A Drip of Caramel on the Lips/A Walk Along the Icy Shore – Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt Perfume Review

Wood Sage & Sea Salt
Wood Sage & Sea Salt

Jo Malone always strikes me as more of a lifestyle brand than a fragrance house. They produce an array of lovely scented goodies for the house and body that are housed within beautiful packaging. They look, feel and smell luxurious in a straight forward kind-of-way and have an unfussy approach in all that they do – an approach that does not seek to challenge. Their fragrances aren’t the most groundbreaking in the world, but they always come across as pleasant in a pure sort-of-way.

The brand’s latest fragrance, ‘Wood Sage & Sea Salt’ almost feels like a departure from the clean and pure simplicity that is inextricably linked with the name Jo Malone. Created by perfumer Christine Nagel, this new instalment from the British brand intends to celebrate the “treasure of the English coast” and be evocative of the “windswept shore” in a fresh, salty and mineral scent that really is unlike anything else one can find in the collection. Sure, it’s still a ‘clean’ cologne in the Jo Malone style, but it’s also a fascinatingly abstract piece of work that comes as a complete surprise.

“Escape the everyday along the windswept shore. Waves breaking white, the air fresh with seal salt and spray. Alive with the mineral scent of the rugged cliffs. Mingling with the woody earthiness of sage. Lively, spirited and totally joyful.”

Wood Sage & Sea Salt Collection
Wood Sage & Sea Salt Collection

“For me this fragrance is different. The sea air mixes with salty spray and the mineral texture of sand and rock. Like the scent of driftwood, it has a natural and fresh sophistication. A complex combination of wood and the sea at its core. The feeling is of free-spirited liberty and joy.”

– Christine Nagel

The Notes

Ambrette, Sea Salt, Sage, Seaweed and Grapefruit

How Does it Smell?

Wood Sage & Sea Salt opens unexpectedly dry, lacking any dewy, zesty or juicy citrus notes. What is unleashed with the first spritz is a wonderfully true-to-life sea spray accord that is incredibly evocative of giant waves crashing against wet cliffs and cold pebbles. What’s interesting about this image is that it presents a seaside/beach landscape that is cold, overcast and wintry and far removed from the tropical sunshine associated with places where the land meets the ocean. One imagines themselves trapsing slowly across the sand against the wind, revelling in the icy sea air that attempts to stop them in their tracks with all of its might.

The sea salt accord is a complex and multi-faceted one. Initially it comes across foamy and reminiscent of the ocean however, as time progresses and the fragrance develops, this accord becomes wholly and completely gourmand, appearing as thin trickles of delicious salted caramel. This development is a neat trick that slowly creeps into realisation as the fragrance has time to become richer on the skin. What’s most surprising, is that this transition to ocean delicacy is so utterly seamless and seems to make complete sense – it’s surprising, yes, but its also really quite striking at the same time.

As it settles into the base, Wood Sage & Sea Salt takes on a woody and suede-like character. At times, it is reminiscent of Prada’s superlative Infusion d’Iris, capturing the Prada’s fizzy, earthy and almost leathery feel, without any of the grey iris notes. Perhaps the only niggle one can have with this perfume is that it does become quite thin in the base, and the magic of the first hour or so doesn’t quite carry through, leaving a woody trail that is quite generic. But that is a minor complaint and the sea spray/salted caramel accord certainly makes up for any shortcomings found within the dry down.

Wood Sage & Sea Salt is an incredibly joyful perfume that delivers exactly what it intends to: an olfactory ode to a windswept shore. But Wood Sage & Sea Salt is also much more than that – it’s an unassuming, easy to wear fragrance that pairs the almost savoury and un-gourmand feel of sea air with the sweet and delicious texture of salted caramel. By pairing these literal accords together, perfumer Christine Nagel has cleverly crafted something rather abstract that leaves one wondering whether the smell is reminiscent of a cold day on a stony beach, or a drip of caramel on the lips. It’s a wearable perfume that causes one to think, and I like that.


Wood Sage & Sea Salt is available in 30ml (£40) and 100ml (£82) Cologne. A Body Crème (175ml/£50), Body and Hand Wash (250ml/£28) and a Home Candle (200g/£40) are also available.

Also, if you want to try a sample of Wood Sage & Sea Salt you can request one by visiting the Jo Malone English Coast website, where you can also send themed post cards.

Sample, images and quotes via Jo Malone. Notes via Fragrantica. Link to Jo Malone site included due to the opportunity to order a sample – this is not a sponsored link.