Rock the Ages – Jo Malone Birch & Black Pepper Perfume Review

Jo Malone 'Rocks the Ages' With Their Latest Collection

Jo Malone ‘Rocks the Ages’ With Their Latest Collection

Here’s a bit of a quickie review to end the week. Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of Jo Malone’s catalogue of fragrances. For the most part I find them to be well-executed scents that range from clean easy-pleasers like Lime, Basil & Mandarin and Earl Grey & Cucumber etc. to more intriguing oddities such as Rain & Angelica and Wood Sage & Sea Salt (there’s also that upcoming Incense & Cedrat that I keep saying I’m obsessed – more of that soon). They may not necessarily be the first brand that I’d go to if I was looking for a wild and wacky fragrant adventure, but I’m always keen to see what the world of Jo Malone has to offer.

As they often do, Jo Malone have launched a collection of limited edition fragrances. This year, the theme is British history and the name of the game is “Rock the Ages”. Charting British tradition from the Tudor era to the present day the five fragrances (four new ones plus a limited edition bottle of popular fragrance, Pomegranate Noir) map the many facets of our vibrant history. Birch & Black Pepper (perfumer: Christine Nagel), the subject of today’s review is the one assigned to modern Britain, to 2015 specifically, and it’s described by the brand as being “individual, audacious and stylish”.

Birch and Black Pepper, and its Rock the Ages Counterparts

Birch & Black Pepper (far right), and its Rock the Ages Counterparts

The Notes

Black Pepper, Cardamom, Birch, Ink Accord and Gurjum

How Does it Smell?

Birch & Black Pepper is pretty interesting from the get go. It opens with lots of savoury, smoky and salty birch, as billed, but there’s a translucent airiness, thanks to the almost aquatic spice of cardamom, that stops anything from being heavy or oppressive. The pepper is relatively subtle, crackling softly in the background and giving off a metallic glow. My favourite part though, is the inky heart that is deep black and floral (white florals, most definitely). It gives what would otherwise be a standard spice scent, a unique depth that carries right through to the base. Birch & Black Pepper displays modern Britain through smoke, spice, metal and ink. It’s a handsome picture for sure.

I’m not going to lie to you, I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed by the idea of Birch & Black Pepper. Sometimes you just get the feeling that a scent won’t be for you, and the mix of notes didn’t sound appealing to me. How wrong was I? This is an incredibly well-thought-out fragrance that presents spice in a transparent, shimmering and floral package that is really easy to enjoy. Also, as with many of the Jo Malones, its great to layer with. I paired it with Annick Goutal’s Eau de Ciel, and the result was musk, flowers and spice – heaven.


Birch & Black Pepper is a limited edition available in 30ml Cologne for £42.

Sample, notes and quotes via Jo Malone. Image 1 via Image 2 via


19 thoughts on “Rock the Ages – Jo Malone Birch & Black Pepper Perfume Review

  1. Sounds like a nice, wearable take on birch tar. Your own fragrance combining sounds even better!

    Incense and Cedrat is the one that really appeals though. Look forward to your review and trying that at some point – I don’t often say that about Jo Malone.

    • It really is. I was quite surprised. I normally get bored of birch tar after a couple of hours. It sort of drones on with relentless heaviness. This is transparent and luminescent.

      I’ll put some Incense & Cedrat in a spritz for you.

  2. Must admit, not often ‘turned on’ by a JM new release – (tho’ there have been a few I’d certainly wear if a bottle were to land in my lap) 🙂 – the majority however, tho’ pleasant enough, are just a little TOO easy & ‘wishy-washy’ for my tastes, unfortunately (unless layered to within an inch of their lives) 😉 … However, must say T’, you’ve totally piqued my interest in this one. I do have a rather soft spot for a Birch note (be it from the wood or it’s ‘darker’ processed facets) – i am, after all, rather a sucker for smoky notes – so this one is sounding VERY enticing indeed. Perhaps this is the one JM to finally totally win me over (?!?)

    Thanx for placing it on my radar, as pretty sure Id’ve missed/ignored it otherwise – so cheers! 🙂

    • I can go along with wishy-washy. Nicely done, for the most part though.

      They’re getting a bit more niche, which I like. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything particularly challenging from them but the game is being stepped up, and their recent output has been interesting.

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