Jo Malone are preparing to launch a new limited-edition library of perfumes this spring. Like each year, it is devoted to a different storied thematic. Last year, you could almost taste a Sugar and Spice Collection reminding you of the iconic tea party in Alice in Wonderland. In 2014, the brand issues the Rain Collection, dedicated to interpreting an archetypal element of the British landscape, rain.
The new lineup features three novel compositions and an older one, White Jasmine & Mint introduced in 2007. The three new creations are all signed by perfumer Christine Nagel while Jasmine and Mint is a previous creation of nose David Apel. Its dewy, English-garden theme fits retrospectively into the limited-ediiton range while the redecorated bottle looks like it belongs with the three others. The brand decided a quartet is better than a trio...
My English Climate
Cold, insistent drizzle; thick, blinding fog; pitch darkness setting in all too soon at four pm during the winter, these are a few of the climate changes you experience when moving from France to England.
As a young bachelor of arts student reading English Literature then, I moreover remember when residing in Cambridge for the first time during the summer how I was introduced to the English weather as a national obsession by my Scottish landlady who would tune in religiously every morning to listen to weather reports on the radio before considering her sartorial equipment for the day. In the United States, the same obsession might be directed in a similar fashion towards Wall Street fluctuations. In France it's probably more popular to ask about the latest political news or what kind of meal you ate or are planning to eat - the latter often heard in the métro.
This preoccupation with weather is the steadfast companion to the unpredictable skies. Soon enough however, I had to not just observe customs but live in England as well and therefore had to go to a sports store to purchase a raincoat. I came out with a reversible sailor-borrowed one and ended up discovering the university town and that other lovely British obsession - well-tended gardens benefitting from generous rains - as if I had spent part of the summer on the deck of a yacht. Even inside the land, you cannot forget the insularity of the country and its maritime destiny.
Water in England is omnipresent in its downpouring form,. It makes you muse that as the world is going to have to manage its aquatic resources with thrift, and there are already projections about underground water seen as veritable gold mines, there will also be a more invisible map of water holes drawing safely-kept lakes in reserve up there in the sky of Great-Britain, and elsewhere.
For the moment being, Jo Malone have been inspired to turn a potential negative into a positive. Water is life and all that but rain in the city is usually perceived as unnecessary and bad for business because there are no obvious harvests to reap and the municipal waters keeps you going just fine. Jo Malone however have decided to turn rain into a chic reference trademarking it as "London rain".
Nose Christine Nagel has ultimately done something quite French with Angelica and Rain while Black Cedarwood and Juniper is a bit of an odd thing letting you catch a glimpse possibly into some perfumers' silent exchanges. If we can, we'll review Wisteria and Violet too but for right now the brand were out of that particular one. White Jasmine and Mint, we reviewed already.
The flacons are in the classic bathroom-top style, only color-coded this time and are squatter than on the pictures which make them look more elongated.
Rain and Angelica
What they say:
"Glassy beads of dew, awakening
a London park at dawn. A revitalising scent, enlivened with herbaceous angelica and juicy lime on an earthy base of vetiver. Aqueous and clear."
Rain & Angelica - the most intriguingly and evocatively entitled of the three - opens on a more acidulic impression than expected - it's the lime. Soon the composition fades into a soft ozonic sensation evoking the smell of water, combined with a powdery facet and faint floral nuances. The citruses are quite present. After a little while you are left with the sensation that the perfume aims for near-emptiness. There is a barely-there accord of floating watery cloud. Underneath it all however much more substantial resins and amber continue their journey on the skin. At this point, you are reminded most, for my part, of a previous Jo Malone entry in the Kohdo Wood Collection from 2008, Dark Night Amber & Ginger Lily
There is also the faint smell of wet asphalt in the mix as it realeases its earthier, mineral scent after the rain came pouring down.
Let the perfume gently unfold and the angelica reveals its soft, herbaly and central presence. In France, it's mostly experienced as a treat in candied form stuck on pastries for decoration and as a suave aromatic touch. A taste for it was developed from the 18th century by the nuns of Niort collecting it in the humid watermarshes of the Poitou region where the plant thrives. Its stem gets candied and jammed.
Further down the road, and while the aquatic theme is respected, Rain & Angelica becomes much more of an angelica composition making you think that you might be inhaling its scent from a glass of the green liqueur. It ends up being a gourmand perfume, switching national preoccupations mid-course. It has an almondy- coumarine nuance. It is more oriental than expected. All in all there is an interesting association of the aromatic and the mineral. It is not however such an atmospheric perfume as you might have expected. Thinking of the classic Après L'Ondée by Guerlain, or even of Douce Amère by Serge Lutens, the latter which manages to be an amospheric, moody gourmand, you know that more depth of field could have been potentially created. If you enjoy a gourmand, suave texture, then you will appreciate the soft greenness of angelica.
Black Cedarwood and Juniper
What they say:
"Midnight rain. Seductive with
the carnal touch of cumin, chilli leaves, and aromatic juniper. Dark with cedarwood. Humid with moss. Modern and urban."
The fragrance opens similarly on an aquatic impression bordering next on watered down whiskey, then fades into the scent of aged, weathered woods.
The composition is oud-y, woody, oaky, smoky. Black Cedarwood and Juniper feels more masculine a priori although it can be worn by a woman too. It's the Ethylane Brassylate - Dihydro Myrcenol type of notes which confer it a masculine coded attitude as they convey a sense of assertiveness and are often smelled in men's colognes. The versatile woods however, a bit of desserty cream, and its depth as an oriental make it adaptable for unisex wear.
In the midst of the unfolding of dry, hot notes, there is a discreet current of mint, or at least something camphoraceous, which might be thanks to the evergreen facet of juniper berries. It is also a perfume with a sweet facet. It smells a bit of an omelette flambée stuffed with brown coconut jam and banana. This is where a comparison imposes itself with a very different proposition, Leather & Oud by Dior which never pretended to be about the rain. It visibly resembles the collection privée number quite a bit to the point of suggesting a copycat. This is surprising as Christine Nagel is usually someone creative. Thinking how her Miss Dior has been reworked by François Demachy, you start wondering if this is not about a hidden exchange. Perfumers oscillate between the opinion that it's a demonstration of admiration to be reproduced, and feeling some irritation. At any rate, the literal aspect of the borrowing is odd. It allows you however to purchase a less expensively priced version of Leather and Oud. The difference which characterizes Black Cedarwod and Juniper is that it has a much more aromatic and fresh attack at the start, with the main idea of pungent, pyrogenic, gourmand woods arriving in delayed mode. The fragrance wafts of smoky embers, banana cream, and cedarwood. This one is more for connoisseurs and perfumistas in the sense of smelling less self-effaced. It utilizes the drenched-wood aspect of oud.
If you want to place it within the London context, it would be tapping into the Oriental scents and the cosmopolitan exoticism of the city. Going back to its virile character, it's a bit hairy-chested and whiskey-wielding for a man, yet for a woman it can come across as mysterious and a bit "dirty" and sexy thanks to its animalic character.
The Rain Collection speaks more about rain than it systematically chases the water theme. It is there but not that obviously at the forefront. Featuring a marsh plant, angelica, and "wet woods", they are consistent. Do not expect focused studies on rain atmospheres in 3D but rather perfumes suggesting the sensation - even just by association - of wetness.