I Fell for Le Labo's Santal 33 Just Like the Rest of the World and I Don't Care if That Makes Me a Sucker
I mean, even Justin frickin' BEIBER wears it.
I recently went to Jo Malone to buy a fancy candle as a housewarming gift to myself (doing me, etc.). While there, I spritzed on some Lime, Basil & Mandarin cologne, which would have been great--if I were a big city-dweller with snappy socks and impeccable brogues.
A saleswoman stepped in and offered a few alternatives that were more my speed. Considering that Jo Malone stocks a whopping 32 different scents, I thought I'd share an edit of my three favorites.
I associate grapefruit with a voluptuous, bright pink lusciousness.
Jo Malone's take achieves an absolutely pure citrus note, while completely evading the obvious. It isn’t bouncy, bikini-top grapefruit, but it's also not a lobotomized, part-of-a-complete-breakfast grapefruit.
It’s got an honest character of organic pith and acid, evoking segments of not-quite-ripe, seed-studded, bitter flesh.
On the skin, the scent melds youth and sophistication--it’s bright and sparkling without being cheaply fruity. Interestingly, those who wear grapefruit notes are purportedly perceived as younger than their years. I can’t speak to that, but this scent conveys an ageless sophistication, an “old soul” timelessness.
Its rosemary mid-notes and lingering oakmoss dry down capture an appetite for life, and a certain serene elegance, washed in Ivory soap bars and dried with clean white towels.
Blackberry & Bay
I’d never given serious thought to the notion of having a “happy place,” so it surprised me when, being asked to conjure one during an experiment with hypnosis, I automatically traveled to a patch of blackberries.
They grow like the invasive species they are in my city, and as a teenager I wandered endless summer suburban streets watching sunlight beam through their leaves. I’d stain my hands picking them, and developed a pretty awesome cobbler tradition. I even have a 1800s botanical print of fat blackberries on my bedroom wall, because of course I do.
However, the real reason I think my subconscious has clung to the soothing presence of blackberry shrubs is their smell. Whatever wafts out of those thick briar patches is mysterious: Green, dark, and rocky, it’s an olfactory hit of ineffable poignancy.
I was hoping that smell would be captured in Blackberry & Bay, but what I found is a ripe-berry juice note. While not too sweet, the berry lacks a light mold-pang, the quality of being on the turn upon reaching full maturity that Semus Heaney captures in his poem, "Blackberry Picking," where references to rat-grey rot and berries as “dark clots of summerblood” capture a musty complexity this jelly-berry lacks.
An accord of spicy bay and the cool, green aroma of summer at dusk temper the bright top note. Tart, charming, and subtly gourmet, it reminds me of fetching things from the garden and bringing them to the kitchen. It’s a lovely scent, but the fact that it leaves me wanting, all Tantulus (but swap the fruit for an elusive smell).
Wild Bluebell is like reading Alice in Wonderland. It’s like remembering a time in your life where you believed that fairies existed and were just choosing to conceal themselves.
I can’t help but be really excited about a fragrance like this, because it successfully captures some very abstract concepts.
To start, an exuberant note of watermelon rind splashes out--the refreshing crunchy whiteness of those last scrapings. Watermelon rind is a totally odd and unpredictable scent that is as exhilaratingly welcome as someone you never realized you loved until a serendipitous encounter brought your feelings to the fore. Wet, bright, green, and fresh.
Then comes bluebell. Like watermelon rinds, bluebells just aren’t something one associates with heavy scent--but they do conjure the image of an early spring meadow (white birch trunks, mint grass, and a prolific carpeting of dazzling hyperblue). It’s a neck of the woods you want to nuzzle into, and Jo Malone Bluebell responds to that desire.
What it hones in on is dewy optimism and the bright, vegetal tang of freshly snapped wildflower stems. Lily of the Valley provides Age of Innocence associations, and a base of white musk contributes to Wild Bluebell's longevity (watermelon-y to the end). While it veers “spring,” I know it will enter my year-round rotation--it’s just so clean, sweet, and earnest.
What are your favorite Jo Malone scents? Out of 32, there must be one, right?