Jo Malone is one of my two favourite perfumes houses of Britain (the other being Penhaligon’s). Oddly for a single brand, and especially as their collection is quite extensive, I honestly love almost all of the JM colognes; there are hardly any where I think ‘this is kind of naff’, ‘this is disgusting’, or ‘this smells weird’ (apart from the Wild Bluebell one, but that’s because personally I don’t like the smell of bluebells, which I think smell cold and obscure). It might be because Jo Malone and I have very similar tastes in smell (I would like to think!), but it’s probably just because she’s a great perfumer and anybody who likes authentic, nature-inspired scents would love Malone colognes.
Although Malone is a confessed synaesthesiac, I think the concepts behind each of her perfumes are highly accessible and very easy to follow, and her ability to maintain both simplicity and uniqueness in her scents is admirable. This differs from other, more ‘commercial’ brands that hype up their fragrances with so much glorified advertising, implying their perfume is elite or opulent or compellingly dark, and suited only to princesses or seductresses. Then, when you actually get down to smelling it, it’s little more than a glossed chemical cocktail that you can relate neither to real life nor to dreams or imagination.
In contrast, each JM perfume has an authentic quality that’s relatable to one emotion/experience/idea or another. As Jo Malone also has a balanced range of floral, fruity, spicy and more earthy aroma types, I think that virtually anyone can find a JM perfume that they love and that suits them. My own favourite is ‘Nutmeg & Ginger’, which I fell in love with straight away, knew it was ‘the one’, and is now my staple perfume. Its character is quietly strong, mysterious, and grounded yet full of zest. It reminds me of the most gorgeous spices I’ve grown up with in my parents’ kitchen.
While the official webpage describes Jo Malone as ‘quintessentially British’, I would say that although they maintain a crispness and a delicateness that is associated with the natural English landscape in their scents, the majority of them are not without an exotic twist that leads to an exciting fusion. I really like this as someone who has been brought up with the delicacies and the homely freshness of the English garden, yet also has a more faraway, paradisiac home in tropical Asia. I also think that, realistically, although perfumers might want to use a specific country or place name to help form the identity of their essences, in practice no good perfume maker can limit themselves to one region or what it represents.
I try to avoid putting a limit or a label on the things that inspire me most as I think it’s more important to be open-minded and ready to receive inspiration from any place or situation you can, especially by the infinities offered by Nature, but if I was to name one single biggest inspiration from a more finite source…it would definitely be Jo Malone.