Fun and Games with the Malones: Introductions

Fun and Colognes

With spring making a grand entrance I was in a playful mood so I decided to have some fun with my Jo Malone bottles. After all the line encourages layering. But first some introductions are in order.

Pomegrenate Noir needs no introductions. It is one of the best sellers of the line and one of my favourite perfumes.

Black Vetyver Café is another star of this line although it rarely gets the praises it deserves. It has a somewhat harsh opening, reminds me of hairspray, but this lasts only for very little and is followed by a brief burst of vetiver. Very quickly the coffee notes enters the scene and this is the best coffee note I have come across in a fragrance. This is pure, plain coffee: no cappuccino, no frappuccino, no milk, no cream, no sugar added. Coffee notes very often seem to take a turn to the gourmand ending up smelling like those cheap flavoured coffee blends, a nondescript combination of coffee-chocolate-caramel-hazelnut concoction, straight out of the labs of food flavouring companies. This one however is surprisingly dry, dirty and herbal. It reminds me a lot of Greek/Turkish coffee, which is lightly roasted, preserving the herbal qualities of the bean. Coffee in this form reminds me of a light immortelle note. Throughout the development coffee is supported by the light green vetiver note and perhaps a little citrous, but it always stays the centre of attention. Many of the fans of BVC complain about its longevity. I have a different experience with this. On me it soon develops into a skin scent with incredible longevity. Just as I start forgetting I wear it I get a cloud of the rustic coffee note surrounding me again. I do not get a great deal of notes combining for this. Although Fragrantica lists vanilla in the blend I cannot detect a hint of it or of any other sweet smelling ingredient. I love BVC because it is dry, herbal and rustic and it becomes one with the skin. Sometimes it smells like I have spilled coffee on me and forgot to wash it off, which I find very charming and daring. Fortunately it has the right amount of vetiver to keep others from detecting it as such. I like the quiet storm feel, close to the skin quality, big longevity (at least on my skin) combination. I would have loved an eau de parfum version of this though. One of the best and most original of the line.

Notes from Fragrantica: black roasted coffee, citruses, nutmeg, green pepper, coriander, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, incense, sequoia wood and lichen.

Notes from my nose: hairspary, vetiver, coffee, grapefruit, woods

Wild Fig and Cassis is the fragrance that has got me wanting to get rid of my Philosykos bottle. Not because it is better but because it is so much more fun to wear. While Philosykos is a demure fig, WF&C is an intensely green, vibrant perfume with a lot of complexity. The fig note always has a tendency to feel woody but not here. This interpretation is green, green, green!  A burst of green juices, like cracking a freshly picked green bean, mixes with the fig and takes it on to a different level: thick, juicy and vibrant. Some jasmine rounds off the rough edges and brings softness to the composition. The base is a lot softer than the opening, a little musk added, but still I cannot detect any woods in this. It stays true the smell of real fig leaves to the end. There is an earthy, wet cement note that is most evident in the opening and stays throughout the development of the scent making it more interesting and urban than most fig prominent scents. This can be the hyacinth reported by Fragrantica, as it can give a metallic floral note to a composition. Longevity and projection are great from this one.

Notes from Fragrantica: cassis, cherry, grass, hyacinth, cyclamen, jasmine, pine tree, patchouli, cedar, amber and musk (apparently they forget the most obvious fig!)

Notes from my nose: green bean, fig leaves, jasmine, wet cement

Blue Agava and Cacao is one of the most feminine in the Jo Malone line, not only because it is intensely floral but also because it is big and bold. I admit I have no idea what agave smells like but I have a vague memory of the smell of a cactus flower that was incredibly floral and delicate and this is quite close. Only this one is big and explosive.  A pink floral explosion laced with soft powdery musk and the unexpected dusty cocoa note. This isn’t sweet chocolate, it is unsweetened cocoa powder. It is more prominent in the opening but complements the floral body of the fragrance throughout the development. I have smelled a similar combination of flowers and cocoa in MP&G Fleur des Comores although no one else seems to get it there, so don’t take my word for it. Blue Agava and Cacao seems quite linear to my nose but no one can complain about its projection and longevity. Although it is very floral and powdery it maintains a skin-like quality that makes it very sensual and slightly dangerous. More femme fatale than girly.

Notes from Fragrantica:  Birgaradia citrus, lime oil, grapefruit, cardamom, red berry, blue Agava flower, sea salt, orchid, geranium, white lily, cocoa, vetiver, cinnamon, musk and vanilla.

