For The Scent Critic, this has been the week of The Big Autumn Clothes Swap. When the linen shirts and pants get stowed for the winter, and it is time to retrieve the Wolford Velvet Deluxes from their lingerie bag, and uncover the havoc any moths may have wreaked on the cashmere collection. (This year – hallelujah – none.) Actually, with the weather still unusually warm it’s a transitional moment for the wardrobe. Have barely needed the opaques yet, and it’s that funny mid-point in the season when nothing seems to work with bare legs. The same might be true of fragrance: it’s not quite time for full-on velvety richness, by day. But Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia, in its crunchy pear-harvest way, is going to fill the gap very nicely, methinks.
It’s an odd one, this. Strangely addictive, and I can’t quite identify why, but at a recent beauty event at Selfridges Trafford Centre (in aid of the wonderful Look Good… Feel Better charity), I found myself magnetised to the Jo Malone counter between meetings with readers, for a juicy, pear-y re-spritz. This is the first mainstream (i.e. less expensive) Jo Malone creation from their new übertalented nose, Christine Nagel, and an omen of More Good Things To Come from the JM stable. It’s technically a fruity-floral – but I almost universally hate those, so have been trying to put my finger (or rather my pulse-point) on what I seriously like about this. It’s the sheer crispness and almost squeaky-cleanness, I think. Despite the fruity elements – green rhubarb, as well as the pear – it’s not sickly, because both share a coolness and a sharpness, almost a tang. There’s a subtle, soft, sweet and authentically quince-like note (I happen to have three quinces perfuming my kitchen right now, so I’m very quince-conscious en ce moment), but this is a world away from the too-many-to-count bubble gummy fruity-florals the perfumeries have been awash with this summer. Meanwhile, if I said it was soapy, you might get the wrong idea – but it is, a shade: the sort of posh soap that you tuck in your lingerie drawer to perfume your undies, because it’s Too Good To Use.
English Pear & Freesia breezy as a blustery autumn walk, luminous, almost effervescent – and on me, skips right over the floral heart notes (wild roses, white freesias) to the dry-down, in which I get mostly patchouli with just a touch of musk (and little of the promised white amber, which is a blessing: not a Scent Critic favourite, that note, either). There are definitely other (unlisted) woods in its warm underpinnings – the pencil-shaving bliss of cedarwood, for instance. It could, just, get away with being unisex. (I’d rather like to smell this above a starched white Turnbull & Asser collar.)
Certainly, I wouldn’t call it smoulderingly sexy: very much something to wear with your best work clothes, for instant groomed-ness and feel-good factor. But actually, Jo Malone’s latest is said to have been inspired by Keats’s unutterably wonderful poem, Ode to Autumn (‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, etc. etc.). As such, I can’t think of anything better to whoosh on before a walk in the woods, a forage for mushrooms, a soaking-up of an Indian summer’s last rays, before it becomes officially Opaque Tights Time. To paraphrase Keats (and I half expect to be struck down by a thunderbolt from poet heaven for daring to do that), it is a season for misting on a mellow fruitfulness. In the form of English Freesia & Pear…