Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more devoted Guerlain lover than me. I also happen to adore white florals in all shapes and forms—jasmine, tuberose, seringa, gardenia, frangipani, magnolia. However, my first impression when I smelled Cruel Gardénia from Guerlain’s L’Art et la Matière collection was utter disappointment. Where is gardenia, I wondered? Sure, it flits through the top note, but the floral impression that lingers is that of orange blossom and ylang ylang wrapped in a cloud of hedione (airy and diffusive jasmine material). Nevertheless, it is very elegantly constructed, and I do not want to dismiss it altogether, even if I miss the intoxicating gardenia. …
Cruel Gardénia was created by perfumer Randa Hammami of Symrise, and I appreciate the difficulty of the task. Consider the fact that not a single fragrance on the market named Gardenia actually smells like the flower in nature. Chanel Gardénia is really a jasmine. Floris Gardenia is an indistinct white floral. Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion is a green tuberose. Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia is dominated by tuberose as well, but on the blotter and for the first hour on the skin, it is the truest gardenia encountered in perfume.
While Cruel Gardénia does not live up to its name, it is a well-done floral with a beautiful natural effect of a creamy flower. The musky backdrop captures that elusive shower clean freshness, the scent of skin that still carries the scent of soap and talcum powder. I can see a glimpse of apple blossom in the floral accord, whereas the heady glamour of gardenia continues to elude me. It is pretty and demure, a vision in pink cashmere and pearls. I admit that it is lovely and comforting, but perhaps the main problem is that I do not find Cruel Gardénia to be particularly memorable. It is so unobtrusive that I forget about its presence.