Elisa talks about gardenia, tiare, and leather as she reviews Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia Extrait.
Searching for a natural gardenia perfume is a little like hunting for unicorns – gardenias, notoriously, don’t release a natural oil. As Victoria once put it, “gardenia, temperamental flower that she is, does not give up her essence to any distillation methods.” Accordingly, gardenia in perfumery is necessarily a re-creation, using other materials to approximate the flower’s scent: sweetly tropical, but with an earthy element often likened to dirt or mushrooms.
I was surprised, then, when I heard that Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes was releasing a gardenia scent, since Aftel is known for her all-natural creations. As it turns out, Cuir de Gardenia is based on the Tahitian gardenia, or tiare flower, which can be made into a (costly) enfleurage (termed monoi when using coconut oil). Aftel has bolstered this material with jasmine and benzyl acetate, an isolate that occurs naturally in jasmine and ylang-ylang and is also used as a solvent in plastic and resins.