Jo Loves…The Summing Up and The Verdict

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I enjoyed getting to know the eight fragrances in this new collection from Jo Malone (the woman, not the brand). They are distinctive in that the number of notes in these fragrances is minimal. Some only have one. It’s about simplicity  It’s about balance. The range is varied enough to avoid being a mainstream crowd pleaser, but has enough genres to keep people interested.

Despite having reviewed 74 fragrances so far, there are actually very few full bottles on my dressing table.  Many are samples, or borrowed, and some are my own beloveds.  I cannot see myself buying a full sized (100ml) bottle of any of the Jo Loves range, but I might consider a 30ml bottle of Pomelo or Mango Nectar.  Pomelo because although I’m sure it’s been done before, I was rather charmed by Grapefruit and Suede together.  Mango Nectar I might buy just for fun on a sunny day.  It’s not a serious perfume, I doubt you could wear it to a board meeting, (Oh go on, why not?”) but sometimes a single note done exceptionally well can have a place in any perfume wardrobe. I would also consider the Gardenia in the same way. It’s a bit like having a well cut pair of trousers in your wardrobe, plain and essential, but once you accessorise and wear them with other things, they can work much better.

It’s not clear what future Jo has in mind for these products, but a sample set would eliminate any criticism of “inaccessibility”. Currently a website and showroom by appointment is all there is.  Fans will be hoping for a franchise, I am sure. There’s the exclusivity of niche, and there is cold shouldering eager customers. It’s a fine line.

Jo Loves…Pink Vetiver

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A combination of Pink Pepper and Vetiver, Jo Loves…Pink Vetiver allegedly has nine different notes. I can smell two, and they are, as you might imagine, Pink Pepper and Vetiver. This is a manly, almost abrasive scent that has excellent longevity. I often find that the Law of Sod dictates that a disagreeable fragrance has excellent longevity to the point where it won’t leave you alone even after a shower, whilst favoured scents can disappear within an hour.

 Pink Vetiver is not dissimilar to an inexpensive fragrance that I bought for my husband a year ago.  Patrick Dempsey Unscripted is made by Avon, and smells rather good on him. As I suspected, the dominant note is Vetiver. Sadly, it smells scratchy and dreadful on me.

Pink Vetiver is unchanging: linear, you could say, and the spiky Vetiver just beds in and won’t go home. I’ve got my pyjamas on, I’m brushing my teeth, but Mr Vetiver just won’t get the hint. I guess I’ll just have to leave him in the dark and go to bed.

It’s not a bad fragrance at all, but if you don’t like Vetiver, you’ll never be friends with this one.

Jo Loves…Green Orange and Coriander

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This is more like it. I love the smell of fresh Coriander leaves and they are certainly discernible Jo Loves Green Orange and Coriander. It’s blatantly unisex and would smell good on either male or female. It’s a clean bathroom-y sort of smell like expensive candles or high end citrussy bath oils in a five star hotel. Again, like all fragrance in the Jo Loves range, this is quite linear. Unlike a moody, changeable Serge Lutens, for example, what you apply at breakfast is what you still smell of at lunch. Inexplicably, my first thought after spraying was of Imperial Leather soap, but then the Coriander and Orange burst in at the same time, in equal measure. To my delight, the Orange is sharp and juicy, rather than sweet and sherbety. There is a bit of Oakmoss in there to make it slightly earthy, even masculine. It’s has definite zing, but is somewhat grounded nicely by the Oakmoss. All in all, it’s good and stays good. Longevity is very impressive: around seven hours for two sprays. (I still say I can smell a faint whiff of Imperial leather though, but don’t tell anyone, it might just be me).

This is my second favourite Jo Loves fragrance after Pomelo.

Jo Loves… Gardenia: Lonely Without its Other Half

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 This is a beautiful, white, fresh Gardenia that goes on and stays on a long, long time. It’s clean, almost bridal in its purity and as a White Flower note, it’s hard to beat. I was, however, looking for its sister Tuberose. The two are so often seen together that it’s odd seeing one of them alone. No matter, I’ve always secretly preferred Gardenia when faced with the two. It’s nice to see her on her own without her slightly cloying sister.

