Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie : Fragrance Review

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San Francisco is one of the most fragrant cities. The scents of salty sea breeze and jasmine are the strongest recollections from my visits. So I’m with Elisa on enjoying Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie, an effervescent perfume inspired by California and jasmine. 

I love the idea of perfumes inspired by a place – take Christopher Street, a leather scent named for a street in New York City known for its nightlife. Or any number of Bond No. 9 scents – the connections to the individual neighborhoods have been stretching believability for some time, I admit, but a few – like Broadway Nite, Chinatown, and Fire Island – nail the atmospheres of their respective inspirations. Then there’s a host of perfumes named after spots in Paris, including at least two simply named Paris.

california-reverie

It’s funny, on reflection, that there are so many perfumes named after New York – it’s one of my favorite places to be, but honestly, it kind of stinks. California, on the other hand, seems a bit under-leveraged in perfumery briefs. San Diego, for example, is one of the best-smelling cities I’ve been to; the air smells like sea salt, flowers, and eucalyptus trees.

Which brings us to California Reverie, created by Antoine Maisondieu in 2014 – a mixed white floral with the sunny outlook of a 10-day forecast in Los Angeles in June. The top note is a small burst of citrus, with the greenness of neroli and mandarin. Behind this is a big wedding-worthy bouquet of white flowers, including jasmine and orange blossom with enough indoles to smell realistically prickly, like olfactory goosebumps. (Indoles, to my mind, are what separate flat “shampoo” jasmine accords from the ones that smell like living blooms.) Also in the mix is frangipani, AKA plumeria, a slightly creamy tropical floral note similar to tiare. Together, the effect is airy and breezy – I think of this as a daytime-into-evening fragrance, rather than a narcotically sexy date-night perfume.

The drydown has enough sweetness from vanilla and honey to add a layer of comfort and warmth – like throwing a light sweater over your dress after sunset – but it doesn’t approach the sweetness of something like Sweet Redemption. Overall, California Reverie wears quite lightly, and it’s easy to indulge in respritzing throughout the day, especially since you’ll likely want to wear it when the weather is warm and molecules are wont to evaporate.

Van Cleef & Arpels didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here – they just made a very lovely, uplifting summer fragrance, in the spirit of Kai, La Chasse au Papillons, or Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. If you love those fragrances but feel you could always use another white floral in your life, California Reverie is well worth your time and neck space. (Get some in your hair while you’re at it.)

California Reverie includes notes of mandarin orange, neroli, jasmine sambac, frangipani, beeswax and vanilla. It’s available from Lucky Scent at $185 for 75 ml.

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86 Comments

  • Stella: Lovely review! I agree that California Reverie is a well made modern floral but essentially also a bit cold for my liking; would have loved it if there was some ylang ylang there instead of frangipani. September 9, 2015 at 9:10am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Stella! What’s your favorite white floral with ylang? September 9, 2015 at 9:36am Reply

      • Stella: You are welcome Elisa! Definitely Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia, it’s sad that it won’t stay on the market so I’m stocking up at the moment… Have you tried this one? September 9, 2015 at 10:08am Reply

        • Elisa: It’s been on my list to try FOREVER but I never see it anywhere. My desert-island lily is DK Gold and I’ve seen them compared. September 9, 2015 at 10:10am Reply

        • solanace: I just took Lys Soleia to a beach trip, in order to connect the perfume to the place – Buzios. It felt perfect, such a happy scent. Have you tried Ylang in Gold? September 11, 2015 at 4:55am Reply

          • Elisa: Perhaps you were asking Stella, but I have tried it. A couple of years ago it struck me as too sweet, but I should revisit maybe. September 11, 2015 at 9:24am Reply

  • Rebecca: Oh I cannot wait to try it. As a San Diegan for the last 15 years, I struggle with wearing the perfumes I love in this climate. This fragrance sounds both beautiful and wearable and, as soon as I have actually tried it, I plan on making it my go-to gift for my SoCal besties. Thank you so much for bring it to our attention. September 9, 2015 at 9:12am Reply

