There are a few flowers that should arguably never appear in the name of a perfume. Jasmine doesn't matter so much — you can call a fragrance Jasmin de Nuit or Jasminora or Ikat Jasmine or whatever and it's no big deal if it's something other than a realistic jasmine soliflore — after all, there are plenty of realistic jasmine soliflores already. If you're developing a new jasmine fragrance, going for interesting over realistic might be the better approach.
Magnolia is more problematic. The smell, in nature, is incredible, yet really lovely (and realistic) magnolia soliflores are as hard to find as leprechauns. Some perfumistas will automatically resent a fragrance called Magnolia-something-or-another that doesn't, in fact, smell much like magnolias. Gardenia, ditto. The first thing a perfumista wants to know is: does it really smell like gardenia? And if the answer is yes, the next question is: for how long? Gardenia perfumes that smell like real gardenia for more than say, 10 or 15 minutes, are rare indeed (see the comments for Tuesday's review of Gardénia de Robert Piguet).
So, let's just get this out of the way: the new Sotto La Luna Gardenia from Tauer Perfumes is not a realistic gardenia soliflore, nor does it appear that it was meant to be. The Sotto La Luna series (of which Gardenia is the first) was "inspired by flowers in the night", and Andy Tauer warned on his blog that...
...you might want to forget what you know about gardenia, or no: better said… you might want to get ready to explore details, facets of gardenia that you have not explored yet.1
The opening is green, with yes, flashes of gardenia. It has a spicy edge but it's dewy-fresh and herbal rather than heady. It does seem to pick up steam on the gardenia front for a short time, and it briefly takes on a bit of the mentholated undertone that might announce a move towards a full-bodied white floral, but then — poof! — it switches gears. The gardenia fades into a more general floral blend (the notes list rose and jasmine, I can't really say I smell either) over a mossy-earthy-woody base, and it's that base that intensifies through much of the next hour or so. For a good long while, it smells like a decaying forest floor, complete with mushrooms, wood chips and warm earth, with odd fruity notes popping up here and there ("not-so-fresh banana peel", says the Non-Blonde). Then — poof! — we are off on another facet altogether, as the mushrooms fade away and are replaced by gourmand elements: vanilla and spicy-nutty granola, mingling with what's left of the wood chips.
Verdict: If you were after a pretty, easy-to-wear gardenia that will delight your friends and co-workers, stick with the Robert Piguet. Tauer Perfumes does not generally make crowd pleasers; you can pick nearly any one of his fragrances and find responses ranging from ecstatic to horrified.2 I think that's a positive thing, so long as you don't make a practice of ordering full bottles unsniffed. But it also means that even fans of the line aren't likely to love all of them. I found Sotto La Luna Gardenia interesting to wear, but I did not love it. It is going in my purgatory basket; I'm going to give it a try in colder weather and see what I think then. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to finding out what new facets of hyacinth and tuberose Mr. Tauer will discover as this series progresses...
Tauer Perfumes Sotto La Luna Gardenia is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum, $145. For buying information, see the listing for Tauer Perfumes under Perfume Houses.
1. From MORE ON POETRY. TO GIVE NOTES OR NOT TO GIVE. at the Tauer Perfumes blog.