Nectarine Blossom & Honey Eau de Cologne by Jo Malone London Review
To paraphrase the long-term nuclear waste warning messages developed in the fascinating interdisciplinary field of nuclear semiotics in 1993, this is not a place of honey. No highly esteemed bee is commemorated here. Nothing like honey is here.
Indeed, the honey in the name of Nectarine Blossom & Honey Cologne by Jo Malone London is so entirely fictional it’s left out of most note pyramids deconstructing the fragrance, although Jo Malone herself does insist notes of acacia honey play a part in the fragrance.
No, the name of this fragrance is entirely a misnomer. This is no honey scent, nor is it at all the scent of nectarine blossoms. Rather, this is the fleeting summer scent of juicy, luscious golden nectarines accompanied by a faint spray of gentle white florals, all on a bed of nondescript juvenile sweetness and a polite fresh-and-clean accord.
One of my particular oddly specific pet peeves is when a fragrance has a name that suggests to me I will be smelling some fantastic rare flower distilled, when really the scent is a mix of some common flower and a different ingredient entirely. I’m particularly sore on this point due to my long and desperate search for a true lemon blossom scent, which has so far only revealed to me fragrances that mix lemon fruit with jasmine or orange blossom or some similar white floral. The [fruit] blossom naming convention for fruity-florals suggests, to me, some interesting new floral note, and it rarely delivers. I have no idea what a nectarine blossom smells like, but I know it doesn’t smell anything like this. It’s a misleading and irritating marketing habit, in my opinion, that leaves people walking away either disappointed or thinking they’re smelling something they’re not.
Nectarine Blossom & Honey opens with the most realistic nectarine (or indeed, stone fruit of any variety) I have had the pleasure of smelling in a fragrance. The first few minutes are much like the euphoric experience of the first bite of a perfect lush and mouthwatering fruit. The nectarine is crisp and bright, its soft aromatic skin bursting under your teeth, flooding your mouth with an explosion of nectar, bright and golden and marvelously sweet in a way that makes you wonder why we ever went down the path of inventing candies and cakes and concentrated sugary treats, when nature herself has given us something so divine.
There is a round, fuzzy hint of peachiness here around the edges, a hint of something ever-so-slightly less golden and syrupy in timbre. It’s a little like one forgotten, underripe, incredibly fuzzy peach has found its way into the bottom of your bushel of nectarines at the farmer’s market. It whispers, just a little, with that fuzzy subtle peach-skin scent, comforting and homey and not too sweet.
The fresh sparkle of the nectarine note seems to me to be held up partly by citrus. Flitting among the nectarines I sense what I suspect are hints of fresh mandarin orange weaving in and out among the heavier, treaclier notes. The overall effect is not at all one of citrus, but perhaps it lends a bright orange fresh edge to the nectarine, like the spritz of tiny droplets you sometimes see and smell and almost hear when peeling a particularly good mandarin.
There is just a hint of green to the fresh quality of the fruit, a surreptitious suggestion of stem. Maybe one of the nectarines is underripe, and maybe, just maybe, a few of them still have leaves attached. These are approximated with something a bit like petitgrain, fresh and snappy and just barely, barely there in the bushel of fruit.
All of these things are, of course, swiftly swallowed up by the endless, dizzying syrupy sea of nectarines.
At the heart of Nectarine Blossom & Honey there is an innocent sweetness. Perhaps it is more than just nectarines, after all: someone is cutting them up and tossing them in a saucepot with water and some sort of sweetener, as if they needed to be any more sweet than they are. Perhaps they’re making jam, or a pie filling, but for now all you smell is a giant pot full of sliced-up ripe nectarines. They claw at you with a treacly sweetness, calling out to you, flooding your mind with thoughts of quiet summer nights, the light on in the kitchen as someone cuts up fresh fruit to tell you that they love you.
This exaggerated golden sweet note is not recognizable as honey, but it has a timbre that’s similar to the warm, comforting, cloying way the taste of some kinds of honey climbs up into your nose and scratches at the back of your throat. That raspy, slightly itchy edge lends some semblance of balance to the golden syrupy scent. It tickles your nostrils, guarding the colossal vat of golden syrup, keeping you from falling headfirst into it, brandishing its sharpened silver knives should you breathe in too deep and get too close.
This pairs well with the perfect overripe nectarine in the opening, chasing the nectar dribbling down your throat with a cloying scratch. That saccharine scratching makes you take another whiff to grab more of the freshness of the fruit juice, the same way that drinking caffeinated or salty drinks makes you thirsty, which only makes you drink more, and so on.
Each breath is a dance. The smell of fresh nectarine fruit on the cool summer evening breeze calls to you, while the cloying sweet golden syrup claws and scratches to keep your attention, ambrosial one moment and almost sickening the next. That heavy and itchy golden sweetness that’s like honey but isn’t really honey, just some sort of intense fruit-concentrate nectar, is at the center of this fragrance, keeping you grounded and playing in a delicate balance with the lighter and fresher facets of the nectarine note, keeping them from floating off into nondescript shampooey territory, giving them their heft.
The pairing is delectable, albeit intense in its saccharine sweetness… for the first handful of minutes.
