Not necessarily in that order.
Perfume taste is different in different parts of the world, and it’s even different between states in the US, which is admittedly a big place. New York likes strong novelty perfumes, the niche stuff, you smell a lot of ambroxan, a lot of synthetic oud. Jersey likes fruitchoulis, and up market Jersey buys Bond No 9 and Creed, especially Virgin Island Water. Connecticut so far as I can smell depends heavily on the township, from low to very high end. Californians I understand go for the flowered stuff and will buy naturals.
If you’re Southern though you have been born with a fondness for the smells of humid afternoons in late Spring. I know, because I was and the scent of magnolias, of gardenias, and of those big old weed trees locusts, are among my favorites. Now here is a new perfume from Pierre Bourdon no less, with a 60% concentration of magnolia absolute and I cannot get my hands on a sample!
If you’re new -or sort of new to perfumery- a word of explanation here, Pierre Bourdon is one of the greatest perfumers of recent decades. Retired now, he seems to have stepped out for the launching of a company of his own. Instead of the obligatory dozen perfumes he has five, two masculines and three feminines packaged in his sober good taste which runs I have read to Directoire furniture and reading Proust. So far as I can tell, people who’ve tried them like Le Grand Tour, the citrus masculine, and predictably La Dame en Rose which sounds a little like his Ferre or his Iris Poudre except that the notes don’t include the famous iris that was the basis of Iris Poudre. la Dame en Rose is a rose perfume under a raspberry chapeau and sounds quite flirtatious.
Still it’s Sous Les Magnolias that intrigues me, and this despite the fact that it contains my old nemesis musk. It also brims with magnolia, and if the perfume is as evocative of Southern lawns as Bourdon’s Dolce Vita was of Roman trattorias, then I must try it.
Partially this depends on the magnolia. Which kind is it? In any case, if it smells like Magnolia grandiflora (the old Bull Bay magnolias to us Americans) good, but if it smells like any of the other white flowering magnolias I am in. You see it’s that unique blending of the lemony and the creamy that makes the scent of magnolia so irresistible. Personally I love it even more than gardenia. There is something about the magnolia which speaks to any Southerner just as much as sweet tea does, and almost as much as fried chicken, especially buttermilk marinated fried chicken, but I digress.
It’s heartening to know that another master perfumer has made a seriously magnolia perfume. I confess that I could not smell the Eau de Magnolia of Frederic Malle and got mixed reports of the Magnolia Grandiflora duo by Michel Roudnitska and Sandrine Videault. Maybe this time I will smell the magnolias in the bottle. It may not be Dumbarton Oaks in spring but this far north, I take what I can get. Do you have a favorite magnolia perfume?
*When I was a child the matrons of Howard County used to argue about fried chicken, but generally it was conceded that marinating the chicken overnight in cold buttermilk before drying, flouring, egging and rolling in batter produced a very succulent result. Otherwise techniques varied, and my British mother covered herself in shame by using Shake n’ Bake!