Perfume Pen Pals: Van Cleef & Arpels Gardenia Petale Part 2


It seems like almost every guy who promotes Musc Ravageur on Basenotes talks about its power to attract women. And, yes, they all have a stupid story to share about a stripper or a Hooters waitress loving their cologne. (I'm still waiting for the first woman who loves Musc Ravageur on one of these guys and isn't working for tips.)

It's like they're living in some pre-scientific era when boys bought magic elixirs from the backs of comic books. The perfume community is awfully depressing when you only pay attention to the straight-male segment of it. Though I suppose that goes for any community.

Does it seem like I'm grumpy today? It's almost summer and it's 48 degrees and raining in San Francisco. To hell with picking up women, I need a perfume that will pick me up! I'm going to look through my Van Cleef & Arpels samples. I'll let you know what I find.



Gardenia Petale is the one for you today.



No Gardenia Petale today because I have a dentist appointment this afternoon. And, yes, I boast about being able to wear almost anything and, yes, this is San Francisco and, yes, my dentist is gay, and yet I can't quite chance it. I'm wearing Hermès Brin de Réglisse.



Hope your teeth are fine and please try Gardenia Petale.



Today was the day and here's what I thought: Gardenia Petale is Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia after a strict liquid diet. It has the same gardenia center but it's both more green and more sheer. Though everything is more sheer than Velvet Gardenia. Velvet Gardenia is gardenia and lead. (I say we should put most of those Tom Fords on a liquid diet.)

But it's difficult to say anything beyond that. Gardenia is one of those smells that almost always smells the same. Like all Coldplay songs sound the same. If I'm forced to choose, if I'm under duress, I'd probably favor one Coldplay song over others. But it would be difficult. And unlikely. I mean, who cares so much about Coldplay that they'd put anyone under duress? Except by playing Coldplay. That's its own form of duress.

But Gardenia Petale? It's nice and perfectly pitched for spring, long-lived and almost pugnaciously pleasant, but is it worth owning? What if you just spray your Carnal Flower very lightly? Or use the Carnal Flower body butter? (Look at me suggesting ancillary products!)

I know I'm the least qualified person in the world to be asking this question, but is Gardenia Petale special enough? Does anyone need several Coldplay albums? And don't you dare bring up all my woody florals or my beachy scents or that I own every song ever recorded by The Mamas and the Papas. This is about you and gardenia, KP, so let's stay focused.

Can you definitively declare Gardenia Petale a front-line gardenia? Because I say, respectfully of course, you're not a multiple gardenia woman. Not yet anyway. Elizabeth Taylor is a multiple gardenia woman. The late Margaret Dumont was definitely a multiple gardenia woman. And it wouldn't surprise me if Imelda Marcos has as many gardenias as she has shoes.

But you? I just don't smell "heady tropical florals" when I think of you. Though you do like that Jasmin Noir, so maybe I'm entirely wrong. Notice that no matter how strong my opinion, I always come around to suggesting I might be wrong? Saying nothing at all would have the same impact. Which I suppose is the one thing I have in common with Coldplay. Hey, how did this become about me again? Let's stay focused, KP!


Read Perfume Pen Pals: Van Cleef & Arpels Gardenia Petale Part 1 here.


  1. Dan, it sounds like you had a root canal. And the dentist had Coldplay on an incessant loop in his office! Or maybe I just feel compelled to defend gardenia scents because I own Gardenia Petale, Penhaligon's Anthology Collection Gardenia and a decant of Velvet Gardenia. And I don't resemble the aforementioned floral divas at all!

    I do, however, believe that your description of Velvet Gardenia says it all. It scares me. I haven't worn it in a year.

    Katie, I think that the real test would be to throw caution (and money) to the wind and buy Jar Jardenia. Full-blown cheesy smelling gardenia. Not sure if even I can do that one!

  2. The combination of a root canal and Coldplay is truly scary. Is it even allowed? But perhaps the lead singer's voice could help the root canal work along some. Eeeeeeeh.

    I read Part 1 of the gardenia debate and found my beloved iris note described as the equivalent to Daniel Day-Lewis at a dinner party, serious and interesting, for sure, but also, it seemed implied, inherently unsexy.

    Now, I will agree that DDL is not exactly oozing lush sexuality. And on second thought, I will also have to admit that the same goes for iris. OK. I can deal. Iris is beautiful to me, earthy, grounded, confident, unflashy.

    But iris knows how to choose interesting company. I've tested Juliette Has a Gun Calamity J. and here iris works really well with patchouli, musk, amber and musk to create something that is definitely not austere. Maybe Daniel Day Lewis late in the evening when ties have come undone and shoes kicked off under the table and the host has found his old blues records and now no longer cares that his guests are drinking his really good red wine with the same reverence as if it were baccardi breezers. I'm just imagining.

    I'm not sure that I know what gardenia smells like on its own. I've sniffed EL Tuberose and Gardenia and I admire it - but I'm not sure that my life even has days where I could wear it. A summer country wedding?

  3. I don't like soliflores AT ALL, so I may not be the best one to pipe in here. Nonetheless, I will say: If you love it and you'll wear it, buy it. I keep wondering if I need another aldehydic floral, but then I find yet another that sweeps me off my feet. What I won't do is buy something that smells pretty much the same as something (or several somethings) else that I have. So if you feel like you need more than one gardenia, you need more than one gardenia. And if you don't, well...

    I feel the need to share that I woke up at 2:30 am today, so if this is totally incoherent, blame it on that.

