* for the next three days, I’ll be publishing posts about the recently launched perfumes by renowned Australian florist and author, Saskia Havekes. Her brand, Grandiflora, is based in Sydney and a couple of weeks ago, I spent time with her, listening to the story of how she created two perfumes, named after the perfumers who created them. Sandrine and Michel were created with great joy and also great sadness; Sandrine’s creator, perfumer Sandrine Videault, passed away in 2013. Today and tomorrow I’m publishing my own thoughts on these two new fragrances. My third blog post is an interview with a very candid Saskia, who talked with me about her Scent Adventure into the world of perfumery.
It is not every year the world is given the privilege of being able to own a new perfume by Michel Roudnitska. Michel is the son of legendary French perfumer, Edmond Roudnitska, a man responsible for inspiring many of world’s leading contemporary ‘noses’ and the tutor of a chosen few. Although his resume of published perfumes is relatively short, most historians agree that almost all of Edmond Roudnitska’s perfumes are classics and often changed the course of perfume history. As his father did, Michel resides in Cabris, a small village close to Grasse. There he manages the family business, producing perfumes for a select clientele. Michel rarely steps away from production to work as a creative perfumer; in the past, writing and photography has been his main outlet for creativity. In an interview with perfume blogger Bois de Jasmin in 2005, Michel talked about how he came to revisit the idea of being a perfumer, after a decade of living abroad. Although in Michel’s youth, his father gave him a practical education in perfumery, composing his own perfumes was a skill Michel discovered later in life by his own means. Many of the perfumes he composed for names such as Frederic Malle and Parfums DelRae took years and hundreds of trials to complete. In the case of Magnolia Grandiflora Michel, it was an idea that came to Michel, as a child, sitting under the magnolia tree that grew on the family property in Cabris. The flower’s intoxicating scent fascinated a young Michel and he decided he would one day replicate its scent as a perfume. Around twenty years ago he perfected his wish. But this was a personal perfume, not created for any design brief, and not intended to be produced. It wasn’t until Michel met Australian florist, Saskia Havekes and her Grandiflora team that the idea to launch the fragrance surfaced. Knowing Saskia had been working on a magnolia fragrance with Sandrine Videault, a pupil of his father, the formula for Michel was the perfumer’s gift to Saskia after Sandrine’s sad passing last year. To honour the two perfumers, the perfumes in the Magnolia Grandiflora collection are named after their respective creators, Sandrine and Michel.
Like most solifores; Magnolia Grandiflora Michel is a variety of notes that form a focused essay on one flower, in this case, the magnolia grandiflora. It is a single-frame snapshot in the flower’s life, when the magnolia is in full bloom and the scent is at its sweetest. The perfume begins with dew-drenched notes of magnolia, faceted by short-lived flashes of greenery and citrus. You can almost feel the pearls of dew rolling down the flower’s waxy petals. Michel Roudnitska turns up the nectar-like sweetness of magnolia by pairing it with notes of ylang ylang and jasmine. A rose-jasmine-ylang ylang combination adds to the perfume’s dramatic suggestion of perfumes from the past and I cannot help but feel Michel’s reverential nod towards the work of his father, particularly the style he developed later in his career before his retirement. In the 1980’s, advances in technology enabled the colorization of black and white films from earlier in the century. With new advances in perfume chemistry, Michel feels to me, like a 21st century Diorella and Diorissimo double feature, recolourised with hints of watery marine notes, new qualities of musk and raw materials that didn’t exist when Edmond Roudnitska was in his prime. Although Michel is undeniably modern, there is something comfortingly ‘old world’ about it, even with the consideration that it was composed more than 20 years ago. It feels cliché to say that perfume houses rarely make perfumes like this anymore, but – perfume houses rarely make perfumes like this anymore. At its base, musk brings warmth to the perfume and a subtle, deconstructed chypre accord of patchouli and vetiver completes the pyramid of notes.
Michel is a gorgeous floral perfume and will undoubtedly attract a large female following. As a men’s fragrance, I presume it will require a more adventurous male to embrace this heady bouquet of flowers. That being said, I get a lot of feedback from men, who wear Diorella, which Edmond Roudnitska made for Christian Dior in the early 1970’s after he rocked the perfume world with Eau Sauvage in the mid 1960s. Leading perfume critic, Luca Turin, describes Diorella as a “perfected Eau Sauvage and one of the best masculines money can buy.” For a man that is unfearful of exploring floral perfumes, and like me, has a soft spot for the classic Diors, I highly recommend Magnolia Grandiflora Michel.
Alternatives: Grandiflora Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, Christian Dior Diorella, Christian Dior Diorissimo
Perfumer: Michel Roudnitska
Bottle Designer: Moffitt.Moffitt
Release Date: 2014