Have you ever wondered “I like this scent but I wish it could be a bit more floral” and thought about layering one scent over another? For many standalone perfumes, this doesn’t work very well (I’ve tried with varying degrees of disaster) but I learnt (by accident) about a brand that does encourage this fragrance combining and this brand is Jo Malone.
Its another one of those brands that I picked up on through reading blogs. Bloggers just don’t know how much of an enabler they are but the fact is, its so easy to get sucked in sometimes that its scary. Is it any wonder that brands now turn to to bloggers to build hype? (This isn’t a brand built hype by the way – I wish it was then I could tell you it was gifted, but its not )
Jo Malone – a fragrance brand I’d come across over and over in the past few years and my interest was piqued. The first time I managed to take a sniff was at the store in Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. I couldn’t quite understand what the SA was saying so I spritz on some scents to try, smiled politely and left. I like to let scents develop directly on my skin before deciding if I want to buy a fragrance, so I rarely, if ever, buy a perfume outright. I decided I wasn’t quite taken by the scents.
The next time I sniffed it was in a store in Hong Kong. This time, there was no SA so I didn’t know what I was doing. So again, I left empty handed. And then, on my flight back from Hong Kong, while flipping through the duty free shopping booklet, my eye fell on this set – the Jo Malone Fragrance Combining Set. It was rather pricey, I remember – something like US$95 or thereabouts but I’d get 6 mini bottles of fragrance in a box. I thought it was a good way to sample the brand.
Lest you think you have to jet set off to the unknown to take a whiff of Jo Malone scents, take heart. Jo Malone now has a store at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur (Fashion Avenue) I then learnt when I opened the box, what I found unique in Jo Malone scents – they are made to be combined and layered so you can create your signature scent. A bespoke scent, as it were. What fun! Have you tried this and do you have a favourite Jo Malone scent or combination?
Incidentally, there is a new limited edition range called “Sugar & Spice” of which I have some pictures below. I’ll tell you a little about them too.
Here’s what I learnt when I opened the box.
There was a card explaining the process and art of fragrance combining for which Jo Malone is famous for. This allows you to create the sort of scent you prefer to smell on your skin. Do you prefer something light and fruity in the day? Something warmer and more musky for the evening? Do you want something that smells fresh yet complex, something sweet?
I quickly learnt that I lean very strongly towards warm, musky, spicy scents with a hint of freshness or floral note. These sort of strong scents aren’t for everyone as most will consider them too strong or too masculine, but they work for me. Perfume is such a personal thing, don’t you agree? So often, we smell something that smells amazing on someone else and then when we spritz it on our skin, it smells like washing detergent.
I once spritzed on a lovely fresh grapefruit scent on my skin that smelt juicy, sweet and bitter with the tangy note of a freshly peeled grapefruit. An hour later, I smelled like I’d fallen into a vat of horse pee. I kid you not. It just turned into the eye watering smell of ammonia and I had to bear that in the confines of an aircraft. Here’s a tip: Do not spritz an unknown fragrance before you board the plane. You can risk smelling like a toilet
The Fragrance Combining Set has 6 colognes in it with the fresh scents and deeper scents evenly mixed. The fresh scents are Grapefruit, Lime Basil & Mandarin and Orange Blossom; while the deeper stronger scents are Amber & Lavender, Pomegranate Noir and Blue Agava & Cacao.
I quickly found myself liking the scent of Pomegranate Noir and Amber & Lavender a lot. I can quite easily wear both these scents on their own. I’m crap at describing scents, but both these scents have a spicy and musky note to them. To me, they smell rather masculine and I like that. It smells warm and comforting.
From the lighter scents, I lean towards Lime Basil & Mandarin which is a zesty citrus but not too light. Grapefruit too falls under the citrus category and the scent is very light, tempered by a sweetness and a touch of bitterness. I don’t quite like it on myself but on my skin, it works well layered over Pomegranate Noir. The scent then takes on a sweeter, more fruity note.
Its absolutely fascinating and I’ve tried many different combinations to produce many different scents. I even produced one that smelled like tobacco. Kid you not! It wasn’t very unpleasant but it did smell like I’d been smoking a cigar for a bit. Pomegranate Noir + Lime Basil & Mandarin on my skin smells like I’ve just taken a shower. I smell really clean! LOL!
