When Chypre Meets Cologne – Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia Perfume Review

Eau de Magnolia by Carlos Benaim for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle
Eau de Magnolia by Carlos Benaïm for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

It seems that the world’s greatest, and possibly only perfume curator is spoiling us. Last year, after four years of long, painful silence, Frédéric Malle launched the extraordinary Dries van Noten – a perfume that genuinely is like no other, and this summer he is generously treating the world to yet another, brand new fragrance. It seem that, much like buses, Monsieur Malle’s perfumes come in multiples and after a lengthy wait. But who are we to complain?

The new edition to the extensive and wonderful Editions de Parfums library is entitled ‘Eau de Magnolia‘ and is penned by venerable perfumer Carlos Benaïm, the man behind scents such as Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb and Dior’s Pure Poison. The fragrance is billed as both an entirely new take on the classic ‘Eau de Cologne’ as well as a beautiful presentation of the magnolia flower, and one should see it as a perfume that sits somewhere smack bang in the middle of these two things.

“This time the conversation between Frédéric Malle and Carlos Benaïm was on the headspace analysis of the magnolia and the fact that the flower is closer to an Eau de Cologne than to a classic flower. Carlos then suggested to magnify the hesperidic equilibrium of the Magnolia to enhance the Eau effect and to add a woody vibration to give it depth and sensuality. The result is a fresh chypre, an extraordinarily transparent and very natural, smelling note, animated by a somber base (vetiver, patchouli) that gives it a touch of mystery. A timeless summer perfume.”

Magnolia blooms sing with a complex profile of odours that range from the zesty smell of lemons to the waxy and almost cheesy scent of gardenia flowers. It’s a truly versatile bouquet that can radiate with freshness or revel in plush creaminess, depending entirely on how it it used. Frédéric Malle and Carlos Benaïm’s take on magnolia errs on the fresher side of things, creating a perfume that veers from eau de cologne to floral chypre in an incredibly enjoyable manner.

“A Seamless Continuation of the Magnolia”: A Conversation Between Frederic Malle and Carlos Benaïm.

The Notes

Bergamot, Magnolia, Grapefruit, Vetiver and Oak Moss

How Does it Smell?

As promised, Eau de Magnolia opens with zesty, fresh and hespiridic notes. Lemon, bergamot and a twist of lime come together to create something that sparkles, soothes and sours with the clarity of summer citrus. The vibrancy of grapefruit adds a touch of acidity to the proceedings, making for a stimulating and cooling affair that seems expertly crafted for summer. The effect isn’t quite drinkable, as one often gets with citrus-filled eau de colognes, but it certainly has an enjoyably revitalising impact at first sniff that, for want of a better word, really is refreshing.

Up top things may be all ‘Eau de Cologne’ but as Eau de Magnolia‘s kaleidoscopic citrus fanfare settles, the feel becomes decidedly more chypre-esque. The white flowers in the heart are fresh, crisp and green, evoking the image of ripe buds delicately popped on top of tall stems and big leaves. There’s a nice sharpness to the floral tones in the heart too, giving Malle’s ode to the humble magnolia a diffusive and transparent feel in a distinctly chypre manner.

As it dries down, Eau de Magnolia becomes more transparent still and opts to rest its pretty little head on a bed of pale green moss and vetiver grass. Delicate touches of patchouli add a third dimension, pushing the disparate elements of chypre and cologne into the air, creating a greater sense of liveliness and emphasising the gorgeous feel of citrus-tinged greenery that makes one ache for summer air and the beautiful sense of dreamy languor that it brings.

It would be fair to say that Eau de Magnolia is not the most unique, surprising or daring composition within Frédéric Malle’s collection. It wont be joining the likes of Carnal Flower, Portrait of a Lady, Une Fleur de Cassie, Geranium Pour Monsieur and Vetiver Extraordinare as the pinacle of their respective genres, that’s for sure. What it will be seen as however, is a thoroughly well-executed summer fragrance that brings the eau de cologne and the chypre together in perfect harmony. I for one could certainly see myself reaching for it regularly when the mercury rises. But then again, I am a sucker for anything vaguely related to a white floral, aren’t I?


Edition de Parfums Frederic Malle’s Eau de Magnolia is available in 3x10ml (£75), 50ml (£105) and 100ml (£145) Eau de Parfum.

Image 1 via nezdeluxe.pl. Video and quote via Frederic Malle. Notes via Now Smell This.