New Perfume Review Jo Malone Starlit Mandarin & Honey- Snuggling In

As we begin the sprint towards the Holidays the seasonal limited editions are beginning to arrive. It always produces a mixed bag of happiness and coal in the stocking. There is a brand which has reliably been a purveyor of excellent Holiday releases. Every year I look forward to the release from Jo Malone. Over recent years under the creative direction of Celine Roux they have been on top of their fragrance game. This year’s model, Jo Malone Starlit Mandarin & Honey is a great example of why this brand gets it right for the Holidays.

Celine Roux

Throughout the years Jo Malone has been happy to create scents of the season. Those have been good. It is when there is a different thought about the Holiday season expressed through fragrance when I am most intrigued. Starlit Mandarin & Honey is that.

My favorite memory of the season is sitting in the dark watching the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle and the logs in the fireplace crackling. I am snuggled under a blanket with Mrs. C and the poodles. We are watching a movie. The coziness of it all seems most vital as we hit the end of the year. This perfume is an abstraction of this feeling. Perfumer Yann Vasnier pulls it all together.

Yann Vasnier

The beginning is the mandarin promised. M. Vasnier adds some points of starlight to it by using cedrat. To give it some shading a precise amount of star anise adds to the irrepressible citrus. Now comes the subtly animalic honey. This is a difficult material to get right there is a sweet spot where on either side it is sugar water or unpleasantly dirty. M. Vasnier finds the place where the animalic facets and the golden sweetness ooze around the citrus accord. Just like that blanket we gather under.

The clever piece that M. Vasnier uses to tie this perfume together is a suite of dried grasses. First the dried grass of hay is threaded through the honey and citrus. Sweetgrass is also braided into the honey. What they are waiting for is the linchpin of coumarin. Coumarin has a strong-hay-like quality. With the other grasses present it is tilted towards that profile. The final piece is the warmth of Peru balsam providing a hint of the Holidays right at the end.

Starlight Mandarin & Honey has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a comfort scent which will be easily worn in the colder months beyond the Holidays. It will be especially welcome in those long nights of the beginning of the year. Just snuggle in with your pack.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Orange Peel, Tangy Rhubarb, and Rose Blush- Marmalade Skies

When I received my press release on the newest collection from Jo Malone I began humming one of my favorite Beatles tunes. The five-fragrance set is called the “Marmalade Dreams” collection. Which had me singing the first line of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies”. Creative director Celine Roux was more inspired by thoughts of local fairs and the marmalades sold there.

Celine Roux

There are three new perfumes in the collection; Orange Peel, Tangy Rhubarb, and Rose Blush. Before I review these the two re-releases are worth mentioning. 2012’s Blackberry & Bay by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin is one of those perfumes which has always evoked the feel of fruit preserves with a savory twist. The other one is 2013’s Elderflower & Gooseberry, renamed Elderflower Cordial. Perfumer Christine Nagel embodies the inherent tartness of both ingredient which fit the theme of this new set of fragrance.

Marie Salamagne

Orange Peel is composed by perfumer Marie Salamagne. It represents the most widely-known British marmalade ingredient. What she does here is to capture a freshly-made batch of marmalade just as it is finished. This is the scent of the steam in the kitchen infused with the orange. It has an expansiveness along with some substance. It is three ingredients of orange, rhubarb, and blonde woods. The rhubarb adds in the bite of the orange rind within the jelly. Because of that it lives up to its name as the peel holds sway over the pulp. The woods gently cradle it all.

Nicolas Bonneville

Tangy Rhubarb is composed by perfumer Nicolas Bonneville. In Orange Peel the rhubarb behaved as I usually experience it. In Tangy Rhubarb it reminds me of when I cook it in strawberry-rhubarb pie. When cooked the vegetal qualities are removed. What is left is a surprising sweetness with just a hint of the garden. Which is what’s happening here as the rhubarb is mostly lighter in effect with the sweeter aspect on display. Clary sage stands in for that garden as it also ends up on a warm woody foundation.

Rose Blush is also signed by M. Bonneville. This is that very English creation of the savory marmalade. I have described rose many times as having a jellied scent. M. Bonneville leans into that. What transforms this is a clever use of basil as the counterweight. Now you have this gelatinous matrix of floral and herbal precisely balanced. It is much more compelling than I was imagining before I tried it. As with the other the cleanliness of woods, in this case cedar is the finishing note.

All three of these are at cologne strength and have longevity of 8-10 hours and average sillage.

