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.