The name alone, Wood Sage & Sea Salt, created a huge wave of expectations (or cynical skepticism, depending whom you've asked) in fragonerd circles. Sea salt is a note you're more likely to find in cult-favorite perfumes such as The Different Company Sel de Vetiver, Heeley Sel Marine, and my favorite: Miller Harris Fleur de Sel. It can be a tricky note: not exactly a department store favorite, and one misstep towards the sea and you're awash in murky water (and every cheap marine fragrance from the '90s). Thankfully, the journey from that fantasy sea shore to the Jo Malone bottle went well, making Wood Sage & Sea Salt a pleasant surprise among the fall releases.
Weather-beaten driftwood and gritty sea salt that you can almost crunch between your teeth---you'll get that and feel the sand beneath your feet if you spray enough to create the scene in a bubble around you (6-8 spritzes, for me). Wood Sage & Sea Salt is a gray fall day on a deserted beach. It's musky, just south of clean, and completely free of gender stereotypes. It's beauty comes from the interaction between the perfume and human skin, the way salt provokes the natural muskiness and slight sweetness. It's definitely sexy, even though the overall effect is subtle. Its projection is among the lowest in the already polite Jo Malone range. The fun here is intimate and slightly reserved. You'll need to get very close to be allowed to partake.
Jo Malone marketing and PR have been enthusiastically suggesting to combine Wood Sage and Sea Salt with crowd-pleaser Nectarine Blossom & Honey. I'm guessing that this was meant to make the strange beauty of Wood Sage & Sea Salt easier to go down for the girliest among Jo Malone shoppers. Personally, I don't think it's necessary (and I prefer to wear Nectarine Blossom & Honey in warmer weather), but I can report that they do work well together. The friendly fruity-floral has a vetiver note in the base that is often ignored, but cooperates nicely with the grassy seaweed and salt granules. When worn together (and you don't need more than one spray of NB&H to accompany WS&SS), the effect is of an Indian summer. The sun is warmer, the mood more cheerful, you get to squeeze one last picnic on the beach and eat the very last of the summer fruit, before a chill comes over from the ocean, forcing you to pack in a hurry and wrap yourself in that shawl you brought just in case. Everyone is laughing, racing each other back to the car, shaking off last bits of salt and sand until next year.
Jo Malone- Wood Sage & Sea Salt ($60, 1oz) is available from Jo Malone boutiques, select department stores and online. A press sample was provided for my consideration and review.
Images: Fall on the beach via jootix.com, Unger Fall/Winter 2011 (featuring model Charlotte Cordes), and Pedro del Hierro Fall/Winter 2014 (featuring model Jamie Bochert) via fashiongonerogue.com.