Although Earl Grey is The Scent Critic’s least favourite kind of brewed tea (and just about the only one I’ve ever been known to decline), this third in the series of Jo Malone’s limited edition Tea Collection is absolutely my favourite yet. In truth, I don’t really get Earl grey or cucumber, when I initially apply this: for me, it’s more the sweet element of teatime: a little icing sugar, a touch of Ladurée macaron, a definite gourmand character. Powdery and pretty. Makes me feel a bit like Marie Antoinette – or rather: Kirsten-Dunst-as-Marie-Antoinette, in Sofia Coppola’s film, in one of my all-time favourite screen indulgences: a festival of Manolo Blahnik shoes and cakes, enjoyed to a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack.
The cucumber coolness does come later, but it’s the flirty intro that hooks me (line and sinker). It’s nebulous and gauzy but very much ‘there’, and ultimately has better staying power either than the Assam & Grapefruit or the Mint Leaf Cologne that I’ve already reviewed. The first few times I wore this, I was completely anosmic to the bergamot note (normally so citrussy and fresh). Instead, I got violets and iris and marble-smooth softness. (At moments, this could even be a Guerlain, to The Scent Critic’s nose. Wowzer. That’s not something you’d have said about Jo Malone, in its pre-Christine Nagel era.)
And then: success! When I sprayed this on my clothes rather than my skin (pashmina in particular – I DO like a scented pashmina), there it was: Earl Grey, to the bergamot-scented letter. Why my clothes should be so receptive to this when my skin isn’t is an alchemical mystery, but there you have it. The really, really weird thing is that I like this so much, it makes me want to start drinking Earl Grey. Earl Grey, which I’ve always loathed. Go figure.
And you want to hear something even stranger…? After a day wearing this fragrance, I dreamed of an old boyfriend, from several decades ago, who – yes – always drank Earl Grey. Somehow, my limbic system got my memory bank playing a kind of tennis-elbow-foot (or rather: Earl-Grey-tea-Anthony-Marrian) game, while I was unconscious. I knew that fragrance could conjure up memories while we’re awake; I just didn’t know it could do it when we’re in bed asleep.
Word is from the folk at Jo Malone that this Tea Collection is flying off the shelves in Asia, meanwhile, and The Scent Critic is less-than-surprised. There is, of course, a serious ‘tea heritage’ in the Far East (China, Japan etc.), which probably hard-wires them to be receptive to anything with the black tea note that emerges here, after a while. As a fragrance note, tea is fiercely difficult to describe. Dry, tannin-y, aromatic – and addictive as the real, brewed thing, if my reaction to this collection is anything to go by.
I am absolutely in raptures about how this smells after a few hours, meanwhile: beautifully full-bodied. Although I get vanilla early on (right from the word ‘go’, with that cake-y first impression), this sweetness strengthens over time. According to Jo Malone, there’s also a ‘beeswax’ note in the base – which probably accounts for its slightly honeyed, languid quality. And cedar and musk, which are a leitmotif in the Tea Collection, tether and ground it, more sexily than in the ‘sister scents’ that I’ve reviewed in the past few days.
It’s simply dreamy. In more ways than one….