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.
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.
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.