Magnolia: The Note + The Fragrances


Post by Ainslie Walker


There’s hype about Magnolia. For us Australians it’s led by the release of Grandiflora’s two Magnolia Grandiflora inspired perfumes, Sandrine and Michel. At Sydney Perfume Lover’s Meet Up this week we met Saskia Havekes in her flower workshop. She talked us through the emotional and fairytale-like journey she has undertaken, getting these two fragrances to market – a 4 year process, plus more than 25 years hard slog as a floral designer!

For those of you in Europe, if you are lucky enough to be seeing the big waxy blooms of a magnolia tree waving at you from above: HOORAY!! Spring is finally on it’s way, breaking through the dreary, dragging grey of winter and bringing a sparkle of hope for longer, brighter days.

Magnolia Grandiflora WikipediaPhoto Stolen Wikipedia

Magnolias are considered one of the most ancient flowering plants, even preceding bees. It was bugs that helped these big blooms to fertilize. If you don’t know what they look like pop to the nearest park or botanic gardens containing one– they truly are something old-worldly and special. Stand near one, shut your eyes and listen. Often you will hear petals crashing through leaves to the ground. Petals are big, thick and kind of tough for a flower. Breathe deep. The blooms smell different when first opened to when closed, by day and by night, in summer and in spring. The big white waxy flower petals weigh heavy and remind me of floppy bunny ears. When I think Magnolia I think about movement and change. Strength and beauty. Spend some time getting to know Magnolia trees and their huge blooms.

Magnolia Grandiflora Flower WikipediaPhoto Stolen Wikipedia

Magnolia as a perfume note is considered creamy, sweet and lightly citrus. Perfumers play with the citrus, green, aquatic and or spice notes to individualize, add dimension and express their interpretations, eg representing the whole tree / the flower/ the surroundings. Many say the Magnolia note is a bit of a “non-event”…perhaps that’s the reason for the artistic license of the perfumer – trying to represent such a magnificent flower, with only so few clues?

Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine

Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine Grandiflora FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords in one line:
Lemon, grapefruit, white pepper, green notes, woody notes, watery notes and musk

Michel and Sandrine interpret magnolia quite differently:

With Sandrine I observed notes of citrus, grapefruit and lots of pepper on first whiff, followed by fresh astringent green and dry wood accords, blurring with gentle-ish marine (I’m not an “aquatic” fan…but this passes) and musk undertones. It is the whole tree, growing in Sydney Harbour. It is unusually beautiful and breezy. The journey dances you through the branches of the magnolia tree, passing all its components of leaves, woods, and blooms, in the sea breeze. It was the final fragrance made by Sandrine Videault before she sadly passed away, last year, so there is a very emotional air in the perfume world about this one too. It seems to contain not only the spirit of Magnolia but encapsulates an essence of its creator also.

Magnolia Grandiflora Michel

Magnolia Grandiflora Michel Grandiflora FragranticaPhoto Stoilen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords in one line:
Grapefruit, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, magnolia, vetiver, patchouli and musk

Michel immediately hits as a white floral, with rounded citrus top notes, lemon, and bergamot, not as sharp or dry as Sandrine. Patchouli and vetivert, add depth. Hints of green – a nod to the tree. Magnolia, Jasmine, Rose and ylang make it more palatable for the masses. It’s like your face is pressed inside one of the big flowers – but, Michel adds a touch more than nature provided the poor Magnolia flower – amping it up somewhat.

Further reading: Grain de Musc and Jordan River on Australian Perfume Junkies
LuckyScent has both US$185/100ml
Peony Melbourne has both AUD$185/100ml

Ainslie Walker x

There are loads of fragrances that list Magnolia as an ingredient here are a few below for you to go sniff ;

Acqua Di Parma – Magnolia Nobile
J’Adore – Dior
Tokyo milk – Paridiso
Chloe – Eu De Parfum
Allure – Chanel
Gucci Flora – Gucci Glamorous,
Kenzo – Eu De Fleur De Magnolia,
Santa Maria Novella – Magnolia,
Yves Rocher – Magnolia

17 thoughts on “Magnolia: The Note + The Fragrances

  1. Awesome! Cannot wait to get my nose on these, they both sound beautiful.
    The greatest magnolia’s created so far to me are:
    Mito by Vero Profumo
    Zelda by Envoyage Perfumes
    Mangolio de Verano by Exotic Island Perfumer
    All a must sniff if you’re a fan of the note!
    Lovely write up


  2. Great read Ainslie, thanks.
    There’s another Aussie magnolia perfume that was released late last year, my Fleur de Magnolia. I haven’t tried the two Grandiflora magnolias so I can’t compare them, but mine is pretty intensely green and floral and lovers of this flower may find it interesting.



  3. Beautiful review, Ainslie! It was lovely to meet you! Following the meet up I visited Grandiflora’s pop up shop in East Sydney and picked up a full bottle of Sandrine. So glad I did, have been enjoying it very much.

    Tina G xx


    • I should add – I agree with your comment “The journey dances you through the branches of the magnolia tree, passing all its components of leaves, woods, and blooms, in the sea breeze” – a lovely description. On one of my first trials it was like someone had just squashed a magnolia bud under my nose, dewy, green with a hint of floral. On these humid warm days the full open bloom is there wafting in the breeze with the woodiness of suporting branches. So, yes, I have been ‘enjoying’ it…! 🙂


      • Thanks Tina – glad you bought some – it did sound as though it really resonated with you! Also how nice are the boxes?! Something to treasure. Hope to see you again soon xx


  4. I’ve been able to try both of these. Your descriptions reminded me of the differences – and they are very different perfumes. Overall, I liked Michel better just because it does smell more floral. Sandrine smells very crisp, bright, and much more citrus. I love gardenia in perfumes so was excited to try these. Thanks for the excellent review!


  5. Pingback: Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine and Magnolia Grandiflora Michel 2013 « AustralianPerfumeJunkies

Comments are closed.