Viewer Mail: I’m a Chump for Gardenia

Dearest KP,

I'm looking for a few good scents and can't seem to find the right match. Here's where I've been lately: Miller Harris Noix de Tubereuse was NOT any tuberose I would wear. Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower -- gorgeous but a little too cold for me, like a flower shop fridge full of perfect tuberoses. When these flowers cool down too much, I feel as though a funeral's about to start -- and I'm the one in the silky lined box.

Let's see, I've tried Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, and it was too sparkling for my nose. Oh, the complaints! Maybe I don't like tuberose after all? Or gardenia? But I suspect I do.

Maybe I like watery fragrances? Lotus blossom? Orange? Does Comptoir Sud Pacifique have any watery, flowery, earthy scents you would recommend? Do they make suntan lotion? Anything powdery is out, and I'm afraid of musk. My brain can't disconnect any musk from the first musk that my mother spritzed all over her body on every nauseating car ride to church...I'm a heathen!

There's no higher-end department store nearby. I've sampled a few fragrances from LuckyScent's mail order, but without much luck. My nose can't identify the LuckyScent descriptions. I thought I DID like “Mediterranean cliff-sides” and “warm salty air”. Where do I keep going wrong? For now, I'm wearing Kai. I feel like such a chump!

Forever yours,


Dearest JP,

Two things: if you’re wearing Kai, you’re not a chump, and you do like indeed like gardenia, because Kai is a very lovely green gardenia scent.

And as you’ve indicated by your other excellent perfume choices, tuberose is the power behind the throne in any gardenia accord. This is because it’s impossible to distill the fragrance from actual gardenia blossoms. It’s a flower that holds onto its secrets. But tuberose is happy to jump in as the understudy -- many “gardenia” fragrances are tuberose in a wig and falsies.

I’m surprised that you didn’t cotton onto the EL Tuberose Gardenia, because I find that one a mellow, accessible, lush gardenia. And not to tease your pocketbook, but the parfum version is even more divine.

And the FM Carnal Flower doesn’t do it for you, either? Hmm, you’re a tough customer, because you’ve just fired my two top tuberoses.

Given your Goldilocks level of pickiness, I don’t feel confident about recommending another favorite of mine, Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. That one is so pretty, but has a few more twists and turns than your beloved, uncomplicated Kai. (But if you see it, check it out, because I hear that it’s being discontinued. A damn shame.)

Voile de Fleur is more sophisticated and interesting than Kai, without being as crackers diva-tronic as Fracas, by Robert Piguet. Fracas goes full bore on the drama, its blowsy, heady tuberose theatrically sweet. No greenery in that showgirl’s garden.

Okay, let’s do a process of elimination. You like gardenia and tuberose. You want watery, flowery, earthy. You can’t do musk, powdery, sparkling. (Which is tricky, because an element of “sparkle” in a perfume is the corrective to powdery.) And then you throw suntan lotion into the mix. Lemme guess, you were a fussy eater as a child?

Well, I’m playing “pin the tail on the donkey”, here, but I do believe I’ve hit on a few smells that might make you smile. Get ready to do some more sample mail ordering:

By Kilian Beyond Love (creamy, rich tuberose; sensual with a touch of coconut for that suntan lotion effect)

Ormonde Jayne Tiare (sheer Tahitian gardenia, crisp white florals and citrus with a mossy drydown; reminds me of my old favorite, Chanel Cristalle)

Comptoir Sud Pacifique Eau de Naphé (one of my favorite orange blossom scents; full without being cloying or sickly sweet, as can happen with this accord)

LesNez Manoumalia (carnivorous tiare, salty, thick and frankly sexual; as earthy as they come)

Le Labo Neroli 36 (soft white floral, a bit beachy)

Bobbi Brown Beach (nostalgic suntan lotion perfume)

Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess/Azurée Soleil (white florals, coconut, amber; a sensual suntan oil smell)

And here’s the one that I really want you to try, because it’s so different to the tropical florals you’ve encountered so far, and it hits all of the keywords on your wish list:

Penhaligon’s Amaranthine (a fascinating white floral that is fresh and green while also smelling milky, spicy, and a bit bestial)

Good luck on your tour of the tropics. And if you don’t like any of them? Well you said it yourself -- you’re a heathen!

Smell ya later,


Fumeheads – can you help JP meet her scented match?


  1. I'm sure this isn't any closer to a direct hit, but I would recommend at least trying Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia. I think they have samples at TPC, if JP doesn't have a store nearby that carries the Private Blends.

  2. Monyette Paris: beachy, creamy gardenia with a touch of incense.

    Lulu Beauty Starlet: heady, sweet gardenia. It reminds me of those potted gardenias sold at the local supermarket.