    • Elisa: Wonderful! It’s such a likable perfume, I do think it would make a nice gift. September 9, 2015 at 9:36am Reply

  • JoDee: You are right, California smells marvelous! Once, when my husband and I were visiting Carmel, we decided to do some horseback riding by the beach. I expected to come back smelling terrible but when we returned I instead smelled freshly laundered with sea breezes and fragrant herbs and flowers. I remember my hair smelling especially floral. I’m now looking forward to revisiting California Reverie. Thanks for the post! September 9, 2015 at 9:12am Reply

    • Elisa: Ah, your memory sounds like a perfume brief right there!! September 9, 2015 at 9:37am Reply

  • Kandice: This sounds lovely. It has some of my favorite notes in it. Being from the San Diego area originally, I love just about anything that can call me home. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! September 9, 2015 at 9:13am Reply

    • Elisa: I hope you find it reminiscent of your home town! I still think San Diego has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen. September 9, 2015 at 9:37am Reply

  • Sandra: I lived in SF for 6 years-
    At night the city streets smelled like Jasmine and walks in the Presidio smelled of eucalyptus trees. Since SF weather in the city was very cool with the fog rolling in I don’t associate SF with beachy salty air. I did, most summers, burn my fireplace! September 9, 2015 at 9:20am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh yes, I was shocked by how cold it can get in SF in the summertime! It’s a place for summer sweaters and scarves, definitely. September 9, 2015 at 9:38am Reply

      • Ann: Sorry. I cannot resist the obvious quote, usually attributed to Mark Twain but vehemently denied by Twain scholars…. “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco!”

        I live just across the Bay, and this summer has been California Reverie hot, but it has been an unusual season. September 9, 2015 at 12:31pm Reply

        • Elisa: Never resist Twain!

          And it’s often quite hot in fall, isn’t it? September 9, 2015 at 1:50pm Reply

  • Sun Mi: I adore this one – I love it far more than kai or EL Tuberose Gardenia. Something about California Reverie is so uplifting to me. Not too sweet, not too dense, not too anything. Perfectly enjoyable! September 9, 2015 at 9:25am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, it’s really great, and this summer I reached for it more often than Tuberose Gardenia. September 9, 2015 at 9:39am Reply

  • Lynley: Lovely review Elisa. I just bought myself a bottle of this a few days ago, after the warm weather here had me craving it, and Ive been wearing it often. I bring a decant with me to top it up often as I find it rather fleeting- but the top notes are so delicious Im happy to keep experiencing them!
    It sounds much like the smells of Perth, where I live. The beach, the eucalyptus, the flowers. My ex has a motorbike and I used to live summertime night rides, where riding down the streets I could smell the night blooming white flowers on the breeze as we passed. This reminds me of gentle summer days and breezy evenings. I think it’s fabulous stuff. September 9, 2015 at 9:50am Reply

    • Elisa: Your experience sounds like mine — I’m happy to reapply this one! And I love your motorbike memory 🙂 September 9, 2015 at 9:58am Reply

  • limegreen: What a fun review, thanks for the trip down memory lane, use to visit SF all the time.
    When I first tested it, California Reverie recalled Jo Malone Orange Blossom in that sparkling zesty way, but it transformed and the drydown was so nice. I do like the plumeria as a changeup note.
    I do love the Gardenia Petale in this line — it’s by far my favorite (but not sole) gardenia fragrance.
    (And not to be tiresome about sizes but this line does come in smaller sizes, but the 1.5 oz, may be only at Neiman’s.) September 9, 2015 at 10:00am Reply

    • limegreen: (don’t know how there was a duplicate post, can one of them be deleted?) September 9, 2015 at 10:01am Reply

