Surrogate Spring – Review: Chanel Les Exclusifs Gardénia

I once wrote a damning mini-review about Chanel’s Gardénia and now I’m here to eat my words and apologize to Gardénia and all who love it, as well as to Jacques Polge (he will be so excited 😉 ).

Spring is here, the sun is out, the trees are in full bloom and I crave florals. And on a whim (and in the throes of a serious re-kindled love affair with all things Chanel) I reached for my sample of Gardénia. Oh. Ah.

But let’s take a more articulate approach first, then let the moaning start…

Gardénia is now part of the Les Exclusifs and was created by Jacques Polge. The current EdT inlcudes notes of  jasmine, gardenia, orange blossom, tuberose, clove, sage, pimento, musk, patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver.

There have been many versions of Gardénia in Chanel’s history, Bois de Jasmin and Perfume Shrine offer interesting articles on the various incarnations.

I’m quite sure this is a short-lived infatuation, because knowing myself, I’m not one to regularly go for white floral bouquets, but now and again I really enjoy the lively and happy outlook, the elegant, refined and innocent aura such a type of perfume delivers.

Gardénia is dominated by green jasmine, accented by soft orange blossom and underlined by sweet tuberose. Don’t go looking for gardenia in here though, Gardénia is first and foremost a jasmine-orange blossom scent.

The drydown is softly musky with a hint of vanilla. So far, so uncomplicated.

Gardénia is easy to wear, undemanding, happy and carefree. It just smells really good and it makes me feel Chanel-esque without the gravitas of more elaborate, grown-up perfumes like N°22, N°5 or 31 Rue Cambon.

When a perfume makes me smile, even if only for a day, it has my attention and is on its way to win my heart.

If spring outside is letting you down, let Gardénia take over.

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37 Responses to Surrogate Spring – Review: Chanel Les Exclusifs Gardénia

  1. MMM Yummy! If your job is to make me want it, your work here is done,
    Portia xx

  2. Joe says:

    Ah, Birgit… we’re slightly off synch: I wore Gardénia extrait on Monday. Such a heartbreakingly lovely fragrance. Some days it just feels perfect. I have a decant of the edt too, but to be honest, I haven’t spent as much time with that as with the exquisite extrait. Amazing stuff!

  3. Tatiana says:

    Thanks for reminding me I have a bottle of this in the way back part of my closet. I’m pretty sure it’s from the middle formulation from some time in the 1980s. I know I got it after I got married, and it’s a different bottle than the Les Exclusive collection. I guess I know what scent I will be wearing in the morning.

    • Olfactoria says:

      My then-roommate had this perfume, the EdT in the square flat bottle (like Coco EdT for example) with a white cap. I very hopefully asked her recently whether she still had the bottle, but she didn’t even remember ever wearing it. I guess I was quite “perfume-aware” even then. 😉

      I’m glad you are wearing it again!

  4. Sandra says:

    I had the square flat bottle and wore it to the very last drop! It was such a perfume love of mine especially in the heat and humidity (I was in Brazil for a short while with Gardenia as my only bottle). I will have to break out my sample of it to see how it has changed. Where can i get the extrait? Thank you for the lovely write up.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I am very curious to hear what you think of the Les Exclusifs version, I have heard it has suffered quite a bit in reformulation…
      The extrait is available at the Chanel boutique.
      We should go there next week! 🙂

  5. andreawilko says:

    Ha, once again thank to Place Vendome for I also have a mini bottle of this, I will spend the morning sniffing it now. I am not a great Gardenia fan so maybe this one with less Gardenia in it might be the perfect for me. 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      I applied it too just now, the weather outside needs all the help it can get.
      Let me know how you like it!

      • andreawilko says:

        I thought it was a very pretty fragrance and I did like it a lot, I am amazed at how well they last despite the EDT concentration. Ultimately I can’t see me ever owning it, I was lucky enough to win a bottle of Gardenia Grand Soir in Les Senteurs competition and this is all the Gardenia I need in my collection right now.
        I also tested a sample of the new Guerlain Lys Soleia that you reviewed recently, which I thought was fantastic and full bottle worthy at those prices and such cute bottles, what’s not to love? Thank you once again Place Vendome, the shop that keeps on giving (If I could buy every perfume from there I would)

        • Olfactoria says:

          Me too! At least Plave Vendome can cover all our Chanel, Guerlain and Amouage needs.
          Lys Soleia is great! Glad you like it!

          One Gardenia is plenty, if it is not your most beloved style of perfume.

