Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia ~ fragrance review


The (elusive) scent of magnolia has received lots of attention this year from perfumers. I've already reviewed Grandiflora's two magnolia offerings by Michel Roudnitska and Sandrine Videault, and now comes Frédéric Malle and perfumer Carlos Benaïm with Eau de Magnolia.1

Benaïm has already created scented products for Malle based on magnolia: the Jurassic Flower candle, room spray and rubber incense. I went to the Frédéric Malle boutique at Barneys to get a whiff of Jurassic Flower but became sidetracked, and nasally exhausted, by the zillion candles that were calling out to me, not only from Malle's line, but from Cire Trudon, too. Jurassic Flower smelled great, if not very "magnolia-ish."  While at Barneys, I sniffed another old friend, the store's own Route du Thé, a fragrance that often comes to mind when I smell perfumes that claim a magnolia association (something about Route du Thé's sparkling citrus, sheer tea, creamy florals and overall spunk remind me of magnolia grandiflora in an abstract way).

I'll begin by saying Eau de Magnolia doesn't remind me of magnolias, but look above and you'll see I couldn't resist using a magnolia grandiflora photo to illustrate this post, a photo of a flower cut from my own tree that "sat" by me as I wrote this review. I'm not holding Eau de Magnolia's magnolia-less-ness against it; I'll take it on its own terms as a floral/florid statement of a "new-style" Eau de Cologne.

Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia

Eau de Magnolia goes on powerfully, almost harshly, with unripe/green citrus aromas. The pungent, almost herbal, opening lasts awhile, but one can smell Eau de Magnolia's florals peeping through the citrus. As the florals become more prominent, the citrus aroma becomes lemony. Eau de Magnolia's floral bouquet is tangled, but a tart rose note stands out, as does a chilled/dry "white flower" note — like jasmine frozen in ice cubes, then "frosted" with lime blossom talc. As Eau de Magnolia segues into its base notes, the cedar-moss-patchouli accord creates a desiccated amber aroma (with a floral character). Nice (and bracing)! This is a fresh, "tonic" cologne: unisex and with good lasting power. Only during its last breath does Eau de Magnolia provide a "magnolia-like" moment, when a dense and creamy citrus-and-white-flower accord emerges (do smell this phase up close on skin).

I'm betting Eau de Magnolia will be a hit for the Malle line; everyone who has smelled it on me loved it.  

Do I prefer Eau de Magnolia or my other (current) favorite fragrance based on magnolia, Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine? I want 'em both: Eau de Magnolia for excitement and verve, and Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine for its lazy, sultry, poetic character. 

Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia Eau de Parfum is available in 50 ml/$175, 100 ml/$255, or 30 ml (three, 10 ml travel-size spray vials)/$125. 

1. Listed fragrance notes of grapefruit, bergamot, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli, cedar, moss, and amber. 

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This. Here's a handy emoticon chart.

  1. nozknoz says:

    I’m interested to smell this one, but I’ll need to suppress the idea that it is supposed to have anything to do with magnolia. To me, the central challenge of magnolia grandiflora is the disconnect between the gigantic, prehistoric, tropical flower that the eyes see and the light, subtle, softly lemony, understated scent that the nose registers. When I tried to think of the FM that is closest in character to actual magnolia grandiflora scent, it was Eau d’Hiver by Jean Claude Ellena that came to mind, and the actual scent of magnolia grandiflora could easily be a Hermessence. (I guess FM has some other light ones, like Angelique sous la Pluie and En Passant, but I’m not fond of them, so they don’t come to mind.) Looking at the list of Benaïm’s perfumes, they all seem much more vivid and colorful, so it seems an odd match on the surface. Of course, if the perfume is interesting and wearable, we need to approach it on its own merits.

    It’s also funny that the FM benefitted from head space technology, IIRC, and this is farther from the actual scent than Sandrine. I do love Sandrine and have been meaning to get out and do a side by side comparison with the grandifloras, which are now blooming around here (NOVA / DC area). Not that a perfume should be an exact replica, I’m just curious.

    Love your photo, by the way, beautiful light!

    • Kevin says:

      Noz…thanks…magnolia grandifloras are going strong around here too, with roses a close second. Hermes magnolia…that would be interesting!

  2. scentfromabove says:

    This sounds like all kinds of amazing to me! I can’t wait to test it out.

    • Kevin says:

      Scent…hope you like it!

  3. Marjorie Rose says:

    I’m a sucker for anything Malle, so I will have to be sure to try this sometime along the way. . . Wonder if they’ll include it in that elusive coffret I contemplate –nearly– every fall!

    • Kevin says:

      MR, I wish FM would do a 30 ml BOTTLE…I always buy the travel sprays.

  4. Coumarin says:

    I have been aching to try this but this is an “exclusive” scent which means only Barney’s and FM boutiques carry it, not my “rinkydink” Saks, though we even have one of the smelling tubes. I’ll have to order a sample third party, which I always put off.

