Perfume Reviews – Jo Malone “Sugar & Spice” Collection: Redcurrants & Cream, Elderflower & Gooseberry; and Lemon Tart

Jo Malone just launched her limited-edition Spring collection of perfumes inspired by British cakes and desserts. The collection is called “Sugar & Spice” and numbers five fragrances in all, each in cologne concentration.

Jo Malone Sugar and Spice Collection

Source: Fragrantica

According to Basenotes, the perfumer is Christine Nagel of Mane who “spent time with the Jo Malone Creative Studio eating cake in Fortnum and Masons, Claridges and various other fine cake establishments to familiarise herself with the local sweet treats. The line includes: Redcurrant & Cream, Ginger Biscuit, Lemon Tart, Bitter Orange & Chocolate and Elderflower & Gooseberry.” 

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

The company has really outdone itself with the campaign for this collection. There is a really fun, bubbly, happy video (see midway down below) featuring Adam Ant’s famous 80s hit, Goody Two Shoes, and also, just in case you missed the food aspects to the collection, the company also released dessert recipes to accompany four of the fragrances. (I couldn’t find one for Bitter Orange & Chocolate.) You can find the compiled list of all of the recipes at The Daily Mail, though I will provide the direct link to the appropriate recipe in each fragrance’s discussion section.

I have samples of all five colognes, and I’ll review three of them — Elderflower & Gooseberry, Lemon Tart, and Redcurrant & Cream — in this post. You can find my review of Ginger Biscuit and Bitter Orange & Chocolate here.


The company’s website describes Redcurrant & Cream Cologne as “[a] summer pudding. Sharp-scarlet juices of redcurrants, lush strawberries and raspberries rippling through creamy musk. Vivacious and enticing.”

According to Basenotes,

the fragrance uses a molecular extraction technique, exclusive to Mane, to extract notes from red fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, which cannot be obtained with traditional methods. Nagel likens the technology to a pianist having a piano with some new notes on it (the same technique was used by Mane to create the fig notes for Womanity.)

The perfume smells exactly as described: redcurrants, strawberries, and raspberries with a gentle touch of light musk. It opens with a definite flash of red, as the fruits gently swirl in a gauzy, sheer veil above the skin. It’s sweet but, in the first ten minutes, it also has a minimal, extremely light flash of tartness that ensures it’s not pure saccharine in a bottle. The fact that it’s gossamer light also helps.

Source: Jo Malone via the Daily Mail.

Source: Jo Malone via the Daily Mail.

However, that faintly tart edge vanishes after the first thirty minutes, leaving a scent that seems to become even sweeter. By the end, it verges a bit on the cloying side to my nose. I definitely feel as though I’m wearing Strawberries and Cream sponge cake on my arm with a delicate touch of raspberries and a hint of a redcurrant purée.

The sillage on the perfume is very low. In the first hour, you can detect it from half a foot away. Maybe. At best. After that, it becomes even closer to the skin. Its lack of projection is a problem for me, but I have no doubt it will make the scent perfect for those who are normally fragrance-averse. The longevity is equally minimal since it is a cologne and, as such, the very lightest possible version of a fragrance. On my perfume-eating skin, it lasted just a little over 1.5 hours on me. 

It’s not a hugely complex scent — but it’s not trying to be. I happen to adore redcurrants, so I think it’s an attractive take on a gourmand fragrance. That said, it’s very sweet. Neither dessert scents nor things with minimal duration are my personal style, so I would never wear Redcurrants & Cream, but I have no doubt it will be a very popular fragrance. The specific recipe launched with this fragrance can be found at this Daily Mail page.


Jo Malone’s website describes Elderflower & Gooseberry as follows:

A voluptuous gooseberry fool. Crushed, summer-green gooseberries, juicy with lychee, enfolded into the soft delicacy of elderflower. Tender and feminine.

According to Basenotes, “Nagel says that ‘elderflower and gooseberry are two ingredients that do not exist in perfumery so I had to recreate these notes.'”

