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.