Inspired by the free-spirited artists of the legendary Bloomsbury group—writers, philosophers and intellectuals, most notable among them Virginia Woolf—this collection of scents captures the intoxicating essence of an unconventional life in their legendary country house in the Bloomsbury area. Each bottle in the collection is hand painted. —Nordstrom
As we perfumistas know, inspirations for scents rarely translate into realistic representations: "This perfume is SO Virginia Woolf!" That's fine...we can still enjoy the resulting perfume even if it's not catty, depressed, inhibited, or a genius. But why can't Nordstrom get the country house right in the PR above? The Bloomsbury area of metro London is NOT the country and the houses there associated with the Bloomsbury group are on Gordon Square. You have to travel 90 minutes outside London to see THE country house of the Bloomsbury set: Charleston farmhouse.
Nordstrom: get some good copywriters and proofreaders! (You can afford them.) Certainly the Jo Malone sales assistant at Nordstrom who hesitated to give me a sample of Tobacco & Mandarin1 ("Let me spray some on a card for you to take instead! It won't leak in your beautiful bag!") knew nothing about Bloomsbury, the neighborhood or the group.
Skip this paragraph if you're easily angered by disparagement of the Bloomsbury Group; because if you wanted to gather a collection of people guaranteed to annoy me, clone the entire tedious, self-conscious, entitled, emotionally childish, and pretentious bunch. Only Woolf, E.M. Forster, Roger Fry and Dora Carrington (a peripheral figure) get a pass — for talent. I'm not drawn to the cult of personality (or the "art and design") surrounding Vanessa Bell or Duncan Grant. What drew me to today's perfume were the words: "tobacco" and "mandarin."
Tobacco & Mandarin starts with creamy mandarin that disappears almost the moment you smell it. Following the mandarin is honey-sweetened (but sheer) tobacco; the tobacco in Tobacco & Mandarin has no 'teeth' or muskiness. After those notes begin to fade you'll detect a clean vanillic musk that stays close to the body. This is all nice enough, but I've smelled this type tobacco fragrance many times before; I like tougher tobacco...and tons more mandarin.
When will I learn my lesson?
Jo Malone always presents interesting (often quirky) lists of notes for its fragrances. Over the last decade I've run to sniff the perfumes as they come off the assembly line and I'm always disappointed. Jo Malone is like the cook who sends you a sensational menu for a meal he's inviting you to, and when you get there all those exotic dishes taste like reheated frozen dinners. Jo Malone has a stingy (light) hand with "ingredients."
But: that's just me! Jo Malone is a huge brand with a BIG fan base; if you're a fan-boy or -girl of Jo Malone, try this new collection quickly, it's limited edition.
Jo Malone Tobacco and Mandarin Cologne is $70 for 30 ml.
1. Perfumer Yann Vasnier; listed notes of mandarin, tobacco leaf, sage, beeswax, coumarin.