Van Cleef & Arpels

One of the hardest parts about being abroad was being unable to test Van Cleef & Arpels' new Collection Extraordinaire. I had heard many raves about these expensive, floral beauties, and I was seething at the bit to try them. Today, my first day back, I celebrated by dabbing a sample of Gardenia Petale on one wrist and Orchidee Vanille on the other. Let me first say that I really love the notes in each of these fragrances, so I was fully expecting to be smitten. I have to say, though, that I'm just a bit letdown. Don't get me wrong: they are wholly pleasant, pretty fragrances. But for all the hype, and not to mention the $185 price tag, I was expecting more.

Let me start with Orchidee Vanille. It is a sweet, lovely vanilla. There is a soft, ethereal quality to it that is very nice. For all its sweet gourmand nature, it doesn't grow cloying. And yet, I am disappointed. It is billed to have a dark chocolate note, and I find it wholly lacking. I also miss the bitter almond. I smell some vanilla, musk, a touch of rose and perhaps a tinge of tonka. But that's all.

Next, let me expound on Gardenia Petale. It opens with the typical sweet floral lushness that is gardenia. Nothing groundbreaking, but again, very pleasant. As it dries down, I have to say I find it inferior to Orchidee Vanille. There is a jarring wood note, almost bitter, which seems out of place in this composition. It is less linear than Orchidee Vanille, but that is not a good thing, in this case, because the drydown loses the fresh green gardenia. Oh well. I still have a few more to test, so here's hoping it gets better.

Today I move forward through the Collection Extraordinaire series, testing Bois d'Iris. If there were any in this series that I was fated to fall for, this would be the one. A feminine, woodsy iris? Yes please. But strangely, like the previous two fragrances I tested in this collection, I like it but am now wowed. Bois d'Iris is, indeed, a woodsy iris. It is smooth and earthy in the way that only iris fragrances can be. It has a peppery kick to it that I enjoy, and there is a vanilla note that reminds me of my beloved Odori Iris. But I think that what separates this from the Odori is that everything is muted. Despite having some notes that can be tenacious and strong (iris, frankincense, driftwood, vetiver, ambergris, labdanum, myrrh, vanilla), Bois d'Iris strikes me as disappointingly tame. I don't like my fragrances to smack people in the face as I walk down the street, but these notes cry out for a bolder rendition.

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