Grandiflora‘s two magnolia fragrances are the latest in the wave of magnolia scents launched over the past half-year or so (see my review of another noteworthy launch, Zelda, here). Magnolia Grandiflora Michel was created by Michel Roudnitska, and Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine was created by Sandrine Videault, who was trained in part by Michel’s father, the legendary Edmond Roudnitska.
Magnolia Grandiflora Michel (Michel) is a blooming white magnolia, a luscious exploration of the creamy, sweet, and lemony aspects of the flower. It is a magnolia in bloom in every since of the word, beautifully and skillfully blended. If not for really searching for them, and for the flowering of ylang ylang trees that are currently surrounding me, I wouldn’t pick out the individual notes in Michel. But since I was looking, I smell distinct notes of lemon, ylang ylang, vanilla, vetiver, and milk. The lasting impression is of a rich, creamy floral. The ingredients smell like they are of very, very good quality.
Roudnitska’s interpretation of magnolia almost perfectly matches how the flower smells, which is impressive. But for me, it doesn’t capture the magical quality the flower, its size and the brushed waxy feeling of its flowers. Magnolias are almost other-worldly, and Michel doesn’t reflect that. It feels too restrained, too sedate. It doesn’t help that the perfume wears very close to the skin. It is beautiful, but I wanted a more extravagant experience.
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine (Sandrine) is a starched magnolia. If Michel’s interpretation is the fresh flower, Sandrine’s is a bloom that has been picked, sprayed with a copious amount of starch (the smell of starch is actually there), and laid out in a white bathroom. It is one of the more surprising perfumes I’ve smelled. Although I recognize that there is a lot going on structurally—a green-forward, chypre-influenced approach to the scent of magnolia, for example—the end result is so unusual that I find, when wearing it, that I can’t attend to the parts. Sandrine smells, most of all, like an ultra high end version of Ivory soap or wet wipes. It is the kind of scent that reminds me how iconic functional product scents can be, but simultaneously makes me sad that I can’t appreciate a perfume that smells like one. Although Sandrine takes those smells and really does build on them to create a complex perfume, in my case the damage is done. My nose is programmed. All I can feel is that I’m wearing a $185 bottle of Ivory soap.
While neither of these perfumes lived up to my personal hopes, I have to say that the brand has done a lot of things I like. They launched just two perfumes to start, in pretty bottles with especially pretty labels (in person, they are a beautiful rose gold and moss green respectively, with a subtle sheen that looks very classy). They were very kind about providing me with samples in the store, and their sales assistant was very knowledgeable. Lastly, $185 for 100 ml is a fairly standard price in the niche market today. (Although I would, of course, have loved to see a smaller bottle offered, had I wanted to buy one of these.) With all these nice practices in place, I can sit back and hope Grandiflora will launch future perfumes that will be precisely my cup of tea.
For a different and more satisfied take on Magnolia Grandiflora Michel and Sandrine, see Denyse’s review on Grain de Musc.
Sandrine Videault has, sadly, passed away. While this particular fragrance is not a favorite with me, I approach it with respect and appreciation for her undoubted talent. My heartfelt condolences go to her family and loved ones.
Images courtesy Fragrantica.