  4. Anyone who likes aldehydic florals can never be incoherent in my book :-)

  5. I'm kind of loving the analogy of having more than one (fill in the blank) fragrance to be like having more than one Coldplay album -- is it really necessary when it's saying the same thing, just to a different drumbeat?

    "Clocks" -- it's as if every Coldplay song ever recorded were thrown into a blender and voila! It's also the only Coldplay song I can still listen to without grinding my teeth to their nerve endings (See? Coldplay, dentistry, I can stay on point!).

    But we all have our weaknesses. Look at KP and incense. She started with the pop hits, but will soon own the entire incense back catalogue before long, and then she'll be on to bootlegs and rare first editions and finally end up following the incense caravan around the country in a rusted out Range Rover, draped in love beads, spritzed in benzoin and singing her favorite Coldplay songs as she applies the latest Chanel lip gloss in her rearview mirror before the concert.

    Is there room for anyone else in your heart, KP, or has incense crowded us all out?

  6. And I'm afraid I will turn into Bianca Castafiore from the now almost ancient Tin Tin comic books if I get one more old school aldehydic floral:

  7. I seem to have weakness in a number of categories. But Junelady, I'm with you. Vintage floral aldehydes and chypres seem to be multiplying in my collection with (not quite wild) abandon. The soliflores? Not so much. A couple are just fine.

  8. These days I feel a new weakness coming on and it's the boudoir category of fragrances. I've tested Citizen Queen and Calamity J. and will be testing Putain de Palaces, Jubilation 25 and Musc Ravageur in a short while. Mme Castafiore feels like letting her hair down ;-)

    But at the end of the day I will always consider aldehydes and chypres my true home.

    Angi and m61, what are your current or all time favorites in these categories?

  9. Junelady, I love the boudoir category! I wouldn't put those 2 JHGs in there, though. But lucky you, boudoir and chypre intersect in Jubilation 25, and also in Party in Manhattan, which for Dan conjured association:

    To horn in on your "favorite chypre" query, I was a Chanel Cristalle/Dior Diorella gal for years. In recent years, I've been loving and wearing Bal à Versaille (another fine boudoir chypre).

    Thanks for the intro to Bianca Castafiore.

  10. So with you Angi, on your concept of "need".

    Nathan! There is SO much room in my heart, especially for you. But I might have to get some new bumper stickers for my rusted out Range Rover, because I've gradually come to realize that the caravan I'm following is no longer the incense, but the rose.

    And most Coldplay turns to much in my memory banks, but I REALLY love "Clocks", "Viva la Vida" and "Yellow". I'm a sucker for dramatic uplift in my pop music.

  11. m61, I'll hold the cheese on my gardenia burgers for now.

  12. I consider the 2 Guns boudoir for beginners ;-)
    It ain't easy for Ms Chypre-Aldehyde to go all naughty. Baby steps, baby steps. I'm still trying to muster the courage to go to the Bal a Versailles.

    I hope Jubilation 25 will prove a suitable bridge over to the other side. As I was ordering I couldn't remember whether to get Mr og Mrs Jubilation, so I decided on Mrs. I should have gotten both - the sample were only 3 pound incl. shipping.

    Other intermediate boudoir suggestions are welcome.

    Re Party in Manhattan:
    1. I'm happy he didn't mention Denmark. And placing it as the capital in Sweden.

    2. I love a good helping of awarenes of one's limitations in terms of doing accents. Here could follow a long peeve about Americans throwing all of North Western Europe into one bowl and thinking it's all the same thing. But I will show some restraint.....But Norway and the Netherlands - does Dan own a map??

    and most importantly

    3. I want some of the perfume that will set off such a carnal extravaganza!!!

    But maybe I should wait a bit, as I actually found Calamity J. quite.....ehm.....inspiring.
    We don't wanna be all dressed up and nowhere to go-ish.

  13. capital = capitol
    The pronounciations aren't even the same - shesh!

  14. Junelady, not that I pretend to know the secret compartments in Dan's squirrelly brain, but I suspect his priority is the punchline rather than geographical accuracy. But I'm already out of my depth, here. I'm sure Mr. Rolleri will set us straight.

    Intermediate boudoir: how about Penhaligan's Amaranthine?

  15. I realize that I'm expecting too much here.
    We who come from is-that-a-speck-of-dust-on-the-map-or-an-actual-country countries should just ease up and forget about it. There are upsides to leading stealth-like lives, globally speaking. Although we have managed to mess that up within recent years. Ssshhhhh.

    Thanks for the suggestion. Will sniff up a sample.

  16. Thanks to Katie for defending me by essentially saying, "Smarts aren't important when Dan's trying to be funny." I do indeed know the difference between Norway and The Netherlands, Junelady, and could locate both on my neighbor's map (I'm afraid mine is very old and the portion of parchment that is Northern Europe has yellowed terribly). But if global sophistication is measured in faithful accents, then I get the dunce cap.

    I'm sorry for starting this, by the way, in that I know full well The Party in Manhattan comes from Italy (there's that funny/dumb thing to which Katie referred). Like most people, I'm both more and less intelligent than I seem. Often simultaneously.

    And while I'm here, my chypre vote still goes to Parfums MDCI (they're in Paris, which is in France, though my Parisian accent sounds vaguely Portuguese), for either Enlevement au Serail or Promesse de l'Aube, both by Francis Kurkdjian and both beautifully old-fashioned and head-spinningly gorgeous. I don't yet have a favorite Coldplay song.