 I would say this is a very good, unchanging fragrance of a single note. It is a Gardenia linear soliflore. It doesn’t change, but sometimes you want that in a perfume. This is not my favourite Jo Loves, my heart belongs to changeable Pomelo, and I have smelt Gardenia before so many times that I feel, as beautiful and pretty as this is, I’ve been here before.  If you want to smell of Gardenias all day long without having to top up, this is for you.

Jo Loves…The Mango Collection: Barman, Make Mine a Double

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Jo Loves…A Shot of Oud Over Mango

Oud, otherwise known as Agarwood, is usually synthetically made these days, but was originally made from the Aquillaria tree, specifically, the sought after “infected” areas into which the tree has secreted protective black resin. It is a scent prized by Arabs as well as the Chinese, and is a rich, high resinous scent.

Frankly, I loathe it. As an asthmatic perfume obsessive (you don’t get many of those to the pound), I will wade through most things, but Oud and strong Vetiver repel me and make me wheeze. This is of course subjective, since Oud is going nowhere. It’s a mainstay of the fragrance industry and will be for a long time to come.  I’ll just have to put up with it.

 Jo Loves..A Shot of Oud Over Mango is exactly that. The Mango is juicy and mouthwatering and there is a shot of Oud over it. It doesn’t have to be a big shot, but I couldn’t help noticing that this little basenote of Oud has been voted the most prominent overall note in this fragrance by Fragrantica reviewers. It overwhelms everything else, including me dear reader, who had to be brought round with smelling salts. There’s no gentle way of popping just a “hint” of Oud in anything, it will always dominate, like a noisy drunken dinner guest.

The mango is good, Jo Loves does that very well, with all its juiciness captured brilliantly, but then the Oud barges in and takes over. What you have is Oud with some Mango.

What can I say? It does what it says in the tin. For Oud fans only. And there are a lot of you! Don’t take my word for it. It took my breath away.

 Jo Loves…Mango Nectar

The only fruit I like in fragrances are Citruses. I like fresh hesperides or a bitter blast of Orange. If I wanted to smell like a Mango, I would go to the Body Shop and buy some Body Butter.

However, Jo Loves…Mango Nectar has, frankly, turned  all that on its head. This is such a juicy, technicolour mango fragrance that it made my mouth water. It made me thirst for a Mango smoothie and some crushed ice, for that is exactly what it smells like.  Incredibly, it does not smell synthetic. It smells like a  barman standing next to you who has crushed a mango into a cocktail. Which is a rather twee segue into explaining how the idea came about. Jo Malone  was in a bar in New York ( the Four Seasons, if you’re planning a trip to the Big Mango, sorry Apple), when the aromas of the cocktails being merged and crushed and mixed reminded her of how a fragrance was put together.

Two years later: Mango Nectar and the Mango Collection was launched. Among the whole Mango range, of which there are three, I rate this one most of all. It’s pure, unmoving, and tenacious in its longevity. It’s a happy scent that makes you think of cold cocktails on a hot day. You can’t be wistful or sad wearing this. If you’re going to be wistful and sad, go and wear Apres L’Ondee.

 Jo Loves…A Shot of Thai Lime Over Mango

I don’t know about a Shot of Lime, more like a Lime Orchard with a rogue Mango in it. The Lime is very strong, but being a fan of Citrus and of any kind of remotely Green note, I was all over this, nostrils a-flare. I was trying to like it and frankly, struggling, so I tried it on my husband.   I often try fragrance on his arm since I frequently find that a scent I dislike on me, makes a lot more sense on him, and is sometimes much better. However, this time his immediate reaction was “expensive washing up liquid”.

Now crude as that may sound, it is very important to listen to people’s immediate reactions on smelling a scent. Often they are unguarded, honest remarks that come out before the wearer has time to edit it. Often the spontaneous reaction is a truth.  He had a point, it does indeed smell like expensive washing up liquid. At first. As with fragrances, trains and a good sale, it’s often worth waiting a while.

