I believe that for most of us, going to the beach means sunshine, sand and green-blue water. We dream of warm skin, maybe a lemonade and some really stylish sunglasses.
With this picture in mind I think it really made an impact on fragrance lovers back in 2014 when Jo Malone London (part of Estee Lauder Co.) launched their cologne Wood Sage & SeaSalt as a tribune to the sea with large scale pictures by famous British fashion photographer Tim Walker, portraying the rural and windswept beaches of England. Yes, the lady in the pictures wore a floral print dress and fabulous sunglasses, but make no mistake about it: added on top of it all was a thick lengthy cardigan. No sun-kissed warm skin in sight!
I remember the campaign so clearly. Jo Malone London always makes spectacular window displays but these pictures, all gloomy and windswept with sand, driftwood, the roaring sea and landscape captured my interest. Back then, I didn’t want to try the fragrance for myself – I wanted it for my husband, who lives for the sea. To be completely honest with you, I didn’t quite “get” the scent on me. I guess the Ambrette note came out a little too strong on my skin. However, on my husband it was just perfect. The saltiness of a long day at sea ticked all the boxes for him! Back then I guess we both categorised it as a male fragrance.
Moving forward: I tend to visit Jo Malone London at least once a week. There are several stores here in Dubai but I prefer the ones in Mall of the Emirates or Mirdiff City Centre where I feel that the SAs are the most knowledgeable and polite. Why do I keep going in there every week you wonder? Well, the whole splendid idea of the Jo Malone brand is that each scent doesn’t come with too many notes in one mix. Instead, they are designed to be layered together two by two or even three! You enter the store and the huge table showcase the entire range for you to play with. Mix and match. Whenever I come here, it is for me to train my olfactory memory. Everytime I visit a store I find new ways of combining notes and I can easily try combinations that are well known in perfumes made by other brands to see what the would look like on my skin. It is fun, it takes patience and I find myself comfortable enough to take my time. I’ve never felt the push to purchase, I feel welcome to try and leave the store, think a little and see how the fragrance will behave on me. Obviously, I return and my collection by the brand is reasonable extensive…
The funny thing is that for the last year or so, I have seen the SAs choose Wood Sage & SeaSalt for almost every customer to at least try. Male and females. I’ve noticed that many many of them leave the store with this particular scent; most of them as a “base scent” to be combined with yet another flavour. I’ve had to re-think and try it out some more and with time, it has grown on me and I have absolutely learned how to work it! I no longer classify it as a scent for men but I do acknowledge that it is not made for those who only like sweet, floral or very heavy notes.
A little while ago, one of my favourite MUAs here in Dubai held an international competition on her Instagram @agne_brunette and it so happened that the generator picked my name as a winner! I was over the moon about it – I knew that the prize was a bottle of perfume but I also knew that as we live in the same city, I had the opportunity to meet up with this incredibly talented and sweet girl. Win-Win!
So, What about the scent?
Wood Sage & SeaSalt is created by the perfumer Christine Nagel (also known for Miss Dior Cherie and Armani Sí). Now she works as the in-house perfumer for Hermés. Back in 2014, Jo Malone London commissioned her to create a fragrance to celebrate British beach life. It is mentioned in interviews that she traveled to Cornwall in order to draw inspiration and what came out of it is a composition that is earthy and windswept, almost cold and very close to nature. Even though there are fruity elements in the top note, the Plum and Grapefruit only adds some fresh bitterness and they don’t stay long on your skin. I actually find this scent quite complicated and I don’t say that often when it comes to Jo Malone London. Holding Sea Salt and Sage together with Ambrette seeds and Red algae, it is marine. You can smell the salt and sand in the wind. This is not a “happy scent” for the beach club. I almost feel sadness and loneliness in it’s composition. It is beautiful and rich, heavy but still light if that even makes any sense?
I really enjoy it and like to layer it with my Jo Malone London Grapefruit cologne to balance out the Ambrette and make it a little more feminine. It was such a lovely gift as Agne had picked out the scent that she loves and wears the most. It now feels like I have a little piece of her in my collection, which makes the perfume even more valuable to me.
As I enjoy writing about fragrances and I tend to lean more towards niche perfumery, I got the question over on Instagram regarding my take on Jo Malone London for someone who has never experience the brand. My honest but truly subjective opinion is this:
When Joanne Malone first started the company it might have been about niche. She had no formal education but a very good sense of picking up “clear” notes. I personally like the old compositions the best, those when she worked with Fabrice Pellegrin. In 1999 she sold of her business to Estee Lauder Co but still remained Creative Director. It was only after 2003, after being diagnosed with breast cancer that she left the brand completely. And personally, I think her absence is noticeable.
What I love the very most about the brand is the layering technique, the wide range of bath products and candles to match my favourite scents and the design. I could easily LIVE in one of their stores, the interior design with clean black and cream boxes, ribbons, wallpaper and so on together with the equally clean bottle design speaks to me.
What I’m not all that impressed about is the longevity of the fragrances – or rather, the lack of it. None of my colognes lasts longer than maximum four hours, I always need to reapply them. As I’m well aware of this, I don’t have any other expectation of the perfumes and I’m happy spending my money even though the scent will not stay on my skin for a full day. The notes wears close to the body, it doesn’t travel out in the room or make and entrance before you do, which is positive when you’re in environments were strong scents should be avoided, for example at hospitals, in airplanes or around small children.
Joanne Malone has since leaving her first company started a second one called Jo Loves, which I think is more about niche and going back to her roots. I love both brands but for different reasons. If you’ve never tried a Jo Malone London scent and want to order it without smelling, I would recommend you to instead of purchasing one large 60ml bottle, order two of the sleek 30ml bottles to layer. You will spend the same amount of money but you’ll have a set and they are travel friendly. The brand also produces several mini-sets of their most love fragrances; especially for Christmas, and I always recommend them to anyone who wants to experience the brand or need small size bottles to travel with!
I hope you’ll get a chance to test Wood Sage & SeaSalt. Let me know how it works on your skin ♥