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Scented Mementos

The story behind our eclectic scents inspired by the British antique market

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Scented Mementos

‘Growing up, my parents always took me to many antique and flea markets across France. So I grew up in it. But you know, when you're small, you're a little bit like…’ Céline Roux shrugs ambivalently. For years Céline, Global Head Of Fragrance at Jo Malone London, took her early childhood experience – an education of sorts – for granted. As an adult however, she came to appreciate the seeds her parents inadvertently sowed. ‘Now, I love antique markets,’ she says, breaking into a huge smile. Céline’s passion for discovering antiques, a much-loved English pastime, buoyed by regular market trawls be it in London, New York or the Loire Valley – is now bearing fruit on a larger scale. Jo Malone London’s exciting new collection, Scented Mementos featuring a four-strong line-up – Musk Memento, Passiflora, Emerald Thyme and Ginger Beer – is inspired by the joys, eclecticism and sense of discovery of the glorious British antique market. But don’t be fooled.

Anyone conjuring scents mimicking the inside of old dusty trunks that have long languished in a country house attic will be thoroughly disappointed. The scents are, in Céline’s word’s ‘eclectic’ and offer so much more.

‘I always thought, I want to do a collection around antique markets’, says Céline. Which is why rather than starting with ingredients – the norm for Jo Malone London – it began with objects. This, however, was no easy feat. The first thing Céline did was to bring in a coterie of perfumers who would understand the concept and would be prepared to think outside the box. ‘I chose Yann Vasnier, Anne Flipo and Marie Salamagne as they have all worked with us before. They are all great to work with individually but also as a collective. And also,’ she adds with a knowing smile, ‘like me, the three of them also love antiques. So I said, “Go and be creative”.’ The result is a quartet of beautifully idiosyncratic scents that are way off the beaten path. Surprised? Well for Céline this is mission accomplished. ‘We wanted something different,’ she exclaims.

Ginger Beer, while nodding to the quintessentially English fizzy drink, came about when Céline found a ceramic bottle in Sunbury Antiques Market with the words Ginger Beer inscribed across it. This discovery ended up being the catalyst for the entire collection ‘As many know, at Jo Malone London, when we decide to create a new scent, we are generally led by ingredients. So it really took time to think about how exactly we were going to do this range. But when I found this bottle, the vision became super clear. I was like “That’s it!”.’ Of course, ingredients still play a huge role. ‘We bought a lot of different ginger beers, tasting and testing them. It was then that we realised that actually it’s not just about that zingy freshness. You actually have a lot of warm spices and roots such as cinnamon. So we added in other elements like woods, such as English roasted oak, vetiver, amyris… So what you end up with is this kind of warm sexiness.’ explains Céline.

This modern concept of sexiness also plays out in Passiflora – a floral, yes, but not quite as we know it. ‘Years ago, I bought an old book called British Botanists. It was from 1945 – someone had also signed it – and within the book was an illustration of a passion flower, which is the Passiflora. I loved the name but beyond that I just thought they were so beautiful. Since discovering them in real life, and actually smelling them, I loved them even more.’ The surprising twist to Passiflora, a fragrance Céline describes as a ‘sexy floral’, is a nuttiness which she says is evident in the actual flower. ‘It has a very almondy note, and so in creating the fragrance, we pushed this through’. Tonka bean and cardamom were also added, however Céline insists that the ultimately floral scent still remains ‘very fresh’, an underlying thread ubiquitous throughout the collection.

Even in the unapologetically aromatic Emerald Thyme. Inspired by old apothecary bottles, ‘especially those bottles in all these different shades of green’, reminisces Céline, it is a lemony thyme combined with ingredients such as geranium as well as a traditional thyme. The end result is what Céline refers to as ‘eau de cologne revisited’. A more recent jaunt to the Sunbury Antiques Market unearthed an object – a vintage porcelain soap dish – that would inadvertently form the core of Musk Memento. While the soap dish inspiration may be something of a surprise, the link between soap and one of the scent’s key notes – white musk – is easier to understand. White musk is well known within perfumery for bringing a powdery, cleanliness to a fragrance. ‘There is a high dosage of white musk and cedarwood,’ explains Céline, spraying it on her person, ‘but fundamentally it is fresh and soapy. Like a crisp clean shirt.’ The breadth of appeal she says runs the gamut from ‘my friend’s 18-year-old daughter to male friends. Everyone has become obsessed with it.’ While trialling the scent she would even have people stopping her on the street. ‘They would all ask, “What are you wearing?”.’ The details of which, at the time, Céline wouldn’t and couldn’t reveal. Now, finally, the cat is out of the bag. That said, any expectation that she will be drawn into choosing her favourite simply won’t be met. Céline is smiling but keeping schtum. ‘I love all four scents. They have their own eclectic personalities, but the overarching personality is like a quirky character that collects different antique items. Which I think is really cool’.

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