      • Elisa: I can’t but I bet Victoria will! September 9, 2015 at 10:23am Reply

      • Victoria: Taken care of! 🙂

        I also like Gardenia Petale, by the way. It actually smells like gardenia and has a longlasting but shimmering, gauzy effect. Very pretty. September 9, 2015 at 11:41am Reply

        • limegreen: “gauzy effect” — I would love to read your review of Gardenia Petale, you captured the feel of the perfume so well. September 9, 2015 at 11:00pm Reply

          • Victoria: I will do! It’s been on my list for a while. September 10, 2015 at 7:14am Reply

        • Patricia: It’s my favorite gardenia, and I have a full bottle. It seems so realistic to me, like putting my face into a gardenia bush after a light rainstorm. September 14, 2015 at 10:21am Reply

    • Trudy: Can’t wait to try the Gardenia Petale. Sounds stunning. September 9, 2015 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Karen: Gardenia Petale is gorgeous, isn’t it! Have a sample from a while ago (empty) with the comment “Buy This!”. Haven’t yet, and after reading this review also looking forward to trying it. September 10, 2015 at 5:42am Reply

      • limegreen: So many perfumes, so little time!
        I love how you label your sample vials — Buy This! 🙂 September 10, 2015 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Elisa: Thank you for pointing out the smaller sizes! My other favorite from the “Collection Extraordinaire” line is Rose Velours. I need another rose like a hole in the foot, but it’s so pretty. September 9, 2015 at 10:04am Reply

  • OperaFan: As a life-long Eastcoast gal, I’ve had love affair with SF since my first visit in the mid-80’s. I’ve not been for many years, but my memories remain vivid. Rather than jasmin, it’s the smell of eucalyptus trees thaat are most evocative for me, but still – your review make me want to try this. Like limegreen above, I also own and love Gardenia Petale, and although I have more white flower perfumes to last 3 lifetimes [Joy, La Haie Fleurie, Debut, GardPetale, AG GadPassion…..), this sounds like it would fit right in.
    Also note to self: Must try Rose Velours…. September 9, 2015 at 10:21am Reply

    • Elisa: I’m glad so many people are mentioning the eucalyptus! It’s so striking.

      I’ve got oodles of white florals too, and I wore them all summer. Another favorite this year was Yves Rocher Neroli. September 9, 2015 at 10:24am Reply

      • OperaFan: I don’t have a lot of Neroli-centric fragrances – really need to do something about that…. September 15, 2015 at 9:40am Reply

    • Lynley: I also had a ‘hmmmmm’ moment when I thought of all the white florals I already own… but this one is light and citrussy, and has a similar vibe to Wit (which I adore) so I figured I could make room for one more 😉 September 9, 2015 at 10:36am Reply

      • Elisa: I’m happy to enable you here! 🙂 September 9, 2015 at 10:42am Reply

    • limegreen: White florals like Gardenia Petale are really lovely for bedtime — so one may have enough to last for only two lifetimes. 🙂 September 9, 2015 at 11:02pm Reply

      • Karen: I’ve taken to spritzing the bed after straightening the sheets – before actually making it – makes the room fragrant and at bed time just enough of a trace remains. September 10, 2015 at 5:45am Reply

        • limegreen: Neat tip! I can’t spritz the bed though because of hubby. Which perfumes do you prefer for bed spritzing? September 10, 2015 at 12:35pm Reply

          • limegreen: (realized that it looks I can’t spritz the bed as if hubby is still in bed! 🙂 but you know what I mean!) September 10, 2015 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Elisa, I loved your review and I really enjoy this fragrance. I have had a bottle of California Reverie from the beginning, and every time I wear it I feel wistful and wish I were in California. September 9, 2015 at 10:25am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Phyllis! I am feeling quite wistful for California myself today. September 9, 2015 at 10:26am Reply

