Guerlain Cruel Gardenia : Perfume Review


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.

Cruel Gardénia includes notes of damask rose, peach, neroli, violet, ylang ylang, white musks, tonka bean, vanilla and sandalwood. Available from Guerlain boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman.



  • chayaruchama: We are agreed, Vika-
    This is gorgeous, but surely neither cruel, nor very gardenia…
    [I bought the TF VG myself- it feels very true !]

    Still, it is a lovely scent of great balance and beauty. May 7, 2008 at 6:21am Reply

  • diane: hello, has there ever been a perfume with “true” gardenia scent? May 7, 2008 at 9:42am Reply

  • Marina: I agree, but I think it is such a very elegant scent, I can’t help but love it. 🙂 May 7, 2008 at 6:43am Reply

  • violetnoir: I agree. It’s a soft, lovely, barely memorable floral musk. Well done with a modern elegant edge, but I don’t think I would purchase a whole bottle of it.

    Hugs! May 7, 2008 at 11:47am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Chaya, I love Velvet Gardenia, which is such a ravishing fragrance. It seems to require a red lipstick, white silk gown and a mother-of-pearl cigarette holder (even though I do not smoke and have few gown occasions these days.) May 7, 2008 at 8:35am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Marina, you are in good company, because Sophia G. liked it too. 🙂 I was complaining about its lack of gardenia, but as she put it, it is very well-done and has a very pretty creamy effect. May 7, 2008 at 8:40am Reply

  • benvenuta: Hi, V!
    I have a general white floral question. Magnolia and seringa sometimes apppear among flowers listed as “white” and sometimes not. I`m not sure what to make out of that. Setinga is a species of lilac, AFAIK. Does lilac count among white florals, too? As for magnolia, I have little experience with this note, so I don`t know if it generally has typical white floral qualities.
    Also, do honeysuckle and wisteria count among white florals? (My Olene says “yes”, loudly.) May 7, 2008 at 1:21pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Diane, Velvet Gardenia is the closest one. The problem is that gardenia essence cannot be extracted from the flower and most approximations remain just that–approximations. May 7, 2008 at 9:49am Reply

  • Cara: Off topic here, but could you recommend a nice lilac fragrance that doesn’t smell like room freshner? Thank you! May 7, 2008 at 2:14pm Reply

  • Sveta: We don’t have it here yet, but after reading your review I am dying to smell it. I also love gardenia. May 7, 2008 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Sveta: Cara, you must be my perfume twin. 🙂 I love lilac and I search for one that doesn’t smell too much like soap. So far I found Yves Rocher Lilas which I liked. May 7, 2008 at 2:51pm Reply

  • Cara: Sveta, hey, what perfumes do you wear? Maybe, you are my fragrance twin. I will try YR Lilac. Thank you for a recommendation. May 7, 2008 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Sveta: I’m only starting to collect perfume so I am new to this. I have L’Artisan La Chasse Aux Papillon, Nina, Chloe, Yves Rocher Lilas and some testers of Russian perfumes. I try to sample a lot for now. I think that I like flowers, fruit notes, nothing with too many woods. I also like sweet perfumes, but my boyfriend doesn’t like when I wear anything sweet.

    Vika, what do you think of Yves Rocher Gardenia? May 7, 2008 at 3:18pm Reply

  • Silvana: I receive many compliments on this fragrance, especially from my husband. He so rarely compliments my fragrance anymore, but he comments whenever I wear Cruel Gardenia. It is just gorgeous. May 7, 2008 at 4:17pm Reply

  • CindyN: Victoria,
    What do you think about Isabey Gardenia for a truer gardenia scent? May 7, 2008 at 9:10pm Reply

  • k-amber: Victoria, thank you for your message. I replied but did not work again. I also like to send you an interview, a pod casting that JCE talks about his new scent.

    Kaori May 7, 2008 at 11:28pm Reply

  • Musette: I haven’t sniffed it yet but I was surprised when I glanced at the bottle – for a minute I thought you’d confused images and put a L’Artisan shot in there! They seem very similar,at least per this photo, which would be odd for Guerlain to do. May 8, 2008 at 9:35am Reply

  • Sveta: Vika, privet i spasibo! I will try your recommendations. I am just afraid that La Chasse Extreme is too tuberose. I like only when there is a little bit of it. Maybe I will like Cruel Gardenia too if it isn’t too strong. I like white flowers like the ones you list before, but if they are too strong, they give me a headache. I don’t know, I still must smell more. May 8, 2008 at 10:09am Reply

