Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine and Michel : Perfume Reviews

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“The fragrance of magnolia is pure happiness,” said a friend of mine from Alabama. To her, the scent of magnolia meant the lazy days of summers, white sandy beaches and picnics on the grass with ice cold watermelon, crab cakes and banana pudding. Much later when I myself had a chance to visit the American South, I pulled down a heavy magnolia branch and leaned into a large white blossom. It smelled of melted lemon ice cream and green, not yet opened roses. I was drunk on the perfume of magnolias all summer long.

Grandiflora

This heady, radiant aroma was likewise spellbinding for the Australian floral designer Saskia Havekes and two perfumers, Sandrine Videault and Michel Roudnitska. Havekes decided to capture all facets of magnolia and gave the perfumers carte blanche to create their Magnolia Grandiflora. Although both fragrances aim to give a realistic rendition, their creators leave enough of their own fingerprint and imagination. But they also reveal what a challenging subject they’d been given. The sunny radiance of magnolia is not easy to capture in a perfume bottle.

Sandrine’s Magnolia

At first Sandrine Videault’s Magnolia smells remarkably like the real thing. It has a beautiful lemony start that feels fizzy and sparkling, with plenty of sheer green notes that slowly become white petals. Most magnolia varieties smell so citrusy that taking the idea into the direction of a lemon-bergamot cologne feels natural.

Which is exactly what Videault did. She added a generous dose of grapefruit and pepper and then laced the whole thing with sheer white petals and marine notes that give an airy texture to her blossoms. It’s bright and shimmering, but not sharp and raspy.  If you’ve only smelled Videault’s Les Nez Manoumalia, you’d be surprised not to find anything even remotely raunchy about her take on magnolia. It’s light and easy to wear on even the hottest of Alabama days.

But if you’re after real southern magnolias or a perfume with substance, you’ll be disappointed, because the drydown of Sandrine’s Magnolia is pale. After an hour, there is hardly anything of the southern summer that remains, and you simply carry around a pleasant but not remarkable slick of musk and sandalwood. Where have all the magnolias gone?

Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine includes notes of lemon, grapefruit, white pepper, fresh garden accords, dry wood accords, marine-aquatic accords, and musk.

Michel’s Magnolia

While Sandrine’s Magnolia doesn’t have enough animalic, dirty notes, Michel Roudnitska’s has enough for both. This flower is not a new bud that just broke through its fuzzy brown casing, but a lush blossom that is about to drop its petals. The freshness comes as a lemony flash at the top, but the subsequent stages are all about ripeness and darkness.

Roudnitska composes his magnolia of white floral femmes fatales, jasmine and ylang ylang in several different guises. There is a sheer jasmine used as a backdrop filler and a much darker jasmine–all apricots and indoles–in the heart of the magnolia. He also infuses the composition with rose, and as time goes on, the little details accumulate enough to obscure the magnolia, but they create a complex floral accord.

Wearing Michel’s Magnolia is exciting, because you never know what comes next. One moment, it smells of waxy white petals and salty lemon. Later, you notice mossy patchouli and green herbs. It’s a sensual floral, but also elegant and tender. Unlike Roudnitska’s powerhouse Delrae Amoureuse, it doesn’t clear a path for the wearer. (But in certain aspects, Magnolia  and Amoureuse are close siblings and share the same heady jasmine layer.)

However much I enjoyed Michel’s Magnolia, my conclusion about it was the same as for Sandrine’s–it doesn’t evoke a magnolia for me. My quest for a southern summer in a bottle continues. If you have any ideas where I might find it, please let me know.

Magnolia Grandiflora Michel includes notes of lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli and musk

Magnolia Grandiflora Eau de Parfum (Sandrine’s and Michel’s) is available at Luckyscent and directly at Grandiflora. 100ml/$185

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73 Comments

  • The Blue Squid: Thank you for your take on these two. Beautiful to read as always. I am very interested to try them, as I am in Australia, and they will be easy for me to get my mitts on for once. I do not know anything about the magnolia’s odour, which may be an advantage. I don’t have any magnolia
    perfume suggestions, I’m afraid. Off topically, I am enjoying a lovely big cloud of Jungle Elephant today. So good. Your review of it encouraged me to buy it. Glad I did! May 5, 2014 at 7:35am Reply

    • Karina: I’m in Australia too, it certainly is hard to find niche perfumes here isn’t it? Which shops do you think we’ll be able to find the Grandiflora perfumes in down here? May 5, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

      • Annabel Farrell: I think Libertine in Brisbane has these scents. Yes, finding out of the mainstream perfumes ain’t easy here! May 5, 2014 at 10:36pm Reply

        • The Blue Squid: Good call; I was going to suggest that too. At risk of being a Captain Obvious, you could try Grandiflora directly also. May 6, 2014 at 7:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Great to hear that you’re enjoying Jungle Elephant! It can be challenging for some people (because it’s so rich and heavy on cumin,) but it’s a stunning perfume.