And then the nectarine, that gorgeous, ephemeral, syrupy summer nectarine, starts to lose its shape. The fleeting aromachemicals that round out its edges and make it a convincing photorealistic nectarine evaporate within half an hour. Gone is the hint of dusty peach fuzz, the suggestion of cool and fresh fruit that have been fetched out of a refrigerator, the mandarin orange, the refreshing summer breeze. That dark red quality of the skins, smooth and taut and almost waxy, subtle and unsweet and aloof, is suddenly gone. Any hint of stem, of leaf, of seed, of anything other than bright yellow fruit flesh is disappearing by the minute. Someone’s turned on the stovetop under that saucepot full of sliced-up nectarines, and all of a sudden they’ve turned into too-warm sugary yellow mush.
As the fleeting freshness disappears, that sickly golden sweetness takes over. This is no longer nectarine, but simply nectar. One sip of such intense golden sweet syrup is divine, but to finish an entire glass is a feat only a god can accomplish. Just as ambrosia and nectar were sometimes depicted as lethal to mortals in myth, turning blood to fire and bones to sand, so Nectrarine Blossom & Honey swiftly gets on the nerves of all but the worthy few whose tolerance for sweetness is so incredibly high as to enjoy this.
As the nectarine dissolves, it leaves behind a sickly-sweet mess of vaguely fruity and treacly notes that quickly become dull and potentially nauseating. This is now a pot full of generic, vaguely yellow fruit flesh heating up over an electric stove. It’s too sweet in a way that’s scratchy like honey but lacks the depth and nuance of a realistic honey note, and this sweetness refuses to evolve or reveal any complexity. It simply hangs around, stubborn and nagging, demanding your attention and tickling your nose, showing you nothing new and perhaps making you feel a little bit ill.
Oh Nectarine Blossom & Honey. How far you have fallen within the course of a mere thirty minutes.
As the dust clears and the nectarine is no longer recognizable, my attention shifts to the other notes playing in the background of this crystallizing syrupy spectacle. Thankfully, there is some respite from the heavy dose of syrup: the freshness from the opening has retreated and regrouped, and is back at the forefront with a new strategy. No longer a part of a cohesive photorealistic nectarine, the floating detached fresh notes assemble a nondescript fresh and fruity scent.
It’s never entirely a shampoo scent, nor does it ever remind me of the too-bright calone-heavy contours of Bath and Body Works lotions with the word “fresh” in the name, but it’s leaning vaguely in that direction, constantly teetering at the edge of becoming the smell of something you might find in a middle school girl’s shower.
Occasionally the lilting overtone of nectarine seems recognizable again for a second, and then it’s gone. Only the hints of what might be mandarin orange peek out now and again for a few seconds, long enough to be recognized. They flit through like an old friend, just dropping by to say hello, sighing and looking wordlessly around. Only they and you have been here long enough to see how much everything has changed.
As the saccharine syrup slowly loses its grasp as the dominant force in Nectarine Blossom & Honey, a secondary sweetness becomes apparent: an innocent and unassuming white floral note. It lacks the nose-turning sharp edge that many white floral notes have: the name of this particularly disarming and gentle flower is black locust. She is pretty, in a quiet and modest sort of way, keeping to the background, brightening up the place just a little. She’s always trying to be helpful and generally doesn’t speak unless spoken to, and thus she feels right at home in the polite fresh and clean accord that is gradually dominating this fragrance.
This side of Nectarine Blossom & Honey is humble and mild, a stark contrast to the heavy golden syrup. Neither of these halves evolves, however: instead, they stand off stubbornly, staring at each other across the battlefield and refusing to move. The golden syrup is too heavy and sticky, and the fresh and clean bath scent is too polite, to make any moves to dominate the fragrance or dazzle the audience. They each stay stubbornly where they are, growing older and slowly, ever-so-slowly fading away.
Like most Jo Malone concoctions, Nectarine Blossom & Honey is rather light on the performance, with low to medium sillage. It’s all but gone within some six hours, and is quiet enough in its grandiose sweet spectacle so as not to be entirely headachey. I am a staunch believer that a lighter scent is not always a bad thing: here, it matches the delicate and innocent facets of the fragrance well, and keeps it from being entirely overwhelming, obnoxious, and boring. Were this to drag on longer than it did, I would simply grow more disgruntled and bored, remembering that beautiful opening nectarine and watching her become completely unrecognizable.
Like many nectar-sweet fruity scents, Nectarine Blossom & Honey is youthful, playful and juvenile in nature. It’s sweet, not only literally, but also in the sense of being cute, guileless, the scent of a young ingenue just starting to explore all her senses. I can see how this would catch the eye of a teenager looking for her first fragrance. I never mean that as an insult: the tastes of teenage girls are as valid and important as of all the rest of us, and I think some of them might really like this one.
This is a light fragrance that encapsulates the pure, simple sweetness of youth, with all of its facets, fresh and polite and intense and scratchy all at once. And that opening nectarine note really is quite impressive and lovely. Still, at the price point, I can only imagine there are dozens of other, longer-lasting, less expensive fragrances that would please her just as much to spritz on after gym class.
In short, the opening of this one is an impressive feat of photorealistic perfume artistry, which swiftly decomposes into an uninspired pile of fresh and saccharine notes that never resolve their differences. I am very glad to have smelled this gorgeous nectarine, and I hope someone out there who enjoys the follow through more than I do wears her for all she is worth.
Where to Find Nectarine Blossom & Honey Eau de Cologne by Jo Malone London
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