In nature, flowers are one of the greatest sources of inspiration for perfumers. And in the noses’ palette, there is one that particularly intrigues them for its sunny and lemony notes: the magnolia. It embellishes gardens with its colorful flowers while its bewitching, multi-faceted essence illuminates formulas. Discover all the shades of magnolia perfume in an article that smells like spring and summer!
The magnolia, an ancestral tree
The characteristics of the magnolia
Magnolias are a genus of trees and shrubs that belong to the botanical family Magnoliaceae. There are more than a hundred species, although not all are fragrant. Amazingly, it is one of the oldest flowering plants in the world. Researchers have found fossils of some specimens of this family that were already flowering at the time of the dinosaurs, more than 95 million years ago! Depending on the variety, the origins of the magnolia are diverse: China, Japan and North America.
If even Claude François sang of their beauty, it is because these trees are often very appreciated for their magnificent and abundant bloom. Magnolia flowers bloom from early spring to June. Adorned with shades of pink, yellow, white or red, they rise towards the sky with their star or tulip shape. Depending on the variety, they give off a flowery and a slightly lemony scent in their natural state. In the language of flowers, the magnolia is a sign of fidelity and expresses love for nature.
The story of a tree destined to be dumped
If the magnolia appeared before the beetles, its arrival in Europe is much more recent. In France, we hear about this mysterious tree for the first time in 1703. It was described by the renowned botanist Jacques Plumier on his return from Louisiana as “a large tree with evergreen foliage and delicately scented white flowers”. A few years later in 1711, the first specimen of Magnolia Grandiflora (one of the most fragrant varieties) arrived in France in a shipment from the New World. René Darquistade, a shipowner from Nantes with a passion for botany, fell under the spell of the bewitching flowers of what was then known as the “tulip laurel”. He decided to plant it inside the orangery of his castle as was common practice at the time. Not being a greenhouse plant, the poor tree withered over the years without ever blooming.
Fed up, Darquistade orders the plant to be cut down. But before the gardener can deal the fatal blow, the nobleman’s wife interferes and begs him to plant it in the garden. And there, as if by magic, the tree blossoms and begins to bloom abundantly! It then attracted a large number of horticulturists in the region and was exported in the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes where it became popular. The magnolia was renamed in honor of Pierre Magnol, a French doctor and botanist, director of the botanical garden of Montpellier.
The use of magnolia in perfumery
From the plant to the perfume
There are several hundred varieties of magnolias. In perfumery, the noses most often use two of them: the Magnolia Grandiflora, native to North America, and the Michela Alba, which is found in China in particular. The flowers are picked from May to June and then from August to November. It is only since the early 90’s that magnolia is used in the fragrance industry, even if its essence is still rare in the palettes of the fragrance designers. It is generally reserved for fine perfumery.
To incorporate the perfume of magnolia into compositions, the designer can use two types of essences. One is the essential oil extracted from the flower, with its fresh and voluptuous notes, and the essence of the leaves and stems of the magnolia. The latter is more complex to use with its herbaceous and aromatic tones. However, the nose can also reproduce the scent of magnolia in the laboratory using synthetic chemistry.
The perfume of magnolia, between the flower and the citrus fruit
In recent years, the magnolia perfume has seduced many noses with its springtime fragrance full of nuances. Its green, flowery and delicate smell is often reminiscent of jasmine. It is part of the floral olfactory family and is generally associated with white flowers whose facets are sensual and very bright. However, the perfume of magnolia is less opulent than its other white flower cousins. Its essence diffuses a great lemon freshness, with undertones of pear and rose. Then, it is a more solar and vanilla smell which comes to tickle the nostrils. Its scent remains soft and light, while being quite suave and voluptuous.
Thanks to its multiple facets, the magnolia perfume can be combined with many ingredients. Fragrance designers can play on its more floral aspect or accentuate its citrus notes.
Did you know the different notes of the magnolia fragrance?
Discover our fragrances