There's a reason I caution perfume bloggers and civilians not to buy or review a fragrance based upon a one time spray n'sniff at the counter; neither is a quick dabbing on one the left wrist while also testing something else on the right (and wearing a favorite something or another on the neck) sufficient. You may swoon, you may recoil, but are you sure you know what you're smelling? I'm pretty sure that when I first tried Gothic Bluebell by Union Fragrance at Henri Bendel I wore it too close to one of the green ones from this line, so I didn't get much of an impression other than that I walked out of the store smelling like an English cottage.
Later dabbing of Gothic Bluebell was still inconclusive. One summer day I was reminded of the old formula of Freesia by Crabtree & Evelyn. The last time I bought a bottle was to scent my sheets in 2001 and it cost about $40. Later on I actually found the moss and the forest Union were promising, and there was even a day I was jonsing for a bottle (it was late June and my skin chemistry was off). About 4 mls later (I had a few samples) and I can tell you that on a good day there's a lot to love-- hyacinth and ivy growing around the castle, a cool afternoon breeze and the rustle of leaves as the maiden gathers her skirts and runs towards the gate. So pretty.
But applied with abandon the sharpness of those not-quite natural flowers takes over and all the moss, wood, and danger are gone. Gothic Bluebell becomes more like flowers that were painted with a heavy hand on a china plate for tourists. It's too sharp, too cloying, and too air-freshener, only with a musk that never goes out. The result is more Bertha Rochester than Jane Eyre, if you will.
The conclusion? Gothic Bluebell is not the one for me. I'll get my hyacinth fix from Bas de Soie and Grand Amour, but lovers of this kind of flowers are more likely to enjoy it, because there is something there.
Notes: English bluebell, Devonian violet leaf, Dorset blue ground ivy, moss, willow bark, oak bark, musk, hyacinth, narcissus.
Union Fragrance Gothic Bluebell ($185, 100ml EDT) is available from Henri Bendel.
Art: The Fairy Wood by Henry Meynell Rheam, 1903