Source: The Daily Mail

Source: The Daily Mail

I’ve never personally smelled an elderflower, so I have no idea how accurate the fragrance is, but Elderflower & Gooseberry opens on me with delicate, soapy floral notes. The colour hue before my eyes is spring green and lavender. It’s definitely “tender and feminine,” with a soft, gauzy, sheer feel. It’s sweet and, unlike Redcurrants & Cream, never has even a faint tartness. The soapy aldehydes dominate the opening hour of the scent, leaving the strong impression of expensive floral soap. To be honest, I don’t like aldehydes, but I can tolerate them if done well. I don’t think this is done well.

The real problem is that something in this scent kept making me want to cough. It hurt and irritated the back of my throat, too, which has never happened to me. Usually, the only bad reaction I have had to fragrances is an extreme tightness at the top of my nose and a headache — sure signs of a fragrance with very synthetic ingredients. But this insistent, incredible irritation and scratchiness in my throat is a new one, and much worse. Given that Nagel says she had to invent the scent of the two main notes, I have no doubt she used some artificial concoction in a lab. This does not smell rich, luxurious or particularly natural. My personal opinion is that $60 is too high for a floral soap scent such as this, but the synthetic aspect to it strengthens that opinion.

As time passes, the perfume changes a little bit, but not by much. There is something that evokes lily-of-the-valley in my mind, with perhaps a touch of iris. There is also a very slight powdery feel underlying the notes. The sweetness lessens and the scent feels much more Spring-like.

Elderflower & Gooseberry is not a gourmand fragrance in my opinion, though it can be quite sweet at the start. It is much more a light Spring floral that starts with soap and ends up as a floral powder. In its final drydown, it has somewhat of a baby powder aspect to it.

The projection and longevity are much like Redcurrants & Cream, though I think Elderflower & Gooseberry is a tad stronger and not as sheer. Elderflower lasted a little over 2 hours on me. I’m not a fan of any part of it, least of all the increased scratchiness and irritation in my throat which remained long after the scent died out.

In an attempt to remain positive, however, I absolutely loved the incredibly fun, bubbly, happy video launched as part of the Jo Malone ad campaign for the “Sugar and Spice” collection. It shows all the makeup and food they used for the photographs. Plus, the classic Adam Ant song is always an incredibly peppy and cheerful way to brighten your day:

Finally, if the perfume isn’t your cup of tea, you can always try making the recipe for Gooseberry & Elderflower Fool. (“Fool” is a type of traditional British dessert.)


Source: The Daily Mail.

Source: The Daily Mail.

Jo Malone describes Lemon Tart Cologne as follows:

The mouth-watering tang of lemon tart sparking with citrus fruits and verbena, contrasted with swirls of meringue and lemon thyme. Refreshing.

The perfume is exactly as described. It opens with the fresh, light zesty zing of bright lemons. The tartness of the citrus is accompanied by thyme, not dryly arid or dusty, but, rather, fresh and herbal. The perfume is definitely refreshing in its opening moments with a perfect amount of sweetness just lingering daintily in the background. There is a slight soapy note, too, but it’s never heavy and nothing like the dominant, irritating aldehydes in Elderflower & Gooseberry. (Thank God!)

As time passes, the perfume changes a little. First, the sweetness increases just a tiny bit. There are notes of light vanilla, almost like that in an actual custard, but never as heavy or as rich. The real star of show, however, is the lemon which is perfectly underscored by the lovely verbena undertone.

The arrival of the verbena at the ten minute mark is the second change. Verbena is a type of semi-woody, flowering plant that has a very lemony aroma. Here, it adds a slightly floral aspect like that of lemon flowers. When the verbena is combined with the vaguely woody herbaceousness of the thyme, it ensures a perfect balance in the notes. They also serve to make this a much less of a foodie, dessert fragrance than something like Redcurrant & Cream.

