Nutmeg & Ginger was launched in 1990 and is the house’s first fragrance. The scent was originally blended by hand and gifted to Jo Malone’s clients after their facials at her beauty studio in Walton Street London. As I understand it Jo Malone is not a perfumer in the commercial sense and I think a bit of clever marketing has been employed. Malone surely blended the original formula from essential oils but the commercial version has certainly been reinterpreted using mainly synthetic materials. Following a battle with illness in 2006 Jo Malone sold her company to the Estee Lauder Group and today it wanders closer and closer towards the edge of faux niche. While they certainly don’t churn out fragrance in numbers to compete with the Guccis and the Pradas of the perfume world the marketing strategy promotes the brand as being very natural and artisanal with names like Nutmeg & Ginger, Vintage Gardenia and Verbenas of Provence. In reality the formulas are simple, not costly to produce and don’t push any envelopes in terms of creativity. Criticisms aside I am now into my second bottle of Nutmeg & Ginger so it can’t be all that bad huh?
In a room of perfume nerds it’s the type of fragrance you would not bring up in conversation as one of your favourites. It’s like being in a room full of music geeks into some sub genre of a sub genre of german electronica and announcing, “guys, I have Mariah Carey’s greatest hits on CD!”… not cool! Nutmeg & Ginger is my Mariah. What I love about it is the use of nutmeg. It’s not common to find nutmeg in cologne that is green and fresh. It is usually found in orientals paired with other spices and vanilla. Nutmeg & Ginger is simple. A classic cologne opening of citrus notes. A floral accord which balances notes of iris, lily of the valley, rose and a cleverly positioned jasmine note. Throughout, the spice is clear and crisp, never heavy or dense. The nutmeg is enhanced by the use of eugenol, an aroma chemical that is derived from cloves. For the perfumer eugenol in small doses is a great modifier for rose formulas, add more and you start to head into carnation territory. The base of the fragrance is a simple vetiver/wood accord often found in the fragrances by Jo Malone.
Although unisex I think Nutmeg & Ginger is better suited to men. It doesn’t contain any of the complexities that make women’s perfume so interesting. It makes for a nice summer fragrance, transitions well from office to weekends and is suitable for all ages. Being a cologne it’s not a screamer and great if you want a simple scent without much fuss.
Perfumer: Patricia Choux (Symrise – Creations Aromatiques)
Bottle designer: Isabella Ettedgui, Jo Malone studio
Release date: 1990
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woody Oriental