I’m beginning the process of looking back over the year as I start to consider my end-of-year lists. Part of the fun of this is as I look back at specific brands some of them sneak up on me with the quality of their releases for the year. One of those that I’ve realized has had an awesome 2017 is Jo Malone. One of the reasons is creative director Celine Roux has taken the brand in some new directions this year. It started on an auspicious note with one of my favorite perfumes of 2017 Myrrh & Tonka by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. In a nicely symmetrical way the Holiday release for 2017, Green Almond & Redcurrant, is also by the same team.
Jo Malone is known for their floral perfumes. This year Mme Roux has spent more time exploring new ingredients which are at the darker end of the perfumer’s palette. Oak, whisky, hazelnut, and tobacco have all been keynotes in releases this year. There has also been a trend towards gourmand-y styles within this year’s collection. Green Almond & Redcurrant removes the modifying “y” and goes full gourmand for this seasonal release.
Green almond is another of these accords of something that cannot be extracted. It gives the opportunity for a perfumer to fine tune the effect they are going for. In Green Almond & Redcurant, Mme Bijaoui accentuates the contrasting textures of tart and milky so that the green is supplied by an accompanying note.
Before we get there Mme Bijaoui takes the other note in the name and sandwiches it between mandarin and petitgrain to form a very rounded fruity accord. It can seem slight but it is worth focusing on the first few moments. These kinds of fruity accords are seemingly commonplace but this one meshes seamlessly. Which then sets up the green almond accord as the tarter quality of the accord resonates with the petitgrain. The mandarin slides into the milky aspect. Then blackcurrant buds provide a more primitive version of the redcurrant. Which is a nice connection but it is those buds which provide the real green in the green almond heart. The buds have a slight acerbic quality to them, here they provide the rawness that the green in green almond refers to. It all comes together beautifully. Tonka comes to give this the rounded toasted vanilla nature to make it feel like some exotic Holiday confection from a far-away place. The base is straightforward cedar and amberwood.
Green Almond & Redcurrant has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
In my press materials it is mentioned that Green Almond & Redcurrant should be layered over Myrrh & Tonka. This is not something I am fond of but in this case with the same perfumer behind both it seems to create an even more festive fragrance. Green Almond & Redcurrant brings 2017 to a close with the same quality with which Jo Malone opened it. A combination of nuts and berries seems appropriate.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample from Jo Malone.
One of the things I get a kick out of is when a perfumer comes up with a new accord or the company they work for presents a new isolation of a well-known note. I always imagine it is like the charge painters received when the pigment Cerulean Blue allowed them to add blue to their palettes. Just like those painters who had ideas but were unable to express them because the material wasn’t there; when it does arrive, the imagination is unleashed.
Perfumer Yann Vasnier is one of those for whom there must be a myriad of these kind of “what if?” ideas. When Givaudan showed him Roasted Oak Absolute he saw it as an alternative to the ubiquitous cedar or sandalwood. Now where to use it? Jo Malone creative director Celine Roux upon smelling it wanted it because she had been wanting to have a “fall forest in England” style of fragrance in the collection. Once new ingredient, perfumer, and creative director intersected what came out of it is English Oak & Hazelnut.
The Roasted Oak Absolute carries an interesting scent profile. There is a sharp woodiness inherent to oak. The roasted part is as if you took some cords of oak and put them in a drying shed. They would pick up some of the smoke of the low fire providing the heat. It would bring out a bit of inherent woody sweetness. This is what I encounter when wearing English Oak & Hazelnut.
The fragrance starts with the hazelnut. If you’re looking for a similar roasted effect this is not that. M. Vasnier uses a green hazelnut. This is very reminiscent of walking through the forest and crunching raw nuts on the ground with your boots. It is a raw nutty quality along with a slightly sharp green component. It is paired with the citrus-tinted wood of elemi as contrast. Vetiver comes along to focus the greener facets and cedar begins the transition from raw nutty on top to the roasted oak in the base. The vetiver remains as the roasted oak gains presence. It is an interesting overall feeling as the vetiver sometimes shifts the oak more to the greener woodiness typical of simple oak absolute. Then the roasted oak pushes back and it gets warmer. This metronomic back-and-forth is where English Oak & Hazelnut comes to its end.
