Friday, May 7, 2010

Musings on Gardenia

I think I've had more requests for a natural Gardenia scent than for anything else over the years...and up until now I've had to say "It can't be done".
Gardenia is one of those flowers that seems to hold power over those that love it....for me, it is the smell that always evokes meomories of my grandmothers garden. My grandmother had an amzingly green thumb, and a deep love of scented flowers. And she had gardenias growing all the way along one of the paths in her garden....
I can remember as a kid, coming home from somewhere and walking along this path one evening, brushing cobwebs out of my face as I walked (it being summer and Australia and all), and being totally mesmerized by the scent of the gardenias. I had been out in the garden that morning, and hadn't really noticed that much of a scent coming from these white flowers with their elegant dark green leaves...but now suddenly, the falling darkseemed to have brought them to life, like some kind of magical spell that awakened only at dusk!
It's such an amazing scent, deep, fresh, tangy, musky and with something else that is totally mysterious there in the background as well. The Gardenia flower has a potent hypnotic magic about it that is impossible to copy.
There are many gardenia perfumes on the market, and each of them focuses on a different aspect of this magic. But none (to my nose anyway) come anywhere near the real thing. (Of course, few, if any of them actually contain real gardenia, so I suppose it's not really that surprising)...Then, a few months ago, I got hold of some real Gardenia absolute from a lovely supplier in Europe. It takes literally thousands of kilos of Gardenia petals to create just one kilo of Gardenia absolute. And since most perfume companies are happy to use artificial Gardenia scents made from chemicals that mimic it's mysterious and magical scent, the traditional production of this ingredient had just withered away....
But finally, it's being made again!
The absolute itself arrived and I excitedly opened the bottle:
The first impression was dissapointing. It's undeniably Gardenia, but somethow in the extraction process, the deep,  sexy, sultry and musky flower scent comes through, but the magical fresh top notes that make sniffing a freshly picked gardenia flower so mesmerizing, went astray.
I put it on the backshelf for a while, and then (after yet another request for a Gardenia perfume...) I pulled it back out and set out to recreate the elusive top notes I remembered so well from my Grandmothers garden....
I experimented with a number of related flowers, and discovered that many of the white flowers have similar notes to them! Mother Nature seems to marry the creamy white colur in nature to specific scent notes, so by carefully adding just touches of a variety of these, plus some fresh leafy green notes to give the feeling of that newly picked fresheness you get from the crushed stem and leaves and oh my goodness, there it was, the scent I so remembered from early dew covered mornings in my grandmothers garden in Australia....
My mother was the first to try it...she's an avid Gardenia lover with a very accute sense of smell and one of my hardest critics...I sprayed some on her wrist when she popped by that afternoon without telling her what it was and "Oh my, Gardenia! How beautiful!"
The only problem was that the scent faded quickly, just like the natural scent of the flowers will once you bring them indoors....
So from there I spent some further months finding a gentle base note that would hold and extend the glorious fragrance without distracting from the gardenia accord itself....
Have I managed?
Smell for yourself and find out!

I'm giving away a free deluxe mini spray sample of "My Gardenia" with all perfume orders this month (excluding sample collections, but I will add a normal size sample if you ask me nicely and order at least 4 other samples!)


  1. Love your post! I have been working on. My own gardenia blend using the absolutm lots of nice version...but none that I can really call Gardenia. I would LoVE to tryyour creations!
    Best, Ragna

  2. Sounds lovely! I am yet to smell real gardenia myself, unfortunately.

  3. Ambrosia,
    I adore your writing style and eagerly look forward to reading your beautiful musings. I love gardenia and I'd love to hear how you anchor perfumes such as these without overpowering the heart. This is something I struggle with. I have one base note I've created that seems to help hold delicate floral blends without overpowering them, but I need more options. If I remember correctly, the base note is ambrette, copaiba balsam, vanilla and hmmm something else I'm forgetting. I need to check my notes.
    In any case, wonderful article and beautifully written. I appreciate that your writing style is accessible for all readers, from perfumers to beginners to those who are merely interested in scent.

  4. Hi, I didn't understand your comment on basenotes that I had said natural perfume couldn't be done? You must have me confused with somebody else? I have never said that and have written about several natural perfumers in the past. Please be careful with your comments in future.
    Walker Minton