Suzanne's Perfume Journal

November 24, 2010:

To read my most recent posts, return to Home Page

Les Parfums de Chantecaille Pétales: Utterly Luxuriant Gardenia

Chantecaille Pétales eau de parfum has notes of gardenia, balsam, jasmine, tuberose, cedar, ambergris, musk and sandalwood. It can be purchased at, where a 2.5 ounce bottle is currently $175. (By comparison, a 2.5 oz bottle of Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia eau de parfum is $135; and a 1.75 oz bottle of Kai is $72 at

My sample came from a fellow perfumista.

Images: (top of page), model Christy Turlington photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia in 1991; (bottom of page) bottle image for Chantecaille Petales is from

If perfumes were linens, Pétales, the new gardenia perfume from Chantecaille, would have a high thread count.

This is the Pratesi-sheets-and-Italian-lingerie version of a gardenia perfume: so fine and silken, it hugs the skin and maintains an intimate sillage compared to most other white-floral fragrances. Yet, paradoxically, when you press your nose close to your perfumed skin to take it in, Pétales’ scent molecules have a fat, buttery quality that rings true to the scent of a real gardenia; on the micro level of smell, they have an almost al dente quality to them, if that makes sense.

As a means of comparison, for the past few days I’ve been wearing Pétales simultaneously with two other gardenia perfumes of a similar style: Kai eau de parfum and Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia (edp). All three are elegantly simple fragrances—as pretty and uncluttered as a slip dress—with an innocent kind of sexiness about them. (In other words, these are not your haughty or naughty hothouse blooms.) Of the three, Pétales is the quietest by far, and yet in spite of its quietness, it smells richer and more sensual than the other two. The Chantecaille press materials state that the company uses “unusually high concentrations of natural essential oils” in creating their fragrances, and upon smelling Pétales , I can easily believe this is true.

Because the gardenia flower has mostly eluded the perfume world’s attempts to extract its aroma, the gardenia note is approximated using a combination of other white florals. Many gardenia-named fragrances actually sway heavily to the side of tuberose, as in the case of Estee Lauder’s appropriately named Tuberose Gardenia, which exhibits more of the cool, camphorous aspects of tuberose than it does the creamy facets of gardenia. The lovely and lithe Kai, on the other hand, reminds me more of a lily than a gardenia fragrance: it’s just a little too green (in its opening) and a little too sweet (in its middle and end stages) to equate with gardenia for me, much as I enjoy it and will likely buy a bottle to split with my nieces (who both fell for it upon sampling; seems the white-floral-love gene doesn’t fall far from the tree). Pétales, on the other hand, captures the decadently creamy aspect of gardenia—and somehow sets it adrift on a cloud. It’s not the whole picture of gardenia, of course; just the romantic and dreamy side of that flower’s portrait

One could argue that Pétales does not contribute anything new or unique to the category of white-floral, soliflore perfumes, but then again, it doesn’t have to: based on sheer quality alone, and the way it more accurately captures the scent of a true gardenia, Pétales is a superior scent, worthy of its costly price tag (which is actually only $40 more than the Estee Lauder fragrance, as of this writing.) Going back to my first analogy, a person could argue that all sheets are the same, but once you’ve slept in really good sheets, it’s difficult to go back to the less luxurious brand—no matter that sheets are simple things: low-end or high-end, they tend to look alike and serve the same function. I can’t see that it’s any different with perfumes, even ones with simple, straightforward compositions. Not every perfume has to be high art, with a novel and ingenious concept behind it, to justify its price; true, I like high art when I can get it, but perfection in the form of high quality materials will always win out over cleverness for me.