As I sit and write this review I am sipping on a hot cup of Earl Grey. Why? Well, for a start I am British so it comes with the territory and secondly, I also like a brew when writing to help get those creative juices flowing, but the main reason is because we are hear to talk about tea, tea and more tea! So in keeping with our subject matter I am drinking my favourite beverage. It’s a hard life, isn’t it?
Jo Malone London also seems to be inspired by the world of tea because they’ve recently launched the ‘Rare Teas Collection’ – a series of fragrances that infuse “straight from the leaf into refined fragrances” teas that are “too precious to drink”. This is a different collection for Jo Malone London because, for the first time, it sees the fragrances packaged in an entirely new bottle, specifically a whopping 175ml column topped by a sumptuous round pebble. The teas this collection celebrates are “revered” and “refined”, and their presentation is most certainly in keeping with these themes.
Oolong Tea, the fragrance I was sent to review, focuses on a fermented version of the tea called ‘Fu Lian Oolong’ sourced just outside of Shanghai, China. Created by perfumer Serge Majoullier (the nose responsible for the entire collection), Oolong Tea is described as a “woody interpretation of tea, with a smoky inflection”, positioning the fragrances as something warmer, richer and a little bit darker than the usually ethereal and green takes on the note one is so used to seeing in modern perfumer. Colour me intrigued as I take another sip of Earl Grey.
Oolong Tea, Bitter Cocoa, Tonka Bean, Hay and Tobacco Leaf
How Does it Smell?
Oolong Tea opens green and fuzzy with a refreshing and calm quality. In the initial instances particularly, it really does smell like tea, speaking in tones of dry leaves, dusty powder and mineral-like earth with a vibe that is not unlike a steaming cup of freshly brewed oolong. What’s more, the green inflection is further intensified by a tobacco leaf note which gives the whole thing a vibrant, cherry-like sweetness that fits in perfectly. The tea impression at its boldest is fleeting though and it would be fair to say that for most of the composition’s development, the tea facet takes a back seat. But to what exactly?
Well, you will be surprised to learn that Oolong Tea flirts heavily with the gourmand, throwing in a few tasty treats to be enjoyed with one’s brew. After all, what could be better than a few delicious morsels with a nice warm cuppa? Here, Oolong Tea is served with a delicious, amber-flavoured biscotti that is dense and rich. There is a complex set of odours going on here; burned caramel, buttery shortbread, crunchy oats and sweet maple syrup. But despite the complexity of these gourmand nuances, Oolong Tea has a lightness and transparency to it that allows for a delicate and enjoyable blend.
In the base, Oolong Tea warms further, rounding itself off with the smoothness of sandalwood and the plush, creamy tones of tonka bean. There’s just a touch of bitter cocoa lurking right in the very depths of the cup, amongst the dregs, sending up an almost nutty warmth that has a sweet, smoky quality to it. Oolong Tea may sound incredibly rich and dense, but it’s not, despite its complexity, and it works really well as a comfortable every day fragrance that is different from a lot of stuff out there.
The Rare Teas Collection sees a shift in style for Jo Malone London. Here they are entering the niche world with a series of fragrances inspired by one ancient ingredient. The bottles are different and bigger, and the presentation is even more luxe than their usual offerings I’ve only tried Oolong Tea from the collection so far but I am pleased with the execution. Sure, it doesn’t push the boundaries of niche perfumery, but it does present an intriguing take on tea that is far from one dimensional. My only gripe is the bottle sizing and the pricing. At £240 for 175ml one can’t help but feel that a smaller bottle at a more affordable price point would have made more sense but then again, that’s not the point of niche now, is it?
Oolong Tea is part of Jo Malone London’s Rare Tea Collection, which also includes; Darjeeling Tea, Golden Needle Tea, Jade Leaf Tea, Midnight Leaf Tea and Silver Needle Tea. Each fragrance is available in 175ml Cologne for £240.
Sample, notes, quotes and image one via Jo Malone London. Image two is my own.