Unlike many when I desire a spring floral I tend to run away from rose in search of other parts of the garden. One flower which has become synonymous with spring is magnolia. Some of that comes from my grad school days in Georgia where it becomes one of the first scented flowers to pop after winter recedes. It also comes from owning some excellent perfumes which feature it. One of those is Grandiflora Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine.
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine was released at the beginning of 2014. It was one of two debut fragrances for the brand. Grandiflora was begun by Australian floral artist Saskia Havekes. For her first two perfumes she invited two perfumers to interpret the same flower, magnolia. One was composed by perfumer Michel Roudnitska called Magnolia Grandiflora Michel. The other perfumer was Sandrine Videault and hers was named Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine. Each of them is excellent interpretations of magnolia. M. Roudnitska’s appeals to me in the colder weather when I want a fuller floral. Mme Videault’s take is to find magnolia just as it bursts from its bud.
What she noticed when spending time with the natural source was an inherent green that read as “chypre” to her. Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine is a fragrance which takes that in a different direction by the end.
At the beginning we get grapefruit and pepper. This is such a spring morning accord. The slightly sulfurous grapefruit and the pepper picks up the dewy green and damp soil of dawn in the garden. The magnolia appears next as if it has just peeked out from its bud. This is where that significant green Mme Videault noticed is given some space. I always expect it to get greener. Mme Videault has other ideas. The flower comes more clearly out, giving a velvety floral quality taking the lead from the green. Now that the sun has risen, and the dew has burned off, the afternoon breeze of white musks expand and lift the magnolia up to be appreciated. A subtle suite of dry woods provides the base accord.
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.
This perfume represents a beginning and an end. It was the beginning of Mme Havekes Grandiflora perfume brand. She has gone on to add three more floral perfumes to the original two. All of them show the creativity she is known for in her floral designs.
It was also the last perfume made by Mme Videault as she passed away soon after finishing it. There are many who consider other perfumes she made as her best. I think Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine holds that honor.
If you have never heard of Grandiflora or Sandrine Videault they both should be on your radar now.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
There are few creative directors with the intimate knowledge of flowers that Saskia Havekes of Grandiflora has. Ms. Havekes is one of the premier florists in the world; her creative designs have been seen internationally from her base in Sydney, Australia. Four years ago, she branched out into fragrance with a pair of interpretations of magnolia by perfumers Michel Roudnitska and the late Sandrine Videault. Over the next two releases jasmine and the queen of the night would provide the floral keynotes. Through these first four the brand lived up to its name grand floral perfumes. For the fifth release Grandiflora Boronia instead of blooms to display we go into the greenhouse where they are growing.
Ms. Havekes re-teams with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, with whom she created Queen of the Night, for Boronia. Boronia is a floral native to Australia. M. Duchaufour had experienced it on a previous trip to the country and had wanted the opportunity to explore it in a perfume. Ms. Havekes had grown up surrounded by the flower and to her it was just part of the surroundings. As a florist she understood the tiny flowers with the vivid scent were perfect as the keynote for a fragrance.
Together they take us inside a greenhouse humid with green and growing things over which the scent of the newly opened boronia flowers drift on top of. M. Duchaufour has been producing simpler constructs over the last year or so. Boronia is a break from that with return to his style of over-stuffed architecture which carries nuance instead of noise.
In the beginning of Boronia, you close the greenhouse door behind you and you smell the soil and the green stalks with only a bit of floral scent making its presence known through the artificial humidity. Before you get to work you brew a pot of black tea which provides a break from the smells of nature. As you pull on some leather gardening gloves you touch the delicate blooms of Boronia and they emit a faceted floral accord which carries rose, magnolia, geranium, and osmanthus. These all surround and support the Boronia keynote. The leather and tea blend in as a cozy mise-en-scene as you tend to the flowers. Over time it turns predominantly woody and balsamic with vanilla and caramel providing a diffuse gourmand base accord.
Boronia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Boronia is a lovely departure from the style of the previous Grandiflora releases while still retaining a grandiosity coalesced around flowers. It couldn’t be any other way with something overseen by Ms. Havekes and M. Duchaufour. The difference is this is the florist’s workshop wherein she spends time getting to know her flowers. As a perfume lover you will want to enter the greenhouse and get to know Boronia.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Grandiflora.
One of the reasons I fell in love with hiking in the desert is despite what many might think there is so much to see. One of the things which has always drawn me is the number of things that happen for relatively short time in the desert milieu. In the spring it is the riot of color as the desert in bloom shows swathes of color on top of the barrenness. After we get through the heat of high summer there is a call back to that earlier time but it is only for the tine of one night. The Cereus cactus only blooms for one night usually from mid-September through October in the high desert. I remember one hike in the fall one year as I was stargazing with my binoculars. There was this wave of intensely vanillic smells which were coming from just outside the campsite. Interspersed with the smell of the desert at night it distracted me from the heavenly beauty above. As I got my flashlight and moved towards the smell I found a little cluster of cactus with these amazing fragile white blooms. I was amazed that it was just these few flowers that were producing this amount of scent. As I extinguished my light I leaned against a nearby boulder and went back to looking at the stars surrounded by this fantastic floral scent. These flowers, I found out later, only last for one night. I took for granted my fortune in being in the right place at the right time.
