January 29, 2014
Michel Roudnitska (l.) and Sandrine Videault
The very first post on CaFleureBon back in March of 2010 was by perfumer Michel Roudnitska on the necessity for a set of ethical principles to be followed by the perfume industry. Ever since he has been named an Honorary Contributor and has infrequently graced our pages with something special. In January of 2012 he shared a number of pictures of his family’s famous garden in Cabris, France during the winter. Those gardens have been the inspiration for some of the best perfumers we know who were trained by Michel’s father Edmond Roudnitska. Those gardens have been the perfume equivalent of Helen of Troy inspiring and launching if not a thousand fragrances, then probably a hundred. Now through the persistence of Sydney, Australia floral designer Saskia Havekes two of the more itinerant perfumers to be influenced by those gardens in Cabris have released two more around the magnolias that grew there; Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine and Magnolia Grandiflora Michel.
Sandrine is the recently departed Sandrine Videault and Michel is Michel Roudnitska, himself. Both of them are iconoclasts who disdain the restraints of working for anyone but themselves. Both perfumers have spent long periods of time in the South Pacific around Australia experiencing life on their terms. It is why, in the case of both of these perfumers, the few creations which actually make it into our hands; there is a palpable joie de vivre. For these two fragrances both Mme Videault and M. Roudnitska start at the same place, next to the magnolias in the garden in Cabris but the perfumes take two separate and fascinating vectors from that starting point.
Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth by Martin Johnson Heade (1890)
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine is a revelatory fragrance into all of the nuances within its titular bloom. In the press kit she speaks of the common lemony character and the slightly waxy quality but she also detected a chypre quality deep underneath the obvious and by adding in other fruity notes she more fully allows Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine to achieve the rarest of feats by exposing someone wearing it to the familiar in a whole new way.
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine opens with a perky duet of grapefruit and pepper. The grapefruit has its more sulfurous qualities on display or at least the presence of the pepper makes them more noticeable. Out of that piquant opening bursts a magnolia flower as if it was a bud opening on a time-lapse reel. From peppery citrus all of a sudden a velveteen floral accord sweeps all of the top notes aside. There is a heavy green component which is where the chypre comparison comes from as it feels like at any moment it is going to leap out and take over but it stays in the background, tantalizingly so. Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine ends on a beautiful sea breeze full of ozonic notes along with the perfect amount of sheer musk. Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine is a flat out brilliant piece of perfumery which illuminates the mundane into the magical.
Tahitian Landscape by Paul Gauguin (1897)
M. Roudnitska wanted his version Magnolia Grandiflora Michel to capture the floral bloom at the precipice of its beauty. M. Roudnitska’s vision is a continuation of the Technicolor florals he has done in the past. There has always been a “Gauguin in Tahiti” style to those creations where everything seems brighter and larger than life. Magnolia Grandiflora Michel gives that treatment to magnolia.
Grapefruit is also the entry to M. Roudnitska’s version but he allows it to be complemented by bergamot. Lemon heralds the entry of the magnolia and this is a fleshy humid bloom. The lemon and the waxy qualities are enhanced. It feels as if I had a sprig pinned to the inside of my shirt on the days I wore this. To keep the intensity jasmine and rose are used to provide some longevity and a floral foundation upon which the magnolia can display itself. The wood underneath the bloom arises with a mix of vetiver and patchouli. It is the sturdy trunk upon which this one perfect flower is attached. Magnolia Grandiflora Michel celebrates the heartbreaking moment of realized potential before the inevitable decline. It is as good as it gets.
Both Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine and Magnolia Grandiflora Michel have all-day longevity and prodigious sillage.
I think it is human nature to always want more from those we deem the most talented. Mme Videault sadly leaves Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine as her parting words to us. M. Roudnitska continues to let inspiration rise naturally and infrequently. Both of these fragrances show that a beautiful life live to its fullest leads to beautiful olfactory art. Separately these would both be top of the line but taken together they do what Joni Mitchell implores us to do in her song “Woodstock”; to get ourselves back to the garden, just outside of Cabris.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Luckyscent.
Thanks to our friends at Luckyscent we have a sample set of both fragrances to giveaway. This is a US only draw. To be eligible leave a comment on which one you think you would like best and that you live in the US. The draw will end on February 2, 2014.
We announce the winners only on site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS option…or your dream prize will be just spilled perfume.
-Mark Behnke, Managing Editor