Even though it was published just last week, my review of Cartier's new gardenia scent, La Panthère, was written quite some time ago, whilst I was in the process of getting this blog ready for its summer break. But by a curious temporal twist, as I sit down to put together the first of my post-holiday reviews, I find myself faced with yet another gardenia composition, Andy Tauer's Gardenia, the first release in a new line the Zurich-based perfumer has sub-titled Sotto La Luna*.
Both of them are nocturnal creations, but that's probably where their similarities stop. Whilst the Cartier is gelatinous and claustrophobic - drowning its central floral note beneath layers of treacle - the Tauer is expansive, an expression of the unfettered openness of a sylvan landscape dotted with mysterious flora. Indeed, the Tauer is a more faithful representation of a real gardenia blossom, although, to be fair to Cartier, La Panthère doesn't aspire to a literalist evocation of petals and stems. That said, the Swiss scent-maker's latest effort isn't a soliflore either. Although the bloom at its heart is convincing - complete with the requisite, intriguing fungal note - it is presented with the narrative richness which is one of the niche world's chief assets. Unlike the depiction of florals in most mainstream scents, Tauer's gardenia is not a static Instagram photo: it breathes with the wearer, emphasising various facets - be they green, woody, spicy or creamy - as it develops. This is a gardenia with a story to tell.
The key to understanding its tale lies in its full name. Yes, the 'gardenia' part is important, but so are the 'luna' and, perhaps even more crucially, the 'sotto'. The scent operates on an olfactory vertical axis, a line of commendable lucidity. In the centre sits the gardenia, with all its aforementioned characteristics. At its summit, high up in the heavens, is the moon (evoked by the powdery shimmer of salicylates?) casting its silvery beams on its subject, picking out telling details with an ethereal touch. And at the base of the structure is the undergrowth, the primeval funk whose fertility is the very factor which permits the eponymous blossom to live. Woods and mosses dominate here, together with a vanilla which projects sensuality without ever resorting to easy sweetness.
This dark, tenacious foundation is perhaps Gardenia's most challenging - but arguably most endearing - segment. It tricks passersby into believing that its flower is entirely approachable (be sure to smell this perfume not just on yourself but also on other people to appreciate the difference between its sillage and its nucleus) but it keeps its soul firmly rooted in that perennial symbol of death and rebirth: the soil. It is this uncompromising streak of existentialism - a bold intimation of death - which ultimately lifts Gardenia out of the ordinary and makes it one of Andy Tauer's most beguiling and most satisfying releases for quite some time.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Tauer Perfumes in 2014.]
* For info on the inspiration behind the name, and for an extensive discussion of the scent, please check out this exclusive interview with Tauer.