Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka
The closest I’ve ever come to religion were some holy moments on the dancefloor in my 20’s but the crazy beautiful festive period in Australia is pretty divine as well: golden sun, a movable feast of oysters and glazed ham and peach-topped pavlova, bucket-loads of bubbles, dusk that drifts into gauzy evenings of long conversations with old friends, and lazy mornings snuggling excited children, knowing you’ve got nothing to do except, hopefully, nothing.
I wear the materialist mantle in my extended family and this Christmas the word ‘decadent’ was thrown in my direction, and not in the complimentary sense, cough. But the simplicity of Jo Malone – just two notes, combined with judicious skill – is a beautifully restrained kind of decadence and a squeal may have escaped my lips when that black-ribboned box was delivered to my doorstep by a courier just before the end of the working year.
Anyway, I tore that shiny ribbon off to coo over the dark, heavy, silver-stoppered bottle within then spritzed myself liberally and jumped in the car for a morning of errands (glamour). The car was soon filled with the intense, opulent, rich, exotic, vanilla swirled concoction that is Myrrh & Tonka, and I was entranced.
In the spirit of happy/decadent memory making, this sweet, penetrative scent is what I’ll be wearing each and every Christmas from now on – it seems to steal the divinity of its ingredients for us to indulge in. Golden myrrh resin has quite the holy history and its warm, balsamic, almost citrusy presence is the hero this Cologne Intense. And yes, as my car trip will attest, it has an intensity unlike the light and breezy petal power of scents such as Basil & Neroli (the proposed partner for this cologne).
Myrrh & Tonka opens gently, with a vaguely lavender-y floral note. It’s not dry and acrid potpourri or even that attention grabbing essential oil but quite fresh and sweet, like a fragrant bud rubbed between fingers. The tonka is syrupy and imbued with almond, creating the gourmand illusion of a Middle-Eastern sweet shop, the olfactory trail you follow through the market to uncover a tiny tea stall piled high with a counter of sweet treats (or maybe I’m the only one that navigates bazaars by her nose).
But the myrrh… oh my.
For a travel junkie tied mostly to the spot by two small but sweet little souls, fragrance is my ticket to ride to any destination I could choose (and there’s so many damn choices). Sometimes it’s a rollercoaster or a bad package tour but with Jo Malone, you know you’re in for a first class ocean-liner cruise to somewhere incredibly evocative (and probably imaginary).
Surrounded by department store nativity scenes at the time, I couldn’t help but think of my courier as a very wise man bearing me a gift worthy of anointing a king (and actually myrrh was an embalming oil in Jesus’s time I hear, so how’s that for a backhanded present?). But the myrrh in this cologne is apparently sourced in Namibia, home of the stunningly beautiful and raw Himba tribeswomen. They traditionally harvest naturally exuded resin from the native Omumbiri tree and combine the heady, pungent crystals with ochre and fat to create a body balm that protects their skin from the heat of the African sun, but also gives them an otherworldly amber glow.
Aussie photographer Kara Rosenlund travelled to Namibia late last year and her powerful images of these incredibly dignified women absolutely blew me away when I first encountered them. The pride and power in their gorgeous appearance explodes from their eyes. Their accoutrements may be formed from mud and grass but there is something, could I venture, intentionally decadent and uplifting in spending time to create this beauty in the harsh environment of the African desert. That is a mysticism way more powerful than some dudes following a wandering star if you ask me. I hope they are OK with me stealing some of that magic for my own decadent summer, religion-free but now with added mysticism.
Incredible portrait of Himba woman displaying her oiled dreds reproduced with permission courtesy of Kara, all other images by The Accords as always…