals of summer, so abundantly found on the Greek terrain.

On each and every one of the islands I visit, jasmine is a constant nightly companion. Taking a walk in the night, whether that would be in the daedal, labyrinthine streets of a Cycladian island, or on the wider, more spacious streets of say, Lesbos or Syros, I’ve always ended up being unwittingly led by my nose at some point, following the magical redolence of its flowering vines. I usually don’t even manage to realize that it is the jasmine’s trail of scent that I am following, I just know that I have to reach the source. And I am left ensnared, peering in the darkness, until my eyes find it, in all its glory. Whether it’s hanging from an unassuming whitewashed wall, a broken down fence, or a majestically intricate old iron gate of a mansion, I’ll always stop and stare and hide my nose in its growth. I’ll twine my fingers in its vines and shake gently, to make the scent waft in a yet more heady cloud and stain my fingers with its essence. I’ll always cut a sprig and put it in my hair, then put it on my nightstand before I go to bed, so that I fall asleep with its scent next to my nose. In the morning, the magic will be gone, but that is not regretful. That is part of the jasmine’s thrill, she is the blooming queen of the night. With such a characteristic smell, one would think that someone would have captured the essence of the jasmine’s blooms earlier. But every perfume that proclaimed to bottle its scent has been failing miserably. The oils would be too strong, too pungent, too mellow; the sprays too fresh, acidic or soapy. But Serge Luten’s A la Nuit is just perfect. It’s jasmine in its truest form: seductive but soft, sweet but never overwhelming. It engulfs the wearer with the flower’s auspicious character. It makes one feel as though something beautifully romantic is bound to happen any minute now. It makes one feel young and feminine. I keep reminding myself I am not a florals-sort-of-person. I keep reminding myself I like my fragrances either strong, sexy and decisive or musky and comforting. I keep asking myself what in the world draws me to this creation. I guess the only adequate answer I can give is that A la Nuit is a true masterpiece. It has the power to turn the heathen into a believer. It is the only substitute there could ever be for the real thing.

Even though I’ll thoughtlessly and unrepentantly cut sprigs of jasmine for my hair, I reserve only the lightest touch for gardenias. I cannot resist lightly caressing the creamy-colored blooms in order to feel their leathery texture and it never fails to amaze me, how such a dense and fleshy flower can emanate such heady and rich aroma. I’d never so much think of cutting or mistreating one of those treasures. And treasures they are, as they are so hard to care for, and even healthy plants often fail to bloom. Gardenias won’t bloom in very hot environments and like moisture. The places that I find them in Greece thus are the mountainous villages I visit in the summer. It is common to see this amazingly beautiful flower planted in rusty, square iron boxes, which have been cut in half for this purpose. But this should not be mistaken for a Greek lack of appreciation for this flower. According to my grandmother, gardenias love rust. They ‘feed’ on it, she used to tell me when I was a child. You could please the gardenia even more by putting a rusty nail in the soil with it. Is this true? I don’t know, but if I ever tried to grow a gardenia I’d certainly be diligent in feeding it this treat, seeing how successful they are in Greece! Ava Serena Franco’s Gardenia Rain is a very successful rendition of the flower that always manages to take me back to a village, high up in the Greek mountains. It makes me feel I am in the shade of a plane tree, drinking a cool glass of water, enjoying the scent of the gardenia flowers around me, planted in their wonky iron pots. If you are looking for the smell of gardenias, don’t try Chanel’s version which smells nothing like it... Don’t even go for Gardenia Musk, a more soapy version by Ava-Luxe. Instead, try Gardenia Rain from the same line.

Pictures: Jasmine courtesy of, gardenias courtesy of and rusty nail courtesy of

1 comment:

tmp00 said...

How could I have missed smelling A la Nuit? it's been sitting a mile down the road at Barneys, and I have been searching for years for something that captures that particular night-blooming jasmine that is apparently is common to Los Angeles and Greece.

It is bewitching, and you have captured it exactly!