My Favorite Things: Basil

If you have ever grown basil at home you have now reached the point in the summer that you wonder what you can do with all that you have on hand. I know over the years we have gotten very creative in finding ways to use it. I might become tired of using it in recipes but one thing I never tire of is the fresh green herbal scent of the leaves. Just picking one and crushing it in my hand is a pleasure while cooking on the grill or watching the poodles cavort in the backyard. Basil has been an ingredient in perfume, usually paired up with some other herbs. Even as part of an ensemble there some fragrances where the basil takes the lead. Here are five of my favorite basil perfumes.

You might think I would start with the classic Jo Malone Lime, Basil, & Mandarin. It was a favorite until last year when it was replaced by Jo Malone Basil & Neroli. Perfumer Anne Flipo uses three different isolates of basil paired with a fantastic neroli. It has become my favorite perfume in the entire Jo Malone line.

It is the basil which makes Dior Eau Sauvage something more than just a masculine lavender perfume. Perfumer Edmond Roudnitska has basil provide the bridging note from the top citrus accord down to the vetiver base. As part of the expansive Hedione heart it adds green threads to the jasmine tapestry M. Roudnitska creates. I don’t think many will think of Eau Sauvage when I say basil perfumes but like things you never noticed that you can’t help seeing once you do see them; give Eau Sauvage a try and I bet you notice the basil now.

Another evergreen fragrance which uses basil is Azzaro pour Homme. This masculine powerhouse uses basil as a part of an herbal heart accord. Like in Eau Sauvage it also provides that bridging effect from the top of lavender and citrus to the patchouli and vetiver heart. This one is a little harder to see the basil as a featured note perhaps. I always notice it but that might be because I am attuned to it.

One of the best examples of a Mediterranean style is Annick Goutal Eau du Sud. Perfumer Isabelle Doyen wanted to capture twilight in Provence. She uses verbena as her focal point allowing basil, citrus, and sandalwood to complete the milieu. You might not think of basil as a typical fresh note; Mme Doyen shows that it can be.

I often complain about flankers taking the original and shoving a couple of new notes in to the formula and repackaging it. 99.9% of the time it is cynical; Tom Ford Private Blend Neroli Portofino Forte is the 0.1%. One reason might be perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux when asked to make his original Neroli Portofino “forte” he didn’t take that to mean to turn up the volume. Instead he looked at the top and base accords to find ways to make them bolder. The basil leads the chorus of herbs joined by tarragon, rosemary, and mint. Galbanum shades it all a bit greener. I like this because it does add strength. The neroli heart is given a different perspective coming out of such an herbal top. A leather accord provides the strength to finish. This also has replaced the original as my favorite of the blue bottle Private Blends.

These five help me keep my enjoyment of basil going all year long.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Basil & Neroli- Basil on Top

It was in the early 1990’s that a London-based aesthetician named Jo Malone burst on to the fragrance scene with a true original perfume called Lime Basil & Manadrin. The herbal citrus perfume has become a standard not only within the line but in general. In 1999, Ms. Malone sold her fragrance business to Estee Lauder in one of the earliest niche acquisitions by a large beauty company. In the seventeen years since that acquisition I think Jo Malone has done pretty well staying true to the style Ms. Malone pioneered in her early days. I tend to look forward to receiving new releases because I think the large company has not squashed the spirit of the small company it acquired.

In particular the last couple of years has seen some releases which have been among the best the line has released; 2014’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt along with last year’s Mimosa & Cardamom are but two examples. I was really looking forward to the latest release Basil & Neroli for a couple of reasons. The first was that this is the first time basil has been used as a keynote in a Jo Malone perfume since that long ago original release. Secondly perfumer Anne Flipo seemed to be extending the Herb Garden collection she did earlier in the year for the brand. I really liked the way she used the herbs throughout those fragrances.

anne-flipo

Anne Flipo

Basil & Neroli is real deep dive into the two notes on the label. Mme Flipo uses three different sources of basil throughout. Two of them are sort of spliced together which give some unique perspective to this herbal ingredient. The neroli is also incredibly rich matching the variations in basil.

In the top accord Mme Flipo takes a version of basil called Grand Vert. That is some truth in advertising as the first hint of basil is very green. It is sharpened by the use of cedar leaves to bring it into hyper-focus. Then the second variation of basil to be used is called a “basil-verbena twist” this takes the green tinted verbena twisted with a lees Grand Vert version of basil so that the lemon quality can peek through. Once this is in play it is like finding a lemon amongst a dense bush of basil. The lemon connects to the other titular note as neroli finds its way out of the green. Bitter orange helps push some of the green down too. The third basil comes from doing a combined headspace isolation of basil and neroli together. This lays down an interstitial foundation where the top accord and the neroli combine in a luminous uber-accord. The base is vetiver to keep the green theme through to the base. Mastic to extend the citrus character a bit. Finally, some white musks to add a bit of expansive lift.

Basil & Neroli has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Basil & Neroli is one of my favorite Jo Malone fragrances I’ve tried. The last time I enjoyed one as much on first try it was 2008’s discontinued Sweet Lime & Cedar. That bottle is getting sort of low these days but I think I just found a replacement.

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

Mark Behnke