Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Aqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile: fragrance review

After Eau d'Italie and their watercolour rendering of the magnolia flower, Magnolia Romana, a formula that takes magnolias into a gouache approximation without their true oilier features visible, Magnolia Nobile by Aqua di Parma is another fresh take on the magnolia flower; like an unmade bed in black and white it fuses the contrapunto of cool and warm into sciaphobia, questioning our own gaze into seeing things that might not be there.

Magnolia as a note is proving to be very popular lately, if we consider recent launches: a new Helena Rubinsten fragrance fronted by Demi More, Wanted, the lovely Eau de Fleur de Magnolia by Kenzo (which we reviewed here), the "cologne florale" J'Adore L'Eau by Dior and Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel.
In the last few years there seem to be big trends on certain perfume notes which take over and almost dominate the market: the year of iris flummoxed us with allusions to the Florentine rhizomes when the (respectable and often lovely) substitues concocted in a lab were playing hide-and-seek in the bottle; the from-top-to-bottom craziness for oud left many with the impression that the pathological secretion of the Aquillaria tree was indeed the source of the complex and medicinal smell in their fragrance (at those price points, not so!); the dominance of cleaned-up, de-moleculed patchouli has been harbouring a progeny of the hundreds into almost every new release to hit the market for some time now. It seemed magnolia couldn't escape for long...
Acqua di Parma was inspired by the ephemeral flower that can be smelled ‘in the gardens of elegant villas at Lake Como’ (in northern Italy).’ After the powdery-orange trail of Iris Nobile, Magnolia Nobile is woodsier, fresher and greener. A perfume of ‘elegant femininity intended for women who don’t need to attract attention.’

The natural magnolia blossom is a big waxy embrace of ginormous petals that seem to exude both a crystalline, lemony facet and more intimate, creamy jasmine-like effusions that can take a slightly tinfoil-like odour under some weather conditions to my nose. The treatment in Magnolia Nobile is following ~just like the bottle~ the one of iris in Iris Nobile of the same line, where the hesperidic top (especially in the lighter, more upbeat Eau de Toilette as opposed to the more chypre Eau de Parfum) is tieing the composition in style with the cologne genre that Aqua di Parma so effortlessly encapsulated in their classic Cologne. In Magnolia Nobile the lemony-green facets are pronounced at first, making it a zesty refreshing mix that cannot but provide an euphoric feeling, slightly sweet due to the floral essences, but there is also a familiar plummy-apricoty nuance which brings to mind popular mainstream releases which have been haunting the aisles of malls, restaurants and cinemas for a few years now. The woody musky base is also echoing in my ears like speakers in the car left on some news-relating channel in a sub-human frequency that can be felt more than heard.
In that regard the point of the construction of a "niche" fragrance along those lines (if a LVMH-owned company can be considered that) is eluding me. Magnolia Nobile is quite pleasant and does not become grandiloquent at any point which is a plus, but I cannot deny my disappointment with the familiarity with which it greets me when I expected a novel path that would bring me some Tarkovskian dream sequence. Maybe my expectations were too high. I am holding out for the next Nobile flower in the line before adding a companion to my Aqua di Parma Iris bottle.

Notes for Magnolia Nobile by Aqua di Parma:
Top: bergamot, lemon, citron, green notes
Heart: magnolia, jasmine, rose, tuberose
Base: sandalwood, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla

Available as Eau de Parfum in 100ml/3.4oz and 150ml/5oz at Neiman Marcus and select doors internationally.

One large sample will be offered to a lucky reader. State your interest!

Photograph The Unmade Bed by Imogen Cunningham via personal.pblogs.gr. Ad pic via fashionindie.com


  1. Helg, your description of the scent of the magnolia flower is absolutely spot on. It is the waxiness that I think seems to be missing in so many of the magnolia fragrances I've tried. This, for me, is a key to this flower's appeal. It's almost as though the perfumers want to blend out this waxiness, when they should be amping it up.

    Thanks for the interesting review!

  2. Mary, I agree !

    While this is SO well done- it isn't something that I would wear regularly.
    The others outrun it it, for me.

  3. Hmmm magnolia ... somehow seems so old-fashioned to me, but in a lovely, sweet, faded photographs sort of way.

    Definitely interested in a sniff - count me in please! Thanks :)

  4. Oooh, I'd love to try this!

  5. I've started a contest/project in memory/honor of those who have been touched by cancer. Please consider participating. Thanks.


  6. I'd love to try it.

  7. I'd really like to see how these perfumers interpret magnolia, since so many of the real flowers have so little scent that it's difficult for me to imagine. So count me in! Thanks...

  8. Hi Helg. I received a sample of this and thought I would absolutely love it, based on the notes. Sadly, the lemon facet of this scent was overwhelming on my skin. By the time the lemon got through with me, I had pretty much forgotten what a magnolia was.

    Unfortunate skin chemistry, I guess.

  9. Count me in for a potential sample - this sounds fantastic.

  10. Anonymous14:11

    Dear E,

    I would love a sample. Thank you.


  11. Hi Helg - Please include me - I'm fascinated by magnolia!

  12. Margot15:48

    Such a lovely review.

    I would so love to try Magnolia Nobile. There was a large Magnolia tree on the property of my long ago home. I can recall the scent; it was delicate and fleeting. The tree is no more, but the memory of it's beauty remains.

    Thank you so much for the review, and the draw.

  13. Anonymous21:04

    I would like a sample

  14. Anonymous22:15

    I love the real magnolia. Pure decadence. Have yet to encounter the scent in perfume. Would love to try the sample.


  15. Mary,

    thanks so much for saying so, I thought it was apt to comment on the waxiness, no? Those huge blossoms are magnificent to touch too. But sadly so often the slightly 'oily' quality doesn't translate in frags.
    I suppose it has to do with arranging the ingredientsfor creating, which beats that. It could also be that oiliness/waxiness might not be something popular...(hypothesizing now)

  16. I,

    yeah...it's pretty, it's very nice, but somehow I expect more ooomph from a magnolia fragrance.

  17. A,

    great way of describing it!!
    You're in of course :-)

  18. Acadia,

    thanks (I think)

  19. Karin,

    noting you down, good luck!

  20. P,

    you're in! Magnolia the flower lately does seem to have lost its scent, too. Parisian ones didn't smell, some here were fainter than I recall, you report the same thing...is it something in the water?? I wonder...

  21. Suzanne,

    I absolutely agree that it translates a bit thin due to the citric emphasis. I believe it has to do with the direction of "green" or "fresh" as it smells that way on paper too. Don't know....

    BTW, loved your Tub Criminelle review!!! Do mail me sometime if you want to and we can exchange views (don't have your mail, so couldn't reach you) :-)

  22. R,

    of course I am. Good luck, hope you like it!

  23. N,

    best of luck!

    PS>got your mail, thanks, will reply soon!

  24. D,

    it's a lovely flower, no doubt. I am counting you in!

  25. Margot,

    it must have been lovely, what a beautiful image.

    You're welcome, thanks for the kind words and best of luck!

  26. Cheryl,

    I agree the real deal is such a wonderful thing, sitting under the tree...
    You're in! Magnolia in perfumery is often a different thing, so hope you like it.

  27. I would love to try this one!
    I like very much Iris Nobile so I'm very curious, though magnolia seems to be too fashionable at the moment. But I trust Parma knows what to do with it.

  28. We got sent a sample of this and do like it alot! as with any perfume, it an individual choice. Would love to hear more reviews of what people think of it.



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