Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blue Agava & Cacao by Jo Malone : Perfume Review

The Jo Malone boutique in Thessaloniki adorns Tsimiski street like a brilliant diamond would the ring finger. It might be the parallel to Tsimiski, Mitropoleos street that has become the hub of the most luxurious shops in the city, but Jo Malone has probably made the better choice by placing the boutique in one of the busiest junctions of the shopping center. Exuding undeniable luxury with its chic signature black and cream colors (possibly the chicest color combination known to mankind), gleaming yet warm lights, marble surfaces and wooden floors, the flagship store impresses its Western European √©lan effortlessly upon passers-by and lends an upscale note to its surroundings. The staff is professional and warm, as helpful, charming and as knowledgeable as any perfumista would desire, and most importantly, as I am pleased to report, never pushy. I can’t resist mentioning that my favorite sales associate working there also happens to be a perfume collector and lover herself, and is an absolute pleasure to converse with. Her favorites in the Jo Malone line closely mirror my own, with Pomegranate Noir coming first and Wild Fig & Cassis (most excellent in soap!) coming in as a close second. There is however, one we disagree on, and that happens to be their best-seller: Blue Agava & Cacao.

I am not used to liking the same of anything as everybody else but it really came as no surprise when upon paying for the Blue Agava & Cacao at the register I got to hear that it is the scent everyone –men and women alike in fact- goes wild about. What’s not to like? Blue Agava & Cacao is as cuddly and comforting as a soft fleece throw under which to snuggle on the couch with a good book and chocolates in the middle of winter. (In fact I could just stop here, and it would be a perfect review, but let’s go on nevertheless.) I wouldn’t have expected intense citrus notes would suit a spicy gourmand so well, but the opening proves me wrong: An incredible hit of salty lime, vaguely reminiscent of the complete tequila works and a shot of bitter orange and grapefruit invigorate the senses and grab the interest. The scent so far is very natural as well as bright, like a ray of sunshine. The lime scent is dispelled within a minute, giving way to a gorgeous, smooth and sweet cardamom with a beautiful, transparent undercurrent of spiced grapefruit. Even though it slowly becomes progressively fainter with time, cardamom lovers should definitely check this one out, since the beautiful spice is a dominant (almost till the end), as well as very well rendered note in this scent. For a while the scent assumes a completely gourmand identity, smelling very much like good quality white chocolate, until suddenly it blooms, flowering in the most attractive manner. I won’t pretend I know what the flower of the agave smells like, but I do get lilies, rose geranium and (officially unlisted but oh-so definitely there) frankincense. This is definitely a deep, sensual symphony that can come across as overwhelming when simply read about, but I will ease your fears by saying that the sweetness is cut and tempered by a dry, peppery note which puts everything into proportion. Further down the line, the much awaited cacao finally makes its appearance and proves to be worth the wait: bittersweet and playful, deep and yummy it makes the skin nuzzle-worthy and addictive. The blend is perfect (yes, really!) with no notes jumping out jarringly screaming for attention. The vanilla used here is absolutely smooth, deep and erotic (and once again very natural smelling) and together with warm musk, complements the cacao to perfection. I only get traces of vetiver and cinnamon in the background; they do not really enter the game as major players, but definitely complete the picture, if this makes sense. The overall impression as I have already mentioned above, is one of luxurious comfort and innocent sensuality; the comfort of soft, good quality fleece, combined with the luxury of cashmere and velvet. Edible yet never overwhelming, this scent is at once soft and noticeable, with a medium projection that invites others to come ever closer to the addictive epicenter. A definite winter scent, if not a winter must for gourmand/oriental lovers.

