Floris Malmaison was created in the 19th century, in an era when Malmaison Carnations had become all the rage within the elegant circles of society since their introductions from France in the early 1860s. Named after Joséphine de Beauharnais’ residence of La Malmaison, they soon intoxicated England. They were commonly displayed by the fashion-conscious as a buttonhole or corsage accessory whose heady spicy scent was but another mark of refinement and distinction. Oscar Wilde is famous for having had a fetish for the bloom, which he liked to dye each day anew in green. But he was far from being the only one enamored with it. Malmaison Carnation expert Jim Marshall writes that these flowers were “…the cult flower for the Edwardian Summer Season” as they bloomed from June to August. It was also traditional to compose bouquets of Malmaisons laced with Asparagus Fern and to put them in crystal vases. Peter Coates evocatively describes the flower as “…wonderfully opulent, with deeply fimbriated petals bursting from jade calyxes like bosoms of Edwardian beauties and as powerfully scented”......
As the summer approaches, it is therefore fitting to attempt to recapture this fragile yet tenacious olfactory link with the past and, us too, indulge in one of the passions of the Edwardians. If common sense has it these days that fresh scents are the most appropriate versions of what ideal summer scents should be, it is also worthwhile to remember and experience summer as a time for the unfolding of natural olfactory opulence and the releasing of uplifting, stimulating spicy notes. To espouse the unique luxuriance of summer might therefore be a natural choice.
Malmaison eau de toilette by Floris of London, the oldest perfumery in the world founded in 1730, is a rich carnation scent that through the interplay of different layers of secondary notes imposes its main character nevertheless as being carnation throughout. The scent is therefore linear in that sense. But there is also the sense that it rests upon a more complex bouquet of flowers and woods, hence a rather rich feel, if not openly complex. Complexity has in this manner a supporting role rather than a main role.
The scent opens on an impression of spicy carnation that is powdery, softly sweet and woody with marked clove nuances bordering on the medicinal, but not quite.There are subtle almond-y undertones, reminiscent of heliotrope, on an aqueous and green background. The progression of the perfume is not dramatic although there are shifts in nuances as next, the powdery character fades into a creamier heart where the piquancy of sandalwood comes more to the fore. Fresher floral notes of narcissus and lily of the valley seem to escape inadvertently from the rich, warm concoction revealing in fact the restrained and balanced personality of the fragrance containing fresher notes in its core. The woody and powdery-musky dry-down is the surprise of the scent. With time, this stage becomes more and more distinctive. It is extremely seductive betraying a dark purple and dark red tonality, an overripe fruity-floral nuance, and a deep sensuality that one did not expect to encounter. For this reason, we would be tempted to classify Malmaison as one of those “closet-musk” scents that we find particularly attractive, as they reveal their deeper and very efficient erotic personalities only after some patient waiting. It mimics in this sense the dynamic of a well-regulated courtship. It makes one feel each time like waiting for that moment of rejoining with the loved one and introduces a structure of secrecy and anticipation in the perfume that is very alluring and sexy.
The perfume retails $85 for 100 ml and is available on the Floris website.
(Sources: Floris press release, The British National Carnation Society, Dictionary of Toponyms by Nigel Viney)