Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia : Perfume Review


Intended or not, Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia is an answer to two challenges: creating a novel cologne and capturing the elusive aroma of magnolia. The first is complicated, because cologne is one of the most popular genres, and recasting it in a new way requires some creativity. The second is due to the magnolia’s character. The scent blends citrus, rose and soft leather, but the main impression you get from smelling the waxy white petals is not of heady, lush perfume, but of exhilarating freshness and fizz. You can almost feel the champagne bubbles bursting before you notice all other facets.


Translating this sparkling effect into fragrance is more complicated than it seems in our age of high-tech tools. I smelled through a fair share of magnolia accords at one point to conclude that 90% of them smell either like furniture polish or bear no relation at all to magnolia. Which is why Eau de Magnolia comes as a surprise. It captures the nuances of magnolia, while setting them into a frame of citrus and moss. It makes for a beautiful arrangement.

Frédéric Malle worked with perfumer Carlos Benaïm on Eau de Magnolia, who in turn, relied on a study of magnolia’s aroma by IFF scientist Braja Mookherjee. But the resulting perfume isn’t an approximation of nature; it includes plenty of fantasy elements. For instance, Benaïm’s magnolia starts out with a zesty burst of citrus–green, slightly bitter and pleasantly sharp, but under the rind you notice earthy rose and dewy jasmine. Take one more inhale, and green leaves dusted with honey-yellow pollen come into relief. Wait a bit longer, and you’ll be wrapped into a tissue-thin veil of vetiver roots and pale moss.

The novel cologne aspect of Eau de Magnolia is its dose of floral notes. Malle suggests the fragrance for both men and women, and I not only agree with this recommendation, I would love to smell this kind of effervescent, elegant scent on men, in lieu of the traditional herbal-citrusy colognes. A hint of salt takes the sweetness out of flowers, and the driftwood and spring breeze motifs give Eau de Magnolia a cool, fresh character.

Eau de Magnolia wears like a gauzy, flowing garment, but in spite of its lightness, it lingers on skin and announces its presence clearly. It makes me anticipate the warm summer days, when it can accompany me on my walks around overheated, dusty Brussels. Or on days when I’m stretching on the balcony with a book. Or when I’m meeting my husband at a wine bar after work. Anyway, you get my point. It’s an easy to wear, versatile fragrance.

If you like perfumes Arquiste Boutonniere no.7 and Malle’s own Lys Méditerranée, Eau de Magnolia will be likewise a good fit. Is it an exact rendition of a southern summer dropping magnolia petals? Not exactly, but the overall effect is so fresh, surprising and uplifting that I, for once, don’t have any qualms.

More on magnolia perfumes and more on florals for men.


Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia Eau de Parfum includes notes of bergamot, magnolia headspace, vetiver, patchouli, cedarwood, amber, and tree moss. It is available at Frédéric Malle’s boutiques and department store counters. 10 ml/$125, 50 ml/ $175, 100 ml/$255.

Photography (top image) by Bois de Jasmin



  • Iodine: I can’t wait to try it! Your review fills me with hope- and I’m lately growing fonder of Lys Mediterranèe too… Fortunately my birthday is on the way 😉 May 27, 2014 at 7:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like perfect timing!

      And soon you can experience the real magnolias in bloom and compare the experience! 🙂 May 27, 2014 at 9:51am Reply

  • Michael: Glad you like Eau de Magnolia too, Victoria! Your review pretty much sums up my first impressions of the fragrance and I think it will smell even better on my skin as the weather gets warmer:

    I managed to get a sneak preview of Eau de Magnolia this evening and after testing it, first on paper and then on my skin, the first word that comes to mind is … ravishing! IMHO it’s another winner from Frederic Malle and perfect for spring and summer.

    I get a burst of sparkling, invigorating citrus – the bergamot lasts quite long for a top note – before it is gradually replaced by the sweet, heady aroma of magnolia flower. It does have that lemon ice cream (or even custard) scent, but I also detect a slightly spicy facet to the flower. The drydown is warm and slightly woody; you’ll be glad to know that the magnolia weaves itself in and out of the amber, cedarwood, patchouli and vetiver.

