An olfactory journey through British history, the upcoming Rock The Ages collection from Jo Malone London celebrates the story of Great Britain with a quintet of fragrances representing five distinct eras.
Proud. Illustrious. A little eccentric.
Encapsulating the country’s defining moments are:
Tudor Rose & Amber
To capture the bloody and turbulent Tudor era in which roses featured greatly, this scent is composed of damask rose which gives it a velvety texture, and a Tudor rose accord for a metallic edge reminiscent of blood – an allusion to that dark age of violent upheaval.
The spice trade associated with that era is reflected too, with the inclusion of ginger and clove; the latter recalling the clove-stuffed pomanders that the people of that time carried to obscure the street stench.
A sumptuousness comes through via golden amber, evoking the warmth and woody depth of amber rosary beads that were rubbed at prayer time during that medieval period.
The sensual, rich quality of this fragrance hits your nose at first sniff; its opulent blend of sweet rose and warm spice quite distinct. It’s not my favourite of the five but if you love warm, full-bodied fragrances with a velvety plume, you’ll probably like this. I couldn’t quite discern the promised metallic accent from the fragrance blotter but I appreciate the creative inspiration.
Lily of the Valley & Ivy
Representing the Georgian era of pastel gentility, this scent draws its inspiration from crisp landscaped gardens and the ivy-lined façade of a typical London Georgian house. Described as ‘captivating and ethereal’ by the brand, the light and pretty floral lily of the valley and narcissus heart—on its own, traditional (some might say old)—is given a vegetal twist with the inclusion of green ivy, and lifted with sparkling cassis.
I love how the green-ness of the ivy comes through the familiar genteel floral notes. It’s not sharp and jarringly distinct; instead, it wafts as a welcome unusual accent that gives this fragrance a modern character. It’s definitely one that I like from this collection – the olfactorial surprise by way of the ivy charmed me.
Calling to mind Victorian decadence, this rich and fruity beloved Jo Malone scent comprises juicy pomegranate, as well as woody notes of guaiacwood and patchouli.
As fans of this fragrance know, the pink pepper spice-note gives the luscious ruby red fruit an exotic facet.
Geranium & Verbena
Dubbed “the first season of Downton Abbey” by Chris Wyatt, Jo Malone London Global Fragrance Ambassador, this fragrance captures the last glory days of British aristocracy during the Edwardian period.
A fougère (fern-like) fragrance that represents that era of garden parties and gracefully-attired company. Comprising geranium, verbena, basil, coumarin (tonka bean) and vetiver, there is a quiet elegance to this clean and herbaceous scent.
Rather than use lavender which was typical in the fougère scents of that time, the brand replaced it with verbena, a note that is associated with crisp white shirts and “dandy men stuff”, imparting a modern touch to this perfume.
Thanks to its familiar ingredients, I believe it will be one of the more popular scents in this collection, plus its clean nature makes it perfect for layering with the rest.
Birch & Black Pepper
A reflection of contemporary Britain, this ‘scent of contrasts’ was inspired by the rebellion of punk (think bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols) co-existing with respect for tradition. In it are spicy black pepper and cardamom smoked up with deep birch, warm resinous gurjum and an unusual ink accord that is inspired by tattoo ink.
The smokey, leathery notes add a layer of complexity to this unusual blend. You could love it or hate it but it’s that sort of spicy-smokey concoction with a mysterious intimation.
Aside from Pomegranate Noir created by Jo Malone before she sold the brand to the Estée Lauder group, the scents are limited edition. The nose behind the other four is Christine Nagel, for whom this collection is a swan song – she’s moving (moved?) on to Hermès.
James Gager, Jo Malone London’s creative director, perfectly captures the elegance and wit of British culture in the campaign visuals.
The press event here was held at the residence of the British High Commissioner to Singapore, who shared that he hoped his home would be a canvas to tell stories about Britain. And that it did – how apt that this UK-centred collection was showcased there!
All five fragrances fragrances will be available in Singapore from March 2015. Each 30 ml bottle will retail at S$105.