  • Dior_Lover: I lurk here, but this is my first time commenting. Thank you for reviewing Cruel Gardenia. I myself cannot make up my mind about it. It is too bland, and I love fragrances with some drama. Did you try the three new Dior fragrances? As my moniker would tell you, I love everything Dior! May 8, 2008 at 10:19am Reply

  • Mimi: I’ve lurked on this lovely blog for a long time but felt tempted to respond today as I so want to try this one but unfortunately live far from a Guerlain boutique…I felt my heart sink reading the first paragraph! Being a white flower fan this has been one of my biggest lemmings since I first read about it on here. So disappointed to hear it seems to be a misnomer. I have been struck by how many ostensibly gardenia scents are anything but – Chanel Gardenia contains a great deal of tuberose, to my nose, and I agree with the others you mentioned.

    I do love your blog- I have learned such a lot from reading it! May 8, 2008 at 10:39am Reply

  • Linda: Hmm, it sounds nice, but hardly gardenia and hardly cruel. I hate it when the names are misleading. On the other hand, I did not sniff Velvet Gardenia yet. Black Orchid turned my stomach so I avoided the rest of Tom Ford line. May 8, 2008 at 10:44am Reply

  • Cara: Sveta, I also like La Chasse and I also don’t like too much tuberose. 🙂 I don’t have a lot of perfumes, but reading blogs and perfume forums like MUA and Basenotes is really stoking my interest in fragrance. Of course, my wallet is now lighter too! LOL! May 8, 2008 at 11:03am Reply

  • Cara: Victoria, thank you! I will add En Passant to my list of perfumes to sample. May 8, 2008 at 11:24am Reply

  • Tarn: Ah well, another gardenia which isn’t, really… But it sounds pleasant enough for me to try out, if the local department store has it. Thanks for the review.
    I recently found an old Demeter Gardenia spray at the back of the cupboard. I assume it’s by Christopher Brosius. It starts buttery, then becomes a lovely warm floral scent. Of course, being Demeter, it doesn’t last long. But I think it’s quite close to the ‘real deal’. Has anyone smelled that one? May 8, 2008 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Shelley: Back to lilac (syringa NOT seringa)…the plot thickens…because the “philadelphus”, what you say in the Ukraine is called jasmine, is commonly called “mock orange” here in the US. Kind of comes full circle, no?

    Just got the Yves Rocher lilac, and will try. There is a Caswell-Massey which gets the traditional lilac scent pretty well, also. (Nothing complex about it, just the smell of lilacs.) May 8, 2008 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: R, I agree, I will maybe use my decant from time to time, but I certainly do not need a bottle. For now, I will enjoy TF Velvet Gardenia whenever I need my gardenia fix. May 8, 2008 at 8:47am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: B, love your questions like this. 🙂 In some ways, white florals is a poor descriptor, because it means so many things to so many people. In general, flowers with indolic notes are included in the list as well as flowers in jasmine family (olfactively speaking, of course, not botanically). These flowers, besides jasmine, are orange blossom, tuberose, ylang ylang, frangipani, gardenia–very lush, heady and rich. Magnolia is heavily indolic, so it is a contender, but it also depends on how it is rendered.

    Seringa (or seringat) is not related to lilac, although the confusion might spring, because syringa is the Latin name for lilac. Seringa/seringat (Philadelphus) is a type of flower that has a strong orange blossom-jasmine scent. In Ukraine, it is the plant we would call jasmine.

    In general, lilac is considered to be too green to be a proper white floral. May 8, 2008 at 8:58am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cara, my favorite lilac is En Passant. I also like the lilac note in Caron Fleurs de Rocaille. May 8, 2008 at 9:00am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, I would love to hear your thoughts! May 8, 2008 at 9:02am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, Yves Rocher used to have a lilac I loved, but I do not see it in their range anymore. Maybe, it just got repackaged as Pur Desir Lilas. May 8, 2008 at 9:04am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, it does not really smell like Gardenia to me, more like a creamy, peachy floral. But it is pretty. May 8, 2008 at 9:06am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, also, looking at your list of favorites, have you tried L’Artisan La Chasse Aux Papillon Extreme? I smelled it recently and was surprised by its big tuberose-gardenia note. Maybe, it might be a nice one for you to smell, esp. if you like the original. May 8, 2008 at 9:07am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Silvana, I am sure that it is beautiful on you. Enjoy it! May 8, 2008 at 9:08am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cindy, I did not care for Isabey Gardenia, to be honest. Somehow, I found it very sticky for a gardenia, which has a very fresh, and yet heady scent. The more I smell Velvet Gardenia and compare it to the scent of flowers in nature, the more I am convinced that it might be it as far as gardenia goes. At least, for now. 🙂 May 8, 2008 at 9:11am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Kaori, I am sorry, I am not sure why it is not working. Maybe, there is some encoding that yahoo does not accept. I will try my work email. May 8, 2008 at 9:17am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Musette, do you mean L’Artisan summer bottles with pumps? Guerlain bottle is flat, rectangular with a pump atomizer. Looks nice, but the sprayer is just annoying. May 8, 2008 at 10:02am Reply