      Grandiflora also has beautiful floral arrangements, from what I hear. May 5, 2014 at 1:11pm Reply

    • Deborah Anne Oney (Annie): I second (or third) your love of Jungle Elephant! What a bomb it is- one of the most interesting scents. Glad you brought it up, and thank you Victoria for reviewing it. May 5, 2014 at 3:58pm Reply

      • The Blue Squid: No worries! May the triumphant spicy bellowing of the cheerful elephant be heard worldwide 🙂 May 6, 2014 at 7:23am Reply

      • Victoria: Yay! I’m only too happy to share my love for this perfume with others. May 6, 2014 at 10:26am Reply

    • Alouetta: Yes, I tested them at Libertine in Brisbane and managed to take away a sample of Sandrine’s version. I was left wanting something also. As I mentioned in another post I love the scent of actual magnolias, grandifloras in particular, and I’m yet to find a perfume that gets them. Tried Magnolia Nobile and Magnolia Romana also, and both scents left me disappointed. Oh well, I guess that means I have something to look forward to! May 8, 2014 at 6:53am Reply

  • Lucas: Thank you for your impressions of both Magnolia Grandiflora scents.

    I have to admit I would like to give a try to both of them (here’s to hope they’ll make it to Poland). May 5, 2014 at 8:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope so too. I’d love to hear your take on them. May 5, 2014 at 1:12pm Reply

  • Andy: No magnolia recommendations, but a story instead. I was biking this past week and went by a yard that carried its own luminous lemony sillage, which I caught as I sped by. So I doubled back and found there was a magnolia tree right by the sidewalk. I buried my nose in the blossoms, and found heaven. It was a pink tulip magnolia, not the stately southern Grandiflora, but still as intent upon perfuming its space in the world. May 5, 2014 at 8:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, sounds incredible! You’ve made me vividly recall how amazed I was smelling the southern magnolia for the first time. The fragrance is simply stunning.

      The pink tulip magnolias smell very good, too, and if you walk under a tall tree, it’s some olfactory experience! May 5, 2014 at 1:13pm Reply

  • George: I used to share a flat with an Italian guy whose ego-puncturing catchphrase was “good for you!” I can imagine him having a conversation with Saskia Havekes where she says “I love the smell of magnolias and wanted to create perfumes that capture their smell” and he replies “good for you!” “Good for you, Saskia Havekes!” is what I say on this one. “Good for you!” May 5, 2014 at 8:42am Reply

    • Nikki: I agree with you, the sentiment is there and should be applauded, as well as the enterprising spirit. So, yes, good for her!

      On the other hand, will I buy it or even sniff it? No. I know the scent of Magnolia Grandiflora and while I like it, I do not want to smell like it. Plus Hove of New Orleans has some of these perfumes, Magnolia, Sweetpea. Daphne, which are reminiscent of the imagined Antebellum South. May 5, 2014 at 9:50am Reply

      • Victoria: Now I really want to try Hove of New Orleans perfumes, Nikki! 🙂 May 5, 2014 at 1:23pm Reply

        • Jackie: I highly recommend Hoves on Royal Street. I have the Magnolia and love it! Next looking for a Stephanotis scent. September 3, 2014 at 2:47am Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you, I will try it! September 3, 2014 at 11:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Yep!

