Not all gardenia scents are soliflores; some can be general floral bouquets. The latest release from Tauer Perfumes is neither one of those things on my skin. It is, however, one of the most disappointing fragrances that I’ve tried this year. The reason has nothing to do with expectations of a soliflore, either. I would have been perfectly happy with a rich floral scent, or even a nice perfume of a completely different nature. Unfortunately, on me, Sotto La Luna Gardenia is simply a terrible fragrance, period.
Gardenia is an eau de parfum, and the first entry in Tauer Perfumes’ new Sotto La Luna (Under the Moon) Collection. I absolutely love gardenias, both in perfumery and in nature. The bigger, the better, but I also appreciate tender fragrances centered around the note. So, Mr. Tauer’s poetic description on his blog about a flower blooming in moonlight filled me with enthusiasm, and I rushed to order a sample.
In a post entitled “Liquid Poetry,”Mr. Tauer wrote about Sotto La Luna Gardenia, his inspiration for it, and the unexpected facets to the flower that he discovered while creating the scent:
“Sotto la luna” means under the moon. I see the solitude of flowers, blooming under a bright moon, secluded from the busy day world under the sun. It is a world that is secluded, private in a sense. The world is sleeping. The busy human world has come to a rest. Flower pods open, alluring the creatures of the night. I see flowers blooming in the light of a celestial body that does not shine itself, but reflects the sun. It is a reminder of the day, a gentle light pouring down from a cold round rock in a frozen galaxy. The moonlight feels like a luminescent fluid poured over a shadow land. The shadows are long and dark.
I see this moment of beauty in an universe that is endless space, expanding into nothingness, indifferent. I see this glimpse of beauty resisting the vortex into nothingness, standing against the blind titans that push our universe. […][¶]
When working on the gardenia fragrance, I […] learned that the gardenia fragrance is different every day. Its notes are the most beautiful during the night, with notes of fresh spices, of roasted coffee beans, of mushrooms in wet moss, creamy sweetness of jasmine, narcotic beauty and the gentle perfume of rose buds, with vibrant woods and balsamic sweetness.
Thus, my gardenia perfume flowers out with a spicy freshness, it matures into a round, gentle green floral perfume reminiscent of a hundred different flowers, it closes with powdery mosses and a creamy floral woodiness that disappears into the night.
On the Tauer Perfumes’ website, the official notes for Sotto La Luna Gardenia are:
The spicy freshness of gardenia budding under a bright moon.
The green floral delicacy of gardenia in full bloom with a gentle rose.
The powdery mossiness of ripe gardenia with a hint of jasmine, in a bed of sandalwood, tonka and vanilla.
Luckyscent has a slightly different list that focuses more on the nuances to the gardenia flower that Andy Tauer talks about in his blog post. Their notes are:
Fresh spices, roasted coffee beans, mushrooms, gardenia, jasmine, rose buds, woods.
Sotto La Luna Gardenia opens with such an unfortunate bouquet that I’ve tested the fragrance multiple times, with varying quantities, on both arms, and in a variety of conditions to be sure it wasn’t all a terrible accident. Unfortunately, in each of my 3 tests, Sotto La Luna Gardenia opens on my skin with fluctuating degrees of rancid wood under a thick avalanche of fizzy, sweet, pink sherbet and fruited Pez candy powder. The wood smells earthy, rotting, and fetid, as if left too long in a swamp and decay has set in. There is also a definite aromachemical undertone that consistently appears, adding sharpness to the rancid unpleasantness.
In contrast, the pink sherbet is cloyingly candied and girlishly sweet. It is identical to the accord that I struggled with so much in Tauer’s Eau d’Epices, only here it has a sharp dustiness underlying it. Making things worse is the fact that the fizzy, slightly fruited note is thoroughly infused with dried potpourri rose buds and scented makeup powder. It evokes images of a dust-covered Miss Haversham from Great Expectations, though thankfully not to the unpleasant degree of Tauer’s Ingrid for Tableau de Parfums.
