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.
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.