I do a lot of walking throughout the year. There’s something restorative about simply putting one foot in front of the other in the great outdoors that just helps keep the mind healthy. My favourite time of year to walk is autumn, especially in the woods. I love the way the leaves carpet the ground in their patchwork colours – the way they rustle mischeviously underfoot, moving in a tide of oranges, reds and browns. I love the way the air smells cold, and of smoke. I love the trees and their peeling barks, and the way they stand so silently like stoic totems. A walk in the woods during autumn is a really evocative adventure and it seems as if Jo Malone London think so too!
Jo Malone London is spoiling us this year. Instead of just one new addition to their collection, they’re giving us two! This little capsule collection is called The English Oak and includes two fragrances (English Oak & Hazelnut and English Oak & Redcurrant) that showcase a unique and exclusive roasted oak absolute that is sourced from “washed wood chips [which] are roasted at high temperatures, yielding up a rich, deep and smoky-sweet absolute”. Both scents were created by perfumer Yann Vasnier, who previously created the brand’s Bloomsbury Set collection. The idea is to present a different kind of wood in fragrance – forget your sandalwoods and your cedar woods, this is the noble and wise old oak, and it lends itself to perfumery in two very intriguing ways.
Top: Green Hazelnut
Base: Roasted Oak Absolute
How Does it Smell?
If you’re expecting woods and Nutella from English Oak & Hazelnut then you will need to check your expectations at the door, they are not welcome here. This fragrance amplifies the creamy, fresh and green nuances of hazelnut, rather than the gourmand, creating an accord that is surprisingly zesty and refreshing. There’s a hint of spice (a black pepper) that gives a touch of funk and provides an easy link to the cedarwood in the heart, which itself is rather light and smooth. The roasted oak absolute brings a mellow and slightly mossy hint of wood that does have an ever so subtle earthiness that makes it dry and cold. It all has a surprisingly large sillage, which creates quite the presence, evoking the idea of an imposing oak tree that stands tall and proud.
English Oak & Hazelnut is easily the standout of the two. I love its green and fresh take on nuttiness and it certainly feels as if it is the most interesting composition in this oak-inspired duo. It’s one of those scents that just wears really well. You’ll catch whiffs of it throughout the day and will wonder ‘where is that coming from?’, which means you get that wonderful moment of realisation when you discover that the lovely smelling person in the room is you. In the colder months we so often seek out warmth in fragrance for comfort, but the cool air of English Oak & Hazelnut is the perfect thing to embrace the change in the atmosphere.
Base: Roasted Oak Absolute
How Does it Smell?
English Oak & Redcurrant is not without interest. It starts out green and fruity, with a sharp nettle-like spikiness that presents the idea of green in an entirely different way to Hazelnut’s zesty, almost juicy greenery. The fruit itself is fuzzy and tart, but not sweet at all. I get the impression of redcurrants smashed into a pulp and blended with a touch of milk to dilute their rouge colour. If there is rose I don’t really smell it, except for a sweet warmth in the heart that could be a hint of delicious Turkish roses. Whilst the base is the same roasted oak absolute in both fragrances, its nuances are altogether different and in Redcurrant, the oak is softer, smoother and ultimately more vegetal smelling.
I enjoy wearing English Oak & Redcurrant. Fruity notes are so often abused in perfumery – they’re forced to showcase their sticky, sugary facets, whilst in this fragrance fruit is presented in pastel shades. My only complaint would be that the oak facet doesn’t come through strongly enough to live up to its name. There are many other Jo Malone London fragrances that have more character than this one, but if you’re in the market for an easygoing fragrance with hints of fruits, woods and greenery, then this one might just be your thing. I think it will be absolutely lovely on cool autumnal days.
English Oak & Hazelnut and English Oak & Redcurrant are available in 30ml (£44) and 100ml (£88) Cologne. Matching body products and a home candle are also available.
Samples, notes and quotes via Jo Malone London. Images are my own.