Jo Malone London Bronze Wood and Leather
This is not my first JML fan-girl moment. I’m a card carrying member of the club – I love the simplicity and the politeness of the brand. In recent years, that’s probably due to the Frenchwoman at the helm. Celine Roux, whose first scent memory is that of a pastry, who was the creative force behind the wildly popular beach scent, Wood Sage & Sea Salt, and who seems to have brought a fresh kind of, well, olfactory colonialism to the brand.
The signature JML restraint, the celebrity-free focus on the notes and little else, allows you to paint your own narrative on top – one of the reasons Myrrh & Tonka is part of my Christmas ritual every year. I love that I can make JM scents my own, layer them with other perfumes or with all the smells of the season beyond my wrist.
And yeah, occasionally the pick and mix approach can fall a little flat – this year’s festive LE Snowdrop & Moss didn’t really do it for me, although I liked the cool sparkly neroli well enough, the magic contrast of notes didn’t appear.
But Bronze Wood & Leather is a return to the delightful rabbit out of a hat experience you can get with two contrasting elements thrown (skilfully) together. And honestly, it’s also a great example of Jo Malone doing what the brand does very well – reining in some pretty powerful notes and making them super easy to wear.
The trick is that the contrast here isn’t really between wood and leather – it’s between a bright, aromatic citrus and a rich, oud-inspired 70’s style leather.
In fact, it’s almost camp. On first spray I was amazed at the retro-masculine vibe that Bronze Wood & Leather threw. Juniper adds complexity and depth to grapefruit in the opening (and it’s great), and soon a smoky element arises, giving me hints of D.S. & Durga’s Burning Barbershop.
What plays against the enduring bitterness of that citrus is a sweet, almost skanky skin-warmed leathery accord that I guess makes up the bronze component and damn, I do get super bronze and sexy Tom Ford-esque skin at this stage, and the confident but refined influence of vetiver, with its blinds-drawn, sun-strobed earthiness. This juxtaposition between warm leathery woods and bright citrus keeps Bronze Wood & Leather in seduction mode for pretty much the entire wear, never becoming truly dark, but also displaying stamina worthy of the “Cologne Intense” category JM has created for itself.
On reflection, this is a pretty dirty frag for such a polite house. I’m here for it.