Friday 14 October 2011

Illuminum White Gardenia Petals Review: Update

Back in early May, I reviewed Illuminum White Gardenia Petals, the perfume worn by the Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day. My review was based on a carded sample supplied by Roullier White, the single UK stockist.

In July I received a complimentary bottle of White Gardenia Petals, and was startled and disappointed to find that it seemed to bear little or no resemblance to the sample I already owned. I enlisted the help of Olfactoria of Olfactoria's Travels, who had herself purchased a full bottle around the time of the wedding, and together we were able to compare old and new versions, and were both convinced that the two scents were not the same.

As a first step, I sent my bottle and the original sample back to Roullier White, asking them to investigate this curious discrepancy. The store referred my query to Illuminum's PR company, with whom I have kept in regular touch over the past few months. They agree that there is a clear difference between the two versions of the scent and inquiries into the matter are ongoing. So far the version reviewed by Olfactoria and me (and quite possibly by others) has been traced to a small production batch - the second one made.

So if the soapy, musky "demure white floral in a veil" which I reviewed here is not White Gardenia Petals, how does the correct version of the scent smell?

For reference, here are the notes again:

Notes: gardenia, lily, ylang ylang, muguet, jasmine, amber woods.

Well, I am sorry to report that on my skin official White Gardenia Petals is a sharper, greener, more metallic scent. I do detect a gardenia note in the opening, but it is not veiled and softened by powdery musk as is the case with my original sample. Instead, it comes off as a tad strident and indolic. The early sample of White Gardenia Petals sits on my wrist like a muzzy, soapy cloud with a pretty floral bouquet at its heart, while the correct version of White Gardenia Petals feels more sheer and airy somehow. I see a slight crossover with Annick Goutal's Un Matin d'Orage, but it does not share that scent's limpid, dewy facet, and is at times reminiscent of a functional fragrance like fabric softener. Of the two, I will say that the correct version of White Gardenia Petals smells more like gardenias, possibly because the floral notes are not hidden behind a musky haze, or maybe because there weren't any gardenias in the erroneous batch of this scent anyway. Time will perhaps tell, but meanwhile I just wanted to draw readers' attention to the fact that my review - like that of Olfactoria - is based on the same fragrance, which is not, however, the official version of White Gardenia Petals available to buy today.

Photo of The Duchess of Cambridge from, photo of gardenias from


Undina said...

Now I'm curious which one I tried. Luckyscent got their bottles soon after the event and I suspect they are making their samples from whatever they've got first... But I think it smells strong of gardenia. So, I must be trying an "official" version - right?
I hope they'll figure out what it was and you'll share their findings wwith us.

Anonymous said...

How fascinating! And now I guess the next question is: which one did the Duchess wear?

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

In the course of my own inquiries, I obtained recent samples from Luckyscent and The Perfumed Court, both of which smell like the bottle I was sent in July which I didn't care for as much as the early sample. I have also spoken to a member of staff at Luckyscent who was not aware of any variation in the shipments they have had - not that they would necessarily have thought to sniff the consignment(s) from which they made their samples.

The dominant characteristic of mine and Olfactoria's version is high levels of soapy musk, I would say, to which the flowers play second fiddle. I preferred it because it felt more rounded and soft to my nose, and my skin seems to amplify even the faintest hint of indoles. Un Matin d'Orage goes indolic on me too and even Le Temps d'une Fete, that beloved scent of Mals86.

Daisy said...

So now I'm terribly confused. I ordered mine from Roullier White in late April...just about a week before they sold do I know which batch I got?

Did they give you any sort of batch or production number? oy! I like the one I have (what's left after the split I hosted) and I'd like to pick up a full bottle ...but I'd like it to be the same as what I've already got!

Vanessa said...

I have been assured that the Duchess wore scent from the very first production batch, while the version Olfactoria and I like was a small run that came shortly afterwards, which is the one currently being investigated.

Vanessa said...