      Well, maybe, not quite magnolia, but both perfumes are interesting to sample. May 5, 2014 at 1:14pm Reply

      • Nikki: Yes, do try Hove. It is inexpensive to get the small flacons and I am sure they will mail to Brussels! I recommend the classic feminine perfumes and their respective soap in pale pink packaging, so lovely. My favorite is Tea Olive, a Southern flower, really exquisite. May 5, 2014 at 3:39pm Reply

        • Katy McReynolds: Tea olive is a common name for our Osmanthus hybrids here in the U.S. They smell heavenly! My beloved and I chased this fragrance down to a humble Holly looking tree that was covered with fragrant white blossoms at our local Botanical Garden. I must try Hove too! May 5, 2014 at 5:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’ll ask my mom to bring them for me, and I’m sure she’ll enjoy trying them too. Mom is quite a perfumista! 🙂 May 6, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

  • Karina: I read an article about this release and was intrigued by it so it was interesting for me to read your review. I only learnt what magnolia flowers smell like about a year ago and it certainly is a magnificent fragrance, one of the few that captures my attention like my beloved tuberose and gardenia scents do! But I can imagine it would be difficult to emulate in a perfume, it has an elusive quality to it in my opinion, which is part of its beauty. May 5, 2014 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Magnolia is tricky, because the balance between the lemony, rose-like and leathery-dirty nuances is not easy to capture. I’ve smelled many versions over the years (and I’ve played around making a magnolia accord,) and I’m yet to find anything that comes close. I do like Vero Kern Mito very much, though. It has much more than just magnolia, of course. May 5, 2014 at 1:19pm Reply

  • Bee: I had huge expectations for Sandrine’s magnolia grandiflora, a) because she created Manoumalia b) because she lived (grew up?) in the South Pacific (I guess that sounds like a strange reason, maybe subconsciously that rised my expectations for a tropical twist).. I was then disappointed by the nice but rather bland scent and what really ruined it for me was the aquatic note (melonish), which just isn’t my thing. I have however smelled only regular magnolias but not grandifloras, that’s on my to do list now, maybe it could change my opinion on this scent? May 5, 2014 at 9:31am Reply

    • Nikki: I know what you mean….I was really looking forward to her scents as well, living in the South Pacific and so on, but none were for me. It is possible that these scents really have a time and place and are much more “territorial” than others. That is how I choose my perfumes now: do they fit the landscape, do they fit the environment? I am sure using Monoi Tiare in Tahiti smells better than using it in a suburban context. May 5, 2014 at 9:55am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Exactly. That’s why I love my tuberoses and jasmines ( Fracas, Tubereuse MPG, Carnal Flower, First, Boucheron, etc.) in the summer, and my dry, green, chypres in the winter.
        It’s amazing how the old Guerlains are fitting not only to me, but also to my house. May 5, 2014 at 10:24am Reply

        • Nikki: I never thought of First as a summer perfume, but I like the idea! Thank you, Cornelia! May 5, 2014 at 7:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: As much I love the start, I don’t like the way it dries down. After an hour or so, you just have this pale, bland finish, and it’s such a let down. The melon-like note didn’t bother me too much, but I wish it were more subtle. May 5, 2014 at 1:22pm Reply

  • Laura: I would be curious what you thought of ElizabethW’s Magnolia. It is not complex, but a magnolia soliflore, with excellent staying power and sillage. May 5, 2014 at 9:36am Reply

    • Victoria: I need to try it. Thank you for the mention, Laura. May 5, 2014 at 1:22pm Reply

  • Iodine: I’d love a true magnolia scent! Don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to smell these two, in the meantime I’m eagerly waiting for June and magnolias bloomong! 😉 May 5, 2014 at 9:58am Reply

    • Iodine: Blooming, of course!! May 5, 2014 at 10:02am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m also waiting for the early June and lush magnolias. 🙂 May 5, 2014 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Sandy S: I just love the scent of Magnolias! Your article has piqued my interest enough to give it a try. May 5, 2014 at 10:18am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s worth trying, of course. Both are well-made perfumes. May 5, 2014 at 1:28pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Maybe you will never find that magnolia, because you never will have that particular olfactive environment again..as Nikki pointed out, context can be important.
    Or maybe a talented perfumer will read your article and will create your Magnolia!
    In the meantime, maybe Mahora can give you that opulent rich creamy feeling. May 5, 2014 at 10:29am Reply

    • Victoria: I suppose, you’re right. That’s some high expectation.

