Editor’s Note: I shared a breakfast table with Judith Tabron at last month’s Sniffapalooza Spring Fling. Over the next two days I would come to appreciate what an educated nose and erudite wit she has. On Sunday when we were at Molton Brown and she was educating me on their new fragrance line I realized I needed to have her do a guest post on these fragrances. For those who have already discovered Judith’s wry fragrance prose on her blog The Unseen Censer this will be no surprise. For those who haven’t head over there, after reading her review below, and you will discover what I did walking around with her in New York.
Molton Brown. Bath gel, right? I mean, really good bath gel. But bath gel nonetheless.
The only reason I was excited to attend the launch breakfast for their fine fragrance line that was part of Sniffapalooza last year was that their Black Pepper body wash is one of the most exciting things I've ever smelled. "Re-Charge" – it does. I've given it to people as gifts and everyone loves it.
I walked in saying "If one of these smells like Black Pepper body wash, I'm buying it."
Well, one does, and I did, but as it turns out…
All five scents are really good. Interesting. Different. Well-made. Good ingredients. They're in cool heavy travel bottles, they have cool internationally-inspired artwork, the stuff is just… cool.
Far cooler than any niche juice I've smelled recently, the Molton Brown fine fragrance line rewards those who want something different and something good. And at $110-$150 a bottle, the stuff is reasonably priced, too.
So don't think travel toiletries, don't think bath gel. Think indie.
Yes, indie, because their in-house nose has created five scents (now six) and every one of them is different not just from almost everything else you've smelled, but from each other. You could build a whole wardrobe of scent from this line and you'd do well to do it. Looking for different?
Apuldre is seriously weird. There's the name (pronounced apple-door, not that you would ever know that); there's the inspiration (supposedly the British countryside, and not Hogwarts, as you might reasonably have thought from the name.) Apuldre doesn't just develop; it reads like a novel. Dry hay has a shadow of wet leaves and nothing else here is particularly representational. You might find in it a taste of gin, or plain black tea; you might smell tree bark or apple seeds (not fruity and sweet, but rather that bitter moment when they break in your teeth), or even the sea. I hated it on first sniff; then one of the saleswomen told me she found it addictive, wore it every day and reapplied it all day. I tried it again. I can see why it would be addictive. It changes your mind about what you should smell like and you start coming around to its point of view.
Iunu is less conversational; it's Apuldre's cool shades-wearing older sibling. Pepper and jasmine, and if that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what would. Black pepper, no trendy pink pepper nonsense here. This is the one that reminded me of the Black Pepper body wash, and I bought it instantly. It's not a copy, or even a perfume representation of it, but the refreshing, exciting combination has much the same effect (as well as being built on the same bedrock, pepper and florals.) Iunu doesn't mess around. Wear it or don't, it doesn't care.
I think Rogart is pretty polarizing. It has an immortelle/syrup note that you will love or you won't; but the note doesn't show up for a few minutes, surprising (or displeasing) people once they wear it. For a scent that's supposed to represent Canada, such quick-changes seem oddly impolite. Lumberjacks and pancakes, and I love Monty Python too, but Rogart is the only one of the five I don't wear.
I do wear Lijiang – no, don't ignore it because you think you've smelled a tea and osmanthus spa-type scent before. Like the rest of the line, it's beautifully done. It's probably the least ground-breaking of the five, but beautiful. Singosari isn't that radical either, but as an Indonesian spice and amber, it is also extremely beautiful for what it is. Both could easily be a "you" version of a very pretty combination that you like but want to stand out a bit distinctly from.
With these five Navigations Through Scent Molton Brown has an excellent fragrance line on its hands, one to match with any niche or indie or mass market line out there. But are they stopping there? No. There's now a sixth one, Londinium, with beautiful myrrh notes… They're redoing the artwork to work this one in. Growing pains already; that's great news. Please, MB, put out the silk scarf with the artwork on it. (Seriously. Please.)
You have to go to Molton Brown to get it. Sniff it on cards but in the nose flutes too, so you can smell how they dry down. They will surprise you.
–Judith Tabron of The Unseen Censer, Guest Post