Monday, February 28, 2011

Jo Malone Tea Collection: fragrance reviews

Henry James wrote "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as an afternoon tea." There are indeed few indulgences more easily satisfying than warming my hands on a hot gàiwǎnof aromatic tea on a cold and gloomy day; letting the steam of clove-laced tea rise and dissipate in front of my eyes at a tea salon waiting for friends to arrive for an afternoon snack (my favourite is in the elegantly historic Grande Bretagne hotel, Athens); or sipping jasmine tea with mint on my verandah in the hours when the sun is setting into the sea in summer, an orange disk sizzling -as I imagine- as it meets the blue waters.

The new Tea Collection by Jo Malone promised to ignite at least some of those memories at the spritz of an elegant sparse bottle: In part it delivers, while in other parts there are some elements left to be desired, but this portfolio composed by perfumer Christine Nagel. "The ceremony of tea is a timeless, simple and authentic practice, but in relation to fragrance, surprising and original” says Nagel.

The overall character of the Limited edition Tea Collection is one of light, diffusive fragrances which rely on a somewhat simplistic composition, meant to be used for layering or to satisfy a specific craving for ambient music to one's nose; typically Jo Malone concept. In short, if you prefer the more baroque formula of Five o' clock au Gingembre by Lutens or L'Artisan's Tea for Two with its smoky, tarry undercurrent, these tea scents by Jo Malone might prove to be too transparent, lacking the robust character you seek. But if you want refreshing and -sometimes- cuddly spritzes to lift your spirits on a day that just doesn't go the way you wanted it to go, they're easy and mood-altering scents that might fit the bill.

The Jo Malone Tea Collection includes 5 fragrances:
Assam & Grapefruit,
Earl Grey & Cucumber,
Sweet Milk,
Sweet Lemon,
Fresh Mint Leaf

To beging from the bottom up, Sweet Lemon as well as Fresh Mint Leaf are extra refreshing formulae, meant to be savoured best on a hot summer day, respectively emphasizing the properties of sweet-sour contrasts in the rind of lemon and the fuzziness of peaches; and the piquant, slightly spicy (peppery basil) note that is as cool as a Wringley mint gum respectively. I would suspect that paired with the bright and lively Roses in the Jo Malone line that latter Fresh Mint Leaf would make a killer masculine combination or one which more adventurous females might investigate for warm weather wearing.
Assam & Grapefuit is a pleasurable twist on the tarry aroma of black tea under the naturally sulfurous qualities of grapefruit: If cult classic Pamplelune has always impressed you with its realistic grapefruit aroma, but you were wary of the sweaty aspects it might project, Assam & Grapefruit provides a bit of that sting without the humiliation of not knowing if you're offensive to others. The pairing of malty-smelling tea with citric notes is a given, the fruit making the aromatic notes rise to the surface. Which is why Earl Grey tea is such a success too (to the point that it's a pop reference in Star Trek): the bergamot oils used to flavour it bring an aesthetic rounding of its notes into a tune as melodic as one coming from an harp! In Jo Malone's Earl Grey & Cucumber however the balance of a classic blend is tilted and the resulting effect is quite intriguing: The flavour of a good bergamot-laced Earl Grey is there but the freshness here comes not by citrus as would have been expected, but via aquatic notes, masquerading as "cucumber" (and I suspect violet leaves too, as in Fresh's Baies & Cucumber). The reference of course is the famous cucumber sandwiches which are served by the British accompanying a hot tea cup. It's an excellent example of how context makes all the difference, as the bergamot note takes on an almost sensual role amidst the watery freshness of the fragrance formula.
Warm Milk on the other hand, although predictable (it's exactly what its name suggests, a soft-core sort of tea with condensed milk to take to bed and cuddle up) is pleasurable, definitely a skin scent and very long lasting. It's probably what most lovers of light gourmands or light woodies would gravitate to!

Perhaps what's missing from such a quintessentially British brand (though bought out by Lauder in recent years) is a "London Fog" fragrance: bergamot laced tea notes alongside warm milkiness and a hint of vanilla syrup. The building blocks are already in the lab, all that's left is for them to cut the deck once more!

Notes for Jo Malone Assam & Grapefruit:
Top notes: grapefruit, violet, rhubarb
Heart: Assam tea, rose, cardamom
Base: patchouli, musk, almond
Notes for Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber:
Top notes: bergamot, apple, jasmine, water notes
Heart: angelica, cucumber, davana
Base: beeswax, vanilla, cedar and musk
Notes for Jo Malone Sweet Lemon:
Top notes: lemon, bergamot, rhubarb
Heart: pineapple, freesia, peach
Base: cypress, musk, cedar
Notes for Jo Malone Fresh Mint Leaf:
Top notes: basil, mint, bergamot
Heart: water jasmine, rhubarb
Base: mate, musk, cedar
Notes for Jo Malone Warm Milk:
Top notes: star anise, heliotrope, bergamot
Heart: milk, caramel
Base: vanilla, almond, musk

Available at Jo Malone counters in 30ml/1oz bottles, extremely limited edition (grab them while they're hot!), from March 2011.

top pic via le petit ogre


  1. I was very curious about these, since I love a good tea note. I have never been particularly impressed with Jo Malone though, so thank you very much for your reviews, I will seek them out to give them a sniff. ;)

  2. Anonymous14:26

    Tea is such a wonderful association for fragrances. It's a pity that most don't quite capture the subtler nuances of the drinking experience.
    Which is your favorite?


  3. Olfactoria,

    they're typically light and uncomplicated, but two of them are quite memorable. Do give them a whirl if you can and let me know!

  4. Marianne,

    indeed a pity, as I haven't really found the perfect tea scent (for me).
    You ask which is my favourite tea fragrance? Hmmm...don't really have a favourite so far. The Lutens is nice, although something is lacking while the L'Artisan is a miss for me (doesn't recall tea really to me). You might want to try Nomad Tea by CDG, but it's sweeter than anticipated.

  5. Thanks for the review. I love tea scents but haven´t found the perfect one for me (though the dry down of Bulgari Eau The Rouge is coming close).
    I have to see if I can find these in Germany.

  6. Eva,

    I believe they should be available in Germany; only they're bound to disappear quickly.
    I was rather disappointed in Rouge; it gave me hope initially but something is lacking; can't put my finger on what. I think Warm Milk would appeal most from the line up for you. ;-)

  7. 30 Roses16:17

    I bought and am enjoying wearing Sweet Milk and Fresh Mint Leaf (separately, not layered.) These are the first Malones I have taken any liking to. Sweet Milk is, as you say, long lasting; on me it is more than a skin scent. I find it comfortable and mood elevating, the best of the five.

  8. 30Roses,

    glad you liked the Warm Milk: it's indeed the best one in the lot. It's nice to have a mood elevator in the form of a pleasant fragrance! Enjoy!!


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