The two latest creations by Jo Malone, Lotus Blossom & Water Lily and Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, are both inspired by the diurnal and nocturnal rhythms of life as well as by the spiritual tradition of the East in their evocations of calm, unruffled waters and veils of mystical incense.
The compositions are more complex than are usual for Jo Malone; here the simplicity that is usual to the line seems to have been translated into an aesthetic sense of purity and serenity resting on subtle and unusual aromas. Asian olfactory quotes are present helping the mind travel to distant exotic lands albeit without using the deeply sensual vehicle of the oriental perfume with Middle Eastern connotations.
If Serge Lutens Arabie is a boisterous market in Istanbul replete with baskets of candied dry fruits bursting at the seams with honey and sap and half-stoned with ambient spices, Lotus Blossom & Water Lily is a transparent evocation of a dewy flower market in Bangkok at dawn as it fragrantly emerges from the obscurity of the night. Even in Dark Amber & Ginger Lily the heavier, more classically weighted-down oriental notes are made more spiritual thanks to airy notes of incense and the watery, cool-cucumber character of ginger lily.
Suffice it to say that both perfumes succeed at making your mind more of a mental plane, similar to a clean slate on which letters or characters have not been chalked down yet.
Although we were initially more taken with Lotus Blossom & Water Lily, the Dark Amber and Ginger Lily in the end is quite subjugating too if you let it produce its effect (a second layer of the same scent, applied later in the development seems optimal.) Both scents offer wonderful woody, incensey, and floral tonalities.
We could not but propose to read a little poem by Dogen before wading in mind through the moonlit water, as both perfumes seem to offer a dreamy lunar quality,
"Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass."
Lotus Blossom & Water Lily Cologne
At first, the floral scent strikes with its woody, peppery facets, since the floralcy was more expected. The blend is complex, musky (slightly acrid rather than frankly animalistic; more akin to the sweat developed by a clean body after an athletic effort, yet definitely a bit sexual) fruity and creamy in an understated fashion. Then an interesting ginger-like smell appears, but without the spiciness ... and suddenly we are transported back in time to a vision of our mother with red ginger lilies in her hands, at other times, lotus blossoms, that she would use to decorate the dining table. There are musky overtones touched up discreetly by fruits.
Lotus Blossom and Water Lily is a rather radiant, meditative composition offering a novel sense of exoticism. One recognizes the water lily note through its incarnation in scents like Tommy Girl 10, but mixed with the lotus blossom it becomes less recognizable, therefore more original. It is a very pleasing, interesting blend thanks to the showcasing of a less common floral bouquet.
If you like impressions of trembling water, pure and serene meditation seen from the point of view of a layman, this is it. The scent exudes a lovely exotic charm that people who have traveled to certain regions of Asia will appreciate particularly. It reminds us of the flower market in Bangkok at 5 a.m. when all the sellers are tressing their garlands of fresh flowers from overflowing baskets of blossoms. It is very much a morning perfume suggesting a stage of the day when it is still untouched, pristine, and full of possibilities.
A wonderful incensey and woody note emerges in the dry-down. The longer dry-down suggests the scent of skin after it has been playfully licked and has dried and then also that of skin after it has been bathed in the sea.
It is a composition that manages to be strange, aloof, evocative and elusive all at the same time, conjuring up an aquatic, very distantly related Far Eastern and Buddhist version of Guerlain Vol de Nuit, like an intuitive perfumed bridge traversing continents.
Highly recommended for this spring, summer and beyond.
Dark Amber & Ginger Lily Cologne
The cologne at first is fresh, gingery (Ginger ale), woody, coconut-y (candied and fresh). It initially feels more familiar than its counterpart in terms of perfume composition, but then - change of scene for the better - the scent rushes into an intense resinous and incensey development with a slightly leathery feel.
The smoke of incense finally escapes from the pool of amber ascending in the air as if a stick of incense had been lit in the dark. The dry, dusty feel of the incense is underlined by a subtly powdery musk with a baby-talcum-powder overtone. For people who are sensitive to metallic nuances, there is one. The incense notes are refined but the ambery and musky body here can make them feel more commonplace. Fortunately, adroit application of the scent seems to improve its complexity, and then the woods and incense make their presence felt.
The woody impression is beautiful, smelling of an old plank of wet, worm-eaten wood or flotsam brushed by petals of flower distillating their subtle aquatic scent. There is very much an Asian atmosphere here too with the suggestion of a traditional Japanese garden in which water flows through slim bamboo canals. The woody-floral bouquet is absolutely gorgeous, very subtle and refined - especially when layered over itself - making you think of an ancient silk kimono pattern decorated with prune blossoms (it is lightly pruney). It is reminiscent of the woods and plum in Guerlain Lights of Champs-Elysées, but made more Asiatic still thanks to Far Eastern aqueous blossoms and incense.
Finally both scents offer this almost indefinable, subliminal quality that is found in certain French perfumes that smell rich and elegant. It is this food-and-wine accord vaguely mingled with the suggestion of cigarette and women's perfumes lingering on after a meal spent in good company. You find it in 31 Rue Cambon, Sycomore, Magnolia Romana, and elsewhere. As we already said, it is a marker of luxury, and to make the idea more definite, let us add that it is a scent that signals you as a member of the leisure class.
Although Jo Malone recommend layering both scents together, we do not recommend it. We tried, for once, and it just becomes, at best, a sent-bon, an OK-to-nice smell but with all the structures of the scents flattened down, like a castle made of playing-cards that would have come crumbling down.
Launch date: May 2008 - see here for all the details on prices, locations, and perfume notes