Recently (this past September to be exact), Van Cleef & Arpels, the Haute Joaillerie house which caters, more than any other, to the unuttered wishes hidden in the secret fantasy garden of women’s hearts, launched a collection of six, uber exclusive fragrances. Titled Collection Extraordinaire and inspired by haute couture, this collection is meant to embody luxury and refinement. Following the footsteps of other luxury, high-end, hard to find, exclusive collection releases (Prada, Chanel) this line too is presented coherently in simple (yet luxuriously heavy) bottles with discreet black caps. Unsurprisingly (when considering the tactics used by the aforementioned brands), Van Cleef & Arpels too chose to retain the exclusivity and to preserve Collection Extraordinare’s recherché quality by making it quite hard to come by: It is only sold at Van Cleef & Arpels boutiques as well as very select retailers and exclusive web-boutiques. I got my sample from Essenza Nobile, which offers the entire collection (131 euro for 75ml). According to Van Cleef & Arpels, exquisite care and attention has been put into each perfume in the line, with the best raw materials chosen for each. Further, each perfume in this collection has been created by a different nose. Gardénia Pétale, which I am reviewing today, was created by Nathalie Feisthauer (Eau de Merveilles, Putain de Palaces, Nombril Immense).
If proof of God can be found in nature, in the world of flora gardenia surely embodies all the glory. To me, there is no flower that smells as magical, as surely transcendental and heavenly. Each time I smell one of the creamy-colored blossoms I can feel the exalted, breathtaking scent commanding awe and wonderment inside me. Befittingly to this holy glory, gardenia's scent is notoriously hard to reproduce in a perfume. The only one I’d so far encountered (and believe me, I’ve smelled them all, from Cruel Gardenia to Kai and from Issabey’s Gardenia to Matin d’Orage) that was worthy of the name was Ava Luxe’s Gardenia Rain. Now here comes another: Gardénia Pétale.
I won’t lie to you: Gardénia Pétale does not mimic the scent of gardenias in the conventional sense, nor does it present its gardenia facet in all the stages of its development. However when the gardenia accord does surface, it is true and magical. Magical enough to make my heart skip a beat, yes. Gorgeous, beautiful and glorious enough to make me smile wide to myself, yes. (Thank you ms. Feisthauer, you’re a genius!) Gardénia Pétale’s opening is fresh with citrus and bittersweet with orange water, turning quite pungent as notes of petitgrain and heady neroli emerge. This high-pitched, sunny warmth is soon tempered with green notes that bring with them a barely-there, almost aqueous edge that leave a sense of coolness on the skin. I’ll admit that when I tested Gardénia Pétale for the first time, this stage tested my patience - where was the promised gardenia? Surely I wasn’t to be placated with another (albeit excellent) orange blossom scent? Soon, jasmine and tuberose join the chorus. The jasmine is excellent: rich and natural, its indolic heart underscored by exotic ylang-ylang. And then, just when you think you understand this perfume, just when you think, oh this is just another gardenia approximation, comprised out of a beautiful bouquet of white flowers, beautiful, but no gardenia… She comes. Dazzlingly beautiful and effulgent, her procession is slow, like that of a princess bride. Her smile, full of promise. What a scent… It’s a true gardenia that brings you to your knees and what’s genius about it, is that Nathalie Feisthauer has managed to capture not only the beautiful antagonism between velvety softness and heady animalism of the flower, but also its heart, full of spiciness. Have you ever felt that spicy scent tingle your nose when deeply inhaling the scent of a gardenia? That peppery piquancy that words fail, simply because there is no known spice which approximates its scent? Well, it’s there. And all I can say is WOW. I know, how crude a word for such an elegantly composed perfume. But truly - WOW. The patience is rewarded, not only does Gardénia Pétale finally smell like a true gardenia, its scent is not fleeting either. It will linger on the skin forever giving you hours of gardenia bliss. From here on, the perfume does not change much: a little nectarous, honeysuckle sweetness emerges to underscore the warmth of the Diva, but it remains otherwise unchanged. I haven’t yet smelled the rest of the fragrances in Collection Extraordinaire, but if Gardénia Pétale is anything to go by, the price does not seem exorbitant at all, especially when the quality and the exclusivity are taken into consideration. Simply beautiful.
Images: Gardenia in black and white via Flickr by Gilberto Santa Rosa