English Oak & Hazelnut has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
M. Vasnier and Mme Roux were so excited about the Roasted Oak they decided there needed to be another fragrance featuring it and English Oak & Redcurrant is the other half of the English Oak collection. I preferred English Oak & Hazelnut because it displayed the new material more prominently. In English Oak & Redcurrant it is overridden by the rose in the heart more than it is here. If you really want to experience the Cerulean Oak of the Roasted Oak I recommend English Oak & Hazelnut to get the full experience.
Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Jo Malone.
Light is one of the words frequently used to describe the perfumes of Jo Malone. There is an easy-going nature about almost every release from the brand. It is their definitive brand aesthetic as well as a reason for their success. I know it is a place I take many who are wanting to take a step away from the mass-market fragrance offering. One of the reasons is the fragrances are simpler constructs using ingredients less seen in the best sellers. After twenty years of releasing these kind of perfumes, in 2010, a new sub-collection was created; Cologne Intense. This was a group of Jo Malone fragrances which would explore the idea of taking even the deepest notes and making them lighter while not necessary making the journey all the way to light. The releases in this collection are among some of my favorite from the entire brand because sheerer versions of classic perfume combinations are appealing when I want my lighter fragrances to still have some spine. The latest member of this collection, Myrrh & Tonka is the best example of this kind of perfume design.
The perfumers who have worked on the Cologne Intense has been impressive. The perfumer behind Myrrh & Tonka is Mathilde Bijaoui who is composing her first Jo Malone perfume. Celine Roux the Fragrance Director for Jo Malone gave her this brief; “Namibia, with its sand dunes and warm desert colors”. Mme Roux also believed that the collection was missing an Oriental and she felt Myrrh & Tonka could be that Oriental. Those might have been conflicting missions for some but Mme Bijaoui manages to capture both by turning Myrrh & Tonka into an opaque Oriental.
Lavender is the keynote whose name is not on the label and where Myrrh & Tonka begins. This is a lavender which has more of its herbal nature on display. Mme Bijaoui keeps it that way with a judicious use of cinnamon which has an effect of drying out the lavender and constricting its natural expansiveness. The same technique will be used with the myrrh in the heart. Usually myrrh is an exuberant sweet resinous ingredient. Mme Bijaoui uses some cypriol to make it less sweet. The cypriol also sets the stage for the tonka. This is that toasted version of tonka where the hay-like coumarin has a little more of the scent profile. A tiny bit of vanilla brings it back some of the sweetness while guaiac wood provides the woody frame for all of it.
Myrrh & Tonka has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
On the days, I was wearing Myrrh & Tonka it was a like an old friend relating a quick story of travel to the East. There was only time for the highlights but together it makes for one amazing trip.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Jo Malone.
I am lucky to have a fantastic tea store near where I live. When I walk in I am reminded of my childhood trips with my father to the tobacconist. I frequently have the thought how these two products of dried leaves can produce such a sublime olfactory experience. Tobacco has inspired many perfume brands. Tea has not had as many perfumes made featuring it as a focal point. Jo Malone London is trying to fix that with the Jo Malone Rare Teas Collection.
The Rare Teas Collection was a project which took the Jo Malone creative team, lead by Celine Roux, to all parts of the world looking for the rarest teas to base the perfumes upon. Once they had decided on six teas to feature it was up to perfumer Serge Majoullier to bring them to like.
This probably seems like a simple concept but as with many things; simple concept does not necessarily translate into something easy. According to the press materials it took four years to complete all six. Overall my impression of the collection is favorable especially if you are a fan of tea or tea-based fragrances. When trying them after I received the sample set there was one which stood out, Golden Needle Tea.