    I would definitely recommend testing Eau de Magnolia on your skin, as it smells much “rounder” and three dimensional than when you spray it on a card. May 27, 2014 at 7:40am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, on skin it’s much more interesting than on paper. This goes for many light, effervescent perfumes of its type. The warmth of skin makes it come alive, and it’s really a fun perfume to wear. May 27, 2014 at 9:51am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: You make it sound so appealing, Victoria. I’m looking forward to trying it. A hint of salt in floral compositions is always welcome. I still haven’t got around to testing all the FM perfumes but most of the perfumes I tried were so distinctive and unforgettable. May 27, 2014 at 8:04am Reply

    • Victoria: I do like a hint of salt with my flowers, and while here the effect is subtle, it really makes a difference.

      Today I’m wearing En Passant, since I got a craving for lilacs, and it’s hitting the spot perfectly. May 27, 2014 at 9:53am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Some white floral perfumes turn too buttery and creamy on me that without a hint of salt, I don’t think I would be able to tolerate them (e.g. OJ Frangipani).

        En Passant is lovely but a little sad. It really evoked lilac flowers drenched in spring rain for me. There’s something nostalgic and melancholic about lilac and I keep stopping by my neighbour’s house just to smell them. May 27, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, I see what you mean about En Passant, although to me, it doesn’t feel sad. But then again, I like the rainy days (I should living in Belgium!) 🙂 May 27, 2014 at 10:59am Reply

  • Alex: I think that Arquiste Boutonniere no.7 is more masculine (even it’s still floral) because of its vetiver and bergamot notes. Magnolia and citrus are too light and fresh for men skin. May 27, 2014 at 8:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I tried Eau de Magnolia on my husband and really liked it. There is still lots of citrus and vetiver in the composition to tame the flowers. May 27, 2014 at 9:54am Reply

  • Lucas: I dislike Arquiste Boutonniere No. 7 but you make FM Eau de Magnolia very appealing.
    I will try to sample it when this position becomes available in Poland. May 27, 2014 at 8:33am Reply

    • Victoria: They don’t smell alike! I only mention it in terms of character–green, citrusy, bright, lighthearted. But yes, good idea to give it a thorough test. May 27, 2014 at 9:55am Reply

  • Lauren B: Eeeee! This has been my most impatiently awaited release of the year so far. Unfortunately, I live in the middle of nowhere, so I’m going to have to wait until I can get a sample sent to me. Magnolias, je t’aime! May 27, 2014 at 9:05am Reply

    • Victoria: I already miss our spring magnolia extravaganza. There is a large tree in the neighborhood, and it looks and smells incredible. Are you south enough to enjoy the real magnolias? 🙂 May 27, 2014 at 9:57am Reply

      • Lauren B: Oh, yeah. They’re everywhere. And they’re huge! You mostly see grandifloras and sweet bays around here, and the grandiflora get as big as a freaking house! May 27, 2014 at 10:00am Reply

        • Victoria: Lucky you! The magnolias remind me of my grad school days. The town was not exceptional in most ways, but its magnolia trees were something special. I’ve never seen anything like it! May 27, 2014 at 10:02am Reply

  • Andy: This sounds so good to me already, I can’t wait to try it! May 27, 2014 at 9:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Can’t wait to hear your thoughts, Andy! This is a subtle tea effect too (maybe, not intentional, but I smell something tea like). May 27, 2014 at 9:58am Reply

      • Andy: Even when it’s far from it, vetiver always reminds me of certain black and oolong teas. Set behind the effervescent elements, I’m interested to see if I smell a hint of tea too! May 27, 2014 at 4:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also find that. Have you ever tried steeping vetiver in water? Sorry, if I asked you this already; I’ve been making the vetiver water for a while, and I’m a bit addicted to it. It tastes exactly the way vetiver smells–earthy, green, with a hint of hazelnut. May 27, 2014 at 5:23pm Reply

          • leathermountain: Glad you keep asking, because this is my first time hearing of it. Where do you find vetiver for potable infusions? May 27, 2014 at 5:44pm Reply

            • Victoria: I found it at Rose Mountain Herbs. But if you search for vetiver roots, you can come up with some other sources. And I just spotted that there is such a thing as vetiver curtains, which is giving me ideas… 🙂 May 27, 2014 at 5:49pm Reply

              • leathermountain: Those look fantastic! May 27, 2014 at 6:05pm Reply

                • Victoria: The magnolias in my title photo are the spring magnolias, by the way. May 28, 2014 at 7:53am Reply

          • Andy: I haven’t yet tried it, but I’d love to! Mountain Rose Herbs is my default herb supplier, and it seems that they no longer carry the vetiver. By the way, can you remind me of the “recipe”? Do you simply soak the roots in water, or does it involve boiling the water and pouring it over? May 27, 2014 at 6:35pm Reply

            • Victoria: If you find a source, please let me know. I’m sure others would be interested as well.