Notes from my nose: cactus flower, musk, vanilla, cocoa, powder

154 Cologne is a hidden treasure. It is not even listed in Frgrantica but actually is the masculine powerhouse of the line. It opens with bergamot, rosemary and lavender. There is a slightly medicinal side to this opening which is to be expected from the camphoreous contribution of the herbs but a sweet beeswax note quickly offers comfort and body to the composition. The intense opening leads to a fragrant heart of spices and patchouli. Nutmeg, clove, patchouli leaves and warm woodiness. It is never sweet enough to be considered an oriental. Never dry enough to be considered a fougere. It is a beautiful old-fashioned, masculine chameleon of a scent, herbal, woody and spicy, with a hint of shaving lather accord. In the drydown a leather accord appears that incorporates the beeswax note. This is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of a perfume but it is extremely easy to wear, very warm, comfortable and confident.

Notes from Basenotes: bergamot, grapefruit, mandarin, lavender, basil, nutmeg, patchouli, vetiver, musk, vanilla

Notes from my nose: bergamot, lavender, rosemary, beeswax, nutmeg, shaving cream, leather

Encouraged by the house’s layering friendly policy, I will soon come back with my experimentations with these scents.

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

19 comments

  1. Jo Malone is one of my favorite brands. I think I have more full bottles and decants (not even counting samples) from this brand than from any other. But the only perfumes from the line I ever layer – are those from Tea Blends collection.

    Somehow I’ve never tried on skin 154 Cologne, I can’t explain why. Blue Agava & Cacao make me nauseous. Love the other three though I still don’t have a full bottle of Black Vetyver Café. But now when they released it in my favorite 30 ml size I’ll fix that omission soon.

    • Dear Undina I had you in my mind when I was writing this because we are probably two of the biggest Jo Malone fans. Pomegranate Noir alone is enough to justify my love for JM but BVC is an incredible scent as well. I understand what you say about BA&C but the sheer dare of releasing such s bold fragrance is enough to shame all those who say that Jo Malone is a boring line.

      • Thank you, Christos. Jo Malone fans of the Perfumeland, unite! :)
        I think BA&C is a very interesting perfume – that’s why I keep trying it. I think it’s just a chemistry of my body and my smell perception that create that unpleasant effect as I wear it. But on other people it should be great.

        • BA&C is VERY sweet. I think it should be applied very lightly and probably layered with other scents like Vanilla and Anise (I haven’t tried this but out of the top of my head sounds interesting) or something very citrusy

  2. Thanks for the delightful mini reviews of a line I haven’t explored much. I can tell by your photo that you really love Pomegranate Noir!

    Though I already got a preview of your new site design, thought I’d tell you again that your homepage really looks sharp with all those photos!

  3. As soon as I saw this, I thought “Undina is going to love it!” :)

    Black Vetyver Cafe was one of my first Jo Malone tries. I enjoyed your take! The rest of this line I have not spent much time with.

    • I think this post is dedicated to Undina. Jo Malone is a prolific line and it has something for everyone. Two of my favorites that I do not own is Lavender Amber and Vanilla Anis. Both remarkable combinations of simple notes.

  4. Pingback: Laughs, Lemmings, Loves – Episode 6 « Undina's Looking Glass

  5. Ari

    I looooove BVC too! And I would cut a distant relative to get the longevity that you do :)

    • Buying a fb of this was a leap of faith because my initial impression was similar to yours. But having a fb allowed me to appreciate that 4 sprays give this low sillage, high longevity effect that I enjoy very much.

  6. hedonist222

    I may sound redundant but a lot of the line just doesn’t last long.
    I’m not expecting 18 hours longevity/projection but 4 hours should not be a challenge for any perfume when sprayed liberally as I do.

    But I really did like Oud & Bergamot.
    The oud in O & B was the oud wood (burned) not the oud oil.

    Great review!

  7. Pingback: Fun and Games with the Malones: Pick n’ Mix « Memory Of Scent

  8. They sound great, I STILL haven’t explored this line. You know how some brands just don’t appeal to you, this is my “un-appetizing” house. I will have to soon, the combinations are a lot more interesting sounding than I was lead to believe.

    • I believe there are all sorts of fragrances, others are complex and tell stories. Others are simpler and are made to make you feel good. Jo Malone fragrances fall mainly in the second category. I love them for their spirit of freedom and simple elegance. Many of them however have multiple levels of interpretation, they are more complex than they seem to be. My follow up post on layering was an experiment for me because they proved to behave much differently than expected. Do give them a try and I believe you will be impressed.

      • I certainly will after your write ups. It does seem they are much more complex than you’d initially think, I’m into the simplistic approach a lot so I guess I’m not sure why I’ve stayed away from them. Maybe it’s becasue they appear so traditional?
        I’ll be sure to write up my thoughts when I explore them :)

        • Hype and publicity are made to promote fragrances to those who are most likely to buy them. It is a sort of self-restriction. Do try Pomegranate Noir! You will be surprised.

          • This is true, I guess I often buy into it! Having said that though my hype into fragrance marketing is often completely backwards, the exclusivity of fragrances such as Mona Di Orio, Amouage and By Kilian rather put me off!
            I will definitely try Pomegranate Noir, as well as the Black Vetiver Cafe you mention, they sound fascinating.

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