Unfortunately, as time passes, much of that zesty lemon freshness fades. The soapy notes overtake the zing and brightness. Lemon Tart turns into a predominantly soapy scent with some thyme and a touch of lemon. There is a very light undercurrent of some artificial white musk. It’s light, but to my nose, it’s evident and feels somewhat synthetic. It’s not terrible, especially if you like soap with a whisper of musk underneath, but I much preferred that sparkling, bright, refreshing opening with its definite ZING.

Lemon Tart is a versatile scent for all seasons, in my opinion. It’s feminine, but also very unisex. Lemon verbena is an old classique in men’s cologne, so I definitely think a man could easily wear the sweetened, creamy version of it. The sillage and longevity of Lemon Tart were on par with the others, though I’d put this one somewhere in the middle of the two prior fragrances in terms of sillage. It projects a touch more than the super light Redcurrant, but a wee bit less than Elderflower. Like Elderflower, it also lasted around two hours on me. (By the way, the recipe released to accompany the fragrance is “Lemon Curd Meringue Tarts” and can be found at The Daily Mail.)

Like all the fragrances in the collection, Lemon Tart doesn’t suit my personal style or taste, but I have no doubt it will be popular with those who like light, airy, minimalistic and sweet scents. Just don’t expect any complexity; these are simple, one-dimensional, and linear fragrances. Given that fact, they’re not exactly giving it away at $60, especially for a mere 1 oz. Compare that to, for example, the fabulous Mitzah from Dior which I just reviewed (and succumbed to a full bottle purchase). That is $155 for 4.25 oz — or $36 an ounce! (Even less, at $27 an ounce, if you buy the large bottle.)

Personally, Lemon Tart is the one that I would recommend the most out of the three that I’ve tried thus far, with Bitter Orange & Chocolate being my favorite as a whole. I would not recommend Elderflower & Gooseberry at all. It’s not because of the soapiness nor even because of the baby powder finish. After all, some people like that. No, I wouldn’t recommend it simply because of how synthetic it smells. Plus, if it irritated my throat (when I’m rarely sensitive to perfumes), then I wouldn’t be surprised if it bothered someone much, much more sensitive to fragrance.

You can find my review for the other two, remaining fragrances in the collection — Bitter Orange & Chocolate and Ginger Biscuithere.

Cost & Availability: Each of the colognes in the range costs $60. There is only one size: a very small 30 ml/1 fl. oz. As noted earlier, the set is a limited-edition release, but I have no idea how long “limited-edition” means in the Malone world and when they will be removed. Each fragrance can be purchased directly from the Jo Malone website which also offers free shipping “and the fragrance samples of your choice at checkout.” I don’t know how many samples you can get. You can also find the Sugar & Spice Collection at various stores. For example, here is Lemon Tart at Neiman Marcus (with the other perfumes in the series being listed and linked at the bottom of the page). Bergdorf Goodman also carries the full line. Unfortunately, according to a note on their page, neither Bergdorf nor Neiman Marcus ships to Canada. You can also find the collection at Nordstrom. Finally, Bloomingdales carries the whole line, along with some sort of Bonus Offer as well.
If you want to try out samples, you can find them at Surrender to Chance which is where I purchased my set. That set is currently sold out, but you can purchase samples of each individual fragrance starting at $2.99 for the smallest size (1/2 a ml vial). I highly recommend that you sign up for Surrender to Chance’s email and newsletter as they send out their monthly discount codes. If you’re interested in trying out the Malone fragrances (or any perfumes from StC, for that matter), here are the codes for March: 5% off orders with the code: nomoresnow. However, orders over $75 can get 8% off with the code: wewantspring.  Shipping for all orders of any size within the US is $2.95. Due to the massive increase in international shipping rates by the US Postal Service, international shipping has gone up everywhere. At Surrender to Chance, it is now (alas) $12.95 for all orders under $150.

