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

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Violet & Amber Absolu- Warm Violet

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There is so much I am enjoying about the current wave of Jo Malone releases. Creative Director Celine Roux has re-invigorated this venerable line through her enthusiastic direction. I’ve listed the multiple efforts she has brought to the brand in previous reviews. One of those was initiated with last year’s Rose & White Musk Absolu. Working with perfumer Anne Flipo they came up with a perfume with more character than the name implied. Mme Roux promised there would be more and a year later Jo Malone Violet & Amber Absolu has arrived.

Celine Roux

It is difficult to know how much to buy into the press release babble. For Rose & White Musk Absolu there was a lot of chatter about adding the fresh Jo Malone aesthetic on top of a Middle Eastern set of ingredients like oud, white musk, and amber. If I squinted, I could have mentioned that in my review of that earlier release. To be honest that didn’t jump out at me. I remembered that when I tried Violet & Amber Absolu for the first time; I got that. This more recent press release is all Arabian Nights, “yadda, yadda, yadda”. I want to tell them this is where you talk about Jo Malone combined with Middle Eastern perfumery.  Mme Flipo creates a perfume of violet warmed by those ingredients.

Anne Flipo

Violet & Amber Absolu opens with rich violet on display. Violet is one of my top tier favorite perfume ingredients. This is a great one to use. Mme Flipo threads through filaments of labdanum and patchouli. These take what was already fully-rounded violet and makes it three-dimensional. The patchouli adds an earthiness which is the right support for the violet. The base accord are those Middle Eastern ingredients. Amber is the focal point but there is an expansive white musk and subtle oud which rise off the warmth of the amber. It as if they are a brazier warming the violet accord above.

Violet & Amber Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This has been a spring morning standout since I received it. It is an ideal shoulder season perfume. Mme Roux promises even more Absolus. Bring ‘em on. They have found a new way to make Jo Malone modern again by warming up violet.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Nettle & Wild Achillea- Ramble Through the Brambles

This has been the first warm weekend in Poodlesville this spring. That means I spent some time clearing away the detritus of the winter. It also means I spent some time walking through the adjacent woods with one of the poodles. I enjoy the natural scent of the world as winter gives way to the earliest days of spring. With the snow gone nature presents her prickly self in smell and thorn. On my favorite walk I always come home with a few scratches from the brambles which choke the path here and there. The smell of the woods is equally pointed as the greenness presents itself in sharp hues. There are a few perfumes which do this well; Jo Malone Nettle & Wild Achillea is a new addition.

Celine Roux

The creative director at Jo Malone, Celine Roux, likes to take her perfumers out to meet what she wants to capture in a perfume. In April a couple years ago she took Louise Turner and Yann Vasnier out to the canals of England. Upon their return Mme Roux asked them to create a collection based on that trip. This year the Wild Flower & Weeds collection was released as five perfumes. This goes to reinforce that as much as I think something is going to be great based on everything I read; the reality lets me down. I found four of the five releases didn’t contain as many weeds while allowing the wild flowers to have too much of the frame. The one which was weedier was the only one I really connected with. Ms. Turner is the perfumer behind Nettle & Wild Achillea. She has composed a thorny green perfume which captures the freshness of a spring day in layers.

Louise Turner

It opens with the “flower” in the title Wild Achillea which is more commonly known as yarrow. That essential oil has a soft herbal quality instead of a more typical floral scent profile. Ms. Turner uses baie rose as herbal counterweight to tilt the top accord even further away from being “pretty spring floral”. This is the soft green of the buds peeking through the soil. The thorns come next as a sharp mate tea slices through the top accord opening the way for even more sharpness due to the silvery nature of violet and the astringent green of the nettles. Ms. Turner completes an adroit balancing act by keeping this just the right side of strong without drawing blood. The fresh air of spring blows through courtesy of a set of white musks carrying a woody green vetiver in the base.

Nettle & Wild Achillea has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you want a perfume which carries all the sharp and fresh scents of early spring Nettle & Wild Achillea will fit the bill. It allows me to ramble through the brambles without checking for snags in my sweater or scrapes on my skin. That’s good enough for me.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Bronze Wood & Leather- Outside Pitch

Celine Roux has done the best job of any creative director in perfumery of redefining the brand she oversees. When Mme Roux took over she did the intelligent thing of working inside out within the releases. She has made perfumes which have the same feel as the perfumes which began the brand over twenty-five years ago. That’s the inside. The outside is when she pushes at the limits of what a Jo Malone fragrance can be. One of the best examples of an inside perfume is 2015’s Mimosa & Cardamom. It was a return to the delicacy of the early releases within the brand. If you want an example of the outside; Jo Malone Bronze Wood & Leather will do.

Celine Roux

Mme Roux has been working with perfumers over a few consecutive releases lately. For Bronze Wood & Leather she brings back the perfumer behind Mimosa & Cardamom; Marie Salamagne. Bronze Wood & Leather is a burly style of perfume the exact opposite of that earlier perfume. That they both feel like part of the same brand is down to the intelligent creative oversight of Mme Roux.

Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)

Mme Salamagne opens with a fresh accord of grapefruit and juniper berry. I’m sure I’ve smelled this combination before but Mme Slamagne has made this one so lively it isn’t like any other. I particularly like the way the juniper blunts the sulfurous undertones in the grapefruit. I’ll admit I’d probably buy a perfume called Grapefruit & Juniper Berry if they wanted to sell me one. This begins to remind me there is meant to be wood here with a tendril of woodsmoke. It starts off at a distance as it inserts itself in the top accord. I was again surprised that the subtle smoke was very pleasant in those early moments. The smoke intensifies as the black leather accord appears. This is that leather biker jacket accord which goes very well with the smoke. Cashmeran provides the desired “bronze wood” with its soft woodiness. a little vetiver provides the final bit of polish.

