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.