This month our guest writer, fragrance obsessive Laurin Taylor, reviews Tropical Cherimoya Cologne from the brand new Jo Malone Hot Blossoms Collection.
During my perfume selling days, I occasionally encountered a very particular sort of customer – a woman, mid-to-late thirties, well-dressed and with blonde highlights that no doubt cost more than my day’s wages. She would enter the shop impatiently, as though choosing a signature scent was yet another task to be ticked off her to-do list, somewhere between picking up the dry cleaning and bottomless brunch. “I’m looking for something new,” she would inform me distractedly. “I don’t really like perfume, but I usually wear Jo Malone.”
Honesty isn’t always the best policy when you work in retail. Otherwise I would have said, “If you don’t like perfume, have you ever considered not wearing it?” Unfortunately, telling a potential customer not to buy your products is the exact opposite of what a sales person is employed to do, so I smiled, nodded and got to work pulling bottles from the shelves. Her reactions to everything would be lukewarm at best, and she would inevitably leave with a sample of something she at least didn’t hate and a vague promise to come back later. As far as I know, she never did.
In hindsight, I kind of get it. As a brand, Jo Malone are brilliant. Their boutiques are tasteful and stylish, with no detail too small to escape notice. From the neatly tied ribbons on the boxes, to the spritz of cologne on your bag as you leave, to the generous samples tucked between layers of black tissue paper, shopping with them feels less of a commercial transaction than it does a special experience. And yet…I’ve never been able to find an actual Jo Malone fragrance I truly love, despite my efforts. Over the years, I have come to think of them as an easy option for when you’ve run out of time and ideas. I would be delighted to receive one as a gift, but I would never buy it for myself. On the other hand, sometimes easy is better. As anyone who follows the news will know, swinging back and forth from wild elation to grinding despair is exhausting. Easy can be a blessed relief. Not everything needs to be Coke vs Pepsi, Montague vs Capulet or Edward vs Jacob. Sometimes it’s okay to be Switzerland.
Tropical Cherimoya and Passionflower Cologne is part of Jo Malone’s limited-edition Hot Blossoms Collection, those vividly-coloured baubles that sit like gatecrashers in the subdued and gracious surroundings of their elegant boutiques. Because I am easily excitable, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the lime green bottle that promised to bring a slice of the tropics to my North London flat. I’d never heard of a cherimoya, but a few minutes on Google revealed it as a green-skinned fruit rapturously described by Mark Twain “deliciousness itself”. I’ll have what he’s having.
I wanted so badly to be proved wrong and fall head over heels in love. But that feeling never came. Another name for cherimoya is custard apple, and that’s what I got – pear crumble and custard instead of the tangy and refreshing fruit cocktail I was craving. Rather than adding depth and spice, the copahu balm in the base just made it feel sticky and heavy, as though I’d somehow left the house with golden syrup in my hair. It needed something sharp to cut through all that sweetness. It’s not even that I didn’t like it, it just didn’t hit the spot. “Maybe it just smells cloying because of the humidity,” I suggested to my friend over peri-peri chips at Nandos that evening. He shook his head. “Nope, it’s made for this weather. If it doesn’t smell right on you now, it never will.”
We left the restaurant and walked to the cinema for a screening of McQueen, a new documentary about the provocative fashion designer who died in 2010 at the age of forty. Lee Alexander McQueen was never easy – not the man, and not his work. “He really wanted to move people,” said Sarah Burton, his former assistant, now creative director of the brand. “Whether you liked it or hated it, he really wanted you to feel something.” I wanted Tropical Cherimoya and Passionflower Cologne to make me feel something, even if that something was just simple happiness at the thought of a day on the beach. Nevertheless, I will keep trying with Jo Malone. Summer’s just begun, and I am nothing if not optimistic.
You can purchase Jo Malone – Hot Blossoms Collection, Tropical Cherimoya Cologne 100ml, for £95 here.