Mme Roux wants me to think of the fair. All I’m thinking about is marmalade skies while wearing these while drifting on a river.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Red Hibiscus- Tropical Daydreaming

I always took for granted what I had surrounding me as a kid. I took advantage of a lot, but I also didn’t appreciate it all. One of those things was having all my grandparents so close by. I could spend time with them whenever I wanted because they were all a bike ride away. My grandfather was always outside taking care of his house and garden. Where my grandmother favored gardenias, he loved the hibiscus flowers which grew in S. Florida. He had bushes growing all around his home. He taught me the patience of waiting on nature one day as we watched a bud unfurl in the late morning sunlight. I also remember thinking for as big as these flowers were, they didn’t have much of a scent. Colorful but missing an odor equal to the visual.

Celine Roux

Hibiscus is an easily found essential oil but just like the real thing it doesn’t have much of a scent profile. A pretty, subtle floral is how I would describe it. Which means when a perfume says it is a hibiscus perfume there are some other florals along to add some color. Which is what’s happening in Jo Malone Red Hibiscus.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Red Hibiscus is part of the Blossoms collection which also includes Frangipani Flower and Nashi Blossom from previous releases. There is also another hibiscus, Yellow Hibiscus. What drew me to Red Hibiscus is it was the only one of the four in Cologne Intense concentration. Creative director Celine Roux and perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui collaborate on this.

One of the things I enjoy about all the perfumes in this Blossoms collection is the sunniness with which they open. Red Hibiscus uses orange as its citrus solar surrogate. There also seem to be some other slightly ozonic ingredients adding that blue sky to the citrus brilliance. The heart is the floral accord. I am hesitant to call it hibiscus because this is not how a hibiscus really smells. Mme Bijaoui uses jasmine and ylang-ylang to form a tropical flower accord. I am sure there is some hibiscus oil in there, but it is the other two flowers you will notice. Along with the top accord this is a sunny day in S. Florida or any other tropical locale. The base is a lovely comforting warm vanilla with a bit of patchouli. It is a dreamy way to complete things.

Red Hibiscus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

A quick word about Yellow Hibiscus. It does the same thing but uses lime as the citrus, rose and jasmine as the florals while going more transparent through white musks. They are quite similar which is why I’m only reviewing one. Although if that set of ingredients done lighter appeals then you might enjoy Yellow Hibiscus more.

Red Hibiscus was just what I needed in the last days of winter. A fragrance to let me feel like the warmer days are coming and they’re full of sun and flowers. I can do some tropical daydreaming until that happens wearing Red Hibiscus.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Scarlet Poppy- Grainy Floral

Whenever I am chatting online with other perfume lovers, I am sometimes surprised at the way certain brands are seen. I think Jo Malone has been in the middle of a great creative run overseen by creative director Celine Roux. Whenever I bring this up, I am met by “that line is so safe/bland”. That threshold is different for everyone. I try to encourage those I am chatting with to take a second look. I point them to the Absolu or Cologne Intense collections. It is within those that Mme Roux tries to work outside of that perception. The latest addition to the Cologne Intense collection, Jo Malone Scarlet Poppy is a good example.

Celine Roux

Back in 2018 Mme Roux oversaw a set of perfumes under the “English Fields” where the five fragrances worked with grains as keynotes. I thought it was well-done. One of my favorites was Poppy & Barley by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. Working again with Mme Bijaoui, Scarlet Poppy feels like an evolution of that earlier scent. The similarity to that previous fragrance is in the inclusion of fig, poppy, and barley. The use of the grain adds a different textural feel.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Mme Bijaoui uses the botanical musk of ambrette wrapped around a green fig as her top accord. The gentle muskiness of ambrette is ideal as a complement to the fig. The floral accord which comes next is the poppy. It has a sticky green aspect which is softened by iris to form an abstract poppy. This is where the barley comes in again. This time it resonates with the ambrette and the iris more intensely. The big difference comes as the barley combines with the toasty sweetness of tonka bean. There is a moment when it reminds me of a cereal with vanilla milk. That passes quickly. Cedar comes to provide a clean woody way of moving away from the cereal metaphor.

Scarlet Poppy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Scarlet Poppy is why I think the current Jo Malone under Mme Roux is not “safe/bland”. This is a perfume with some unique choices by Mme Bijaoui which pay off. If I’ve convinced you to give the brand a second look this is a good place to start.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Midnight Musk & Amber- Holiday Party Reminder

Current events have had their impact on the fragrance industry, obviously. I was comparing my spreadsheet of perfumes I’ve tried this year to last year. The raw number is lower. Along with that many of the typical seasonal offerings were cut back. It looks like the calendar is beginning to reassert itself as I am starting to receive the Holiday releases for many of the brands. There are a few of them which have proven to be good most of the time. The latest for a brand like that is Jo Malone Midnight Musk & Amber.

Celine Roux

The Holiday offerings from Jo Malone have been consistently among the best. Under the creative direction of Celine Roux they have even stepped it up a little more. While Jo Malone doesn’t currently have an in-house perfumer Mme Roux is working with a small circle of perfumers. For this year’s Seasonal offering she tapped Anne Flipo.