              To make vetiver water, you simply soak roots in cold water overnight. Almost like making the cold infused tea. Strain and enjoy. You can add a little bit of salt for a sel de vetiver effect. 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 7:55am Reply

              • Andy: Thanks! If I find a source I’ll let you know! May 29, 2014 at 9:57am Reply

  • Annikky: Thank you for this beautiful review, Victoria. You make Eau de Magnolia sound pretty perfect to me, especially as I adore Boutonniere No 7 and like Lys Mediterranee, too. Is it available already? I might have to undertake a quick visit to Senteurs d’Ailleurs… May 27, 2014 at 9:55am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! It’s easy enough to wax poetic, since it’s such a charming fragrance. 🙂

      It’s available at the boutiques in Paris already, so I’m guessing that S d’A should have it too. You can give them a call just to check. May 27, 2014 at 9:59am Reply

  • Joan: A southern girl here who loves magnolias! The perfume sounds great because I don’t like florals that are too heavy or sweet. Lys Mediterranne is the only FM I like, too. May 27, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Then you might really like it. It’s not a typical floral, and it’s really more like cologne/mossy cologne, very easy to like and wear. May 27, 2014 at 1:40pm Reply

  • columbine: how does it compare to Magnolia Nobile? May 27, 2014 at 11:54am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s more citrusy and much less sweet than Magnolia Nobile. Eau de Magnolia has plenty of floral notes, but the main impression is citrus, vetiver and moss, with floral evenly distributed throughout. Magnolia Nobile, on the other hand, is much more classically feminine with its generous dose of flowers. It’s lovely too, but Eau de Magnolia smells more natural, as it were. May 27, 2014 at 1:42pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I can’t wait to try this! The sort of lemony-fizz that you mention is one of my favorite parts of the magnolia smell. May 27, 2014 at 11:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Mine too! The first time I smelled magnolia, I couldn’t believe that it was a flower that gave off that lemonade/champagne like perfume. May 27, 2014 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Susan: I am such a fan of FM, but have bought all of mine blind because there is no retail source anywhere near me. Any suggestions about obtaining a sample or even a decant without having to wait months? May 27, 2014 at 12:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can try contacting them through their website. I think you can fill out a questionnaire and it allows you to get a couple of samples. Or you can buy a sample from Aedes de Venustas, which carries the line and has an excellent sampling service (samples are free if you make a purchase.)

      Or you can turn to Surrender to Chance, a reliable decanting service. They offer samples and decants in various sizes. May 27, 2014 at 1:45pm Reply

  • OperaFan: I remember reading about this project – oh, perhaps a couple years ago – I lose track of time…. So glad it has come to fruition. The magnolia tree is so glorious when in bloom though I’ve never been acquainted with her scent. Would love to sniff this one! May 27, 2014 at 1:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also remember reading it, but then I completely forgot about it. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Eau de Magnolia was in the making all along.

      If you see a blooming magnolia tree, I can’t recommend smelling its flowers highly enough. The spring magnolias we get on the East Coast are nowhere near as lush as the southern varieties, but they also smell wonderful. Like melted lemon ice cream over roses or apricots mixed with jasmine. May 27, 2014 at 1:47pm Reply

      • leathermountain: Which variety would you expect to find in Northern California, if I might ask a somewhat obscure question? I ask because there was a magnolia tree behind my early-childhood home (excellent climbing tree, I’d like to add), and I remember the smell vividly. But nothing like anything that has been described. Quite a lot more edge-of-rotten. I always loved it, but certainly found it a dirty, extravagant flower. Could we be talking about completely different plants? May 27, 2014 at 5:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t know that much about the North American plants, so your question made me curious, and I’ve googled it. This site is interesting, and it talks about different varieties:

          Magnolia I’m talking about is magnolia grandiflora, but it seems that there are many other varieties grown in CA. May 27, 2014 at 5:59pm Reply

          • leathermountain: Indeed! A trip to that botanical garden seems to be in order. May 27, 2014 at 6:12pm Reply

            • Victoria: I now really want to go as well. The pink magnolia called Darjeeling looks absolutely gorgeous. May 28, 2014 at 7:53am Reply

  • maja: “Like melted lemon ice cream over roses or apricots mixed with jasmine.” WOW.
    A friend has recently offered a small magnolia tree for me to plant in my garden but I was too lazy somehow. I’ll have to go back then!

    This is good news about Malle’s line. I have no idea if I’ll be able to sample this soon but I am looking forward to it. 🙂 May 27, 2014 at 5:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Check what variety she has, but many of them are strongly scented. Magnolia champaca is another plant that also grows well in the warm climate, and it smells so strongly that you can put one blossom in the room, and it will be enough to perfume the whole space.

      Do you have good perfumeries in your town or do you usually order online? May 27, 2014 at 5:52pm Reply

      • maja: Mostly online, there are a couple of Italians websites where I can order Malle. Not many shops carry this line. 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 8:30am Reply

        • Victoria: Well, if I had a garden where I could grow magnolias, maybe, I wouldn’t need them in perfume! 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

  • Eric: I can’t wait to try it. Among Malle’s fragrances, Cologne Bigarade is my top choice. I am one of those men who like experimenting with perfume and I am game for florals. May 27, 2014 at 5:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I posted a link under the article for some other florals that can be great on men, in case you’re curious to get few more ideas. Of course, gender when it comes to perfume is more a matter of marketing and cultural expectations; there are no rules set in stone. Have fun experimenting! May 27, 2014 at 5:55pm Reply

  • Patricia: Magnolia, green leaves, citrus, vetiver roots, and pale moss? Yes, please! I can’t wait to try it.

    How is the longevity? May 27, 2014 at 6:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Very good! Although it’s a light perfume, it’s extremely tenacious and has a great diffusion and presence. May 28, 2014 at 7:56am Reply

  • Julie: Lovely review! Thank you.
    I’ll be visiting the FM shop very soon 😉

    What does “headspace” mean/stand for?
    Also, is magnolia considered a white floral? May 27, 2014 at 7:58pm Reply

  • james1051: Others may have mentioned above, but the precocious early Spring blooming asian species and their hybrids, like the one in your photograph, smell quite different than the summer blooming evergreen varieties that are native to the south, and to which your review alludes. Same genus, very difference fragrances (both terrific in their own way).

    Which type of ‘magnolia’ does M. Malle present?

    Whichever it might be, I look forward to trying it. May 27, 2014 at 9:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: My photo is the Asian variety I encountered last month in Kyiv (where the blooming season was a bit later). It actually smelled closer to the grandiflora in its citrusy effervescent than other spring magnolias I’ve encountered, and the perfume is much closer to this bright, fresh scent than the true southern belle magnolia. But to study magnolia, I imagine that Malle and Benaim relied on the headspace of magnolia grandiflora. Or perhaps, there were several types, and they’ve simply let their imagination run wild. All in all, a magnolia note is recognizable. May 28, 2014 at 8:06am Reply

  • Austenfan: This sounds glorious. I really like Boutonnière No.7, so I have to try this. I’m way behind with the Malles as I haven’t tried Dries either yet. I like the photo! May 28, 2014 at 12:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: DVN wasn’t my favorite from the collection, and although I kept returning to it, it simply didn’t work for me. But Eau de Magnolia was an instant love. May 28, 2014 at 5:42pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I remember your review of DVN as not quite as enthusiastic as this one.
        Reading this review I kept thinking that you had finally found your “Magnolia”. May 29, 2014 at 12:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: It doesn’t smell exactly like the magnolia from my southern summers, I admit, but it’s such a beautiful perfume that I don’t care. It really conveys the lighthearted, carefree feeling and what could be more summery? 🙂 May 29, 2014 at 12:08pm Reply