The Jo Malone line has not been very warmly received by the perfume community, oftentimes receiving flack for its “simplicity”. While I myself am not enamored with the whole line (I actively dislike almost all of the white florals in the line, for example), I do think that this reputation is undeserved to a point and suspect a great deal of the negativity stems not from the quality of the perfumes but rather from the admittedly unimaginative/uninspiring names, which are rather reminiscent of Body Shop creations. It is however a shame to let a whole line pass you by just because the names are not as romantic or complex as we are used to. I have no problem putting my head on the line and say that despite what you might have heard or might be led to think due to the simplistic names, the fragrances themselves are not simplistic. Almost none of them are linear – in fact most of them have a gradual and very perceptible development. Just because something is called “Blue Agava & Cacao” does not mean it only features agave flower and cacao as notes! Furthermore, I sometimes fail to understand why other perfumes that could be blamed for exactly the same things are received with joy and exuberance, anticipation even. A good example would be the Marc Jacobs line of colognes, with names such as “Cucumber”, “Violet” and “Orange” which are, believe me, much more insipid and simplistic than anything ever turned out of the Jo Malone brand. It makes one think…

Images: www.jomalone.co.uk, painting of blue agave via www.roypurcellgalleries.com, agave and cactuses via http://planetapeninsula.org by photographer Miguel Angel


14 comments:

Jenavira13 said...

This sounds up my alley. Will have to check it out the next time I am in the city. I have to say I have the same feelings about the white blossoms, they just become to indolic on me. I have a friend who smells divine though in Necterine Blossom & Honey (and I like the name).

+ Q Perfume said...

Dear DIv,
master piece! congrats for one more amazing review.
making this blogger dream about a trip to Greece and smelling perfumes with you!
I even created a verb to use here:
Masterpieced!

Kissy Simone.

zazie33 said...

Hi!
I quite like blue agave and cacao... but I must confess it is the only one of the line that I considered purchasing.
I belong to the bunch that finds Jo Malone (as well as marc Jacobs "rain" etc) a bit boring and simple - and not because of the names. Simple is not always bad (I love many Diptyques, simple as they are)...but in this particular case... Love the packaging though. Not fan of the layering concept..

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Great review... Love Jo Malone for their candles and whenever I am in England I always bring back a little something for my parents (who kindly look after our dog while we travel).

I've always loved Lime Basil and Mandarin and Pomegranate Noir... next time I'll sample this one!

waftbyCarol said...

Guilty as charged Divina !!
Everytime I get near her boutique at Neiman Marcus , I get distracted by other , flashier things....I promise I will make amends...thank you , and I bet Joe Malone thanks you too !!
I revieved a samp of Sweet Lime and Cedar that I did not care for...

Amanda said...

Hi, I just found your blog. It is wonderful! Blue Agave and Cocoa is one of my fav Jo Malone's along with Lime Basil Mandarin. I sort of like the simple names...let's me know what to expect and I can pronounce them;)

Ines said...

Hey Divina
love the review and I have to say Pomegranate noir is one of my favorites of Jo Malone (together with Ginger and Nutmeg). I haven't tried this one yet but it really sounds lovely.

Divina said...

Jen I have to admit that I thought of you while writing this, wondering if you like it. Would love to hear your impressions after you test it. I like the name and the concept behind Nectarine Blossom & Honey as well, but so far I have refrained from trying it on my skin cause it didn't work for me on the blotter. Maybe I will change my mind once I try it on myself. I hope so at least. Have you tried the Amber one? You might like it...

Divina said...

Aw, Simone! Hi you gorgeous thing! You are so sweet, thank you for the fabulously sweet complement, dear!

Divina said...

Hi Zazie! Sometimes 'simple' is all I need on a particular day, but like you, I do prefer complex perfumes. (Although sometimes it can be overdone) I didn't find many of the old Diptyques very simple, but I definitely find their new ones very simple and I am very pissed off about all the discontinuations.

Divina said...

Daily, I got candles and soaps as presents for friends (and the beautifully presented bath oil collection for a special girlfriend) but haven't tried the candles myself. Are they good?

Divina said...

Hahah Carol, well I do like to see the other pov, you know? :)

Divina said...

Hi Amanda! Well, I do like a bit of romance in my perfume names I'll admit, but as I said, it is not the be all end all if it isn't quite so lyrical. :) It's the same with bottles, I like them better when they are ornate, special, extravagant, shocking, or whatever...but still I end up buying the ones that are more simple and clean-streamlined just cause the juice inside is more to my taste...

Divina said...

Ines, I really like Ginger & Nutmeg too! I think this line would do well to turn away from citrus and white romantic florals a bit and put their energy into some good spice scents! It's obviously their calling! Nutmeg, cardamom, cinammon ...they seem to do it all very well!