When it comes to beauty products, perfume is usually considered the most personal; it's why buying someone a scent feels so intimate (and often romantic). You're basically saying, "Here! I want you to smell like this so you can exist in my memory forever!" Scent memories are so strong they can hit you like a punch in the face.
I still think of my college boyfriend whenever I catch a whiff of Miss Dior (mostly how I dropped an entire bottle on the ground during our first date and it shattered everywhere—my bathroom smelled so expensive afterward).
Gucci Guilty's heady rush of amber brings me back to sweaty nights in secret L.A. warehouses; Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black and its smoky notes conjure up the same, but swap in swanky New York hotel bars. In recent years, however, my perfume collection has steadily grown to include more niche labels like Ex Nihilo, Byredo, Carlen, and Gamine. They nestle in like slightly exotic friends next to my beloved classics, like Oriental Lily and Birds of Paradise growing alongside traditional roses.
And then, this week, something large, white, and undeniably loud landed in my carefully curated perfume garden. That thing would be Kim Kardashian West's new KKW Fragrance in Crystal Gardenia ($60). Shaped like a giant quartz crystal, it houses a gardenia scent that Kim says reminds her of a beloved perfume her father would bring back from his business trips. Quartz, which has long served as a conduit to a higher-understanding the world of crystal healing, is also the stone Kim gravitated toward after the Paris robbery.
"I just wanted a bottle that was so simple that can look like it’s something sitting on your counter and be a beautiful object," she tells WWD. "I tried to make it really timeless so that it can't just all be about a celebrity fragrance." Perhaps surprisingly, she's right: The "KKW" is barely visible against the bottle's burnished glass exterior, and it does look more like a sort of sleek vanity accessory than loudly branded celebrity fragrance (although it is certainly attention-getting).
Bottle aside, it's the clear liquid inside that completely surprised me. Namely, because I haven't been able to stop wearing it. Jasmine and tuberose are my go-to floral scents, and though it's somewhat in the same family of light florals, gardenia is a flower I've always somehow overlooked. It felt too sweet; too popular. But leave it to the most popular woman in the world to prove me wrong.
This scent is surprisingly delicate. There's no saccharin, pungent nose-wrinkling note you come to expect from most celebrity-branded fragrances. Instead, you get a light burst of freshly picked gardenia that never feels too heady or overwhelming.
Kardashian West collaborated with famed French fragrance house Givaudan (responsible for scents from mass brands like Victoria's Secret but also prestige houses like Dior) to formulate the scent, and its subsequent spinoffs, Crystal Gardenia Citrus and Crystal Gardenia Oud. There is a slight fruity tinge to it, and it leaves a trail that starts smelling a bit more sugary the longer it stays on the skin. But still. At just $35 for the smaller bottle and $60 for the larger, it's a price point that usually yields scents that smell much less special. And because of it, a large crystal-shaped meteor has crashed my perfume garden and made itself at home.
Click here to find out more about the KKW fragrances.