"Les notes du magnolia évoluent entre des accents de jasmin, de muguet et de rose. Il existe non pas un magnolia mais des dizaines de magnolias différents ! L’accord « classique » de magnolia est composé de deux accents, l’un provenant d’essence de magnolia qui donne une note aromatique, l’autre, complémentaire, est un accord floral fragile" (the interview for Wanted - Helena Rubinstein).
The magnolia flowers (sometime highly scented, sometime very weak) have fascinated perfumers since the beginning of the modern perfumery. Unlike today, the essence was not available 100 years ago and not all the varieties of the flower were very known in Europe. Some bases built around the magnolia note were created and several were special and appreciated like Magnolys (very refined floral delicate), Magnolia & Magnolia R (with a mango fruity accent), Capitalia, Magnolia Floraison. Some modern molecules have names inspired or close to magnolia because of their special odor like Magnolan (or even Mayol). Magnolan is produced by Symrise and it has a light floral note (lily of the valley type) with woody bitter accents.
Some very old vintage perfumes based on this flower include: Magnolia (Delletrez), Magnolia (Parfumeria Gal), two Helena Rubinstein - Rose Magnolia and White Magnolia (1952), Majestic Magnolia (Houbigant) but also the exquisite Mon Boudoir (an oriental), le Début Noir (Hudnut), the very beautiful Magnolia (Lucien Lelong), also as a secondary note in Tendres Nuits (Lancôme). A classic Caron, Le Muguet du Bonheur, very different from Roudnitska's masterpiece, is in fact an harmonious accord of lily of the valley-magnolia-jasmine.
Magnolia accord was used very much in soaps and creams, no surprise that it became very popular and sometime associated with this clean concept. Several perfumes from Avon were built around different versions of magnolia (from the perfumery accord to the living magnolia type). There were also a magnolia perfume at Yardley and Yves Rocher (this one was very good). The magnolia accord is present in several creations of Sophia Grosjman, a perfect link between the rose and the lily of the valley. The magnolia flower note is present at the heart of 2 Amouage perfumes, but blended with oriental or more airy elements. In Le Jasmin and Un Matin d'Orage from Annick Goutal other elements of the opulent white flower are explored. Modern Chanel perfumes are less devoted to single flowers but, when Allure was launched in 1996 Jacques Polge presented one facet of the creation as an abstract meeting between magnolia, honeysuckle and nymphéa (a headspace of the 3 flowers under the same glass bell). From the same period 2 soliflores from Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier were also inspired by magnolia fragrance. One very good sweet magnolia soliflore was the first version of Lumière (Rochas, 1984 with white flowers and fruits but later in 2000 the formula was completely changed). Magnolan and magnolia accord were present also in In Love Again (YSL) where the woody grapefruit facet of the floral bitter molecule (and flower) were pushed to overdose by Jean Claude Ellena.
The magnolia essence became a signature for Maurice Roucel and an old interview in P&F explores the history of this (new) material and its relation with the perfumer over the years. But this note is present also in Julye (the confidential Jean Patou creation)