Hothouse Flower is the eighth fragrance in the alphabetical series from San Francisco-based niche line Ineke, and the description — a hothouse elegance wrought from an overindulgence of gardenia — sounded very nearly perfect. Ineke is one of those in-between sort of niche lines: the fragrances are made with care and they don't smell like all the money went towards the promotional efforts, but they're neither outré nor esoteric nor difficult to wear; it's easy enough to imagine them doing well on the counter at Nordstrom. Oh, and they're under $100 — and as we all know, $100 has long been the new free when it comes to perfume, especially niche perfume.
The only one of the line I've wholeheartedly adored so far is Field Notes From Paris, which Kevin (and everybody else, I guess) thinks of as an orange blossom fragrance, but which I think of as one of my favorite patchouli-tobacco blends (actually, my only favorite patchouli-tobacco, neither note being a usual favorite of mine).
Hothouse Flower is an "almost" for me. The opening is greenery, dewy and fresh and clean, with a very light tea note (I'm sure I would not have thought of tea if it wasn't listed in the notes, which also include green foliage, cypress, absinthe, gardenia, galbanum, fig, frankincense, guaiacwood, musk and corn silk). The gardenia is there, but it's likewise dewy and fresh, and not the photorealistic, demanding hothouse diva you may love or hate from other perfumes.1 Everything else is very muted: there is a touch of fig, but no more, and the incense — indeed, the whole base — is mild and airy. I do not notice the absinthe, and would not know the corn silk in any case.
Hothouse Flower is a pretty, eminently wearable middleweight fragrance that should work in any season. It's a gardenia you could wear to the office, with enough elegance to carry you elsewhere as well; for many people, that is probably a welcome thing. If it were a bit less aggressively fresh in the early stages, I would like it much better, and I would say the same for some of Ineke's earlier fragrances, like After My Own Heart and Balmy Days & Sundays. If those fragrances suited you, I highly recommend that you try Hothouse Flower, and vice versa.
Ineke Hothouse Flower is available in 75 ml Eau de Parfum, $95. The lasting power is perhaps a little slight for an Eau de Parfum, but it's reasonable enough. Ineke has a very generous sampling program if you buy directly from their website: $25 gets you all eight samples, beautifully packaged, and you can apply the entire amount towards a full bottle purchase. For buying information, see the listing for Ineke under Perfume Houses.
1. Or from the real thing: I can vouch for the fact that a gardenia bush right outside your window can be headache-inducing on a hot summer night.