More Magnificent Magnolias (your nose needs to know…)

You may have noticed we’re fully embracing a spring-fling of magnificent magnolia fragrances to wear this season, so from that initial edit of some favourite magnolia scents, and having taken a closer look at the science and history behind why we (and perfumers) adore the smell of magnolia; now we’re going in for a second floral frolic.

Which of these have you tried so far? Your nose is going to need to smell them ALL, and we’re pretty sure you’ll fall – or rather, spring – for at least one…

 

 

Sprig of magnolia on a marble worktop
Magnolia branch

 

 

 

The Merchant of Venice Blue Tea

 

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE BLUE TEA

With each fragrance celebrating rare ingredients traded on the Spice Routes in their ancient home of Venice, it’s fitting the mysterious blue tea takes centre stage, here – housed in possibly TMOV’s most glorious bottle to date. The wardrobe-style box reveals the be-tasselled Chinoiserie flacon – and inside that, a melange of hushed magnolia magnificence, butterfly pea-flower leaves (never before used in perfumery) adding freshness to the floral and nutmeg infusion, which offers a deeply satisfying woody finale.

£205 for 100ml eau de parfum harrods.com

 

 

 

Dsquared2 Wood

 

DSQUARED2 WOOD POUR FEMME

This magnolia-fused scent bubbles over with the vivacity of an escaped giggle – Sicilian mandarin and raspberry leaf dancing with the clarity granted by lily of the valley and the clarity of that magnolia. Shards of luminescent jasmine pierce the peach-skin fuzziness of osmanthus, and the musky, woody base feels like ice crystals formed on a cashmere scarf. A joyfully exuberant yet totally modern take on laid-back, cheeky chic.

£59.50 for 50ml eau de toilette theperfumeshop.com

 

 

 

Memoize London Concordia

MEMOIZE LONDON CONCORDIA

‘Despite life’s greatest challenges and difficult moments, your inner smile, sense of composure and stability has always shone through,’ says Memoize. Fruity pomegranate, bergamot and orange with a hint of pink peppercorn fizzes to the floral heart of floral orris, mellow magnolia and transparent jasmine, as more fruitiness sustains via green fig and ripe plum. The complex dry-down offers notes of opulent patchouli, vanilla and white musk, juxtaposing cool, green vetiver.

£177 for 100ml eau de parfum In our shop

 

 

LABORATORIO OLFATTIVO DECOU-VERT

 

LABORATORIO OLFATTIVO DECOU-VERT

Binding the sultry side of magnolia to a flourish of green leafiness, an extraordinary aquatic feeling is evoked – the sensation of water droplets gathered in buds which then bloom into a whole wild woodland of flowers: lily of the valley, wild jasmine, lilac trees granting a shady pathway as the perfumed warms on skin. Later, the beguiling but light trail of white musks is suffused with drifts of pollen from the magnolia trees. Hypnotically beautiful.

£90 for 100ml eau de parfum parfum-muse.com

 

 

 

Yardley Magnolia & Fig

Yardley Magnolia & Fig

Brimming with joyfulness, this light-filled ode to spring is bursting with those opulent magnolia flowers – there’s a feel for the textures of the tree here, from the elegant branches balancing the blooms to the bright green leaves all soaked from April’s showers then warmed in gentle sunlight. The fig note adds a creaminess, reminiscent of the waxy-petalled flowers, as piquant cassis balances smooth patchouli and the dewy grassiness of vetiver in the base.

£16.99 for 100ml eau de toilette boots.com

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Magnolia: History, Scented Myths & the Science of Lust

This month, among other spring blooms that have inspired perfumers, we’re focusing on the stop-in-your-tracks beauty of magnolia. From our initial edit of some favourite magnolia-centric scents we simply can’t get enough of right now, to later features exploring the differing delicate (and sometimes surprising) aroma facets that can be coaxed from those magnificent blooms; today’s topic takes a look at some of the fascinating myths and history that surround this ancient flower…

 

Named after a renowned French botanist, Pierre Magnol, who first came up with the ingenious concept of classifying flora into ‘plant families’, the flowering of the magnolia tree has to be one of the most outrageous shows in nature – those fat fists of buds suddenly bursting and producing saucer-sized, chalice-like blooms that have so often stopped me in my tracks to gasp at their audacity.

Originating in both Asia and the Americas, there are around 200 different species, and they’re thought to be one of the most ancient flowering plants, dating back to prehistoric times: as we noted in our first magnolia feature, it’s kind of mind-blowing to realise that dinosaurs could have sniffed their blooms – though not yet been able to daub themselves in the scent, poor things.