  6. Alexandra says:

    I am sorry Birgit, but even your beautiful review can not rouse my interest in this. I just don’t think I look to the Chanel Exclusifs for happy and carefree, and especially not Gardenia shaped ones. I will just go back to day dreaming about golden vanillas…

    • Olfactoria says:

      You do that! 🙂
      As I said above, I don’t think I’d ever need a bottle full of gardenia shaped happiness, but a day here and there is just lovely, just what I need.
      (But if you told me that a year ago, I’d have smiled weakly and ignored you, so I wouldn’t bet on it that this is your final answer. 😉 )

  7. Sassa says:

    I have both the 90s formulation (the flat square white cap) and the Exclusif version, and they are very close. I think that I ever-so-slightly prefer the 90s version, it does not have the citrus opening and goes straight for the flowery tropical effect. Here’s the best application for Gardenia:

    Friday, after work, spend a half an hour in the hot tub with Santana on the ipod and a gin and tonic. Get out, shower, spray Gardenia liberally (optional: another G &T), and then head out to dinner. It makes the start of the weekend feel like the the beginning of an exotic beach vacation.

    Another way that I love – layer it with Chanel Bel Respiro – it gives Bel Respiro some depth and smells airy and sultry at the same time.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Your Friday night ritual sounds perfect and I shall try to emulate it (aside from the going out part, the cost of babysitters somehow necessitates a grand occasion to go out), but the bath, perfume and G&T – those are no problem. 🙂

  8. Tara says:

    A jasmine-orange blossom scent makes this sound much more appealing to me. I had avoided it till now but any perfume that can make you smile is definitely worth a try.

  9. JennyJo says:

    I never thought I would love No. 22 and Gardenia the way I do, but I was smitten right away, it’s their gentle, lovely, innocent sweetness that I find so captivating and alluring. I’ll try layering Gardenia with Bel Respiro, thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

  10. unseencenser says:

    You are so right. I need to bust this out for tomorrow. Well done.

  11. I’ve had mixed feelings about gardenia too..It was the first of the exclusifs I really liked. I thought it was pretty with a sort of crystalline beauty. But then I bought a decant of the extrait and was disappointed – It smelled flat and insipid to me- like a huge petal (where was the crystalline prettiness?) And then on a random day- it was just what I needed..I guess this is a perfume that one has to wear without too many expectations. I especially love it when the weather is slightly chilly- then I get that crystalline aspect of it that I love. I really want to smell the vintage extrait..I haven’t managed to win any on ebay yet..;-)

  12. SonomaVelvet says:

    I remember going into the exclusifs boutique all excited to try out Coromandel and Cuir de Russe. The extremely generous (clever) sales person helping me sent me out of the store with a lovely bag of samples including Beige (which, at the time I hadn’t even heard of) and Gardenia. I was not in a floral frame of mind at the time and I wouldn’t have thought to try them. Well I do love Coromandel and I’ve since bought it, ended up giving my sample of C de R to an appreciative friend as it turned out to be not something I could get along with and to my surprise I actually really enjoyed Gardenia, and Beige. I’ve bought them both and wear them every couple of weeks. There is something bright and shining about the jasmine in Gardenia that just makes me feel happy, and there is something interesting in the background that hums along, the patchouli? sandalwood? that gives it a subtle complexity for me, keeps it interesting.
    Though not smelling like Gardenia to me at all, I’ve since noticed a growing curiosity about scents that actually might smell like a gardenia to me. So I’m off on another hunt, looking for a warm, not too tuberose smelling gardenia. JM vintage gardenia? cruel gardenia? Not, Estee Lauder PCTG, smells like Root Beer to me, so sad.

    • Olfactoria says:

      What a nice SA, I was met with an eye-roll when I dared to ask for a sample when I bought a full bottle in the Chanel boutique. 😦

      You describe the jasmine in Gardènia perfectly, bright and shiny it is!

      As for the “real” gardenia scent? I wish I could point you to your perfect one, but I have not found it yet myself. (It is surely not JM or Cruel Gardenia though!)

  13. “easy to wear, undemanding, happy and carefree” I totally agree with you. I call it the real Little Black Dress. Love it!

  14. flittersniffer says:

    This is one of the Exclusifs I have flipflopped over – loved it initially, swapped for a big decant, then fell out of love again and swapped the decant away. Now that I am completely without a sample of this I can’t quite remember why I had this about turn. I think it seemed a bit Herbal Essences shampoo-y on me – but hey, were I to try Gardenia again, the wheel might have come full circle by now, knowing me, and I might develop a renewed yearning for it! : – )

  15. Marie Shanahan says:

    I’ll have to try the Gardenia. I wear the Bel Respiro now and I love it! It’s light, fresh, and a bit like a “warm skin” smell. I also have Allure, which I think just smells like vanilla Chanel. It’s a very comforting but classy smell and I wear it all the time.

    I was afraid of the Gardenia because I thought it might be too sticky sweet as some gardenia scents are, but after listening to you ladies, I think I just might try it. Jasmine-orange blossom sounds really pretty, so thank you – I’ll trust in your collective judgements. 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hi Marie,
      I don’t think Gardènia is something to be afraid of, although I know what you mean, gardenia scents can be scary. Let me know how you get on with the Chanel!

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