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.