You can go into the Jo Malone store and test it out for yourself but I warn you that it can get overwhelming very quickly. When I stepped into the store recently, I was just stunned at the variety of scents available and the almost infinite combinations you can come up with depending on what you’re looking for.
They are mostly colognes though which is usually the lightest of fragrances but I do find that the longevity is pretty good, where I can still smell it on me by the end of a work day. Just a hint but its there.
The “problem” I can forsee with a Jo Malone fragrance is that its not that easy finding your favourite or perfect scent in one go, unless you already have a firm view of what you like. If you are the “just browsing” type, you will likely never walk away with a bottle, because each scent on its own can sometimes feel a little lacking. That was my problem in the stores overseas. I did not know I could layer the scents so I’d spray this one and that one and think “Oh I like this if it could be a bit lighter” or “I like that if it could smell a little spicier”
Sometimes, you may find that it is when you layer another one on, that it develops into the scent that you are looking for and that makes it an expensive affair. Its not to say of course that you can never find a scent you like. You can. And the beauty is, you can keep adding more scents to your collection so you can keep playing around with the different combinations as you go. Its loads of fun!
Each bottle in this set is really tiny though at just 9ml each but if you don’t spray too much and too often, then it can last a while as perfumes do. I’ve had this set for slightly over a year and they’re still going strong. I do use some less than others so I can forsee Pomegranate Noir running out more quickly than say, Grapefruit.
I did also discover in store that I liked Vetyver and 154, both of which are spicy, rather masculine scents. And it so happens that Jo Malone scents can be worn by men or women depending on each person’s preference.
There is also a special, limited edition Sugar & Spice range launched quite recently, that draws inspiration from English desserts. The brand, if I failed to mention earlier, is English
If you like sweet foody scents then you are in for a treat! Each one of the scents in the Sugar & Spice range smells exactly like the sweet or dessert that it was inspired by. I can tell you that it is quite uncannily similar!
The 5 scents are – Lemon Tart (a tangy lemon that smells exactly like the dessert), Redcurranct & Cream (a tangy sweet scent of berries exactly like the summer dessert), Elderflower & Gooseberry (Sweet, tangy and green smelling), Ginger Biscuit (as the name implies, a freshly baked ginger biscuit) and Bitter Orange & Chocolate (like you just walked out of chocolate factory).
I personally found these new scents much too sweet for my liking. It might perhaps also be to do with the fact that I am not much of a dessert person so I don’t particularly want to smell like one. If you do like the smell of chocolate, you have to smell Bitter Orange & Chocolate. I swear, if you spritz it on, people will wonder who in their midst is eating or carrying a box of the most delectable chocolate ever. It has to be smelt to be believed!
I tried it on in store and of course, did not like it on its own. But when layered with something spicy like 154 or Vetyver, it suddenly became palatable. The chocolate scent stopped being overwhelming and was quickly grounded by the stronger, spicier scents. I could actually like it!
Unfortunately, the Fragrance Combining Set isn’t available in store anywhere. I looked it up and it may have been a special Christmas release some time ago or it may only be found on in-flighty duty free, not even in the duty free stores. So, if you are travelling, then scan the in flight duty free booklet to see if they have it. Its a good way to introduce yourself to the brand. I think they also do some special sets throughout the year and at Christmas so that’ll be another good time to sample the wares (as I plan to do – these little bottles are too cute for words )
I don’t know what’ll be my next scent. I’m thinking of 154 but I will have to sample it again in store and see how I like it. Chances are, it’d smell better layered with something else and then I’d be in trouble, wouldn’t I?
Are you a Jo Malone fragrance fan? Do you have a favourite combination or standalone scent?
I’m not a hardcore fan per se, but I do like the concept and what’s on offer. I like the plain, simple, unisex packaging and also the creative leeway afforded to us as consumers to “create” something that smells good on us, that we like. That is what, I think, attracts me most to the brand. It sort of makes “scents”
Jo Malone is available at their standalone store at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. Prices start from RM225/30ml for the colognes. The Fragrance Combining Set featured is no longer available and was an in-flight duty free purchase on Cathay Pacific Airlines