Golden Needle Tea is a specially harvested version from the Yunnan province in China. What sets it apart is the tea leaves are picked early in the spring so that the buds more than the leaves are what is harvested. I had never heard of it before the Jo Malone fragrances but my local tea shop had some for me to try. The tea leaves have a lot of darker facets to them. I can smell dried fruit, smoke, nuts, and honey after it is steeped. M. Majoullier would look to some of the deeper notes to create a perfume with the same name.
Golden Needle Tea the perfume is a fragrance in two acts. The first accord is a smoky leather one. It is smokier than the tea itself but it needs to be because sandalwood and benzoin are its running partners. Once they all come together it does resemble the tea leaves themselves but in a slightly abstract way; which is as it should be I think.
Golden Needle Tea has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
The other Rare Tea entries which garnered some interest from me were Silver Needle Tea and Oolong Tea. I would point out that M. Majoullier wasn’t trying for photorealism these are all artistic interpretations. One other caveat is these are not part of the usual Jo Malone collection this is considered a luxury collection with a corresponding price tag. Purely on an aesthetic level Golden Needle Tea does the best in realizing the vision of this collection.
Disclosure; This review was based on samples provided by Jo Malone London.
When I lived in Boston my favorite time to visit Cape Cod was at the end of September or early October. As someone who had grown up on the beaches of South Florida where beach season never really ends it was different living in the Northeast. By this time of year the colors of fall are starting to sneak into the leaves and I always wanted to go spend one last weekend near the ocean, while I could. I always found it to be a sort of melancholy farewell to summer. I also noticed a shift in the smells of the surf and sand, too. It also carried a sense of endings coming. The latest release from Jo Malone, Wood Sage & Sea Salt captures all of this. It is also fitting as this perfume marks a farewell of sorts for perfumer Christine Nagel from being de-facto in-house nose for the brand as she leaves to take up a new position at Hermes.
Christine Nagel (l.) and Celine Roux on the beach in Cornwall
In an interview with The Moodie Report I was interested to learn that Mme Nagel took a trip to Cornwall with Jo Malone Creative Director Celine Roux. Mme Roux said, “Traditionally, when you think of a beach, you think of sun, warmth, bikinis. It wasn’t like that (in Cornwall)! It was rainy and windy, with big waves and rugged cliffs – so refreshing and exhilarating. It felt like an escape from real life, but in a good way.” She wanted Mme Nagel to experience this, “Most of the world’s perfumers are French, and they are not familiar with the British beach. We went in March; it was super windy and we got salt in our hair. It was exactly what I wanted Christine to experience.” She also directed Mme Nagel, “I told her I wanted a fragrance that represented the English coast, but which wasn’t an aquatic, I wanted something mineral, and also something green.” It is exactly this kind of creative direction which can lead to something that rises above the crowd. Wood Sage & Sea Salt does just that.
Mme Nagel opens the perfume with a two pronged approach as she takes the sea salt accord and mineralic raw materials to give the earth and spray aspect. Concurrently she matches this with a unique pairing of ambrette seed and buchu leaves. The ambrette adds a freshness while buchu adds a slightly minty herbal aspect. A pinch of plum is used to smooth any roughness that might arise. Together they capture that milieu of green things growing in the dunes whipped by the wind and sea spray. Eventually you notice the drying driftwood in the presence of guaiac wood and the promised sage again adding Mme Roux’s desired green to go with the mineral.
Wood Sage & Sea Salt has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Over the past year I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of new takes on the aquatic genre of perfumery. I think it is due to creative direction from people like Mme Roux who are pushing for something different than the typical midsummer ozonic lightness and instead push for something with a little more weight. Wood Sage & Sea Salt serve as the perfect farewell to summer and Mme Nagel. The best part is both summer and Mme Nagel will return in time.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.