If I was forced to pick my favourite fragrance genre, I would be able to answer with “floral” without a moment’s hesitation. My love for all things fragrant and flowery knows no end and I find myself drawn to a wide range of flower based fancies, ranging from supreme aldehydic floral bouquets to soliflores, and all that is in between. So yes, I love it when flowers and perfume come together, but I especially adore the heady tones of white floral perfumes based on the notes of; jasmine, tuberose or orange blossom.
Not all florals are symphonic beauties however, and it is often tricky to strike the right balance between something that is evocative of nature and something that is more abstract. Many attempts at capturing the hypnotic melody of flowers end up being too thin, due in part to the perfumers not being given enough money to work with, or in many cases they can fall into the trap of simply being ‘too much’ – one wants to revel in these flowers, not be devoured by them. Some however, get this balance absolutely right and this leads me quite nicely on to today’s subject: California Rêverie by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Created by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu (the man responsible for Etat Libre d’Orange’s Jasmin et Cigarette and Comme des Garçons Stephen Jones etc.), California Rêverie is the latest addition to Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection Extraordinaire – a collection that follows one rule, and one rule only – the rule of “excellence”. Taking inspiration from the brand’s jewellery collection of the same name (a sample of which can be seen above), this fragrance picks the note of jasmine to evoke Californian landscapes. California Rêverie is described by Van Cleef & Arpels as a “dizzying state of sensuality” that allows one to “drift off on a dreamlike voyage to the heart of Californian nature”. That all sounds rather good, doesn’t it?
Top: Mandarin and Neroli
Heart: Indian Sambac Jasmine and Frangipani
Base: Vanilla and Beeswax
How Does it Smell?
It’s a relief to realise that, right from the outset, California Rêverie is a real jasmine and whilst it deliberately presents a lighter and more airy version of the flower it is not the watery, thin and ‘generically floral’ type-of-jasmine one finds in many modern designer fragrances. As the name suggests, it’s a dreamy floral, where the narcotic tones of jasmine do not emanate thickly from the flower itself, instead they are air born. In short: this is an aerial jasmine.
California Rêverie opens with a haze of sharp and bitter jasmine, accented by sprinkles of neroli glitter. At first, the whole thing feels very ‘alive’, evocative of a soft breeze filled with the heady smell of white flowers and the sound of the bees that are so helplessly attracted to them. Despite this sense of activity, the fragrance really is incredibly light and gives the impression of a delicate, yet ashy jasmine mist rather than the thick and heavy pungency of the flower on the bush.
Things remain relatively linear for the majority of the fragrance’s development. After a few hours however, the fragrance gets ever-so-slightly richer and takes on a decidedly warmer character, predominately comprising of cedarwood, honey, and a touch of vanilla. Rather than opting for the easy way out by ‘ending’ on an aria of floaty musks, California Rêverie simply fades out with dying wisps of wood and jasmine. There’s no rabble-rousing encore here, just a quiet exit via stage left.
California Rêverie isn’t a jasmine that packs a punch. It’s not heavily indolic and waxy in the way that other famous jasmines are, say like Serge Lutens’ Sarrasins for example, nor is it intensely green and sweet in the way that A La Nuit (also by Lutens) is. It is a light and wistful jasmine, and if I’m being entirely honest, I think that this delicate approach works in its favour. I’m going to file California Rêverie under the heading of ‘no great shakes’ as a realistic-smelling jasmine that won’t frighten the horses. Yeah, that sounds about right!
If my review of California Rêverie certainly has you interest piqued, then stay tuned for an interview with its creator, perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, over the coming weeks, in a new feature that I’m calling ‘Rubbing Noses’. Keep your eyes peeled, folks!
As part of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection Extraodinaire, California Rêverie is available in 75ml (£126) and 45ml (£69) Eau de Parfum.
Samples, notes and quotes via Van Cleef & Arpels. Image 1 via vancleefarpels.com. Imag 2 & 3via fragrantica.com.