Soap Opera – Review: Guerlain Cruel Gardénia

The dear constant reader knows how much I love to complete a set. With this review I’m proud to say that I have now reviewed the entire, gorgeous and exclusive L’Art et la Matiere line. Not bad for someone hundreds of miles from the next Guerlain boutique… 😉

Cruel Gardénia is the last of the eight perfumes and one of the few florals. Mostly gourmand-orientals (which is why I love them so), L’Art et la Matière offers beauty and opulence and is a worthy heir to the classic Guerlains in my unimportant opinion.

Most other perfumes in the line have won my heart, take a look at reviews of Angelique NoireTonka Impèriale, Cuir BelugaRose Barbare, Iris Ganache and Myrrhe et Délires as well Tara’s review of Bois d’Armenie.

But on to the topic of the day: Cruel Gardénia.

Cruel Gardénia was created by Randa Hammami and includes notes of damask rose, peach, neroli, violet, ylang ylang, white musks, tonka bean, vanilla and sandalwood.

I could say I saved the best for last, but unfortunately that would not be true. I am not a huge fan of white florals, although I found a few to love by now, but still, it is not my favorite genre. But, my fellow white floral skeptics, fear not: There is no gardenia in Cruel Gardénia, which, it might be argued by white floral lovers, is cruel indeed.

But misnaming is a bit of a tradition in the L’Art et la Matière line, since Angelique Noire is not noire, Cuir Beluga has almost no leather, the Rose is not barbarian in the least.

It must be said though that the heady scent of gardenias is very hard to replicate, since it can’t be extracted from the flower, but must be reconstructed. Which has lead to a plethora of fragrances bearing the name but not the actual scent of gardenia. Therefore Guerlain is in good company here.

Cruel Gardénia smells soapy, white and clean.

It is a white musk-heavy orange blossom and jasmine fragrance to my nose, that smells like soap and ummm, soap. It grows softer over time and try as I may, I am reminded of a decidedly more low brow smell – that of the original Nivea cream.

Cruel Gardénia evokes the image of gardenia, the pristine white flower, rather than the smell. Exactly the same image of clean and innocent beauty that the white cream of Nivea projects as well.

A soapy shower followed by the application of body cream or lotion, a pampering ritual with all its attendant feeling of comfort and care, is what I get from Cruel Gardénia.

Please forgive me (especially you, Undina, I know how much you love it) for this not very elucidating review, but, as hard as I’ve tried, Cruel Gardénia does not yield its non-soapy secrets to me.

Here is a glowing review by Elena on Perfumeshrine and one more along the line of soapy suds on Bois de Jasmin.

What do you think about Cruel Gardénia? Did you slide down the soapy slope to love? Does it leave you foaming at the mouth? Or do you adore Cruel Gardénia’s clean scrubbed bouquet?

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30 Responses to Soap Opera – Review: Guerlain Cruel Gardénia

  1. Undina says:

    I really enjoyed your review, Birgit! It made me laugh and actually explained something. I just loved the original Nivea cream smell! For years for me it was the best (and the most desirable) cream ever! Also, I recently realized that the scent of actual gardenia flower isn’t something I know “by heart”, I’m not sure I’d recognize it if I was given an actual flower to smell with my eyes closed. So, all that plus me still being a floral perfumes fan perfectly explains why out of the whole collection in front of me I ended up loving Cruel Gardenia and buying it as my birthday present.

  2. Tara says:

    Congrats on completing the set! I’ve never tried Cruel Gardenia because I’m not a fan of gardenia or soapy white florals generally. It’s not for me by the sounds of it but I guess I should be a completist like you and at least try it when I sample the new Myrrhe et Delires.

  3. smellythoughts says:

    I’m a big fan of a good gardenia note – clean and soapy should is not a good gardenia :’)

  4. bloodyfrida says:

    oh too bad because it has the BEST name ever!

  5. Suzy Q says:

    Cruel Gardenia is my scent of the day and my only full bottle Guerlain. Deep under all that soap is something green that brings it back towards nature. It’s too bad they gave it such a misleading (yet terrific) name. I almost didn’t try it because of an aversion to gardenia, but I love neroli, so that was the hook. It lasts all day and is one of just a few perfumes I can wear in any season.

    Marina says it smells more like a Chanel than a Guerlain!

  6. This one was indeed cruel to my nose. I wanted that elusive gardenia 😦

  7. Suzanne says:

    I finally got to try this when I was in Paris, and probably because it doesn’t have that big white-floral smell that I crave, it didn’t resonate with me. I can hardly remember it now … but then again, I was so struck by the beauty of Angelique Noire that I probably didn’t pay it proper attention. 😉

    I’m quite impressed that you’ve managed to review the entire L’Art et la Matiere line! I think you’ve earned your Guerlain girl badge. 🙂

  8. ginzaintherain says:

    I would say you have just about summed this pleasant but unextraordinary creature with this review. I sniff it at the Tokyo boutique and can never get much from it…

  9. Thanks for reviewing this Birgit! You saved me a sample test – I’m now pretty sure I should pass on this. I’d been wondering due to the name! It is “white flower season” here in the American South – with the gardenias and magnolias blooming. And though I have always been afraid of “big white florals” I have been trying to find a white floral that I can love. I want something that smells more like real flowers than soap. So far I like Carnal Flower very much – but it’s been one of the few. I want the rich creaminess with a touch of natural green freshness – without the scariness. Fracas and A La Nuit both terrified me, lol. Even though Cruel Gardenia sounds safe – my guess is that it is too soapy and not enough of a natural flower for me to like it.

    • Olfactoria says:

      A natural flower is not to be found in Cruel Gardenia. 😦
      I can understand your terror in the face of these power flowers.
      If you come across it, Isabey Gardenia is a beautiful white floral.

      • Oh yes! Thank you for the rec for Isabey Gardenia. To my nose there is something very candied about the opening (I want more fresh flower) – but Isabey Gardenia is very nice! So far my favorite gardenia is Van Cleef & Arpels Gardenia Petale. I have a gardenia growing in my yard and the V&A is quite true to the flower! (Not that being “true to flower” is the best measure of a perfume. But in the case of gardenia, it’s sort of miraculous when it happens.) But…so far…when it comes to white flowers, my heart still belongs to Carnal Flower (which also makes me want to cry because it is so $$$). There is just something intoxicating and addictive about it – even with the menthol and coconut 🙂

        • Olfactoria says:

          I totally agree – V&A Gardenia Petale is great! I liked it the most out of the entire Collection, which is really unusual for me (I never prefer white florals).

          Carnal Flower is beautiful indeed, maybe you can find a single travel spray, that is not so expensive and lasts a while.

  10. I hate to bore people with my Lutens obsession but gardenia lovers rejoice: the next Lutens is going to be a gardenia, Un Voix Noire! A black voice, and I can’t wait to see how Sheldrake manages to put Billie Holiday’s voice in a bottle.

  11. flittersniffer says:

    I have forgotten what I thought of this one, though I am pretty sure I tested it at some point. Loved the last paragraph of your review, btw – I have fond memories of the smell of Nivea, so I should give CG another go!

  12. Pingback: Contrasts – Review: Jo Loves Gardenia | Olfactoria's Travels

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