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…”

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Grandiflora Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine & Magnolia Grandiflora Michel ~ fragrance reviews

magnolia blossoms

I grew up in Virginia, and I wonder if there’s a state with more magnolia grandiflora trees? (Mississippi…Alabama…Louisiana…South Carolina…I know you have your share!) When I think back, it seems every house, regal or modest, every college campus, farm, mall, gas station, had its own magnolia tree…or trees. Magnolia grandifloras are from an ancient family — they were Earth’s first flowering plants; magnolias are beautiful in many ways: they produce heavy/stiff leaves, ‘lacquered’ dark green on one side, suede-like, sometimes “furry” and brown, on the other; gem-like fruits; noble seed heads — not to mention their huge, glorious-looking (and heavenly scented) flowers. No matter their location, parking lot or plantation, magnolia grandifloras are grand.

I’m betting one of the first floral smells to imprint itself on me was magnolia. How else to explain my writing a piano composition in seventh grade titled Magnolia Whispers? (My piano teacher made all her students write an original piece of music for our annual recital.) I even illustrated the sheet music with tiny drawings of magnolia blossoms. (I wish I could attach a soundtrack to this article so you could get a good laugh.) I never wrote a musical ode to other favorites — gardenias, roses, poppies or marigolds…magnolia reigned supreme…

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Flora by Gucci The Garden Gorgeous Gardenia, Gracious Tuberose and Glamorous Magnolia ~ perfume reviews and a quick poll

Abbey Lee Kershaw for Gucci Flora The Garden

Gucci launched Flora in 2009. Flora is one of those light and sparkling casual florals, pretty and inoffensive — you know the sort I mean, the kind that go for pleasant and wearable over interesting, but that so perfectly hit that “pleasant and wearable” mark that they’re memorable anyway. When I reviewed it, I called it the still-cheerful older sister of Marc Jacobs Daisy, if that helps you place it. And like Daisy, it was just a notch above the competition. I often recommend it to people who are looking for something in that genre.

Gucci’s new Flora by Gucci The Garden is a quintet of floral flankers. Two of them — Generous Violet and Glorious Mandarin — are in limited distribution, and I have not tried them.1 The other three — Gorgeous Gardenia, Gracious Tuberose and Glamorous Magnolia — are widely available in department and beauty stores, and those are the three I’m reviewing today. All of them, like the original Flora, were reportedly inspired by Gucci’s “renowned” Flora print…

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Helena Rubinstein Wanted ~ perfume review

Helena Rubinstein Wanted advert with Demi Moore

Helena Rubinstein’s new Wanted fragrance was built around an abstract accord of magnolia wood, and is meant to be a “a vibrant woody floral filled with sensual and carnal tension”.1 Sounds good, no? And while I have no particular feelings about Demi Moore either way, it’s always nice to see someone over the age of 40 (or let’s face it, even 25) fronting a new perfume.

Wanted doesn’t quite live up to its steamy advertising, but it’s not bad. The opening is a fruity-lemony blend of ylang ylang and magnolia (other notes include iris, cedar, sandalwood and vanilla). It’s rather high pitched — yes, even vibrant — in the early stages. The dry down falls squarely into the modern “fresh floral” mode: it’s airy and clean, slightly watery, and very smooth…

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Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile ~ perfume review

Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile fragrance

Magnolia Nobile is the latest from Acqua di Parma, and it joins 2004’s Iris Nobile in what I suppose will now be the Nobile collection or somesuch. The inspiration reportedly comes from “the gardens of majestic villas along Lake Como, graced with magnolia trees”, and that romantic, upscale vision is a pretty good prelude to the perfume itself.

Magnolia Nobile starts off with fresh green citrus, in the same mode as the fresh green citrus that’s in everything lately: Versace Versense, Bvlgari Omnia Green Jade, Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte. It’s crisp and diffusive but lacks real sparkle, and I wonder if this is simply the new style, or if it’s the result of the recent IFRA restrictions on natural citrus oils? Whatever it is, it does not make my heart sing: it’s too fresh, and all of these perfumes remind me, to one degree or another, of functional products — nicely done functional products, to be sure, but still…

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