Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Souvenir de Malmaison ~ fragrance review

Souvenir de la Malmaison rose

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz recently launched several new fall fragrances, and my personal favorite of the bunch is Souvenir de Malmaison, “a new twist on a romantic classic: spicy carnation and rose meet in an ambery, wood fragrance.” Souvenir de la Malmaison is a floriental with notes of lemon, bergamot, black pepper, ylang ylang, rose, carnation, jasmine, cinnamon, clove, labdanum, ambergris, sandalwood, cedar, patchouli, tolu balsam and vanilla.

I have a weakness for good historical references in perfumery, and this scent has a few. First: Malmaison was the elegant residence of Napoleon Bonaparte and his consort Joséphine de Beauharnais, a château with a legendary rose garden overseen by Joséphine herself. Second: Souvenir de Malmaison is a rose cultivar created in 1843 and named in honor of the rose-loving Empress and her gardens. And in a related bit of recent perfume history, as perfume aficionados may wistfully recall, there used to be a carnation fragrance named Floris Malmaison

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Fleuriste ~ fragrance review

green carnation circles

Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz recently announced the launch of Fleuriste,* a carnation-centered “modern floral with just a few nods to the classical style.” Regular readers at Now Smell This very likely know that I have a special fondness for rose fragrances, but I love other florals, too — violet, iris, and yes, carnation. Therefore I was naturally interested in Fleuriste, which includes notes of rose leaves, carnation, neroli, jasmine, rose and ambergris.

Fleuriste begins with a breath of chilled air and crisp greenery, as though you had just opened the door of the refrigerated display case in a florist’s shop. There’s a hint of moisture that lasts for a while, as though the flowers were misted with cool water…

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L’Artisan Parfumeur Oeillet Sauvage ~ fragrance review


If you’re perfume-obsessed, it’s always a crushing blow when one of your favorite scents is discontinued. Once gone, a fragrance almost never returns; today I’m happy to be able to discuss one of the rare exceptions to that rule. If you’ve been keeping track of this sort of thing (as I have!), you may have recently been cheered to learn that L’Artisan Parfumeur was reissuing several fragrances that had been discontinued, including Tea for Two, L’Eau de Caporal and Oeillet Sauvage. (Bois Farine has also become easier to find than it was at this time last year, thank goodness.)

Oeillet Sauvage was developed by perfumer Anne Flipo and originally launched in 2000. Its current press release describes it as a “spicy and vibrant fragrance – an ode to carnations in bloom in the wild” that captures the flower’s “exuberance” and “sensuality.” Oeillet Sauvage’s composition includes notes of pepper, pink peppercorn, carnation, rose, ylang-ylang, white lily, wallflower, vanilla, cedar and musk…

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Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale ~ fragrance review

Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale, brand image

Oeillet Bengale is the upcoming fragrance from West Village niche perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas. It’s their third, following 2013’s Iris Nazarena and 2012’s Aedes de Venustas Signature. If you’ve tried the first two, you probably already expected incense, and the name Bengale Oeillet, if you speak French (or even just perfume-French), probably led to you to expect carnation.

You’d be right on both counts. The press materials point out that the Bengale Oeillet is actually a rose (a variety of China rose, to be more specific), but that’s not relevant to our concerns. The Aedes Bengale Oeillet is a carnation-incense fragrance, something I never particularly thought to wish for — I’m still waiting, patiently, for my perfect jasmine + incense — but that turns out to be welcome…

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Serge Lutens Vitriol d’Oeillet ~ fragrance review

Serge Lutens Vitriol d'Oeillet

The perfume world is fickle. Though some perfume notes are perennial favorites — bergamot, sandalwood, and petitgrain come to mind — other ingredients become “problematic” over time. Once, Calone was all the rage…then, one day, perhaps due to overuse or a style shift in perfumery, Calone smelled dated. Not that long ago, rose-rich perfumes were considered passé. (Alongside antiquated rose were the scents of oak moss and carnation — suffering not only from associations with old times and ‘old folks,’ but difficult to work with, or re-create, due to IFRA restrictions.) Then, rose had a renaissance, a facelift, an attitude adjustment, and became “young” again, and is used in all manner of mainstream and niche perfumes, including men’s fragrances. Oak moss and carnation are still waiting for their rejuvenation treatments.

So, how do you “update” a dated aroma? How do you transform old-fashioned carnation, that much-maligned flower, associated with death, bad luck and bad taste, into something modern, edgy and desirable? One way would be to make carnation brazen: accent every facet of its scent, amplify its impact with newer, unusual perfume materials, make it bloom in a new way. Another tactic is familiar from the world of food…

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