An Invitation To The Tropics

Adventure with Red Hibiscus Cologne Intense

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An Invitation To The Tropics

Céline Roux, Global Head Of Fragrance at Jo Malone London, is recalling the process of creating Red Hibiscus, the latest addition to the British brand’s Cologne Intense collection. She waxes lyrical about David Hockney; ‘There was a piece in Tate Etc [the Tate’s magazine] where he talked about his love of blossoms’ and Hawaii; ‘It is so much more than the beach’. Both in some shape or form have served as inspirations for this ‘smooth, warm, sensual scent that just envelops you in’.

Hawaii – contrary to popular belief, while a US state, is not actually in North America but rather, situated in the tropics – and Hockney – the influential and quintessentially British painter – are not the most obvious bedfellows. However, anyone who knows anything about Céline, will know that her points of reference are always left of centre, as well as a constant revelation of delightful surprises. ‘You know I haven’t actually been to Hawaii,' she says laughing. ‘But’, she adds earnestly, ‘the wonderful thing is that you can travel in your imagination. And Cologne Intense is always about leaving England and travelling much further afield’. Which is exactly what she did, at least in her mind. ‘I was reading about the trumpet shape of the hibiscus, seeing how it grows in the Hawaiian mountains and I thought “Oh we should do that”.’ And while the actual creation of Red Hibiscus took less than a year, the journey itself began long before the scent was even considered.

‘I have always liked and thought of utilising hibiscus. They are beautiful flowers,’ notes Céline. Through her research she discovered the significance of the yellow hibiscus in Hawaii – it is the nation’s state flower – and then stumbled across the red hibiscus.

While hibiscus are, in Céline’s words ‘everywhere’, there is a type in Hawaii that is certainly not ubiquitous. Rather it resides in the Nounou Mountains in the eastern Kauaʻi island. The idea of this rich red flower growing in a lush green forest only accessible by helicopter and foot inspired Céline. ‘I saw all this and it made me think,’ recalls Céline, ‘how about doing a new Cologne Intense?’

A chance conversation with the perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui – the nose behind Myrrh & Tonka and Jasmine Sambac & Marigold – many years ago came to fruition. ‘I was in Brazil and I bought these red bags of hibiscus and it turns out that she really really loves red hibiscus, so we had a whole conversation about it. So, when this opportunity came up, I went straight to her. That was the beginning of this adventure.’ Mathilde, says Céline is, ‘so brilliant at rich, warm, sensual scents.’ and Red Hibiscus embodies all of those things. An amalgamation of jasmine, ylang ylang and vanilla, it is what Céline describes as ‘a solar scent – a fragrance that captures the sun in the tropics’. As warm and tropical and inviting as the scent may be, there is an element of Red Hibiscus that gives the scent a can’t-put-your-finger-on-it allure. Perhaps the setting of the Hawaiian birthplace of the red hibiscus offers us an explanation.

The place where the hibiscus grows, explains Céline, remains untouched: ‘So just imagine this beautiful red hibiscus, you know, bigger than life, flourishing in this emerald green forest. I love that it is not overexposed at all.’ Which makes sense because for Jo Malone London, creating beautiful scents is always about going off well-trodden paths. ‘When you think of Hawaii, you might think of bikinis on the beach but this, this is different. This is about the beauty and the wildness of the forest, the remoteness of the mountains. Everything in life is so accessible now, I love that this cannot be reached so easily.’ However, as with the entire Cologne Intense collection, Red Hibiscus is an invitation to travel. ‘One spritz,’ says Céline with a smile, ‘and you're there’.

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