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Bombay Duck London

Jo Malone Peony & Moss

Photographed by Jo Fairley against a vintage Sanderson screenprinted chintz

One of The Scent Critic’s favourite smells in the world is a flower shop:  the damp, mossy, earthy scent that assails and delights me upon stepping over the threshold of, say, Kenneth Turner in London, or Christian Tortu (in Paris), or the fabulous little Japanese florist Shimizu that to my great joy (and fairly eternal astonishment) happens to be just a few steps from my doorstep in Hastings, and showcases some of the most beautiful and creative bouquets I’ve ever seen.

So it’s pretty obvious why I’d fall for this:  one of a trio of limited edition (darn it!) scents from Jo Malone, which just launched.  (My advice:  if you want to smell them, make it snappy;  last year’s limited edition tea range just flew out of the door.)  Like that tea-inspired range, the London Blooms collection is the work of Christine Nagel, who really can’t put a well-shod foot wrong, in my book.  This collection cleverly contrasts notes that you wouldn’t necessarily put together, but she totally pulls it off.

This is damp and green and totally, totally mossy.  Indeed, it’s a Japanese moss garden, in a bottle.  Frankly, I might as well be lying on the moist ground in a shaded forest and basically inhaling the colour green.  There’s a cassis sharpness to it, too.  (Looking at the notes, they do feature blackcurrant – though I always think that’s cheating until I’ve had a darned good sniff, or I end up mentally seeking out certain elements, rather than embarking on a journey of discovery.)  Rather than the juicy fruit of the blackcurrant bush, this is more akin to the Ribes plant, whose leaves and drooping flowers are currently bursting into life.  There’s a bush between my house and my best friend’s and I’m incapable of resisting the temptation to rub its faintly furry leaves between my fingers, where the tart scent lingers for a surprisingly long time.  Ribes is a bit love-it-or-hate-it (it tips over into cat wee at the end of its life), but I’m a fan.

With plenty of oakmoss, Peony & Moss is ever-so-slightly chyprée, without the smouldering spices and musks you’d associate with one of those.  On the one hand, this is light-as-air.  But it’s also got a real hands-in-the-dirt quality to it.  And it really is wet and damp:  a garden after a massive, stormy downpour, when lightning’s nitrogen fix has green shoots twining up obelisks almost before your very eyes.  (I have always thought it supremely clever that noses can impart a sense of wetness, a genuine watery quality, to scent – Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey being the consummate example.)

The peony whispers, if it breathes at all:  a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sweet flash, and boom!  Gone again.  Airily pretty, the one thing this isn’t, though, is ‘sexy’.  The Ribena-cordial-ish tang isn’t necessarily what a man wants to nuzzle, I’d say, when he buries his nose in your clavicle.  So this is one The Scent Critic is currently wearing for my personal enjoyment, then.  It is the fragrant equivalent of a solitary potter in my greenhouse, scarifying sweet pea seeds, potting on tomatoes and pruning my grapevine.  Until now, my favourite ‘florist shop’/greenhouse/conservatory scent has always been Antonia’s Flowers, but I might just have a rethink.

Last but not least, the flacon is super-pretty, too, decorated with old botanical illustrations.  All three bottles do look splendid lined up together.  And I will be reviewing one of the others – Iris & Lady Moore – imminently.  Not convinced about the last of the trio, White Lilac & Rhubarb, yet.  But then loving three scents in one collection is the perfume equivalent of getting three bars on a fruit machine:  you don’t hit the jackpot often.

This ephemeral floristic creation, though?  A definite winner.

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