Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
One of the most gorgeous raw materials I have come across is magnolia absolute by Laboratoire Monique Rémy. It is a beautifully contrasted note: its herbal top reminiscent of lavender and spicy green leaves gives way to a surprisingly luscious core of jasmine and apricot. Magnolia absolute is such a striking, dramatic note that it works well as part of a rich oriental blend a la Guerlain L’Instant, as well as in light florals and even colognes like Eau d’Italie Magnolia Romana. While I still have not found a well-crafted magnolia soliflore, there are a few fragrances that use it to a memorable effect. One such example is Champaca Absolute from Tom Ford Private Blend collection.
Despite its name, Champaca Absolute is not a soliflore—the magnolia note is part of a bouquet. Overall, it is a quite a striking blend, full of character and dramatic presence. Like many Private Blends, Champaca Absolute has a certain vintage glamour, yet without a self-conscious retro aesthetic. The richness of the composition is evident throughout: from the top accord, with its dried fruit and candied citrus nuances, to the sugared amber and vanilla base. Set against this gourmand cornucopia is a heady, luxurious floral composition. It suggests the indolic heft of jasmine, the spicy warmth of carnation and the petally radiance of magnolia. While magnolia is only an accent, it fits so beautifully that I forget about wanting a magnolia soliflore experience.
There is a point to the development of Champaca Absolute that reminds me strongly of Tom Ford Black Orchid, or rather what I wanted Black Orchid to be—an unapologetically rich, opulent floral. The late drydown of Champaca Absolute is my favorite part. The dramatic sensuality of the composition mellows down, leaving one with an intimate, warm veil of woods, incense and violets. It is certainly worth waiting for!
Private Blend Champaca Absolute by Tom Ford includes notes of Tokaji wine, cognac, bergamot, magnolia champaca, orchid, violet, jasmine, vanilla, amber, sandalwood and marron glacé. Private Blend fragrances are available from Tom Ford boutiques, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.