Any lover of fragrances can attest to that heady intoxication, but more than that, scents aren’t just a blend of nice smells —when done well, they have the magical ability to transcend time and space. A well-crafted scent can transport us to distant realms, whether it’s a country that’s high on our wanderlust lists, or a time nestled deep in our memories.
Jo Malone London, as always, takes it quite a step further. This September, the beloved British perfume brand debuts Lost In Wonder, a collection of two new scents that’s taking us right into the mythical ‘Hanging Gardens’, a fantastical place that they’ve now realised in our reality.
How does one capture the essence of a place they’ve never stepped into? It’s no easy task, for sure, so we’re definitely captivated by the process. For Celine Roux, the brand’s Head of Global Fragrance, inspiration hit when she visited an exhibition at the British Museum, back in 2016, that showcased depictions of ancient fabled gardens throughout history.
One in particular stood out, the Hanging Gardens, said to belong to a mighty king who created a lush landscape of greenery, fruit, trees and streams, as an ode to his dear queen. The creators even went as far as consulting an archaeology professor from Oxford, in order to find out the types of plants that might’ve been growing at the time. “We imagined the fresh, heady, spicy aromas that might have mingled in the air along the garden’s shaded walkways and the fruits and flowers beneath them, and we wanted to capture something along those lines,” says Roux.
The two scents birthed forth both embody that exotic allure, with a modern Jo Malone twist. You get the wonder of travel — though this time, to a world of imagination, carried by smells so masterfully interpreted by the perfumers. Fig & Lotus Flower, is a luscious but graceful floral scent, with a soft aquatic note that sees the light notes of lotus unfurl into sweet, juicy fig; unlike most fig fragrances, this one’s less intense and more ethereal. For Cypress & Grapevine, the dark bottle depicts a moodier scent, this time of rich foliage. Fresh, clean cypress gets entwined with the woody notes of grapevine, which is grounded by amber for a sensual warmth.
We hear from Celine Roux, as well as master perfumers Sophie Labbe and Alexis Dadier, who gladly take us through the olfactory journey of the collection.
How did you decide on the two fragrances?
Celine Roux: “The story of the garden is so rich, so we needed to create two fragrances to fully do the inspiration justice. We were drawn to some really interesting ingredients: during our research we discovered that the king liked to go into the gardens to hand-pick ripe figs for his breakfast, and that lotus flowers were often used for their scent during the king’s receptions in the gardens. The grapevine calls to mind the wine served at these celebrations, surrounded by statuesque trees such as the cypress tree.”
What makes this collection so Jo Malone London?
C: “Many people are interested and curious about faraway lands and culture and want to learn from them. So, creating an olfactive interpretation of a historical legend from a distant place offers that wanderlust. Both fragrances have a unique freshness to them which is very Jo Malone London.”
Can you take us through the creation of Fig & Lotus Flower Cologne?
Alexis Dadier: “I started with my own personal memories from when I lived in the South of France. The land is abundant with fig trees and I remember the scent being quite toasted from the hot sun. Visiting the exhibition further inspired me, showing the greenery and the flowers and plants in the gardens. I used a combination of natural extracts and synthetics, including a lactose, milky note to mimic the soft pulp. For lotus flower, my starting point was a visit to a botanical garden in Italy, some years ago. There is a huge pond filled with lotus flowers and my objective was to replicate their incredible scent as closely as possible. It is a mix of orange blossom with watery greens and some solar notes – very complex yet simple and delicate.”
Why did you choose fig and lotus flower as the two hero ingredients?
C: “When we visited the exhibition, the lushness was so apparent, so we decided to combine these two elements – the fig and the lotus flower – together. Lotus flower is also highly symbolic: it represents purity and enlightenment, so it was a perfect match to translate the elegance of the garden into an olfactive story.”
What is the Jo Malone London twist in the Fig & Lotus Flower Cologne?
C: “The twist is the lotus flower, adding a light, floral freshness to the fruity fig scent. What I really like is its longevity, it retains its lush freshness over time.”
A: “I used a white musk note to create this long-lasting effect without heaviness. It completes the picture, developing on the skin as if you’re walking through a real garden. As you turn into a path you smell the freshness from the fruit, then a bit of green from the leaves, then you turn another corner and feel the warmth from the sun. Then the wind blows and you inhale the sensual yet watery scent of the lotus, then the humid shadows as you keep walking.”
What about the Cypress & Grapevine Cologne Intense?
Sophie Labbe: “It was such an interesting inspiration and I was instantly drawn to the cypress tree. The tree is elegant and slender, with a clean, woody and extremely fresh scent of pine resin. Cypress is a natural note extracted using steam distillation from the branches and needles. For the grapevine, we liked the idea of its curious entwined trunk and fruitful leaves. I had to translate this into an accord as it’s not a natural ingredient, which was my biggest challenge. Celine was very clear that the accord should be sensual, so there is a lot of amber in there to add warmth. This helped to create an interesting contrast between the two notes. Both of these notes were built around a modern fougere accord.”
What is a fougere accord?
S: “It is a blend of notes usually found in aromatic masculine fragrances. Traditionally there is lavender, geranium and moss. In this fragrance, using cypress and grapevine immediately gave it a modern interpretation. The lavender blended with the cypress gives an aromatic freshness and the grapevine blended with the moss gives the sensual warmth. It makes this fragrance quite masculine compared to other scents in the Cologne Intense collection, but this was very important when translating the romantic inspiration, because there was a man behind this love.”
As with all Jo Malone fragrances, you’re encouraged to explore layering your scents in order to create something that has depth, while being personal and unique to you. Roux says she likes to pair her Fig & Lotus Flower Cologne with the Wood Sage & Sea Salt “to bring a woody freshness”. Alexis, on the other hand, thinks the two fragrances complement each other when worn together, creating a “wonderful, multi-dimensional experience” that will add an invigorating air to the wearer. Either way, you’ll smell absolutely enchanting.
The Jo Malone London ‘Lost In Wonder’ collection includes the Fig & Lotus Flower Cologne ($110 for 30ml, $215 for 100ml) and the Cypress & Grapevine Cologne Intense ($196 for 50ml, $280 for 100ml). Limited Edition Cypress & Grapevine Shower Gel, $75 for 200ml.
Available from September 2020 in Jo Malone London boutiques and via the Jo Malone Concierge Service — +65 9732 9737 through Whatsapp or phone calls. Sephora, Takashimaya S.C. and Sephora.sg will only be retailing the Fig & Lotus Cologne.