If travelling to the Namibian desert to inspect the sap of the Omumbiri tree is what it takes to explore the possibility for a new and unconventional Jo Malone London fragrance then, well, Celine Roux will get on a plane to visit that tree. Because Celine, our Fragrance Director, is obsessively curious about delving into the unknown to create one-of-a-kind olfactory experiences. ‘If we’re to do a fragrance with the ingredient we have to live the story and see how it is created,’ she says, firmly.
‘Namibia, with its sand dunes and warm desert colours, conjured up the romance and emotion of faraway lands,’ she notes. Yet on first inspection, the Omumbiri tree might look like it has shuffled off this mortal coil, such is its extreme dryness. But still waters run deep, and inside marvellous things are quietly happening. The potent resin it produces only a few times a year takes hours to collect. The fragrance is captivating and warm, laced with an intense veil of spice and hints of caramelized notes. ‘The scent of the myrrh is a little fresher on the tree and gets richer when it’s been extracted, but generally it stays very faithful to the original,’ says Celine. ‘It was fascinating to see the myrrh harvesting.’
Positively radiating with thousands of years of ritual blends for meditation, healing therapies and religious ceremonies, myrrh proved to be fussy about its suitors when Celine was trying to find another ingredient to marry it to. ‘The signature concept for Jo Malone London is to use an unexpected and contrasting ingredient, but it really didn’t work for this,’ she remembers. ‘We tried with woody and citrus ingredients but they were all clashing, rather than complementing. So then I thought about tonka bean…’
Myrrh accepted the proposal, and a sensual blend of spicy smokiness, mingled with a dreamy tonka bean sigh of vanilla, almond and aromatic tobacco, was born.
‘We wanted a fragrance that really captured the spirit of the desert, as well as the feeling of long journeys to distant lands,’ says Celine. ‘Tonka bean really worked. It added a beautifully warm, addictive and sensual mood to the fragrance.’ It hasn’t been done before – but you might be used to hearing that from us by now.