    • Kevin says:

      Coumarin…ah…didn’t realize it was being held “close” so to speak…surely it will go into wider distribution eventually.

      • Coumarin says:

        I hope so but likewise in sequester are Une Fleur de Cassie, Le Parfum de Therese, the Par Dries Van Noten…. It strikes me odd because, as you say, it is coming out of the gates strong. Maybe I’ll host a travel set split at the next splitmeet.

  5. akimon says:

    I smelled it in the new NYC FM boutique, the one on Greenwich Avenue (while talking to Monsieur Malle himself – he was just hanging out at the perfume bar) and while it is a lovely and unique cologne, it did not strike me as something I must have. I somehow imagined it would have more floral character, and this had beautiful citrus and woods instead. And then later on, on the paper strip, I got a lot of vetiver peaking through, and not much of that promised moss, and it was bit too swampy for me. Still, I think this deserves to be a hit.
    I will stick to my vintage stash of Yves Rocher’s Magnolia for that floral, true to life kick. I will need it, since I had been traveling and missed most of the Magnolia Virginiana peak time here in DC – I went for a walk today and most of the flowers are already gone. Better luck next year.

    • Kevin says:

      akimon: yes, sweetbays are wonderfully scented…sorry you missed them!

  6. morgana says:

    Nice photo and review, Kevin!
    When I smelled this, I couldn’t but be reminded of the old-school lemon dish soap …

    • Kevin says:

      morgana…damn, I wish I could find some of that soap!

  7. naomi77 says:

    I tried it this weekend!! It was lovely. Very fresh and crisper than what I normally wear, but it suited me. I’ll have to try it again to see how the lasting power is, as when I tried it, it seemed to fade more quickly than expected.

    • Kevin says:

      naomi: the lasting power on me was very good, with an exception: yesterday it was in the 90s in Seattle and Eau de Magnolia faded fast in the heat, much like myself.

  8. floragal says:

    Such a beautiful photo! They are gorgeous flowers, aren’t they.
    Meh. Not super excited to try this one. It is fascinating to me how perfumers all jump on the same band wagon in terms of notes… rose, oud, magnolia, and so on.
    I do need a new decant of Carnal Flower, however ;)

    • Kevin says:

      floragal: yes, the flowers are sensational..I caught this one RIGHT at the perfect moment when it had fully opened, before the petals started covering the center again….

  9. Uday Parfoom says:

    I wish they’d have stuck with the name ‘Jurassic Flower’ for this one. Such a cool name.

  10. Dilana says:

    I gave myself a nice spray of this in the store about two weeks ago. It certainly had good lasting power, and a nice wisp of incense seemed to hit my nose that night as I got off the train home from the city.
    It seemed to be on my “buy” list as I was wearing it.

    However, the next day I wondered if the scent was really so very different in kind than I would get with a light tuberose or other summer whitish floral: A very nice option for feeling perfumed (as opposed to feeling like I am wearing cologne) without choking during the summer.

    The next weekend I sniffed Aqua di Parma’s Eau di Magnolia. It was not quite the equal of the Malle, (and certainly was missing any suggestion of incense) but I’m not sure the difference would be worth the considerable difference in price.
    So my recommendation is that the Malle would be a very nice buy indeed if you need a lovely summer scent, do not already have one, and have a sufficient budget for an indulgent full bottle purchase.
    The “Malle” gentlemen at Barneys told me that Malle’s “travel” size for this scent would probably be available in the fall, thereby missing the summer season when this scent might seem best. On the other hand, perhaps the lower price will be more tempting.

    • nozknoz says:

      Thanks for this useful information, Dilana!

    • Kevin says:

      Dilana…thanks for reminding me of the Magnolia Nobile…will have to stop by Sephora or Nordstrom to sniff it.

  11. Oakland Fresca says:

    I think I am in the minority on this one… but I got a blast of zesty lemon cleaner that powdered down to white flowers… not really unpleasant, but nothing I want to own. Lots of the Malles listed above do lovely things with florals, and for me the lemony start of Eau de Magnolia verged on the industrial.

    • Kevin says:

      OF: you’re not alone, see Morgana above. Me, I like some industrial lemon, orange, etc. Did you ever try the Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine? Curious to see if you felt the same way….

  12. Andreea says:

    I have a sample of this, because my husband bought En Passant for me (he chose it himself! WOW!) and he said, he liked it also.
    Of course I tried it out and was disappointed, because it is nice and well-done, but unfortunately it reminds me of a knock-off of AMYRIS pour femme. Eau de Magnolia is more vibrant and lighter, but not as – high quality? sophisticated? as AMYRIS.
    But along with En Passant they will be bestsellers because you cannot do anything wrong with them. Nice and wearable (but too expensive for just that).

Leave a reply