Anne Flipo

When I think of the Holiday season a big part of it has been visiting friends. There is a scent to a Holiday party. A bit of alcohol, a bit of spice, a lot of warm bodies under sweaters. This is what Midnight Musk & Amber is all about.

It begins with gin-like juniper berry along with a twist of orange. Kind of like a gin and tonic with an orange wedge in place of the lime. The choice of citrus shifts the accord from summery to fall-like. A warmly spicy amber makes up the heart. This is the scent of the ingredients in Holiday baked goods. Mme Flipo adds a strand of neroli which elongates the orange from the top accord into the amber. The base is that musk on the label. There is this pleasant smell of humid humanity which fills the air at the height of a Holiday party. The musk is like that plus a little benzoin to add a sweet patina.

Midnight Musk & Amber has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t know if there are going to be many Holiday parties to attend this year. If I need a reminder I can reach for my sample and close my eyes.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Cypress & Grapevine- An Afternoon in Babylon

As we enter fall, I start to take out my green scents which evoke foliage. As the air becomes crisper, I find that the natural smells of undergrowth finds its time to appear. I think without all those fancy flowers to compete with ivy, moss, and the like get their chance to display a vegetal version of beauty. Over the past few years there have been a proliferation of fragrances which have married woods and green to evoke this. Jo Malone Cypress & Grapevine is the most recent example.

Celine Roux

Creative director Celine Roux collaborates with perfumer Sophie Labbe on this addition to the Cologne Intense collection. The idea was to capture the smell of an afternoon in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Surrounded by cypress trees and vines. As have most of the entries on this collection it stays focused on the two ingredients on the bottle.

Sophie Labbe

Cypress comes first as Mme Labbe wraps it with an herbal lavender. This opens the way for the green foliage accord. This is that slightly piquant vegetal scent I find. It uses the herbal part of lavender as the connection to the cypress. A pinch of geranium gives a veil of floral quality. The vegetation is diffused through the softness of moss. This is where what is promised on the bottle is realized. Patchouli and a synthetic wood are the final ingredients.

Cypress & Grapevine has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a simple perfume done well. It is not particularly groundbreaking, but it arrived at the right time of year for me. I could feel as if I were spending a day in ancient Babylon which sometimes is just enough.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Yuja- Finding the Green

If you enjoy a brand it is almost a certainty, they will discontinue one of your favorites. Jo Malone has a couple of my very favorites which are no longer available. One is 2008’s Sweet Lime & Cedar. The simple juxtaposition of tart citrus and clean woods through a Southeast Asian lens is perfect for summer days. The brand has returned to that area of the world for inspiration with another citrus and wood; Jo Malone Yuja.

Celine Roux

Yuja is part of the Blossoms in Bloom collection. Starting with the iconic Orange Blossom by the brand’s founder it also includes last year’s Frangipani Flower. For 2020, creative director Celine Roux asked perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui for two new compositions. Besides Yuja, Waterlily is the other. I thought that perfume accentuated the first part of the compound word over the second part. Yuja is also part of a popular genre of fragrance too. Sometimes it all comes down to how the creative team seeks to make just enough difference. That is what I experienced with Yuja.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Yuja is the South Korean version of yuzu which is an Asian version of lemon. When I’ve smelled the real thing, I am struck at the significant green scent it has. Very often when it is used in perfume it tends to hew more towards just being lemon in Asian clothing. In this case Mme Bijaoui seeks out the green and accentuates it with herb and wood.

The yuzu is the first thing I smell. It is given some focus with a smidge of petitgrain. Framing the edges in preparation for clary sage to shine a spotlight on the green in the center of it all. Lavender picks up on the herbal while adding a fleeting floral to this part of the development. Fir balsam provides the woody version of green as the yuzu nestles within the needles.

Yuja has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Yuja is going to be a great choice for the warmer days coming. It is refreshing with a satisfying twinkle beneath the citrus. Mme Bijaoui makes this stand out because she found the green.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Gardenia & Oud Absolu- Smoky White Floral

Every creative director would probably like to leave a lasting mark on any brand they oversee. I have creative director and brand associations which define the way I see those fragrances. One of the most recent examples has been the tenure of Celine Roux at Jo Malone. Ever since she took over the brand has been reinvigorated. If there will be a legacy of her time it might be the Absolu Series. The new Jo Malone Gardenia & Oud Absolu shows why.

Celine Roux

Mme Roux debuted this series two years ago with Rose & White Musk Absolu and followed up last year with Violet & Amber Absolu. The press releases of those previous fragrances had a lot of babble about adding the Jo Malone freshness onto a Middle Eastern aesthetic. I never understood that. Both perfumes were more intense than the typical Jo Malone releases but that never felt region specific. There was a satisfaction to seeing Jo Malone in a deeper way.