  • Lynley: My store here usually stocks 45ml and 75ml, but they were out of the smaller, and the pricing is just bizarre! 45ml for $99 and 75ml for $199!! I pointed out that it would be far better value to get 2 smaller sized ones (i guess thats why they had sold out) than the larger one. So she gave me a discount on the 75ml and threw in some goodies- rollerball of AdP Rosa Nobile, Bvlgari The Bleu soap, Hermes Monsieur Li samples- to make up for the odd pricing.. September 9, 2015 at 10:32am Reply

    • Elisa: That is bizarre. Fun that you got all those extras though. September 9, 2015 at 10:34am Reply

  • Katherine: Elisa, can’t wait to try it. You also wrote about this scent in your summer fragrance piece earlier this year -it’s been on my “to try” list for my next vist to Neimans.

    So all this talk about eucalyptus which I love – but no one has mentioned a perfume with recognizable eucalyptus notes… would be good with flowers. Can you recommend one? (I know this isn’t a recommendation blog so if you prefer – I can wait till the appropriate time). September 9, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

    • Elisa: I get a eucalyptus vibe from Eau de Baux (which I reviewed here a while back). I don’t know of a perfume with a strong eucalyptus note, I hope someone jumps in with a recommendation! I know several Carthusia scents contain it as a note. September 9, 2015 at 11:50am Reply

      • Ann: Another very northern California smell is bay leaf. This hills here are full of the California Bay Laurels, which are much more fragrant than the European Laurus Nobilis–and have a floral, nutmeg, thyme vibe. Working in my backyard on a hot day, the fragrance is so intense I have to keep reminding myself that no one is burning incense. I love the scent, and wish I could find it in soap and candles… Oy. I digress! September 9, 2015 at 12:45pm Reply

        • Katherine: Ann, I’d like to capture that in a bottle as well! Another scent for bottling is the one on my kids and their cousins after playing in the fields behind my in-laws’ home… they would come home smelling a heavenly mix of rosemary, lavender, thyme and dirt. September 10, 2015 at 10:33pm Reply

      • Katherine: Elisa, I read your review – great discovery! Thanks. Sounds delish and easy to wear so I’ll mosey to my nearest L’occitaine source. And I know Les Baux as well! It’s around the corner from my in-laws. Beautiful and interesting town. September 10, 2015 at 10:21pm Reply

    • limegreen: Hi Katherine! You may want to give Smell Bent The Yard Next Door a try. It’s a lovely eucalyptus and “spring florals” without menthol vapors. It’s one of my favorites from SB. (I love their sample packs.) September 9, 2015 at 11:10pm Reply

      • Elisa: Oh good tip! I like Smell Bent but don’t know that one. September 10, 2015 at 8:31am Reply

        • limegreen: It’s one of the “green” frankensmellies! 🙂 September 10, 2015 at 12:28pm Reply

      • Katherine: Limegreen, thank you. Sounds gorgeous. I’ll put it in my “sample cart.” September 10, 2015 at 10:11pm Reply

  • Trudy: What a nice review! As a native and life long resident of California, I enjoyed reading the review and the comments which captured it’s nuances so well. I have tried this perfume from a sample decant and remember it being a sunny and very pretty fragrance. Now, I will have to re-visit and possibly purchase a small bottle! I love white flowers and have Madagascar (Bridal), Arabian, Star, and Pink Jasmine growing in my garden along with gardenia, four Plumeria trees, various roses and two lemon trees. I’ve always thought if you could capture these fragrances on an early summer morning along with a bit of sea air (and maybe a dash of Sycamore or Eucalyptus) you would really have something. As always, I enjoyed reading all the suggestions and now want to try a few mentioned in the comments. Some of my own favorite white flower fragrances include Carnal Flower (which I only have sample decants), A La Nuit, Beige, Marc Jacobs (I think its called Her…the original). I also like Florence by Tocca, especially in the soap and body wash versions. I recently tried (and liked very much) a spritz of Fragonard Jasmine which is a 2015 limited edition I believe. Of course there are many other favorites but that would take an entire page! Elisa, thank you for this lovely review of California Reverie and to all for the great suggestions and comments. September 9, 2015 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Elisa: Good lord, I would love to smell your garden!! September 9, 2015 at 12:03pm Reply

