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Jo Malone Amber & Patchouli Cologne Intense

It is no secret to the (lovely) folk at Jo Malone that until recently, this fragrance line didn’t rock my boat.  Jo herself – who created an extraordinary global scent and skincare empire – is always pressed, scrubbed (and exfoliated) to squeaky-clean perfection, and fond of understated tones.  (Think:  taupe, beige, ivory).  And the fragrances she created while running her brand were a perfect embodiment of that, I always felt.  Personally, I like my perfumes naughtier and raunchier – conjuring up a past punctuated by kisses with people I shouldn’t have, too many late nights in dark nightclubs, even a vodka-drinking competition with the owner of a Polish restaurant (big mistake that, BIG mistake, not to be recommended).  So the Jo Malone scents were a little too ‘safe’, ‘clean’ and ‘airy’, for my taste.

Well, not any more – now that the sublimely talented Christine Nagel has landed as Jo Malone’s ‘nose’.  It’s as if she’s stepped on the gas pedal and the range has gone roaaaaar, roaaaar with excitement – starting with the range of four Cologne Intense fragrances in their sexy black glass livery (the priciest yet, in the Jo Malone range).  It’s pretty hard to choose between them, but I’ll start with my current fave rave:  Amber & Patchouli.  Basically, you immediately cut to the chase with this.  No wiffly-waffly top notes:   it gets you straight to the eponymous amber and patchouli, with a touch of guaiac wood.  Forget foreplay or courty love:  it’s let’s-rip-our-clothes-off-right here.  (Oh, and sorry, what did you say your name was…?)

I first smelled Amber & Patchouli just before heading to Damascus, packed it in my suitcase, wore it all the time when I was there.  It’s as spicy and vibrant as a souk – so much so that at times I could barely tell where the fragrance began and the spice market ended.  Now, I’ve always been a patchouli lover, but this is a quantum leap from the scented vials I used to buy – as a teenage hippie manquée – from Kensington Market.  (Which, by a strange twist of fate, turned out to have been imported by the man who’s now my husband.  Whose other true hippie credentials include introducing the Afghan coat and brown rice.)

According to Jo Malone, the patchouli note has been ‘tweaked’ to give it a ‘suede-like’ quality (and it does have that so-sniffable skin-like character of a Donna Karan fragrance, or Simply Clinique – which now, as far as I can make out, is now Simply Disappeared).  It’s got that very ‘intimate’ quality, to be enjoyed by one individual (or two, if you’re lucky enough to get someone within nuzzling distance).  And it can also be spritzed all day, pleasurably, without fear of knocking out your co-workers.  For me, it’s as addictive as opium (note small ‘o’) and I can’t stop spraying.  In fact, The Scent Critic is nearly at the end of her first bottle – no mean feat for the ficklest of fragrance-lovers.  (Though fickleness does go with this literary territory.)

The Cologne Intense range, it turns out, has been created as a nod to the Middle East, where Jo Malone recently opened two boutiques (in Dubai), which instantly ranked among their most successful stores anywhere.  The Arab nations, of course, have always been passionate about fragrance – with a rich scent heritage that’s endowed the fragrance world with many of its most exotic ingredients.  And frankly, if it takes a cool-headed business decision to cater to the Middle East market in order to inject a little passion and extra excitement to the Jo Malone range, well:  I say ‘hurrah’.  Now, which Cologne Intense shall I allow to rock my boat next?  Oud & Bergamot?  Rose Water & Vanilla?  Iris & Musk?  Watch this scented space…

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