23 thoughts on “Perfume Reviews – Jo Malone “Sugar & Spice” Collection: Redcurrants & Cream, Elderflower & Gooseberry; and Lemon Tart

  1. Morning Kafka!
    I was very curious about Jo Malone Sugar & Spice collection and your reviews really come in handy at the moment. Actually I didn’t expect anything from the scents. I find JM fragrances to be extremely weak and fleeting from my skin. This collection caught my interest because of the fancy and colorful packaging.
    From the descriptions I thought Lemon Tart will be the most interesting for me but as you know I have no access to the line and will eventually pass on them all, eventually I’ll give them a sniff if I get a chance

    • I’ve yet to find anyone on whom Jo Malone fragrances last any considerable amount of time, but these seemed particularly short to me. I agree with you whole-heartedly on the packaging and the ad campaign. They’re absolutely fantastic. (And that video… SO FUN!!!) They did such a super job with it all — from the colours to the bright cheeriness to the delectable, mouth-watering food. Really impressive.

      But the perfumes — ugh, I had such a headache last night, I couldn’t continue and do all the reviews in one post. I only get headaches from perfume when they use REALLY synthetic ingredients… Given how all the ingredients here are hardly expensive, and given that each bottle costs $60, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re making a huge, huge profit on their actual perfume costs. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they spent as much (if not more) on the campaign than on the ingredients.

      • I am coming out of left field to let you know i have a total obsession with oud ever since I read one of your reviews! I cannot wait to smell it. have a great Sunday!

        • LOL! I’m so glad you’ve found something that intrigues you, Jean! 😀 Since Oud is now in almost every imaginable perfume line, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding one to sniff somewhere. Finding a good one, however, may be a little harder. It’s not always the easiest of notes, so the things which accompany it can be pretty important. Hopefully, you’ll find something that works for you. If you do, let me know. Have a fantastic Sunday yourself and may the upcoming week be an easy one for you. 🙂

          • I have one I am dying to try and would love your opinion, as I am not completely sure I have read a review here: Jessica’s Got a Gun .( I think) . I haven’t read too many reviews and may just have found the name appealing…even though it is terribly politcally incorrect. I apologize for that. My other name is not Annie Oakley!

          • Jean, sounds like you are referring to the perfumes from the Juliette Has a Gun line. I haven’t tried any and don’t have any samples, so I haven’t covered the house. From what I’ve read, I have the impression that the line has a very rose-based focus to a number of its fragrances. I think Lady Vengeance and Mad Madame are two of the more popular ones, but neither is an Oud, to the best of my recollection. Does the house have some oud fragrances? You should try it and see what you think! 🙂 I’m a firm believer in samples as a way to test out new things, especially ingredients that you don’t know if you’ll like. And Oud can be a tricky one!

  2. I’m surprised that Elderflower & Gooseberry wasn’t tart. Gooseberries are tart. That’s the only one of this buch that tempted me and now, not so much. I was hoping it would smell a bit like St. Germaine liqueur. Oh well, I’ll sniff it when I see it.

    • I was very surprised too, Poodle. I had hopes for that one. I’ve never tasted St. Germaine liqueur, but I do really like gooseberries. Alas, none that I could smell here. Let me know what you think if you come across Elderflower & Gooseberry in the stores and get to give it a whiff.

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  4. I love Elderflower presse as a drink and have some in the fridge, as it happens – it is the soft drink of choice to offer people at dinner parties here! Then gooseberry fool is a favourite dessert, but the new Jo Malone scent sounds like a real lemon. As it were.

  5. I did just one round of testing this line so I do not have a final opinion yet but so far – as much as I loved the packaging – I’m not tempted with any one of them to the point of opening my wallet (though it still might happen) but I can tell already which one doesn’t work on me – Bitter Orange & Chocolate. Uhg. Ginger Biscuit I like the most, Gooseberry is the next (though I do not smell any gooseberry in it – and I know the scent!), I’m not sure about Lemon Tart; as to the Red Currant, I do not mind it – for all 20 minutes I can smell something 😉
    In general, I think it’s a fun collection and I’d love to buy a set of all 5 scents in mini-bottles (they never do that! 🙁 ). But I don’t think I will be too upset once the collection is gone.