      • Trudy: It’s a work in progress ( a lot of work) but it makes me happy! Just like this blog makes me happy. Such a uplifting place to read about and share beautiful things. September 9, 2015 at 1:00pm Reply

        • Elisa: It sounds pretty magical already. September 9, 2015 at 1:51pm Reply

  • Karen: Sounds lovely I’ll definitely give it a spritz. September 9, 2015 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Ann: I discovered CR this summer and was surprised by how much I like it. I am also a fan of La Chasse au Papillons (but not the Extreme), which I apply liberally and frequently, although it makes me sneeze. I very much enjoyed your review and share your view of happy, uplifting California frags! September 9, 2015 at 12:53pm Reply

    • Elisa: Thanks Ann! I was surprised too by how much I liked it too. September 9, 2015 at 1:52pm Reply

  • Annikky: A lovely scent and a lovely review. I’m another fan of Gardenia Petale and if I could get my hands on the smaller bottles, would consider owning both. And I should retry Rose Velours, I sprayed myself with it in a very hectic mall and can hardly recall anything. September 9, 2015 at 12:55pm Reply

    • Elisa: And I need to try the Gardenia again! I must have smelled it at some point but don’t remember. It’s about time I got myself down to NM to see what’s new anyway. September 9, 2015 at 1:53pm Reply

  • Neva: Very nice review! I like the comparison with various cities. It’s especially interesting if you can actually compare it because you have been to the places. California Reverie was my summer scent for the daytime this year. I bought it the first time I smelled it in a shop and I did not regret it. It’s really lovely. To me the frangipani makes it so special. Unfortunately CR is a bit too light for my taste and I had to reapply it every hour so I emptied my 45 ml bottle rather quickly. September 9, 2015 at 4:36pm Reply

    • Elisa: I’m glad to find so many other fans of this scent. Completely agree that it works best as a daytime scent. It’s so fresh and sunny. September 9, 2015 at 4:38pm Reply

  • Lavanya: “with enough indoles to smell realistically prickly, like olfactory goosebumps”.- love this line, Elisa 🙂
    Having just moved up north from San Diego recently, I have to say, it is one of my favorite cities to live in.

    Even though, I’ve mostly lived in sunny climes (except for the two years I lived in Pennsylvania), I rarely gravitate towards perfumes that are termed tropical (or maybe that is the reason I don’t..lol). Even though, come to think of it, I actually like many of them. This perfume does sound lovely. And I do like orange blossoms and indolic jasmines. September 9, 2015 at 4:39pm Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you! I love that prickly effect.

      About four years ago I moved from Boston to Denver, which is MUCH more reliably sunny. I do think the weather here makes me wear florals more. September 9, 2015 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I need to try this, as I like quite a few in the VCA CE. Bois d’Iris and Gardénia Pétale in particular. White florals are so wonderful in summer, it seems to be the best season to wear them. Nothing quite beats Carnal Flower in sweltering heat. Interestingly I fell for Carnal Flower after having had it sprayed in my hair at Senteurs d’Ailleurs one hot summer day. September 9, 2015 at 4:45pm Reply

    • Elisa: Bois d’Iris is really nice! It’s a sweeter/warmer iris, which I like.