 

 

The secret of a magnolia’s aroma is found in their thick, waxy ‘tepals’ (a primitive combination of petals and sepals), where chemical scent compounds including the citrus-y smelling linalool (a naturally occurring terpene alcohol) are exuded. As Judith Adam exclaims in the blog gardenmaking.com, ‘Creamy magnolia blossoms in the crisp spring air are the fulfilment of a gardener’s winter dream,’ and the very temperature of the air can dramatically alter the aroma of a magnolia’s blossom. ‘Consequently,’ she explains, ‘magnolias can smell like sweet candy, spicy verbena, tart lemon, citrus-honey or dusty violets.’

In ancient China, magnolias were symbolic of womanly beauty and gentleness, of nobility and dignity, and an Emperor might graciously deign to gift you a magnolia as a sign of great respect; while in the American South, bridal bouquets often contained magnolias, thought to emphasise the bride’s purity. But this innocent side of magnolia’s charm is juxtaposed by their more potently sensual charms…

The beauty of the magnolia blooms has historically been a popular image for artists to attempt to capture, and pioneer photographer Imogen Cunningham became famous (one might even say infamous) in the early 1920s for her close-up images of magnolias – her work often tut-tutted at over teatime gossip that her floral photos were overtly sexual, focusing as they did on the rather phallic arrangement of stamen and petals, and receiving the same criticism levelled at painter Geogie O’Keefe, whose exotic floral studies were thought to be rather, ahem, labial in nature.

 

Imogen Cunningham Magnolia Blossom c.1925

 

The multi-faceted magnolia is one of those white floral ingredients that perfumers (and perfume lovers) just adore, and there may be a scientific reason we’re so enraptured by their scent. And innocence has nothing to do with it.

Researchers at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany have shown that the lining of the human nose has a specific type of receptor called VN1R1. So when we stand under a magnolia tree and inhale, methyl dihydrojasmonate [an airborne compound released by magnolia flowers] directly binds to that nasal receptor, triggering an area of the brain linked with motivation and memory.

 

 

Collaborating with a research team at the University Hospital Dresden, the scientific team also discovered magnolia activates the hypothalmus, which regulates hormone levels. According to the article ‘Sensual Scents – How Magnolias Turn on the Human Brain’ in The BioPhiles blog, ‘The effect seems specific to magnolias and jasmine,’ as further tests with other floral compounds had no effect on that receptor. ‘It seems magnolias are in fact producing the scent of romance – or at least lust,’ the piece concludes.

From evoking purity to provoking carnal lust, is it any wonder modern floral fragrances are still waxing lyrical about this creamy, dreamy scent…?

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Guerlain Sakura Cherry Blossom Limited Edition – ‘When spring is reborn’

Since the year 2000, every spring the limited edition Guerlain Sakura Cherry Blossom is a breathtaking moment to pause and immerse ourselves in beauty, and oh how welcome that chance can be. Just as Japanese rituals around cherry blossom have taken place for centuries, Guerlain’s annual celebration of scent, exquisite artisan craftsmanship and nature combine in the most breathtaking way…

Says Guerlain: ‘For the House, this is the perfect opportunity to combine original artistic collaboration with the most virtuosic creators of artistic crafts. This year is an especially outstanding occasion, as it marks the 170th anniversary of the iconic Bee Bottle.

For its precious 2023 Millésime, Guerlain has asked the Ateliers Vermont, a prestigious Parisian embroidery house, to create the magical adornment of its Bee Bottle. A delicate cherry tree branch in blossom, nestled on a grosgrain bow, which expresses both the peerless expertise of French Haute Couture and the timeless poetry of the most moving of Japanese traditions.

 

 

To celebrate a poetic ritual the Japanese call hanami (literally “flower viewing”), friends and families get together to admire sakuras. Under the cherry trees, the delicate blooms fall without wilting, “flower rafts” float on streams, and petals flutter in the breeze like delicate butterflies.’

The bottles are snapped up by collectors, each of them hand-adorned and art pieces to treasure forever, and each year we think: oh, this is the most beautiful version yet! Of course, the fragrance itself must reflect the ethereal, life-affirming beauty of the cherry blossom spectacle itself:

‘Perfumers must therefore invent a fragrance which can express both the infinite grace of its flower-laden branches and the emotion of those who gaze at them,’ Guerlain explain.

 

 

‘First, bergamot, an olfactory signature of the House, sheds its golden light on the fragrance. A fresh, subtle green tea accord recalls another of Japan’s ancient rituals, while threading the luminous overture with the heart of the fragrance through its floral tones. In the heart notes, the Guerlain Perfumers, artisans of the sublime, have embroidered the delicate petals of the sakura blossom one by one onto the precious olfactory materials of their palette… Tender facets of almond, cherry, and powdery lilac, enhanced by a pearl-white jasmine, conjure their airy corollas. Carried by a breeze of white musks, these flowers fluttering on slender branches herald the rebirth of spring with the most delicate of fragrances.’

 

Guerlain Sakura Cherry Blossoms is priced at €700 in Guerlain boutiques