    • There is no Gooseberry that I detected in Elderflower & Gooseberry, so I’m glad you felt the same way. Funny how the other two worked for you — Ginger Biscuit and Bitter Orange. Ha! What went wrong for you with Bitter Orange? I’m glad you didn’t get antiseptic from Ginger Biscuit.

      You could only smell Redcurrant for 20 minutes??! Yikes, that’s even worse than how long it lasted on me.

      • Even though I like Jo Malone (and my skin doesn’t eat most of those that I like too fast), I had no luck with several of their limited editions: Cherry Blossom and Plum Blossom disappeared from my skin before I left the store where I tested them. So I suspect there are some components that Christine Nigel uses in all of those that either break down on my skin or become “invisible” to my nose. But since I wear perfumes, first of all, for myself I didn’t bother to check if anybody else could still smell those on me or not: I just knew they won’t be joining my collection.

        • Interesting. And this doesn’t happen to you with the non-limited edition stuff? So, maybe, there might be something particular that she uses for the latter fragrances but I can’t imagine what would make such a difference. Unless it’s all blossom-related notes? Hm. A mystery! We need a perfume Sherlock Holmes. LOL.

          • I think it happened to me with the regular one also – Bluebell, I think. But Blackberry & Bay is just fine. And last year’s Lilac & Rhubarb was fine. It’s a mistery! (and this time I did get the notification – go figure).

      • BTW, in the recent couple of days WordPress stopped informing me about replies to my comments on other blogs (I mean these comments weren’t in Notifications; e.g. I didn’t know you replied to either this one or the one about leather perfumes and found your replies only because I couldn’t believe you didn’t answer and decided to check). Have you noticed anything like that or is it just me?

        • Do you mean it has failed via email notifications, Undina, or via that little highlighted Orange comment thingy at the top right of the page? If email notifications, well, two things: first, I was a bit behind in my replies (ie, not being immediately prompt) for the Cuir Mauresque thing simply because I was under deadline (my own internal deadline) and massively sleepless. (I think I had 3 hours sleep in 2 days at one point.) BUT… having said that, I didn’t get notifications in that little orange capsule thingy when you replied on YOUR blog to MY comments (re. Garfield and the importance of bottles). I only saw them when I went back to check the actual pages. Email notifications have been working, though.

          • Yes, I was talking about that top call-out icon thingy. It used to work for me until the day or two before today. Weird.

          • That thing TOTALLY stopped working for me as of about 3 days ago *if* I’m in the Comments section of the Admin. thing. But, if I’m on the Stats page, then it works. Oh, wait, now it works and I’m in the comment section. Huh. Very odd.

  6. I just got to smell them all yesterday and my favorites were also Lemon Tart and Bittersweet Chocolate even though I don’t think I like them enough to own or wear them. The SA said that the most popular were the redcurrent one and the elderflower one. Sigh. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

    • It depends. Are you thinking that a lot of people enjoy soap more than you and me? 😉 It sounds as though we may have some definite overlap in our perfume tastes. 😀 I’m very surprised to hear that the redcurrant and elderflower ones are the most popular since the people I know who’ve bought bottles all seem to go for the Ginger Biscuit most of all!! I did read somewhere recently that the Orange/Chocolate one was sold out, though.

      • I was just thinking the same thing! We definitely have some overlap going on!

        I wasn’t that surprised. I think that the redcurrant and elderflower would fit right in with the permanent line. They are both really fresh, straightforward, and light.

        Ginger biscuit, eh? The SA said that the Chocolate Orange was the least popular before adding quickly that people who like it really, really like it. That statement kind of made me sad though because it gave me the impression that most of her customers just want the most popular thing.

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