In two of my three tests, Sotto La Luna Gardenia’s opening bouquet was primarily limited to those repellent notes, with the rancid, slightly aroma-chemical wood battling with the fizzy sherbet and Pez candy powder for supremacy. However, in my third test, additional nuances appeared, though they often lurked deep in the background. A small vein of greenness ran in the base, sometimes seeming like vetiver, sometimes like mint with a touch of mossiness. Then, five minutes into the perfume’s development, a tiny drop of something that might vaguely be called “gardenia” wanly lifted its head. It was slightly pale, milky, and wholly infused with earthy, porcini mushrooms. I didn’t mind the later, at least not at first, but my difficulty was with the flower’s faintness and ephemeral nature. It never showed up in earlier tests, and only lasted a mere 20 minutes, if even that, in the 3rd one. Afterwards, all that remained were the mushrooms with their occasionally meaty undertone.
In all my tests, the first hour of Sotto La Luna is almost entirely a mix of rancid wood, fizzy pink sherbet, and Pez candy powder. The levels of each fluctuate, but the wood always wins out in the end. In all my tests, when the various cloying, fizzy, dusty and sweet elements begin to fade away, they are slowly replaced by bananas. Usually, it’s the aroma of a rotting banana peel, complete with the furry, white pith inside. In my third test, it was merely banana custard covered by the rotting peel. I have absolutely no explanation for the note or its source, but one reason why I tested Sotto La Luna so often is to ensure I wasn’t imagining it.
I was not. The slightly rotting banana consistently appears, though it is sometimes at the end of the 2nd hour, sometimes at the end of the 3rd, depending on the quantity of fragrance that I applied. At the same time, the wood note begins to emit a clarion call of chemical sharpness, with even greater earthiness and muskiness. It is all thoroughly revolting, and extremely difficult to bear. In fact, the very first time I tested Sotto La Luna, I thought it was one of the worst fragrances that I’ve tried this year outside of the gourmand category. In subsequent tests, its various notes continued to be a disjointed mish-mash of unrelenting oddness, and few of them felt well-balanced or smooth.
Let me repeat again, I do not care that Sotto La Luna is not a gardenia soliflore. If it were a good scent that were merely “gardenia +plus,” I would be happy. I would even be happy if it were a more abstract “floral” with either some earthy, woody, or oriental aspects. And I would also accept a fragrance that wasn’t a floral at all, if it were well-done. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing that appears on my skin qualifies for any of those categories. Not one. Sotto La Luna Gardenia isn’t floral in any way. It is only an unpleasant fragrance.
At the start of the third hour, Sotto La Luna Gardenia shifts a little. The dusty potpourri rose buds have faded away; the mushrooms have turned into general earthiness; a hint of vanilla has appeared; and a lot of the pink sherbet and Pez candied notes have weakened, though a dusty quality remains deep below. The sharp, rotting wood feels even more aroma-chemical in nature, but it is also slowly taking on the Tauerade signature, thanks to minute flickers of amber, quiet spiciness, and something vaguely smoky. For the most part, however, Sotto La Luna Gardenia is merely musky, earthy, slightly rotting, fetid woods with fluctuating levels of aroma-chemical sharpness, bananas, and vanilla.
Relief is in sight, though it feels a little like a hostage being finally shown a modicum of mercy by his torturer. Sotto La Luna Gardenia’s drydown is actually pleasant, especially in its final moments. Not one bit of it has anything even remotely to do with any flower of any kind, but it’s a nice mix of musky, spicy, ambered woods lightly coated by a dry vanilla. Tiny trickles of pink, candied sherbet and Pez powder continue to weave in and out, reappearing every time that I think they’ve finally vanished, but the main essence of Gardenia’s drydown is really just spiced, Tauerade woods with vanilla. And so it remains until its very end.
I tried to like Sotto La Luna, I really did. I gave it every effort to prove my first test was an aberration. I applied varying quantities, ranging from 2 good smears (roughly the equivalent of 1 spray from a bottle) all the way up to 5 very large smears (approximately 3 sprays from a bottle). Since my arms can, on rare occasion, manifest different nuances or scents, I tested Sotto La Luna on both arms for all 3 tests. I wore the perfume in the heat outside; I wore it in arctic air-conditioning, and at temperatures in between.