  • Sveta: Cara, I know! It’s dangerous to read reviews. The moment I read I want everything. I live far away from good perfume stores so it’s sometimes difficult to get samples. May 8, 2008 at 3:53pm Reply

  • Musette: Victoria,

    I am not exactly sure what caused me to make the connection – perhaps it’s the gold-tone strip down the side of the bottle with the little ??? at the top of it – just very reminiscent of L’A packaging, at first glance. Bottle shape is different and I hadn’t even taken the sprayer into consideration – btw, why is it annoying? I sort of like bulb sprayers if it’s integrated into the bottle shape. Seems to me they work a bit better with shorter bottles. May 8, 2008 at 4:12pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, it is not too strong, but maybe if tuberose in La Chasse is just enough for you, then the Extreme version might be too much. May 9, 2008 at 8:39am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Dior Lover, which three new ones do you mean? La Collection Particulière? I did sample it when it first came out, but I did not return to it subsequently. The fragrances are beautiful, but I did not find them beautiful enough to justify the price tag. May 9, 2008 at 8:41am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Mimi, thank you for visiting. I had very high expectations for Cruel Gardenia. However, I am rediscovering Tom Ford, and Velvet Gardenia is a great gardenia contender. If you have not tried it yet, definitely do, especially if you like gardenia. May 9, 2008 at 8:43am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Linda, I agree, cruel it is not! May 9, 2008 at 8:45am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cara, you are welcome. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. May 9, 2008 at 8:46am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Tarn, I did not smell Demeter Gardenia, but I have tried other Demeter floral fragrances, and they did good renditions. May 9, 2008 at 9:00am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Shelley, you are right about mock orange. I completely forgot about that name. Makes sense, as it is such a beautiful blend of orange blossom (Concord grape part) and jasmine (heady, fruity, animalic). When I worked in Warsaw a couple of years ago, I used to buy small bouquets of it for my hotel room. The memories that this scent brings are just wonderful.

    Caswell-Massey Lilac is a very nice. I used to have soap and body cream. I should probably revisit it again soon. May 9, 2008 at 9:04am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Musette, I can see how that might be the case, especially with the background image. The sprayers are annoying, because they hardly spray anything and they leak. Now you have a choice of replacing a pump sprayer with a regular one, which works much better. May 9, 2008 at 9:11am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria, Your lovely review has beckoned me to the Guerlain to buy Cruel Gardenia . I find it missing the gardenia – but whatever it has that tuberose topnote -I love it . Just as Guerlain Spirituese Double Vanille was my winter signature =I feel that this one Cruel Gardenia Will be my Spring- Summer favorite. Creamy , soothing , with a spike of tuberose to heighten my senses-is what comes to mind.
    I instantly was taken with it – I cannot deny my feelings for it. Oh well hear goes $225. Thank You for this beautful review. May 9, 2008 at 3:06pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Madelyn, it is creamy and comforting, definitely very gentle and soothing. I like it delicate composition, although for me I still missed some drama. However, one does not always need drama, right? 🙂 Today, for instance, I wish a had a decant of it in my purse. May 9, 2008 at 8:10pm Reply

  • Peter: I would like to hear what is your favorite Guerlain fragrance for men? Thanks. May 12, 2008 at 9:22am Reply

  • Linda: OK, I will give Tom Ford a go. You’ve convinced me. 🙂 May 12, 2008 at 10:01am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Peter, I especially like Vetiver, Derby, Habit Rouge and L’Instant pour Homme. May 12, 2008 at 9:47pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Linda, please do! I would love to hear what you think of it. May 12, 2008 at 9:47pm Reply

  • Judith: Adding very late: I completely agree. If Velvet Gardenia is too much for me (see above), this is way too little. Pink cashmere and pearls, indeed! May 17, 2008 at 7:39am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Judith, miles away from Ford, isn’t it? 🙂 Yes, that is just too tame, even if pretty. May 18, 2008 at 10:33am Reply

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