Sadly, the Morning Fresh metaphor could not be shaken and to my nose, the Lime invaded the beautiful Mango Grove until it was almost gone. A random memory of my grandmother’s kitchen popped into my head until it dawned on me that what I was smelling was Thyme. It is apparent to me that Thyme and Lime only go well together in limericks.

I think out of the Jo Loves  Mango Collection, Mango Nectar is the best, and my favourite, followed by A Shot of Oud over Mango, not my favourite, but really good Woodiness, and lastly, A Shot of Thai Lime Over Mango, trailing in third place. If this were a salad, and it certainly sounds like one, then I would order this again, but I would say “waiter, not so much lime juice, this time please, I want to taste the rest of the damned thing”.

And that, my friends is what I think of the Jo loves… Mango Collection.

Jo Loves…Pomelo

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Launched in 2011, Pomelo was the first fragrance in the Jo Loves range and was voted 2012 Beauty Hero by British Beauty Blogger. I have been wearing it for two days now and I can say that Pomelo took me by surprise.  Who would have thought that a Grapefruit like citrus would go so well with Suede Leather base notes? But somehow it works beautifully: both sharp and smooth, spiky yet velvety. And on the question of longevity, this stuff just won’t quit.

The Pomelo is similar to a grapefruit with a much thicker white rind. The top note is citrussy to the point of being astringent, which I love in a fragrance. The top notes of Pomelo soar for a good while on their own until they are finally brought back down to earth by the velvetiness of the Suede notes which kick in for a long comfortable Second Act . A bit of Vetiver and noticeable Patchouli chimes in to keep things interesting along the way. By the time this has settled in for the day, you have a beautiful clean smelling, almost Linen type smell, with a shout of Citrus and a background of masculine Vetiver. It’s very smooth, and the Suede, to my nose, has the most dominant note in the base. This is velvety smooth with enough prickle from the Patchouli and Vetiver to stop it ever being a Plain Jane citrus.

Out of the range of eight Jo Loves fragrances, this is the best. It’s citrus and sharp, then velvet and smooth. It keeps you guessing and improves as the day goes on. Smelling equally good on a male or a female, this is worth adding to your scent wardrobe. If I had to buy only one Jo Loves fragrance, it would be this. A big bottle.

Jo Loves…I Love Jo Loves Me Love

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Jo Loves… is Jo Malone in her new incarnation. Jo Malone the person left Jo Malone the brand in capable hands in 2006, and has gone it alone once again. So much for retirement! Fragrance has a strong pull and it wasn’t long before Jo found herself creating fragrance again.

 Like the beginning of so many good stories, it all began in a bar in New York…

From crushed Mangoes and Limes, Jo’s mind got working as cocktails were created and fruits crushed before her eyes (and nose). Fruit into fruit created new blends and intoxicating aromas, even before they added the vodka.

 Jo Malone the brand is often referred to as perfume for people who don’t like perfume, and many Jo Malone fragrances are based on those found in nature. Now that Jo has “gone rogue” it would seem that she has gone back to nature again, this time with fruits: fresh, citrussy, zingy fruits in many incarnations from Cocktails and Lime zest to suave, crisp Pomelo with its suede-y richness and Rosy base. But it doesn’t stop there. There is also Pink Vetiver, A Shot of Oud Over Mango,  Gardenia and Orange Tulle. Jo Loves…is exactly that: notes and fragrances that Jo is passionate about.  It is very refreshing to see a line of fragrance that is not governed by focus groups and mass markets, but geared to the taste and passion of an individual. . And the kind of creative freedom that can only be coveted.

If Niche means exclusive suppliers (in this case a website and a showroom is all) and a limited line, then this is New British Niche, and as you would expect, it’s very good. Quality is high and is reflected in the price. Good ingredients are worth paying for. The Mango scent that Jo Loves has captured is so mouthwateringly realistic that it induced a genuine craving in me for ripe mangoes.

