How Are Jo Malone Perfumes Made? We Went to London to Find Out
Jo Malone London’s headquarters in an 18th-century Georgian townhouse is elegant in its simplicity, with neutral palettes, chic draperies, exquisite moldings, and bright interiors. “This is the very heart and soul of our brand,” Vicki Tomkinson, the brand’s global communications coordinator, tells us as she walks us through the foyer with black and white marbled flooring and a fireplace accentuated by a simple but dramatic floral artwork. “Here is where everything in the heart of Jo Malone begins, from our fragrances and ingredients to our packaging,” she says. The upper levels of the four-story structure are cozy and airy spaces—a living room, a drawing room, and a garden room for both big gatherings and intimate meetings, with reclaimed wood floors and huge windows allowing each area to soak up sunlight on brighter days.
The colors, spirit, and understated luxury of Jo Malone London are reflected in its new headquarters on London’s West End. “The walls and ceilings reflect the iconic style of the boxes. The curtains are luxuriously full and rich, with loose layers of linen on top. There is edge in the minimal interior—raw wood, deep black velvet, black marble,” says interior designer Rose Uniacke.
A spiral staircase leads to the main salon, filled with mood boards, displays of blooms and greens, a pretty coffee table laden with sweets, perfumes, and their raw materials. An intricate jetblack chandelier, which lit up the Blossom Ball recently hosted by Poppy Delevingne, the newest Jo Malone London brand ambassador, serves as the focal point.
Jo Malone London curates fragrance combinations for wedding receptions using handmade candles. Guests bring home mini candles infused with a custom scent to reignite happy memories when lit. This wedding consultation will be part of the menu of services available at the Manila boutique.
The concept of lightness plays the most important role in the Jo Malone London DNA. “All our fragrances can be layered,” says Celine Roux, the brand’s fragrance director. “They must be transparent enough to be layered. This way, you can customize your scent, taking the brand to another level and making your combinations really yours.” The brand’s fragrances go beyond perfumes, with a complete range of lotions, body creams, and bath products.
Over the years, innovation has helped Jo Malone to celebrate and embrace the rarest of ingredients. “We used an innovative technology called NaturePrint to reconstruct the scent of Omani incense to make Incense & Cedrat. Omani incense is incredibly rare and using the technology allowed us to capture its majestic scent without harming the tree at all,” says Debbie Wild.
“It’s similar to fashion when you mix and match accessories,” adds lifestyle director Debbie Wild. “What we do with accessories is so important. It should be the same with fragrances. You can have your favorite fragrance depending on the time of day, the occasion, the weather.”
“But to be able to do that, we have to design fragrances with the ‘layering possibility’ in mind,” says Roux. Most perfumes that are meant to be worn alone are heavy or dense in terms of notes, thus anything sprayed on top of them will most likely diffuse or won’t be recognizable. “But every Jo Malone masterpiece has that ‘shot of light,’ some sort of transparency in the scents so when you layer the fragrances, they won’t be too opaque,” she explains. This luminosity is best seen in the late English photographer and designer Cecil Beaton’s fashion portraits (featuring lots of depth and volume with luminous fabrics) and snapshots of royalty, also from where Jo Malone’s Peony & Blush Suede fragrance draws inspiration.
Red Roses was one of Jo Malone’s first perfumes, inspired by the English Rose, Valentine’s Day, and the memories brought about by receiving bouquets of flowers as seen on this mood board.
Wearing each scent on its own, however, can be just as pleasant with each bottle infused with not just notes, but stories and inspirations unique to the English culture, whether an artwork, a photograph, an activity, a place, an everyday object, or even a kitchen staple. One of its signature fragrances, for instance, is the Lime Basil & Mandarin mix, which along with its other perfumes that incorporate nutmeg, salt, cucumber, and fig, has earned many a perfume snob’s esteem for its sophisticated execution of food-derived notes. “We do like using ingredients uncommon to perfumery, those with an almost quirky feel,” affirms Roux. “But it’s very important to make them simple. Simple does not mean that they are easy to do. It just means we spend more time making them, perfecting them. This entails not using lot of ingredients in our fragrances, but rather using qualitative ingredients so that notes can be distinguished.” What is special about the scents of the various mixes is that anyone can tell each note apart. “You know how sometimes you smell a fragrance and you say it is nice, but you can’t really figure what it is? It’s not bad or good, it’s just not our approach or philosophy,” she says. “With this, you smell the lime, the basil, the mandarin.”
Jo Malone London welcomed T&C to experience its brand at the salon filled with fragrance inspirations at its London townhouse.
The journey to creating every Jo Malone fragrance is as important as the final product. Roux works with only one chosen nose for each perfume, immersing her in whatever it entails to capture an experience, a memory, or a season for weeks or even months. Before Wood Sage & Sea Salt arrived on the counters last year, for instance, the perfumer actually lived on the English Coast to translate the vacation spot into a bottle of perfume. “I really needed her to embrace the English Coast—that it’s very different from the Asian beaches or the South of France,” recalls Roux. “When you go to the English Coast, you’ll see it’s more rugged, with a cliff, lots of fresh air. You’re wearing say, a cashmere jumpsuit, and walking on the coast with your husband to make it more romantic.” From the journey, the perfumer was able to understand elements essential to creating this new bestseller. “She was so inspired. She thought that sea salt would be a cool ingredient that we should put in the fragrance. All these things make the fragrance fit to an emotion. We put connection, we put emotion.” The same is true for its signature fragrances like the Earl Grey & Cucumber that’s inspired by the traditional afternoon tea at London’s renowned Claridge’s hotel and the Blackberry & Bay that evokes blackberry picking in the English countryside, among many others.
Jo Malone continues to be a niche brand even after joining Estée Lauder’s corporate stable. “While there is pressure to bow to trends, we don’t believe in them,” says lifestyle director Debbie Wild. “We continue to create unusual and innovative scents which can be layered for individual effects.”
Jo Malone London opened its first boutique in Manila in October 2015. From its beginnings when perfumer Jo Malone opened her first store on Walton Street in London in 1994 to when Estée Lauder acquired it entirely in 2006, the British fragrance house has continued to honor its scent signature, evolving into a brand that celebrates not just the unique stories of its fragrances, but also the passion and care by which they are made.