When the Jo Malone Rock the Ages collection released, I knew immediately that I would be checking it out. While I wish they lasted a little longer, of all the fragrances in my collection, Jo Malone definitely dominates. My ultimate, holy grail scent is the beautiful contrast of Vanilla and Star Anise. The warm, sweet vanilla appeals to my feminine side…but it is the spice of the star anise which really draws me in. As such, it came as no surprise that of five limited-edition colognes released in the Rock of Ages collection, the one for me was Birch and Black Pepper.
The collection “celebrates the proud, illustrious and slightly eccentric Great Britain, a nation renowned for its distinguished history and defining eras”, from the Tudors to Modern times. Birch and Black Pepper is described as “Britain Today”, a “scent of contrasts”. Black pepper and cardamom add a cool spiciness, layered with smoky birch. An accord of magnetic ink juxtaposed with the smooth warmth of gurjum. A surprising, sensual scent. Individual, audacious, stylish.
This is definitely not a scent for the timid. Beauties who enjoy feminine sweet and floral fragrances, this isn’t for you. With notes that include mandarin orange, cardamom, black pepper, birch, patchouli, gurjan balsam, vanilla and ink – this is a decidedly “masculine” aesthetic. And I’m not going to sugar coat it, the initial spray is rough even for someone like me who enjoys a bit of opulent spice. Upon application, I get something smoky and raw – almost dirty. It’s an assault to the senses.
But the drydown…the drydown, ladies and gents, is where this one shines. The smoky pepper and birch settle allowing the vanilla, patchouli and balsam to become more prominent. It’s like waiting to open a present…this anticipation is all part of the thrill.
There is something about the strangeness of this fragrance that appeals to the edgier aspects of my personality. If I want to inject some sweetness into the mixture, channeling the essence of my beloved Vanilla and Star Anise, I’ll layer Birch and Black Pepper over a generous dose of some sweet smelling body cream. It works particular well with Coconut. 🙂
If you’ve been eyeing the Rock the Ages collection and are looking for something a little different, then Birch and Black Pepper may be just the thing. But if you’d prefer to stick to something a little more feminine, I’d check out Lily of the Valley and Ivy or perhaps, Tudor Rose and Amber. The collection is still available at most online retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Jo Malone U.K. and Jo Malone U.S.
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