"And at night I love to listen to the stars. It's like five hundred million little bells. [...]"You...you alone will have the stars as no one else has them....only you will have stars that can laugh."
~Antoine de Saint Exypery, Le Petit Prince.
Cuir de Gardenia, gardenia's leather. It is my tendency to focus on names, believing that they carry their own wisdom. So coming across this enigmatic coinage I couldn't help but pause and think, maybe lost a bit into my own lethologica. The leathery facets of gardenia, a flower becoming skin-like, the hide of an animal thrown atop tender skin. Yes, it sounded sexy as hell. Is sexy all there is when it comes to perfumes though?
Working with gardenia for a perfumer presents its own challenges. The flower doesn't yield a sufficient or steadily available extract (though there is one in extremely limited quantities) so an approximation is conducted through the synergy of pliable materials; doubly difficult when sourcing only off the natural palette. Of those, I sense the generous use of jasmine, with its lactonic and green facets highlighted, in Aftelier's Cuir de Gardenia; they produce an at once fresh and creamy variation on the gardenia theme, a sort of Pur Desir de Gardenia meets Hedy Lammar.
The mossy element in the base suggests that this deceptive floral hides a more introspective core beneath its veneer and it's worth waiting for it to surface beyond the delicious flower atop.
Artisanal perfumer Mandy Afteler did use a tiare flower absolute from a small producer (tiare is the Tahitian gardenia), which accounts for the more exotic and, yes, the "creamy smelling" feel you get upon testing this bewitching fragranc. The candied aspects meet the roughness of castoreum (an animalic note traditionally used in leather blends). She also mentions ethyl phenyl acetate, which although is usually rendering a rosy not in perfumes, here she describes it as lending a whiff of sweet peas. The liquid version of Cuir de Gardenia is oily, lending a softer ambience, but it doesn't feel oily, it absorbs quickly and well.
I did not find a huge stonking beat of leathery butchness, nor a dark, dangerous, skanky gardenia that would shriek Norma Desmond like off the vial (for a different take read Gaia's The Non Blonde's review), but then neither did I expect to: Cuir de Gardenia isn't a "cuir" per se, it's an illusion of an animal turned into a flower. If anything, it's more musky than leathery. It's a daydream, a waxy memento of sensuality hidden in a drawer for a rainy day, the feeling of physical happiness. It's a matutine moment stolen, when you can hear the stars laugh.
Aftelier's Cuir de Gardenia is available in liquid extrait de parfum and solid versions, on the official Aftelier eboutique. Although natural perfumes come at an increased cost per ml compared to commercial perfumes (even niche), I find that the options of owning minis and solids are a lovely way to get a feel of the work of artisans in the field.
The Fragranta Man has some interesting info on the sourcing of the materials.
In the interests of disclosure I was sent a sample by the perfumer.