The scent of a gardenia revival

The headiest of flowers makes for a – surprisingly – gorgeous perfume

Creed, that wonderful 250-year-old French perfume house with the English name (and one of the last family-owned luxury fragrance dynasties) has done something that at first sight seems awfully rash. It has recently launched Fleurs de Gardenia, a lush scent with the most fragrant of flowers at its heart. Gardenia perfumes have had something of a chequered history. In the world of haute perfumery, the very word is enough to bring some connoisseurs out in a rash. Even that great fragrance house Chanel, whose perfumes are normally greeted with ecstatic reverence, doesn’t seem to have had much critical acclaim for its Gardénia, which smells, to many, cloyingly sweet and loud. The last great gardenia perfume is generally acknowledged to be Isabey’s Gardénia, first made in the 1920s using only natural flower oils.

The problem with gardenia is that it can overpower, so it needs to be handled with the utmost finesse. Like tuberose before it, gardenia had been consigned to the school of old-fashioned perfumery – considered too heady and sickly for those of refined tastes.

Perfume Posse blogger Patty White is one of a growing band of fragrance aficionados who once loathed all gardenia fragrances yet have now decided that they love them. She warns, however, that to find the perfect one “the gardenia lover has a long, lonely road to travel, through many bottles of perfume, dashed hopes and broken dreams”.

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Well, we must hope that Patty gets to sample Creed’s Fleurs de Gardenia (from £90 for 30ml, pictured). The perfume house believes in producing only the very best. Its créateur parfumeur,Olivier Creed – the sixth generation to run the company – only brings out a new fragrance when he thinks he’s got something olfactory to say.

It is two years since he launched Aventus, a men’s fragrance that soon became the bestseller at Harrods. Now he’s decided to capture the true, dreamlike, ethereal qualities of the gardenia, to give it a 21st-century interpretation and make it fresh and wearable for the day. He’s taken the First Love variety, the plant that in the American south is grown around porches, from where it perfumes the air, looking incandescent in moonlight, reminding one irresistibly of Blanche DuBois and hot, steamy nights. Many believe the new scent will rehabilitate the gardenia, doing for the flower what Frédéric Malle’s Carnal Flower did for tuberose – which is to say, start a trend.  

The gardenia has been out of fashion for many years, but Creed has rescued it, refashioning it by adding double-blush rose, lily and blackcurrant to create a really gorgeous perfume. For those who aren’t lovers of florals, this could be the fragrance that changes your mind.

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