Bronze Wood & Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There were so many times while wearing Bronze Wood & Leather I felt like I was surrounded by a contemporary interpretation of mid 1970-80’s masculine perfume. If that doesn’t sound like Jo Malone to you, you’re right. If it sounds good to you should step up to the plate for a fantastic curveball on the outside corner.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone White Moss & Snowdrop- Early Present Under the Tree

I continue to extol the creative direction of Celine Roux at Jo Malone because her tenure has seen the first part of her title return to one of the original niche brands. One of the things which has seemingly been a part of this is Mme Roux’s habit of working with a single perfumer for five or six releases. Over the last two years it was Mathilde Bijaoui and Yann Vasnier. Her current partner in perfume is Sophie Labbe. The holiday 2018 release is their third collaboration; White Moss & Snowdrop.

Celine Roux

If there is one release every year that I look forward to it is the Holiday release from Jo Malone. I realize I own almost all of them. The brand has excelled at releasing a festive style of perfume just in time for the season. The two releases from this summer from Mmes Roux and Labbe, Tropical Cherimoya and Catlleya Flower Mist, were tropical floral styles ideal for the summer. White Moss & Snowdrop is a winter floral wrapped in green garland shot through with sparkles of light.

Sophie Labbe

The perfume opens with the lemon tinted zest of cardamom over orange and petitgrain. As an admirer of cardamom heavy top accords this is top of my list. Mme Labbe uses the cardamom as a chill breeze over the citrus elements. The fruit and the tart never take the lead. They are there as a way of enhancing the inherent citrus in the cardamom. The balance achieved here is beautifully realized. Neroli rises out of this. it is the greener neroli which has been appearing a lot this year in perfume. The chilly effect is provided by the titular snow drop although this remains more neroli than snowdrop on my skin. This is the kind of connective note which captures the transition from top notes to base notes. Those base notes are surrounding a key note of white moss. I wanted to determine if this white moss was the same ingredient used in Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss. After many days of comparison my answer is I’m not sure. I also think the comparison maybe overshadows what is here. The moss note in White Moss & Snowdrop has that pillowy green effect of moss but continues the slight chill carried on from the top and heart. Mme Labbe uses a bit of tonka and amber to leaven the white moss a bit but this is where things come to an end.

White Moss & Snowdrop has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The overall effect from this perfume is that of green holly garland wrapped in white lights on the fireplace mantel. It is an ideal Holiday style of perfume. So much so I felt like my sample of White Moss & Snowdrop was like an early present under my tree.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Davana- Farmgirl to Chypre Fatale

I delight in finding new perfume brands. It is part of what makes me enjoy writing about perfume. Like an olfactory Lothario I am always looking for a new relationship. The bad part of that behavior is the possibility to ignore one of the longer-lived brands when it is doing something extraordinary. I hope that I am a better correspondent than that, but it is human nature to put the new over the old. One point in my favor is I have been very impressed with the current direction at Jo Malone overseen by creative director Celine Roux. 2018 is shaping up as a prime example. The new Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Davana continues a fantastic year.

Celine Roux

I often write about how a strong creative director paired with a strong aesthetic is a formula for success. Mme Roux has placed her very distinctive direction upon one of the more recognizable perfume aesthetics by not being afraid to explore the fringes of that. Jo Malone is a classic British line which honors that in every perfume. Mme Roux has embraced that in the best releases over the last few years. Honeysuckle & Davana shows all of that.

Anne Flipo

The press materials for almost every new Jo Malone release offers quotes from Mme Roux and the perfumer about the creative process. For Honeysuckle & Davana the collaborator is perfumer Anne Flipo. Honeysuckle is not a flower which can be extracted easily. The alternative is for a perfumer to undertake headspace analysis where they capture and analyze the material in its natural state. By seeing the chemical makeup of the natural scent, they can then undertake an effort to produce that scent in the lab. The press release tells of Mme Roux and Flipo spending a full day at The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire. They took headspace samples throughout the day including one at midnight. They discovered an ever-altering scent profile. It was the late-night version which captured their attention as they felt it fit into a chypre construction. This effort pays off.

I didn’t speak about the other ingredient on the label; that one shows up right away. The top accord is rose oxide and davana. Both ingredients bring a fruit-tinted green to things. The rose oxide also has some earthiness from which the honeysuckle can spring. The honeysuckle accord comes next. It starts off very bright but Mme Flipo really turns it into an after dark version with osmanthus to contribute its leathery floral quality. There is the movement from innocent farmgirl to femme fatale. That is deepened as Mme Flipo uses the classic patchouli, moss, and sandalwood chypre base. Innocence is gone as the bad girl comes forward. It is this final stage of the perfume which impressed me. Even using the low-atranol oakmoss it is one of the few times I have not missed the bite of full octane oakmoss. The honeysuckle accord struts right through it all.

Honeysuckle & Davana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Honeysuckle & Davana is my favorite Jo Malone release of 2018. It is also one of my favorite new releases overall in 2018. Mme Roux is making this Lothario take another look at the one he left behind; gloriously so.

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

Mark Behnke