          • Austenfan: Well I realise that a visit to Senteurs d’Ailleurs is called for! May 29, 2014 at 12:56pm Reply

            • Victoria: Senteurs d’Ailleurs is always a tempting place. 🙂 May 30, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

              • Austenfan: It is a dangerous place! I’ve already spent my entire perfume budget for this quarter. So a new Malle will have to wait. I may still go and have a sniff though.
                I need to restock on some tea as well. June 1, 2014 at 4:03pm Reply

                • Victoria: I also need new teas, and I might make a stop by that area soon. 🙂 June 3, 2014 at 3:04pm Reply

  • JCParodi: I love it!!!!
    the only thing that I was hoping for was that it came in the big splash bottles, like Eau de Hiver. It launched today in NYC FM, BTW it 255.00 for 100 ml. not 225. June 1, 2014 at 1:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for letting me know! And yes, a splash bottle would be great for this cologne.

      I will correct the price, thank you. June 1, 2014 at 3:12am Reply

  • Dl: Wonderful perfume! Reminds me of Roudnitska’s 60’s classics, namely Diorella and Eau Sauvage. Mostly Diorella though with the aqueous/fruity aspect in the heart, made ripe by the patchouli and moss. June 13, 2014 at 9:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can see what you mean, and yes, that contrast is exactly what makes Eau de Magnolia memorable. June 14, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

  • Ann: Hi Victoria!

    Interesting. Ever since I read your review, I’ve been retesting my small decant. Usually I am struck by how precisely your words explain what I smell, clarifying what I am experiencing perfectly–in way that I couldn’t put so well into words myself, but is exactly right. That is why it has been so strange that Eau de Magnolia has been so different for me. I’ll share my impression in case anyone else has the same…or perhaps there is just something in the musks being used that is leading my nose very much astray!

    For what it is worth– on me EdM starts with a bright, almost too bright opening of lemon ice, the slightly bitter kind made with lemon zest–bordering on a lemon cleaner but just avoiding it. There is a lovely middle space–that lasts about ten minutes once the lemon zest fades– that vaguely relates to the fusty oiliness (I mean that in a good way) of magnolia, and then all I get is generic petals and musk.

    It is not unpleasant, but nothing I would rush out to buy.

    But then again, perhaps when I test it another time in the future I will experience something totally different! June 22, 2014 at 6:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: It sounds like we are experiencing similar notes but we can them different things. It is very citrusy to start with, close to the real magnolia effect. And then it becomes more transparent. I notice musk, but on me it doesn’t dominate, maybe I’m not as sensitive to it as you are. But since everyone smells differently, I’m not surprised you notice and experience this perfume in a different way than I do. June 23, 2014 at 5:10am Reply

  • Carla: My last trip to Paris was light on the perfume shops and I didn’t even make my previously annual pilgrimage to Serge Lutens, but I did race to Frederic Malle to try this. So beautiful! I love those fruity citrusy chypre-y florals like Cristalle and Diorella.
    But I didn’t buy it because I have so many lovely florals that are not as expensive. It seems I content myself with inexpensive florals (Rive Gauche, Fracas and Odalisque are favorites) and when I spend a lot on a bottle it’s for an oriental or a chypre. I do love the entire Malle collection, though, and oh, exceptions to my inexpensive florals rule are his (or Ropion’s) Carnal Flower and Une Fleur de Cassie. Carnal Flower for excitement and Une Fleur de Cassie for comfort. October 20, 2014 at 1:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s the same reason why I decided I may not need it either. Today I’m wearing Une Fleur de Cassie, for instance, and it’s gorgeous. October 20, 2014 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Surbhi: I almost want to have all FM scents now. This one gets me so many complements in summer. And picks me up as well. So light so refreshing and it stays all day. Doesn’t overwhelm others around me but do create a happy vibe. I don’t have to think twice if it would be appropriate for an event / day / meeting friends / work. And for a fragrance which so risk free to get compliments and make you happy as well.. all I can say is Thank you Malle. December 25, 2015 at 7:07pm Reply

  • Alisa S. Burgess, Ph.D.: “Portrait of a Lady” is “Queen of the Night,” and “Carnal Flower” is “Norma,” (which happens to be my favorite…) July 3, 2020 at 6:01pm Reply

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