Since the range is not cheap if you’re buying blind, it would be great if Jo Loves sold a sample or starter kit, since bottles start at £45. The website sells a collection of four 30ml scents for £120 ( see photo above). That’s a lot to spend on a blind buy. You can take my word for it, and read reviews and blogs, but until you try a scent on your own skin you cannot know if it will suit you. You can only make an educated guess. A sample kit would solve this problem, and having tried some samples myself, I can happily predict that samples kits will lead to full bottle purchases. This week I will be reviewing some of the fragrances in more detail.

I am currently wearing Mango Nectar and the temptation to lick my own wrist is almost overwhelming.

It’s only nine months to Christmas, never too soon to start a (very long) wish list…Jo Loves could be the UK’s answer to Frederic Malle and Andy Tauer.

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Jasper Conran Mistress: Gingery Bergamot Heaven

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If Gingery Bergamot is your idea of a good time, then welcome to my world. Bergamot is one of my favourite notes, except when used alongside Green Tea.

Jasper Conran has created a delightful Green/Bergamot scent here with Mistress, and the scented candle that’s part of the range was the recipient of a FiFi Award for best Home Fragrance in 2008

I may have mentioned that I am a big fan of Eau de Cartier (just a few hundred times), and this is certainly along similar lines. I wouldn’t call them closely related, but they could be second cousins once removed.  The Bergamot is dominant, although being gentle and light, Bergamot could never be too loud. There is also a hint of Ginger, which makes me think of Gres Cabotine and its Ginger Lily notes.  Fruit notes are listed, although I don’t pick up on these, and gentle Musk softens the Bergamot and makes it almost chalk-powdery rather than talcum or face powdery.  Longevity isn’t exceptional, but it’s very people-friendly and won’t choke anyone to death on the morning train.

I was pleasantly surprised at this lovely fragrance, since I was expecting something more mainstream. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea*, but it’s certainly mine.

*NB Not Green Tea!

Grès Cabaret: It’s Rose. It’s Musk. It’s Gorgeous.

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I’m a fan of Parfums Grès, I even have the much derided set of Marlene Dietrich fragrances, as well as beautiful Cabotine and Leathery/Spicy Cabochard ( see my earlier review). However, I was so deeply disappointed in a Cabotoine Flanker, Cabotine Rose, that it made me cautious about buying a Grès blind.

On this occasion, I bought a very small (7.5ml) bottle of Grès Cabaret on the grounds that if I didn’t like it, I can still pay the mortgage.

When it first goes on (and I have a bottle with no spray so it’s direct onto my skin) it smells almost medicinal, or more specifically, Dental, like the pink mouthwash they give you to rinse with.

The drydown turns into Turkish Delight or those Rose and Violet Creams you can sometimes still get from a good Chocolatier. There is powerful Rose, but the Violet gives it that Turkish Delight quality.

However, it’s the base notes that I really love about Cabaret. From a high pitched Rose it turns into a Patchouli scent with prominent Sandalwood, still with the Rose, some softening Musk, and a bit of pretty Peony, but now it becomes a woodier, more mysterious scent.  It’s almost as if the fragrance encapsulates morning, afternoon and evening all in one.

Although this only seems to be available in the EDP rather than an EDT, I would say it has a weak link in it’s strength and longevity. I’ve had to use nearly half of my little bottle just to get two thirds’ of a day’s wear out of this. When you compare this to say, Lanvin Arpège  (see my review dated January 2nd) where a mere glance at the bottle is enough to scent you  from Dawn to Midnight, then this is a slight letdown in an otherwise rather lovely and unusual fragrance.

Like the rest of the Parfums Grès range, it’s pleasingly affordable, and hey, even Luca Turin really likes it. He hates stuff I love and I hate stuff he loves, but on this, we can agree. Intriguing, interesting and, like all my favourite fragrances, a scent that keeps you guessing. This is a good complex fragrance that is so much more than a Rose Musk.

Oh and sort your website out Parfums Gres. It’s the 21st Century!

1001 Days of Perfume