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I have a weakness for good historical references in perfumery, and this scent has a few.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.
Souvenir de Malmaison starts off as a complex and androgynous carnation fragrance, with the black pepper and sandalwood notes framing the clove-tinged petals of the flower itself. It's a warm scent, and the resin notes amplify that effect as they emerge. And yes, the rose is there too — it steps in gradually, and it's an elegant rose with just the faintest hint of something naughty from the ylang and ambergris.
A few dabs of Souvenir de Malmaison in its Eau de Parfum concentration left my skin scented for an entire workday. Its dry down is a carnation-and-rose duet, still lightly peppery but now creamier and just a bit powdery. In other words, Souvenir de Malmaison ends up feeling like more of a conventionally feminine fragrance than it did at the beginning. (Almost — dare I say it? — reminiscent of Caron Bellodgia.)
So, where does Souvenir de Malmaison fall on the spectrum of carnation perfumes? Well, when I told Robin Here at NST™ that I'd like to review it, she immediately asked how it compares to the dearly departed Floris Malmaison. Unfortunately, I can't find any samples of the Floris in my stash; I must have used up my last vial years ago. In my memory, though, Floris Malmaison was a very spicy, almost "Red Hots" take on carnation, heavy on the clove and cinnamon. Souvenir de Malmaison isn't quite that fire-y, nor does it have the incense note and more traditionally masculine style of Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale. On the other hand, it's warmer and more woody than Etro Dianthus or L'Artisan Parfumeur Oeillet Sauvage.
I still have a few more samples from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz to test, but I have a feeling that Souvenir de Malmaison will remain my new favorite. I'm planning to purchase a small bottle soon, as a self-reward for meeting some upcoming deadlines. While I'm wearing it this winter, I can dream of summertime rose gardens, or read about the Empress Joséphine, or just feel beautiful.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Souvenir de Malmaison is available in a variety of sizes and formats. For buying information, see the listing for Dawn Spencer Hurwitz under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image is Souvenir de la Malmaison, illustration by Hermann Friese from Julius Hoffmann's The Amateur Gardener's Rose Book, 1905 [color frame added] via Rosegathering.