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.
I thought when I was reviewing the three new Jo Malone London Rain fragrances by perfumer Christine Nagel those were going to be the last new releases before she took up her new position at Hermes. It turns out that my assumption was in error. When I met Luc Gabriel owner and creative director at The Different Company I learned that Mme Nagel had one last fragrance to do before she started with Hermes. According to M. Gabriel the final version of her new fragrance for The Different Company, Nuit Magnetique was delivered on March 4th and she started her collaboration with Jean-Claude Ellena as co-in-house perfumers at Hermes two days later.
Christine Nagel (Photo: Matthieu Dortomb)
For her first fragrance for The Different Company she wanted to create both magnetic attraction and repulsion throughout all of the phases of Nuit Magnetique. Mme Nagel explains it in the press release as, “I created this perfume thinking about the physical principle of the magnet. The raw materials that I chose get married by affinity and get repelled by contrast inside a magnetic field whose olfactory nucleus is an amber-woody accord.” It sounds a lot like typical PR copy but Mme Nagel actually pulls this off as the top and heart exemplify this dual magnetic push and pull before getting pretty normal with the promised amber-woody base.
The attraction pair in the top notes is ginger and bergamot. Together there is a great vivacious quality which gets separated by a blueberry note that feels like it cleaves them apart. The blueberry has a slightly astringent nature to it which helps it split the happy couple up. The heart is a group of heavy hitter florals, jasmine, rose, and tuberose which Mme Nagel tames in her trademark way of not letting the more boisterous ingredients get out of balance. The orthogonal note here is prune in all of its concentrated dried plum glory. The use of dried fruit in fragrances has become more prevalent but in the use of prune as contrast to the florals it gives an atypical energy to it. Instead of weighing things down it adds a luscious underpinning which allow the florals something to push off of. The base is, as promised, a combination of amber, benzoin, and woods. It is so normal it almost doesn’t feel like it fits but that perhaps is the final bit of magnetic repulsion on display.
Nuit Magnetique has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
I didn’t get around to trying Nuit Magnetique until my last day at Esxence. I was so entranced with the ginger and blueberry along with the florals and prune I spritzed a little on my wrist for the plane flight home. It turned out to be a more delightful companion than my seatmate. I, like many others, are looking forward to what Mme Nagel will bring to Hermes. My expectation is she will be a smashing success because all of the broad creativity necessary to succeed in that position have been on display for many years now. With Nuit Magnetique she left us one final reminder of just how innovative she can be.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence 2014.
I was of mixed emotions when the news was released about perfumer Christine Nagel heading to Hermes, to join Jean-Claude Ellena. I have been very impressed with her tenure as de facto in-house perfumer at Jo Malone since she began producing fragrances there in 2010. It is these releases that convince me that Mme Nagel will be an easy successor to whatever legacy M. Ellena leaves when he retires. Before Mme Nagel headed over to Hermes she released three new fragrances for Jo Malone called the London Rain Collection; Rain & Angelica, Wisteria & Violet, and Black Cedarwood & Juniper. They are all excellent examples of what Mme Nagel has brought to Jo Malone for the past four years and what she will bring to her future.
Rain & Angelica is the one which most evokes the idea of a springtime rain. It has that clean freshness that an April shower brings to the world. Mme Nagel opens it with an ozonic rain accord matched with a cocktail of aldehydes. A bit of lime and pink pepper add some of that earthy spiciness that also seems to accompany the smell of a spring thunderstorm. The florals in the heart are the angelica but there is also a dewy rose and a pretty straightforward iris. All of this ends on a wet greenery accord courtesy of vetiver and amber, but mostly vetiver.
Wisteria & Violet is the garden after the rain and as the sun has returned to warm the day back up. The beginning is a watery accord of lemon, melon, and waterlily. Thankfully the waterlily is the more prominent note over the melon. The waterlily adds a watery green floralcy that is intensified with the addition of wisteria and violet. The titular notes really take over at this point and for a good while this fragrance is wisteria and violet by themselves. Over time the patchouli does come to the foreground but it is a greener more herbal patchouli. A bit of white musk adds a final sheer layer to the end of this.
Black Cedarwood & Juniper is the one that totally surprised me. If I handed this to you in an unmarked vial and asked you to name what perfume house it came from I think you would be guessing a long while until you said Jo Malone. Black Cedarwood & Juniper is very modern in its construction as Mme Nagel goes for a feel of the midnight streets of London after you’ve been out to the clubs or a late dinner. It opens with a fascinating combination of cumin and chili leaves. I am pretty sure this is the first time cumin has found its way into a Jo Malone fragrance and I don’t think I’ve ever smelled chili leaves before. What this does is take the very sweaty nature of cumin and cover it over with a green heat from the chili leaves. The result is a, very Jo Malone, non-confrontational cumin. It is greener and the cumin’s more rambunctious edges are blunted by the slight chili pepper spiciness of the chili leaves. These top notes remain as the cedarwood and juniper arrive. I would say it is the cumin and chili leaves which turn the cedarwood dark. There is a hint of nutmeg along with the juniper berry. It makes this feel like a very dry exotic martini for a while. The base notes add in some leather and moss to finish off this very unique, for Jo Malone, fragrance.
All three London Rain fragrances have 8-10 hour longevity on me and average sillage.
There is a fourth London Rain fragrance but it is a re-labelled version of 2007’s White Jasmine & Mint which was composed by David Apel and Pierre Negrin. The three new ones by Mme Nagel are all very good but it is Black Cedarwood & Juniper which is clearly my favorite. I have worn out my sample and will be buying a bottle very soon. I’m not sure if these are the last compositions we will see from Mme Nagel for Jo Malone but if they are she is leaving on a high note and displaying the potential for her future.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples of the Jo Malone London Rain Collection I purchased from Surrender to Chance and I received from the Jo Malone Counter at Nordstroms.