One of the big whinges among scentophiles is the way some fragrances are ‘dumbed down’ (i.e. changed) by perfume houses. There are whispers of cost-cutting, of ‘damaging the brand’; the words ‘sacrilege’ and even ‘travesty’ are banded about a lot. But a chat recently with Sofia Grojsman, creator of Trésor and Calyx (among other global blockbusters) confirmed what I’d suspected: that in most cases, it’s international regulations about fragrance materials that can and can’t be used nowadays which forces formulations to be changed, rather than budget-slashing. No more true animalic notes like real musk, of course, now that musk deer are protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endanged Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). No more civet, either. And at the same time, the use of many invaluable notes – like oakmoss (which underpins every great chypre ever confected) – is restricted to a teensy percentage lest the skin it’s dabbed on to is irritated.
That also explains why fragrances which feature elements of cinnamic alcohol (found naturally in hyacinth oil or Balsam of Peru), geraniol (present in over 250 essential oils including rose and lavender), or eugenol (it’s in violets and carnations) now have a string of fragrance components listed on the packaging. (Not every ingredient – just the potential irritants, perfumery being one area of beauty where secrecy about formulae is up there with MI5′s.) Actually, that’s probably a good thing: it’s well-known that when worn in the sun, certain ingredients (called psoralens) can interact with the skin’s melanocytes to bring about a permanent change in pigmentation. But what’s all that got to do with Eau des Jardins? Plenty. Because interestingly, Clarins formulated this not just as a pretty and wearable summer fragrance (which it surely is), but to be worn safely in the sun.
Because interestingly, Clarins formulated this not just as a pretty and wearable summer fragrance (which it surely is), but to be worn safely in the sun – because they’ve taken out the psoralens, even from the citrussy ingredients (grapefruit and orange) that usually have them.
So: what of the juice itself…? Like the legendary Eau Dynamisante, it’s designed as a ‘treatment fragrance’, a mood-shifter. (The bottle promises ‘Uplifts, Refreshes, Captivates’.) It’s luminously airy and summer-light and fresh (frankly in the style of many Jo Malone creations). Despite the citrus notes, Eau des Jardins quite different to Eau Dynamisante – more like burying your nose in a pile of laundry that’s been dried outside than nostril-tinglingly lemony and bergamot-y. In its ‘first act’, it has a fruity moment (the leitmotif running through countless fragrance launches in 2010) – and there’s definitely a garden element with the blackcurrant absolute. (If you like the very green smell of Ribes, the flowering currant, you’ll enjoy this overture.) After a wee while, Eau des Jardins becomes quite woody with a step-inside-the-forest cool element (the ‘mood-enhancing’ essential oils include patchouli, vetiver, cedarwood). The woodsiness lasts for aeons, actually. Spritz int the morning and you’ll still get woodsy whispers by the time the sun’s over the yard-arm. (Though I’d lay money on you re-spritzing several times in the day. In my case, not just my body but the whole office.)
For me, there’s nothing not to like. Eau de Jardins may not make my heart sing or set my soul on fire or have my husband pouncing on me at unexpected moments, but (in common with many other reviewers, I’ve subequently found), I did find that it calmed me – and in my case, focussed me. (I am seriously all for any scent that does that.) For that reason, it has found a place on my desk, if not on my dressing table. As a bonus, Clarins promise that it has ‘skin treatment properties’, with a touch of moisturising beech bud extract, and ‘radiance-boosting’ sorbus bud extract. The only jarring note, for me, is the bottle: red and yellow – when in my mind’s eye, if this fragrance was a colour, it would be soft minty green and pale blue.
But the real selling-point, though, is that because of Clarins’s careful formulation – paying heed to all those increasingly well-recognised risks that are impacting on the world of scent – it can be enjoyed in the sun. Unlike almost every other fragrance under the sun, as it happens. So: now all I have to do is prise myself away from my computer and put it through its true paces.