  3. And the florals are rollin' in! Hmm, like that Monyette Paris description, opusgirl. I must revisit.

  4. So odd, but I always thought Kai was an orange blossom scent. It's very...mock orange bush-smelling to me. When I put my face into the gardenia bush outside my house, I always get that brash, bright and slightly blue cheesy scent. Kai just doesn't smell that way to me. Maybe I'm crazy! Possibly I'm crazy. But I do concur that if she likes Kai, maybe she's more interested in the orange blossom side of the big white flowers.

  5. Valid point, Prosetry - Kai does not have the full-on blue cheese gardenia effect (unlike Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia, which serves up a cheesy crumble with every spritz). It's probably a melange of gardenia-ish smells, which include orange blossom. (Or maybe I just associate one with the other, since they perfume the air at the same time?)

    But good analysis - maybe JP should shift the search from strict gardenia/tuberose to orange blossom. And possibly magnolia...?

  6. What about Diorissimo? I know the composition is muguet, jasmine, lilac but to me it is the perfect floral: transparent, smooth, yet a little animal in the dry down. I wore this when I was nineteen (a few decades ago) and although I no longer feel I can pull it off (it's SO feminine and young) I keep a bottle for reference. The ultimate happy fragrance; I swoon and grin every time I catch a whiff of it!

  7. Oh wow, Diorissimo. That muguet is such a little Lolita: corrupted innocence. Or perhaps the innocence that corrupts.

    Luca Turin says Diorissimo ain't what it used to be, though I don't have that nose memory for comparison. Hey, wasn't there supposed to be some amped-up special edition of the stuff due out about now?

  8. Here's an update from JP herself:

    My sincere thanks to you and all the fumeheads for your suggestions! Yes, I do like magnolia, at least Kenzo's version. And, I think Aqua di Parma has a new magnolia scent too, which I haven't smelled yet. I can't wait to place my next sample order with LuckyScent. I'm going to try every suggestion--hey, life is short--and add a few extra orange blossom varieties to the mixed bag, or rather, bubble wrapped envelope! Can't wait! Wish me luck.

    Gratefully yours,

  9. What about Iris Nobile EDT? That is a gardenia scent in disguise, according to LT.

    LOVE the Kenzo magnolia scent (bright, citrussy, if a bit fleeting) and find Magnolia Nobile is a bit shampoo-ey in the opening, like Gucci Envy, but it definitely improves over time.

    Fave oranges are L'Artisan Fleur d'Oranger and Neroli Portofino, though Divine Bergamote is nice if you like a zingy ginger twist.

    Amaranthine I obviously recommend wholeheartedly in response to pretty much any brief whatsoever... : - )

  10. Love that Tom Ford Neroli Portofino! And that Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile is certainly a plush number.

  11. I adore Ajne's Fleur Blanche. It’s creamy and buttery, yet slightly smoky and woodsy, with a luscious hint of indoles. And for a natural, it has incredible staying power! It lasts all day.

    Not to be missed for anyone on a serious Gardenia search.

    As for Kai, I get gardenia from it, but it's too laden in a China Rain accord for me to wear it frequently.


  12. Hello Trish! How do you do? So pleased you checked in with your formidable knowledge of organic/natural perfumes. Your blog Scent Hive is an amazing resource.

    I love your description of Fleur Blanche. The smokiness does sound appealing.

  13. Hm, given the update, I may be late-ish, but how about Annick Goutal Matin d'Orage? It fits the watery, flowery, tropical parts of the brief to a t.

  14. It's never too late for a bright idea, Arachne. And I was wondering when Matin d'Orage was going to rear its head. I 100% agree it fits the brief. The only thing that gave me pause about including it is that slightly odd ozonic smell at the beginning, which I thought might be a little sharp, or weird, or something, for JP. But reading your comment, I applied some, and a half hour it, it's certainly watery and flowery and simple and nice.

  15. I've had a thought about another Ormonde Jayne perfume that might work for JP: Frangipani Absolute. It's got a JP-approved line-up of tropical flowers and magnolia, and has a bright, dewy quality before the woody drydown.

  16. Another vote for Fleur Blanche and JP appears to be nearer Ajne country than most!

  17. Another bulletin from JP:

    I'm loving this Ormonde Jayne talk, Katie. The Tiare and Frangipani Absolute sound divine (I read linden blossom, lime, cedar, tuberose, moss, orange blossom.)

    And, thanks for the multiple suggestions to try Ajne's Fleur Blanche. I'm insanely excited to try so many new scents!


  18. TerraNova Gardenia. I purchased mine at Macy's in Hawaii - they may have it at any Macy's. This is gardenia.

  19. capri, if you were in Hawaii when you got your gardenia perfume, it sounds like you were in an excellent position to vouch for its authenticity, given the all tropical flowers there providing a consumer comparison test.