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Saturday , April 17 , 2010
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Red Roses Cologne by Jo Malone

The personality of the man or woman whose name is on a perfume bottle is rarely captured in the personality of the scent. Red Roses Cologne by Jo Malone is an exception. In person, Malone is a crisp, practical, straightforward, delightful Englishwoman, and when directing her perfumers in the creation of her scents — she left her eponymous design house in 2006; Jo Malone Ltd. is now owned by the Estée Lauder Companies — she established an artistic olfactory style that was, at its best, both direct and delightfully English (the latter a relatively rare quality in an industry dominated by the French and the Americans).

Malone favoured transparent, light-filled works of minimalism, and in urging her clients to “layer” her creations, she cheerfully contradicted the very French ego-based notion of a Big Creator as Artist with Deep Vision. Malone’s style could be a liability, and some of her work (and Lauder’s work in her name) slips into aromatherapy. One sometimes has the sensation of smelling a scented sketch that its designer neglected to complete. When the style works, as it does in Red Roses, the result is as plainly alluring as a summer dress; it possesses a pure, contemporary accessibility and shows a refreshing lack of fussiness and overthinking.

This 21st-century rose scent neither tries nor needs to break aesthetic ground. Red Roses uses Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris equation of rose mixed with violet leaf, but the variables are a bit lighter here, the math less dense. The result is a straightforward, lovely scent of garden roses and a peony or two with green leaves on crisp stems.

Under Malone’s creative direction (Red Roses was launched in 1996), the perfumers Lucien Piguet and Patricia Bilodeau built a scent that is both pretty in its approach and rock solid in its construction: it is quietly superior to virtually any perfume I’ve worn recently — still diffusing, and just as lovely, after five hours. Summer roses in the afternoon sun. Delightful.

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