Hi Daisy,

If you are the Daisy I think you are - the friend of lovethescents and "Empress of Enabling"?! - you kindly sent me a sample from your stock already. : - ) I compared this with mine and Olfactoria's bottle and all three of us have the same version!

Would you like me to send you a smidge of the current scent, from my Luckyscent or TPC vial? You should make up your own mind really - my review is just one opinion - but I can state categorically that there is a marked difference.

Vanessa said...

PS I ordered my sample from RW on the Monday after the wedding, so that would have been 2nd May, and it arrived on 4th, the date of my original review. So also from the dates angle, I would say it is obvious we have the same one!

Cymbaline said...

WGP was included in the fall sample set I received recently from Luckyscent and is still in the 'maybe I'll get around to it someday pile'. Looks like that 'someday' has arrived! Hmmm... now I'm all-curious as to which version I got.

Vanessa said...

Just had a trawl through the reviews on Fragrantica, MUA and Luckyscent, and to be honest, they are all over the map, with the Luckyscent ones the most favourable overall. I would think that the vast majority of these reviews are based on the official version of the scent, as the batch we got hold of was small.

So if you are curious about White Gardenia Petals, you really should try the current version for yourself. I had already "bonded" with one variant, so my response to the correct version may have been more critical than someone coming at it with no preconceptions as it how it should smell.

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

I am pretty sure you will have the official version, based on the timing of your package.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts on WGP, if you do decide to bring your testing schedule forward!

Am still musing about whether my response would have been different had I smelt these scents in reverse order. You would like to think not, but my firm belief at the time of the wedding that I was smelling Kate's perfume, and the "rug from under my feet" feeling I experienced on learning of the mix up, may have coloured my response, I don't know.

Martha said...

Hmmm. I dislike musk, and like green, indolic, and metallic. (Though not necessarily strident.) So I suspect I might prefer the currently available version, though it sounds like I'd have the same problem of not knowing if the sample is what I'd get in a bottle.

Cymbaline said...

I know it's only been a few hours since I last commented here, but I've been wearing the WGP from my recent Luckyscent vial and it is definitely NOT the soapy, musky one you reviewed a few months ago.

The first couple of hours it was intensely sweet with a heavy bit of clean, fresh laundry detergent following along right behind. It also made my upper front teeth hurt every time I sniffed it. I've never noticed that happening with a perfume before, have you? So weird!

Later on there was a faint hint of jasmine(?), and now a little amber at the end.

I have to say, wearing this perfume did not make me happy. I would've loved to smell me some gardenia, but blinding sweet and clean?- no go : (

Vanessa said...

Hi ChickenFreak,

I would be very confident that any sample you acquired now from a retailer or a sample site like TPC and Luckyscent (having just tested both their present stocks in the past week), would be the official version. The issue I am flagging up relates to a small quantity in circulation in late April

As WGP dries down, I do get some musk - like some of the commenters on the Luckyscent site - however, the overall feel is more green and tropical florally than soapy. The strident aspect is more pronounced in the opening, plus my skin does this indole-amplifying thing as I say with notes like gardenia, narcissus and jasmine, but I do think ths version is sharper and "louder" than the one I reviewed in May.

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

You have the correct one, I'd put money on it. The teeth hitting aspect you describe sounds like the metallic edge I spoke of, a bit like tin foil on fillings. It does add a jarring note, I agree. I think I got jasmine - or indolic white flowers certainly. I can't be sure of the amber, but the scent was softer as it developed, and amber does have that effect. I wouldn't say it was too sweet particularly, but I do understand the teeth business. : - )

I would be curious to know when Angela of NST got her sample. Her review from the end of May is also worth a look.

JoanElaine said...

I read both your post and Olfactoria's, and I am fascinated. I haven't tried either version, but I am very curious to know what happened to the perfume!

Perhaps less costly ingedients have been employed in the newer bottles? I don't know a thing about running a company, but couldn't the cheapening of a product be a result of suddent demand, sky-rocketing production costs and another group to market the perfume to (commemorative souvenier collectors who don't care what it smells like - the Duchess wore it and that's good enough reason to buy it)?

I realize that's a terribly negative view of the situation. I certainly hope I'm wrong, and that it's just a bad batch.

It's great to hear the company representatives have taken your inquiries seriously!

I'm staying tuned for the next episode of "PFI: Perfume Forumla Investigation".

Vanessa said...

Hi JoanElaine,

Having discussed the case in detail with the PR company, I don't believe that the product has been knowingly reformulated, though in my PFI role I did of course ask the question. : - )

My information is that it was the *second* batch that was affected, not the first, and a reformulation scenario would only make sense to me if the first batch was the one Olfactoria and I like, from which subsequent batches varied.

Also, the two perfumes are VERY different, so if you were cutting corners you would think there would be more commonality, with one as a weaker version, say.

And thirdly, I have no yardstick about costs, but I wouldn't necessarily say that the version I like is more expensive-smelling - is a gardenia dearer to replicate than a soapy musk? - it is just nicer to my nose.

I hope more information will come to light eventually, and although I have been frustrated at how long it has taken to get to this point, I do now believe that Illuminum and its PR team are on the case.

Cymbaline said...

Wow, reading through everyone's comments, reminds me once again how difficult and confusing it can be to write about odors! It took me fo'evah to type my few paltry sentences about WGP and still couldn't get across what I meant.

It's so much easier to actually "speak" with other people so that meanings can be clarified on the spot. The meanings of words like "soapy, musky, fresh, clean, metallic" can vary so much from one individual to another!

Thank you , once again, Vanessa for writing well (and often) about our shared love of perfume : D

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

I so agree about the difficult of articulating one's nasal impressions in words! Five minutes spent browsing the reviews of WGP on the Luckyscent site is most illuminating - or Illuminumating even! : - ) See how people are coming at the same scent (as it mostly will be, I reckon) from such different perspectives.

The complicating factor here is also the "aura" conferred on the scent by its association with KM. I agree that I succumbed to a little bit of that when I first smelt my original sample, and "bonded" with it, while others may be approaching the correct version with a similarly receptive mindset. I don't believe you can rule out the effect of a predisposition to like something in either case.

But leaving aside the matter of taste, the fact remains that (objectively speaking) the two scents are significantly different. As a researcher by profession - and a British blogger with a natural interest in the doings of our royal family - I hope we can get to the bottom of it.

Vanessa said...

PS Cymbaline, I thought your hurting front teeth analogy quite eloquent myself!

Vanessa said...

Hi Anonymous,

You mean you like one of these versions? Can you be a bit more explicit about the nature of the good news? : - )

Anonymous said...

Hi, everyone, hope I'm not too late. My bottle that I bought in late April must be from the second "duff" batch, and I actually like it much better. I described it at the time as being like Prescriptives' Calyx, and as not smelling of gardenia at all.

After coming across this site, I got very confused so contacted Illuminum who kindly sent me a sample of the official "correct" WGP. It is indeed very different and is full of gardenia - it's a bit like Estee Lauder's Tuberose and Gardenia, but much softer, quieter and mellower. My problem is that I prefer the wrong one - not because of any associations, but because I like its fresher notes better, it lasts longer and it isn't headachey. So now I'm hoping that Illuminum can discover what was actually in those bottles ..... or I'll just have to go back to Calyx.


Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Thanks for dropping in and telling us of your experiences with both versions of WGP.

I do agree that the "official" scent is much more gardenia-like, however, it is quite sharp and "tangy" on my skin, which is why I prefer the other one. It is a while since I smelt Calyx but if I come across it I shall be interested to remind myself of how it smells versus "duff" WGP!

eula_w said...

Thank you so much Vanessa for this wonderful review! I appreciate your smart writing about this perfume. Will be back to read more. :)
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