Birch & Black Pepper by Jo Malone

jo malone birch black pepperNotes: mandarin orange, cardamom, black pepper, birch, patchouli, Gurjan balsam, vanilla, and ink.

Jo Malone has released a spring collection for 2015 is called “Rock the Ages” with the five scents in the collection representing different eras of British history. Birch & Black Pepper is meant to represent modern Britain. As the Jo Malone site describes it, this fragrance is: “a scent of contrasts” and “individual, audacious, stylish.” For once, the marketing might actually be right, since Birch & Black Pepper really does come across as modern, especially with the intriguing ink accord. It’s definitely the most unique scent from the Rock the Ages collection.

Birch & Pepper opens like an aromatic spice scent, with cardamom fizzing off the skin and black pepper crackling in the background. I smell just a hint of orange, but this isn’t a fruity scent by any means. I believe it’s just here to ensure that the opening remains light and effervescent, which it does. There aren’t many Jo Malone fragrances I would describe as “heavy” and, indeed, the opening of Birch & Black Pepper has a sheer quality to it.

The central birch note appears within a few minutes of wear time and adds depth to the composition as it develops. The birch here is warm, and subtly smokey. To me, it takes on a resemblance to black leather as it develops, but this is not a buttery smooth leather. There is some texture here, almost like the pattern birch bark leaves as it peels away from the tree trunk.

It’s appropriate that this composition contains ink because its development reminds me of an ink stain, steadily growing deeper as ink continues to spill. The ink accord here is medicinal, metallic, challenging to wear, but so interesting. Wearing this, it was like I had been reading the newspaper and now had ink smudged on my fingertips.

I’ve worn Birch & Black Pepper out a few times now while trying to get to know it better. I have to admit, there was something jarring about wearing this one while casually shopping or running errands. You really have to hit on the right mood and right occasion for this fragrance. The smokey birch lends it an outdoorsy feel, and I think this could work well for a dinner eaten outside on a summery evening.

The SA at my Jo Malone counter said that Birch & Black Pepper has not been one of the better sellers from this collection, and I can see why. It’s not a pretty perfume to wear to a party and receive lots of compliments. Still, standing out is good, and I’m glad the company released this one even though it’s different. The ink makes me think Birch & Black Pepper will pair well with sitting outside this summer, lost in a good book, and I look forward to it.

The “Rock the Ages” collection is limited edition, and each scent is available in a 30 ml bottle. The collection is available from Jo Malone online, and at retailers like Saks and Nordstrom. I bought my bottle of Birch & Black Pepper from the Jo Malone counter at my local Nordstrom. In my experience, Jo Malone SAs have been happy to give out samples when asked. Samples of Jo Malone scents are also available online from The Perfumed Court.

Image and info on notes are both from Fragrantica.

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8 thoughts on “Birch & Black Pepper by Jo Malone

      1. Geranium & Verbena was the other fragrance I found interesting, but I’m a sucker for verbena. I’m not certain to the significance of offering Pomegranate Noir as part of the collection, since this was already a staple in the Jo Malone lineup.

        1. I actually also bought Geranium & Verbena from the collection! It’s a lovely scent. I haven’t written about it because I don’t have much to say about it other than “this is really nice!” Sometimes the strange fragrances end up providing more writing material.

          I agree, I’m not sure why they decided to include Pomegranate Noir in this collection, unless they just wanted to try it out with different packaging? It’s already quite a popular scent for them.

        2. Geranium & Verbena is fresh and green but does not fantastic longevity. It is basically a skin scent after a couple of hours. I guess this would be a great morning/afternoon fragrance.

        3. I love how green Geranium & Verbena is without being too sharp or bracing. You’re right, longevity isn’t great, but I can see this being really refreshing in hot weather this summer.

  1. So far I tried this one only on paper – it was a little strange. I will get to Nordstrom soon and test it though I suspect I’ll decide against the purchase in the end: it’s too… particular and won’t get enough wear. But I like those bottles.

    1. It is definitely a bit strange! I wouldn’t have bought this one if it came in the 100 ml size, but in the 30 ml I figured why not get something a little more challenging to wear than I usually do. And I feel like warm weather may help it develop on the skin, but we’ll see. Let me know what you think if you get the chance to try it again.

      And yes, I like the bottle designs! Jo Malone does know how to do nice packaging.

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