      Mahora is like basking in the sunshine. It’s such a bubbly, happy perfume. May 5, 2014 at 1:29pm Reply

  • Zazie: From your description, the smell of the actual flower sounds like an amazing perfume in itself – I imagine adding just a nice base and a few ornaments to make it into a gorgeous personal perfume…
    And now I am so curious to smell the real thing!!!! I’ll check if there are any grandifloras at nose distance! 😉
    Have you ever smelled the FM jurassic flower candle? Is it faithful to the flower? May 5, 2014 at 10:30am Reply

    • Iodine: I did it recently, accurately, as I read that it’s from it Benaim started for his Eau de Magnolia for Malle. Yes, it’s quite realistic for me… Are Giardini Pubblici close enough to your nose?! 😉 May 5, 2014 at 12:34pm Reply

      • Zazie: Yes, the giardini are very close to my nose: right below my office! 😉
        I remember you mentioning them in relation to magnolias, and have looked out for the plants during lunchbreaks. My primary suspects are the tall trees that border the perimeter towards Vittorio Veneto, but wasn’t sure (I am familiar with the japonica variety only, which I understand is quite different from other magnolias…)…any hints? 🙂 May 5, 2014 at 1:58pm Reply

        • iodine: Let’s try: from the little railway to the fountain in front of Palazzo Dugnani, keeping your right, they are the only trees in the main alley, I’d say. And the two trees with the round benches around them at both sides of the fountain are magnolias- though one is a bit ravaged.. 🙂
          I can’t recall the trees you are talking about, I’m sorry…
          Anybody visiting Milan in June will be able to find true magnolias in bloom thanks to “iodine’s little guide to magnolia trees”! May 5, 2014 at 4:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t remember Jurassic Flower that well, so I need to smell it again. Of course, I’m curious about the new magnolia inspired Frederic Malle perfume, Eau de Magnolia. May 5, 2014 at 1:31pm Reply

  • Jillie: Thank you, V, for a very interesting review. I suspected that these two were probably not going to really evoke the beautiful magnolia, and I shan’t hurry to try them.

    While you search for the perfect representation of the magnolia, I am seeking an ideal stephanotis fragrance – I used to have this in my garden and it was absolutely amazing. Culpeper and Floris used to have a stephanotis in their lines, but neither smelt anything like the real thing.

    So our hunts will continue ….. May 5, 2014 at 11:10am Reply

    • Andy: Reminds me, the first time I sprayed Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia, the elements must have all been in some kind of perfect equilibrium, and I immediately said to myself,”Stephanotis!” It seemed such a perfect rendition of the flower, I could have sworn I was smelling the real thing. I’ve been wearing it a lot recently, and unfortunately I don’t get that same impression in the top notes every time, but occasionally it seems to come close for a fleeting minute before everything settles. May 5, 2014 at 12:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Stephanotis is one of those elusive scents. Mock orange blossom is another one. It’s a cross between jasmine and orange blossom, but it has its own spicy, green notes. If I had a garden, I’d plant bushes of mock orange in it. May 5, 2014 at 1:32pm Reply

      • Andy: I just smelled some mock orange flowers this past weekend, but I didn’t realize anyone was as keen on the scent as I am! (I figured it was considered wan in comparison to “real” orange blossoms). Perhaps even more so, I love the scent upon digging one’s fingernail into the fruit peel while it is still green. May 5, 2014 at 1:49pm Reply

        • Jillie: I love mock orange too, and the way my arms would smell after getting them tangled up with the branches when pruning them.

          I have some the Estee Lauder TG, so will keep experimenting to see if I ever get a hit of stephanotis! May 6, 2014 at 1:29am Reply

          • The Blue Squid: Mock orange is lovely, transcending its “mock” name. There are large bushes and hedges around where I live, including my front garden. The blossoms smell great, and the twigs and leaves are pleasant smelling also. May 6, 2014 at 7:39am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s different from the real orange flowers, but to me, it’s the perfume of the early summer. Brings back so many memories. May 6, 2014 at 10:22am Reply

      • Andy: I’ve just realized that we’re actually talking about two different (but both fragrant) mock oranges here! The one I know is Poncirus trifoliata, which closely resembles a very fiercely thorny citrus tree. It has beautifully aromatic edible fruit in addition to the orange blossom-like flowers. The other that I think is being referred to here is more shrub-like, a type of Philadelphus! May 6, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

        • Victoria: Poncirus trifoliata is the one I don’t know, but I love the idea of green citrus fruit, so it sounds great.

          Philadelphus is the “mock orange” I referred to. I keep forgetting its proper name. May 7, 2014 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I still really want to try these. Having never smelled the real thing I might be fonder of them than you. Thanks for reviewing these, I was very curious about them. I have great admiration for these two perfumers, so I was hoping for great things.

