Jo Malone – The Bloomsbury Set

charleston-3Walking by the Jo Malone store near my office recently, I spotted a window ad for The Bloomsbury Set LE bottles (30ml each). They sounded intriguing – I’ve read about those delightful, deviant characters and I remember, years ago, drooling over images of Charleston House with its fabulous paint, textiles and general décor.

So I popped in.

The cheerful SA couldn’t tell me squat about the scents’ inspiration or the Bloomsbury history, and I doubt she could have placed Vanessa Bell (Kristen Bell’s cousin, maybe?) Whatever, some googling tells me the scents were done by Yann Vasnier.

Leather and Artemisia – “The striking green facets of anise-tinged absinthe blend with aromatic artemisia, soft orriswood and the deep richness of leather enhanced by the amber woody notes of Cypriol.” I wanted this to be fantastic; it was satisfactory. Starts off delightfully herbaceous/aromatic, but dries down to a fairly conventional soft leather-woods.

Tobacco and Mandarin – “Mandarin and herbaceous sage sweetened with the warm elegance of beeswax and sweet pipe tobacco.” A creamy, honeyed orange (more Dreamsicle than fruit) and tobacco, a bit on the sweet side.

Garden Lilies – “the scent of dawn at the lily pond captured with effervescent water lilies, dewy green sap and lush ylang ylang enhanced with white musk and a wisp of vanilla.” A green/aquatic I can’t bring myself to spray.

Whisky and Cedarwood – “An enigmatic blend of fine whisky and opulent roses edged with spicy pimento, warm cedarwood and an intriguing accord of waxy wooden floors.” Doesn’t that sound delightfully oddball? It starts off promisingly – a little boozy, a little peppery – and dries down into a perfectly pleasant woods.

Blue Hyacinth – the inspiration for this review. The SA kept pushing this, “it’s so pretty!” And I knew it’d smell like Glade air freshener and have the half life of plutonium and I didn’t want it anywhere near me. I like the smell of hyacinth but (like stargazer lilies) a little goes a loooong way, and you may start to hate it hours or days before it decides to clear off. Anyhow, what the heck, sprayed on a paper strip and then on me.   HAHAHAHAHA holy guacamole this thing is OFF THE CHAIN.   Now this is something you don’t smell every day. An extremely realistic take on hyacinth – I actually went out and picked a couple for comparison – right through the slightly buttery undertone. Have you always wanted a hyacinth fragrance? I haven’t, because I think smelling this regularly would give me a migraine, but it is gorgeous. Please don’t wear it to the office. (I accidentally got some on my sweater sleeve at lunch hour and ended up removing the sweater and bagging it, after some co-worker side-eye; I wear all kinds of odd things to work, but not with this kind of sillage.)

Taken as a group, these are a pretty tame representation for a pretty wild group of people. Feel free to name anything Bloomsbury-related you’ve enjoyed, in the comments (mine: The World As I Found It, by Bruce Duffy. Also images of Charleston, which I hope someday to visit.)





  • Ann says:

    HIya, darling! I, too, love E.M. Forster and “Carrington” (gotta love that early Emma Thompson). The woods and the Blue Hyacinth both sound like they would float my boat, so must try ASAP. Thanks for the cool review! Hope you and the kiddos are all doing well.

  • Rachel W says:

    I love Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster. Always been meaning to read The Group. Wish these perfumes didn’t sound so boring when they’re named for such exciting people! But I might try Blue Hyacinth.

  • Kismet says:

    I have an enduring fascination for the Bloomsbury era and love the art, interiors, and fashions. The reality of living as the Bloomsbury Set did is probably romantic only in retrospect–must have been extremely uncomfortable.

    For a beautiful introduction, see the 1995 film Carrington with Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce. (Terrific quote from Roger Ebert: “A diagram of their love affairs would look like an underground system where every train stopped at every station.”)

    Wish I liked the Jo Malone scents–to me there is a sameness about them that is offputting.

  • HeidiC says:

    Hyacinth was the only one I liked from the collection, thought I didn’t buy anything. I’ve been thinking a lot about Virginia Woolf’s The Waves in the last couple days — nice coincidence!

  • Tara C says:

    I quite like the Hyacinth one, for me it’s the most appealing of the bunch. I think a purchase will soon be in order.

  • MaureenC says:

    What a shame to waste the name on such a tame bunch of frags. Charleston lives up to its pictures March!! So if you are over here at all have a day in East Sussex and enjoy, not far from London for a day trip, also her sister Virginia Woolf’s house is nearby. I was lucky enough to stay in Wissett Lodge in Suffolk (when it was still a bed and breakfast) where Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived during the First World War – he was a conscientious objector and got away with it by doing agricultural labour on his cousin’s farm. I have the fabric he designed for the curtains on the Queen Mary made into blinds for our sitting room, which I got from the shop at Charleston. So I guess I’m a bit of a fan girl……

    • March says:

      Ugh I SO WANT TO SEE ALL THIS. Whyyyyyy do I have to live so far away? I can just imagine how it smells…… so jealous of your fabric.

  • Mals86 says:

    *@&%. I’ve been trying to ignore that hyacinth one.

  • Musette says:

    LOL! at the Kristen Bell reference because I have NO idea who that is but love the louche weirdness of Vita, Vanessa,Virginia John Maynard and allnem – my favorite has always been Lady Ottoline Morrell, mostly because I am intrigued by the name ‘Ottoline’. Betcha not one of them ever cleaned the kitchen, though. All that laying about and sighing and putting stones in their pockets..

    I’mo have to try that hyacinth! I’ll bet that cleared out your office, didn’t it!