Because of this experience I was very interested in the fourth fragrance Owner/Creative Director Saskia Havekes was releasing for her Grandiflora brand called Queen of the Night after this Cereus cactus flower. I was also pleased to see she was collaborating with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. M. Duchaufour has a nifty skill at creating specific accords. In Queen of the Night this is shown as it really is a dance of three accords; one for the sand and stone of the desert, another for the cooling air of the desert night, and an accord to evoke the flower itself.
Because it is all about the flower that is what makes its presence known first. The Queen of the Night accord is primarily formed around a core of orange blossom. M. Duchaufour weaves other white flowers, tuberose and gardenia, in to amplify the indolic effect. Then he adds vanilla to finish this accord which is a creditable simulation of the real thing. Now he needs to add in the vault of the desert sky at night with the grounding element of the surface. For the desert night sky accord he uses a set of the more expansive aldehydes this adds a cooling transparency which overlays the Queen of the Night accord. Then from below the sand and stone thrust their way into things. Here M. Duchaufour takes incense and clove while surrounding them with some spices a bit of galbanum, patchouli, and sandalwood. It provides a craggy foundation for the other two accords to interact with.
Queen of the Night has 10-12 hour longevity about the same as the real bloom. The sillage is average.
M. Duchaufour under the direction of Ms. Havekes has done a very nice job of capturing a rugged terrain at a moment where it shows off a more pleasant side. The desert has always been about the power impermanence has in that unforgiving climate. Queen of the Night is also about that same effect.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Grandiflora.
The axiom “absence makes the heart grow fonder” rarely gets a workout when it comes to my favorite perfumers. Only in a very few cases do I wait very long for something new to be produced. One of those perfumers who by his absence does make my heart pick up a few beats when he decides to turn to perfume again is Michel Roudnitska. M. Roudnitska has made a grand total of twelve perfumes since 2000. Number twelve is the second fragrance by him for the new brand Grandiflora called Madagascan Jasmine.
Saskia Havekes outside her store Grandiflora (Photo: Nikki To for The Design Files)
Grandiflora is the brand owned and creatively directed by Sydney, Austalia florist Saskia Havekes. Ms. Havekes’ experience with artistic floral arrangements has led to her wanting to design fragrances every bit as original. The first two perfumes released in 2013 examined magnolia from the viewpoint of two different perfumers; M. Roudnitska and Sandrine Videault. M. Roudnitska’s version, Magnolia Grandiflora Michel, had a very expansive quality to it which I compared to Gauguin’s paintings while in Tahiti. Madagascan Jasmine is the opposite as it is a very tightly controlled experience. While it has its moments where it is big; it spends most of its time in an introspective place. It is here where M. Roudnitska passes a few different influences past the central jasmine followed by observation at what happens. This is a probing technique full of precise movements as together we use these interactions to explore the nature of jasmine.
Madagascan Jasmine does not have a traditional three phases of development. M. Roudnitska places his source of jasmine front and center. This is full spectrum jasmine, very heady showing off its narcotic floralcy along with its skanky heartbeat. This is the kind of jasmine I live for in perfume as I don’t want it civilized I want it full of life. That is what M. Roudnitska delivers. Over the next few hours the very few other notes interact with this jasmine. First up is a translucent green accord. Jasmine is night blooming and I associate it with the latest part of the evening as the mist begins to settle on its petals and the grass below has a muted feel. This is the early moments of Madagascan Jasmine as if you’ve discovered a vine of fully bloomed jasmine growing just outside your window at 4AM. This is as good as a jasmine soliflore gets and if it stayed here it would have been enough. M. Roudnitska has something else in mind as he begins to add a series of musks to the proceedings. A clean laundry musk provides a foil for the indoles. By adding in freshness it almost seems like it provokes a response from the indoles. Next comes one of the more animalic musks and this accentuates the floralcy while it harmonizes with the indoles. The musk here provides a thrumming backbeat for the incredibly sweet nature to rise up on top of it. Finally there is a sweet honeyed musk which provides the final bit of perspective as it pulls together all that has come before into a complete accord which captures a complex whole.
Madagascan Jasmine has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It would be fair to say I wish M. Roudnitska was more prolific. On the other hand it is the time he spends away from perfumery pursuing the other passions in his life which I believe makes his perfumes so special. M. Roudnitska spends his life observing as much of it as he can from differing points of view. When that is applied to designing a perfume the result is something as wonderful as Madagascan Jasmine. It is among the finest jasmine soliflores I have tried.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Grandiflora.