Jo Malone London is no stranger to using quirky and unexpected ingredients in its quintessentially British fragrances, but the limited-edition new Marmalade Collection takes whimsy and creativity to another level. Here, global head of fragrance, Celine Roux, and master perfumers Marie Salamagne and Nicolas Bonneville take us through the new collection and talk about the fruits of their labour.
Where did the inspiration come from for a collection themed around marmalade?
Celine: Over 10 years ago, we launched the Sugar & Spice collection, which was inspired by beloved British puddings. This worked really well, and I started thinking about fragrances themed around jams and, in particular, marmalade. Using seasonal fruits to create homemade preserves that you can gift to family and friends seems like such a quintessentially British pastime, conjuring up images of English breakfasts, high teas and village fêtes.
What made you decide that now was the right time to make this idea a reality?
Celine: When you think about marmalade, you tend to think of something quite sugary, so the idea of creating elegant and wearable fragrances around it was hard to envision. But one day Marie [Salamagne, master perfumer] told me about a supplier in Scotland that made natural fruit flavourings for the food industry, using a process that could be potentially adapted for fragrance. I immediately thought that this might be the missing link that would allow us to create fruit-based fragrances with the kind of elegance and naturality we were after.
What else did you do to develop the idea?
Celine: The perfumers and I paid a couple of visits to Fortnum & Mason in London, where they have a really impressive amount of jams. We took away a lot of preserves and marmalades and tasted them all to get us thinking about different flavours. A year later, once we had developed our first fragrance submissions, we met with the Fortnum & Mason team for another tasting.
Tell us more about the supplier in Scotland and their role in the development process?
Celine: After I heard about the Scottish supplier from Marie, we decided to visit their fruit fields and facility in the Highlands. There, they take the produce of local farms – strawberries, blackberries and blackcurrants, which sometimes grow just metres from their site – and slowly heat them to release natural extracts, which are then recovered in a condenser. They usually supply these fruit extracts to the food industry, but we found a way of using them in our fragrances.
How did you incorporate the fruit extracts into your fragrance formulas?
Marie: The fruit extracts are very volatile ingredients that can’t be added directly to fragrance oil. But in every fragrance there’s a small part of water. By switching out the water for the fruit extract, we were able to introduce fruity notes that were fresh, vibrant and completely natural.
What fruit extracts did you use in The Marmalade Collection?
Celine: We really loved the blackcurrant fruit extract, which was just so juicy and true to the fruit. This turned out to be a perfect addition to our beloved Blackberry & Bay fragrance, but when it came to our new Orange Peel and Tangy Rhubarb scents, we wanted something a bit different. We were able to get the producers to specially create a rhubarb fruit extract just for us, which was fantastic. Rhubarb is such a wonderfully British ingredient – tart and a little bit unexpected. It added just the right note of bitterness to Orange Peel and was the star of the rhubarb accord that formed the foundation for our Tangy Rhubarb fragrance.
Can you tell us a bit more about the new fragrances in the collection: Orange Peel, Tangy Rhubarb and Rose Blush?
Marie: Orange Peel took a long time to perfect as it required striking the right balance between the juiciness of the fruit and the bitterness of the rind. We used natural orange together with the orange molecule Sinensal, which acts like a booster for orange and really makes it last, preserving a lovely zesty note all the way to the bottom of the fragrance.
Nicolas: We also worked with warm woods and clary sage to add elegance and refinement. Our wonderful rhubarb fruit extract gives things a unisex quality and adds a hint of bitterness that works so well for marmalade.
Marie: With Tangy Rhubarb, we started with a rhubarb accord, featuring lemon top notes to really push the juiciness. The heart has a lovely yumminess and addictive quality that’s underpinned by sophisticated musk and cedarwood in the base. It’s this tension between the top and the base notes that really makes this fragrance. It’s masculine as well as feminine, tart as well as juicy, and has a wonderfully playful, unruly quality.
Nicolas: We did a lot of work on the texture of Rose Blush, really trying to tease out that transparent jelly effect. This was quite challenging, because with most extracts of rose you get something a bit honeyed and even a bit spicy, which can translate as quite old-fashioned. We worked hard to make our rose petal-fresh and added a hint of basil leaf in the top notes for a green, herbaceous twist.
Did you learn anything new when working on The Marmalade Collection?
Marie: Using the fruit extract process was something quite new. We felt like kids in a toy store when we discovered we had this new material to play with, which is a really rare feeling in perfumery.
Nicolas: Thanks to the fruit extracts, we were able to create fruit fragrances that were unique, addictive, but not too sweet or sticky. This felt like a new way of working and we’re all really proud of the results.
How would you summarise the new fragrances in the collection?
Celine: For me, Orange Peel is all about the balance of bitterness and sensuality. Tangy Rhubarb is unexpected and a little bit wild, but so very wearable. Rose Blush is dewy fresh with a characteristic Jo Malone London twist.
Marmalade collection colognes, £55 each for 30ml, available now from Jo Malone London at The Royal Exchange
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