    Do you think it would be technically feasible to create a closer reconstruction of the real thing? May 5, 2014 at 12:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve smelled a few headspace reconstructions, but the problem is that magnolia contains so much lemony facets that it ends up smelling like furniture polish. And it contains numerous molecules in barely detectable, trace amounts that the modern analytical technology can hardly register. I haven’t smelled anything that was as good as the real thing. May 5, 2014 at 1:34pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Sometimes mother Nature plays hard to get! May 5, 2014 at 2:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: She really does, as in lily of the valley, gardenia, lilac, and as I discovered, magnolia. May 6, 2014 at 10:23am Reply

          • Austenfan: I completely forgot to thank you for your explanation, it makes it easier to understand why it is so hard to achieve a “good” magnolia.

            Lily of the Valley; it makes Roudnitska’s achievement with the original Diorissimo all the more impressive. You get the whole forest, as well as the little white bells, or at least the illusion of the forest. May 6, 2014 at 3:05pm Reply

            • Victoria: We have lots of lily of the valley, and whenever I kneel down to smell them, I’m amazed over and over again how true to the real thing (nay, not a thing, the whole experience) Diorissimo was! May 7, 2014 at 2:44pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: Thanks for a wonderful review! I would be very interested in smelling both of these, but it’s always hard to imagine them comparing to the real thing. The pink tulip magnolias are in bloom here in Missouri right now, and they smell delightfully lemony, without all of the headiness of the real thing. They have such a delicate scent. However, in a month or so the big white magnolias will be in bloom and on a summer night there is nothing more intoxicating!

    I also have a terrible craving for banana pudding now! May 5, 2014 at 12:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! The southern desserts are in the category of their own. 🙂

      The South has so many incredible perfumes, and living there made me discover so many new smells like those of wild persimmons, musky grapes, osmanthus, some strange vines that I couldn’t even name but could recognize by their scent. May 5, 2014 at 1:37pm Reply

  • Carol Melancon: I haven’t smelled Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Magazine Street, but it is supposed to have some magnolia associations. May 5, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds interesting, Carol. Thank you for mentioning it. Now I’m becoming more magnolia obsessed, so I will look for it. 🙂 May 6, 2014 at 10:24am Reply

  • Elena: I got a sample of this just this week, and while I liked it, I won’t be searching out anymore.

    This was a disappointing week on the magnolia front. A neighbor has a star magnolia which just bloomed, but it rained so much recently that I missed smelling it at its peak on my walks with my dog. Last year at this time I was just about to give birth to my second daughter, and the smell of all of the trees bursting into bloom will always remind me of how joyfully I anticipated her arrival. We don’t have any magnolia grandiflora here in MA (that I know of) but star magnolias and the pink tulip variety are popular. The weeping cherry trees are gorgeous here this week, too. I love this time of year! May 5, 2014 at 3:34pm Reply

    • Elena: The Michel, not the Sandrine. That sounds like one I can safely skip. May 5, 2014 at 3:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: I visited Boston in the fall, so I’m now trying to picture the familiar MA scenes colored in with magnolias and cherry blossoms. Do you get lilacs too? May 6, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

      • Elena: Yes, a few, and they are one of my absolute favorites. I think they will bloom in a week or two. I associate them with the end of the school year (a wonderful time as a child!) so it must be pretty soon. I think forsythias are the most common around here, it seems that there is one every other yard! My parents’ house has a mayflower verbena which is just intoxicating. I could go on and on about all the different spring blossoms that I’m in love with! May 6, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

        • Victoria: I love how the flowers come in waves this season. The moment one is done, something else blooms and you’re always stimulated by new scents and colors. May 7, 2014 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: These scents sound ravishing. Just a question, though- I seem to recall a magnolia scent from Perfumer’s Workshop when I was a kid. Another mis-remembered moment from childhood? I love the Aqua di Parma Magnolia- fresh, lemony and languid. May 5, 2014 at 5:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Someone else emailed me about Perfumer’s Workshop’s magnolia, so there must have been one. I have never heard of it, but I’ll see if I can find out anything about it. May 6, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: The best magnolia I have found is the Acqua Magnolia. It seems to be the most true to the real flower, but no one has every truly captured it. I agree with that. May 6, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Ok, now, I absolutely must revisit AdP Magnolia Nobile. You all have given me more incentives to look for a sample, because after my fiasco with their Jasmin, I was wary of Magnolia and didn’t test it on skin. May 6, 2014 at 10:36am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: I meant the Acqua di Parma Magnolia. Not awake yet! May 6, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

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