Sunday, January 13, 2008

Caswell-Massey Gardenia

Gardenias are native to China and Japan. Until recently, I didn't know this is the flower known in Japanese as "kuchinashi", which sounds like it means "mouthless" (kuchi (mouth), nashi (none)). I'd have to ask a monk or a scholar to figure this one out. Is the beautiful flower which inspires songwriters to praise its feminine beauty considered beautiful because it cannot speak? There are many stories behind this flower in many cultures, and not all cultures see the symbolism of this flower the same way. Gardenia can represent purity and refinement, but during the Chypre phase of the '30s, '40s and '50s, a gardenia perfume might have been portrayed in Hollywood films as being loud and inappropriate when a secretary wore it to work. Fast forward to now: gardenia perfumes are popular where I live (New York), and I have many friends who wear gardenia scents. I love the scent of gardenia so much, I made a gardenia blend perfume of my own called Pink Manhattan PURRFUME. In perfumery, gardenia oil is said to be created by other notes because no absolute or essence can be extracted from gardenia flowers (reference: United States Patent 3637533 GIVAUDAN CORP link here). Gardenia is said to most often be recreated with tuberose or tiare (Tahitian gardenia), both highly redolent white florals.

Caswell-Massey, one of the oldest perfumeries not only in the USA but the world, has a gardenia scent simply called Gardenia. On their website (, it's described in yet another cultural context, the American South where tropical white flowers bloom: "It is evening in the Antebellum south. The heat of the day has lifted and for a magical moment gentle breezes are suffused with the sweet scent of gardenias". It is a soliflore which I think smells very true-to-the-flower with a touch of heady tuberose. In fact, it reminds me so much of the new Estée Lauder Tuberose Gardenia, I don't think I could tell these two apart. If you have been thinking about splurging on the trendy one, do give this Gardenia a try before you decide. Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia is another one I'd say is similar to these. Gardenia ia a powerful fragrance and a little bit goes a long way. It might be wise to take cues from the old movies and save it for after work.

(Image: Gardenia by Jill Lang, Charlotte, NC,