In all cases, I consistently thought of musky bears coming out of a clearing to sit on a rancid tree stump to eat fizzy, pink sherbet near a garbage dump overflowing with rotting banana peels. At no point did I ever experience a primarily floral scent of any kind. I’m well aware that gardenias can have a mushroom undertone, and I’ve encountered it in some prior fragrances, but even that was a small, very minor part of just one of my tests. As a whole, I must say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like the overall totality of Sotto La Luna.
In general, the perfume has average longevity and generally soft sillage. Even when I applied a lot of the scent, Sotto La Luna Gardenia opened with perhaps 3 inches of sillage, at best. After 90 minutes, the perfume was consistently hovering half an inch above the skin. It generally turned into a skin scent at the start of the 3rd hour. Its longevity varied, however, depending on quantity. Using the equivalent of a single spray, Sotto La Luna died after 7 hours. When I applied a greater amount, the duration increased to 8.5 and 9.5 hours.
There are a handful of early blog reviews for Sotto La Luna Gardenia, and they are positive. Privately, I’ve received emails that have all been extremely negative, coming both from those who love the flower and those who hate it. Uniformly, they describe a scent that is very different than that talked about in the early reviews. All I can say is that I envy the skin chemistry of people like The Scented Hound who adored Sotto La Luna Gardenia. His review reads, in part, as follows:
Sotto la Luna GARDENIA’s opening is green and slightly sharp along with being big and bold with a semi-vintage vibe. The initial opening is met quickly with a gourmand sweetness like almond extrait that’s layered under a spiced rose. And soon enough a creaminess develops that helps to radiate this incredible floral warmth as the notes begin to bounce around like a symphony of full-bodied petals. How can you not love a big, bold floral like this? Sotto la Luna GARDENIA is sweet with its gourmand almond and vanilla, but there’s a depth that keeps it from becoming saccharine as the sandalwood and tonka keep it leveled. As Sotto la Luna GARDENIA continues to develop, it deepens and the florals project off the skin like they’re about to burst. The sweetness then begins to dissipate to be taken over by a more earthy component, like the heavy flowers are being plucked from the ground. At this point, the fragrance is heady, intoxicating and dreamy. After some more time, the florals retreat and the vanilla comes to the forefront and it’s creamy, lush and it swirls off the skin. After about an hour, Sotto la Luna GARDENIA begins to settle and calm. At this point the drydown is DIVINE, as it’s smooth, warm, lightly almond sugared and lightly powdered. In the end Sotto la Luna GARDENIA is incredibly comforting; so much so that it makes me want to purr like a kitten!
On FragranceDaily, there was another rave review and, again, the person experienced a gardenia scent:
With a solid structure it depicts different aspects of the flower, like a 3D capture of gardenia. Possibly ten times bigger as the flower in real life.
When the night comes and all other innocent flowers fall asleep, the Gardenia Goddess starts to awake. Warmed the whole day by the sun she stretches now her lithe body, opening slowly one by one her opalescent petals, emanating the riches scent you can imagine. It smells both raw and tender. Addictive. Lush. It feels a bit peppery at start, like a magic mixture of spices falling gently over her thick white petals influencing them to bloom completely. After the spicy vibe dissipates, the scent becomes smoother and sweeter, reminding me a bit of a suntan lotion. […] In time the scent develops an almost gourmand facet when the mixture of good vanilla pod and bittersweet-almondy tonka beans produces an irresistible finish. Wearing this perfume feels like buds of gardenia are starting to bloom directly on the surface of my skin. Sensual, possessive, intoxicating.
The perfume has no reviews on Fragrantica yet, because Sotta La Luna Gardenia won’t be officially released until September 9th in bottle form, though samples are already available for purchase.
All I can say is that I think Sotto La Luna will be a deeply polarizing fragrance. Good luck with it.