      Carnal Flower is fabulous, but oddly I didn’t crave tuberose as often this summer as I usually do. I did really have a moment with Intense Tiare, which reminds me of banana popsicles. September 9, 2015 at 4:47pm Reply

  • orsetta: very nice review, thank you!

    i finally got to smell California Reverie just a couple of months ago and liked it very much but i have to say that i am a big fan of the whole V&A Collection Extraordinaire.

    i add my vote to Gardenia Petale. Orchidee Vanille is another great one as is Rose Velours.

    i also liked Lys Carmin, hesitated whether to buy it or not, and now discovered it’s been discontinued 🙁 September 10, 2015 at 12:51am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, I didn’t even know they’d done a lily! September 10, 2015 at 8:28am Reply

  • Karen: Wonderful review Elisa – definitely want to give this a try, although not sure how it will work for cooler weather (although it’s been in the 90’s here this week). I am trying to hold off on any FB purchases for a little while, but humored myself with some samples yesterday. September 10, 2015 at 5:52am Reply

    • Elisa: I do think this one works best in warm weather — maybe start with a decant and see how you feel next summer! September 10, 2015 at 8:31am Reply

  • solanace: I love place inspirations too, just as I love travelling, looking at maps, browsing tripadvisor… This sounds interesting, as does California. Hope I can meet it someday here in Perfume Mordor. September 11, 2015 at 5:02am Reply

    • Elisa: I don’t get to travel very often or very widely so I rarely torture myself with travel sites, photography, etc. (makes me jealous!). But I do love when perfumes evoke a specific place. September 11, 2015 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Emma: To me, again, this is a prime example why I’ve come to reject today’s perfumery. I actually tested it, it smell ok but nothing exciting, exhilarating, at this price, I’m not interested. You know I’m from the 80’s, I wore Byzance when I was 18, I’m sorry I cannot wear California Reverie at 45, impossible! September 11, 2015 at 3:56pm Reply

    • Elisa: That’s too bad. I LOVE vintage perfume and while I do think perfumery is changing, I think great perfumers are creating really interesting work within the confines that they have to work with. There’s lots of commercial crap out there of course, and awful, dispiriting reformulations, but lots of great stuff being created too. I still find stuff to be excited about every year. September 11, 2015 at 4:13pm Reply

  • spe: I like white florals and will try this again – thank you for the review!

    Is the frangipani strong? Along with ylang and tiare, it seems to get cloying and sweet on me, so I tend to avoid these notes. Is it anything like Kai?

    Thank you. September 12, 2015 at 1:58am Reply

    • Elisa: I don’t find CR cloying or overly sweet at all. And I do think ylang can get cloying sometimes. It’s quite airy and fresh, and does remind me of Kai. Try it! September 12, 2015 at 1:10pm Reply

  • angeldiva: I feel kind of sad that I can’t afford to buy this, yet. And, it’s not in any of the discounters… September 12, 2015 at 4:53pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: I live California’s Reverie. My fave enroll. September 13, 2015 at 12:41pm Reply

    • rickyrebarco: Fave neroli. I hate autofill! September 13, 2015 at 12:42pm Reply

  • Patricia: This sounds lovely, Elisa. I think I ordered a sample at some point…will have to dig it out. VC&A make such well-blended, polished fragrances. September 14, 2015 at 10:51am Reply

    • Elisa: I hope you can find it while the weather is still white-floral-appropriate! September 14, 2015 at 10:52am Reply

  • Anaclita: Thank you for the recommendation, I have been looking for a Summer replacement fragrance for Kai. I find Kai too cloying on my skin now and it’s a scent that smells too common. I just bought a 45ml of CR at Bergdorfs in NYC – I’m so happy they had it in stock. The fragrance is divine, its a much more refined perfume than Kai, but has the jasmine and pikaki notes that remind me of Hawaii without the suntan lotion smell. This one is a winner. May 17, 2016 at 4:26pm Reply

    • Elisa: I’m so glad you like it! I’m traveling right now and brought along my decant of CR — it’s so nice in the warm weather! I’m ready for summer! May 18, 2016 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Diane: I just got a bottle today (to accompany my Gardenia Petale). I was shocked at how very similar it is to a bottle I have of Amalia, by Fueguia (an Argentinian perfumer). Same jasmine. I struggle to tell them apart. November 28, 2016 at 10:17am Reply

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