Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chanel Gardenia (Les Exclusifs EDT)

As Chanel makeup line is evolving and becoming more innovative and sophisticated than ever before, the fragrance line seems to be taking steps in the opposite direction. We all know that everything was reformulated, diluted and cheapened (while the retail price climbs higher and higher); Chanel Gardenia, formerly part of the boutique line that included Cuir de Russie and Bois des Iles, was assimilated into Les Exclusifs range, the big vats of EDT (now also in somewhat more reasonable bottles and the extrait is back as well). While I was never a huge fan of Chanel Gardenia I did have some respect for its very blonde elegance. However, testing the most recent version of the eau de toilette left me more flabbergasted with Chanel than ever before.

It's no secret that Gardenia was never a true gardenia scent. As a matter of fact, Turin/Sanchez labeled it as a "Not Gardenia", and who can blame them? While gardenia as a note is pretty hard to capture in a realistic way (the flower is nearly impossible to extract and tincture), there are many interesting approximations on the market, older and new (here are several favorites-- without searching and just from immediate memory: Goutal Un Matin d'Orage, JAR Jardenia and Bolt Of Lightning, Arquiste Boutonniere no. 7, Isabey Gardenia, Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia, Ineke Hothouse Flower, and the brilliant Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire). So what exactly is the point of a gardenia with none of the sultriness, sweet and salty aspects, or heady sensuality?

I can't figure it out. And I tried. I swear.

The current version of Chanel Gardenia opens with an abstract approximation of a very polite white floral. It's not quite tuberose, not quite orange blossom and only offers a hint of a beachy tropical humidity that may or may not be related to gardenia. I smell green leaves, something ripe and almost interesting behind the shockingly synthetic floral veil, but this hint of hope fades away quickly. The whole thing is as fake as a Taylor Swift relationship and has little presence, an ephemeral sillage and barely any personality. Chanel Gardenia is not bad: it's difficult to dislike something that's trying so hard to be pretty. And Gardenia is pretty in a very inoffensive and utterly forgettable way.

I like whatever is left on the skin after about five hours. It's a milky musk with a beachy undertone. If I had to  choose between Gardenia and, say, Jennifer Aniston's fragrance there's no doubt I'd go with the smooth and more balanced Chanel, but that doesn't say much, does it? Chanel Gardenia in its current formula is the ghost of something that could have been great. The structure and cheekbones are there, just not the curves and flesh.

Chanel Gardenia ($130, 2.5oz EDT) is available at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store, Chanel boutiques and chanel.com.

Images: La Chanelphile, Hprints, Chanel website and an old online auction.


  1. I loved this post and I'm not even a scent kind of girl. Sarah xx

  2. I love Gardenia! So do my daughters. I don't think a lovely perfume has to have teeth or cheekbones. Why can't it just smell nice? The Chanel rep that was visiting a Toronto boutique when I visited last year said Chanel Gardenia was never meant to approximate the flower "gardenia" but that it was to just smell like a garden of many flowers. I'm not sure why this fact remains elusive to the perfumista realm. It's also one of the best-sellers.

    1. It's more about the fact that such an expensive scent should better executed. Sure it smells "nice" but when you've experienced some of the great and legendary perfumes as many perfumistas have, just smelling nice is not enough. It doesn't have to smell like gardenia, but if your going to call it Chanel Gardenia, we've come to expect, at least, a little more drama and intrigue at that price. I can get "nice" anywhere and for much cheaper prices.

    2. With all due respect Renee, I have been a card carrying "Perfumista" for many years, and I am an equal opportunity perfume lover. I have expensive, rare and niche sitting next to drug store perfumes in my collection (which is massive btw). I have legendary and I have simple, pretty and "nice". What I am not, is a perfume snob, which is quite tiresome. One person's boring is another person's lovely. What many perfumistas consider incredible, I consider pretentious and ridiculous. But I do believe there are enough perfumes in the world for everyone to find something they love without being told by someone who purports to know better that their perfume isn't dramatic or intriguing enough. That is like telling someone which art they should hang in their house. If one believes the only way to smell good is to buy expensive, then I'd say one is more of a victim than an expert.

  3. Thanks for this. It's good to read a post which revisits an older scent.

    Here's a question for you. Which of these is more bland: Gardenia or Beige? :-)

  4. I did not like it, either. It was a major disappointment and I did expect it at first to be a true gardenia perfume. But I disagree that gardenias are not easily replicated in scent. There are several gardenia fragrances that are spot on, in my opinion.

  5. I like Jane love and adore Chanel Gardenia so much I have two 200 ml bottles of Chanel Gardenia and a 75 ml one for travel plus the extrait. Yes, I agree with Jane- the scent is supposed to resemble a garden of flowers and the gardenia was chosen because it is closest to Chanel's favorite the camellia.Both Gardenia and No 22 are the ones I have re bought over the years. I love it's limpid, dewy nature and the extrait is actually very beautiful though I admit not as lasting as you would expect it to be.

  6. i have a bottle of gardenia from about 8 years ago, it has the old packaging like the no 5 EDT bottle. I wonder is this version different?

  7. baby in a corner --

    Yes, the old Gardenia edt is different, it's much rounder and muskier and more lush - it's obvious that the ingredients are very different. The new one is missing its slight powderiness, too.

  8. "The whole thing is as fake as a Taylor Swift relationship ..." - this made me snicker! XD

  9. I love Chanel Gardenia, all 2.5 seconds of its longevity.


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