Sophie Labbe

Gardenia & Oud Absolu follows up on all of that. Except this time there is an obvious Middle Eastern connection with the presence of oud. It does feel like this is a Jo Malone via that part of the world. Mme Roux asked Sophie Labbe to be the perfumer behind Gardenia & Oud Absolu. They produced a smoky white floral fragrance.

Mme Labbe starts with the gentlest of the white flowers, orange blossom. It captivates during the early moments. Before too long the gardenia arrives. This is a much more intense floral with prominent indoles. It also shows off the green streak apparent in high concentrations of gardenia. It is that quality which makes a gardenia perfume. It gives a verve to it all. Some jasmine adds shadow and depth without taking away from the gardenia. The oud rises like wood chips from a brazier in swirls of smoky resinous woods. It catches on the petals of the fulsome gardenia finding an unusual pairing which works better than I though it might. It forms a smoky floral accord which is given a bit of expansiveness and lift by a judicious use of white musks. It keeps that central accord from becoming too claustrophobic giving it just the right amount of space for the titular notes to shine.

Gardenia & Oud Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really enjoyed my time testing this. If you’re a man looking for a rugged floral you should give this a try. I am again inspired by the perfume being overseen by Mme Roux. Jo Malone has become one of the best perfume lines because of her. Gardenia & Oud Absolu is a good example of why.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla- Cozy Green Blanket

As I start another review of a new Jo Malone fragrance, I am again going to laud Creative Director Celine Roux. With a brand as long-lived as this one there is a point where it can go in one of two directions. The more typical choice is to coast on a wave of self-referential mediocrity. Taking advantage of the initial goodwill built up. I’ve finally learned to just close the book on those brands. The way Jo Malone chose was to give Mme Roux a mission of reinvigorating the brand. She has done such a good job I look forward to every new release. Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is another extension of her tenure.

Celine Roux

The change had begun prior to Mme Roux’s arrival when Christine Nagel created the “Cologne Intense” sub-collection. These were richer deeper styles than previously found in a Jo Malone bottle. Since taking charge Mme Roux has put her own imprint on these more recent releases within this collection. Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is one of these.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Mme Roux has also seemingly been working with a small roster of perfumers she keeps returning to. For this one she collaborates with Mathilde Bijaoui. One of the advantages of building a working relationship with a perfumer is there is more congruity on what the perfume should smell like. That seems to be the case with these two. The concept behind this is to showcase two of the most famous ingredients from the island of Madagascar; the Bourbon varieties of vetiver and vanilla.

Before either of them show-up a fabulous top accord of cardamom, tea and grapefruit lead things off. The cardamom is the greener version, the tea is also green both combine to coax the green quality of grapefruit rind to join them. This is a smart way of tinting things a lighter shade of green before it gets down to business. That happens when the vetiver adds its grass-like green to it. Clary sage shades it deeper yet. Before this becomes too strident the vanilla appears. This is the vanilla orchid version giving a strong reminder that it is first a plant before a flavoring. It softens any of the slight edginess the vetiver supplies. The final effect is a plush comfort scent.

Vetiver & Golden Vanilla has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is another excellent perfume under Mme Roux’s oversight. If you’re looking for a little New Year’s treat snuggle underneath this cozy green blanket.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Frangipani Flower- Finding A Sunbeam

One of the poodles at the Colognoisseur home office can usually be found every afternoon asleep in the sunbeam which comes through our glass door. Once we hit that part of the day I almost always know where he is. I envy him that opportunity to curl up in a bar of sunlight drifting on pleasant thoughts. Jo Malone Frangipani Flower gave me the opportunity to do that with a perfume.

Celine Roux

I know this is becoming redundant, but I must call out creative director Celine Roux for everything she is doing at Jo Malone. She is starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm with the way releases have been coming. Her direction is also shaping things Jo Malone was known for with her own flair. Last year Tropical Cherimoya created a soliflore made up of layers of other florals. It was a fascinating recreation of a flower as perfume. A year later with Frangipani Flower the same thing is being done with a more known floral. To achieve the same effect Mme Roux asked for a headspace analysis of frangipani. Working with perfumer Marie Salamagne they took what was found to create another layered soliflore.  

Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)

Frangipani Flower opens on a sunburst of lemon and jasmine. This is given a lighter feel as the lemon adds sparkle to an already expansive jasmine. Jasmine and frangipani are related so that the shift to a different kind of floral sweetness is done in tiny steps until you realize something is different. This is pushed to a more opaque feeling by using a set of ozonic and aquatic notes. There is an airiness throughout the first two-thirds of the development. It only becomes a tiny bit more grounded as sandalwood provides a woody tether in the base.

Frangipani Flower has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Frangipani Flower is equally as clever as Tropical Cherimoya in the way differing layers of accords form a soliflore. On the days I wore it I joined my poodle luxuriating in the sunbeam I had found.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke