Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
In the past, it was more common for functional products to imitate luxurious fine fragrances. That is why there were hair sprays scented with something like Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, car fresheners redolent of Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir, and bathroom cleaners strongly reminiscent of Lancôme Trésor. Today, I am much more likely to find resemblance to functional products in fine fragrances, thanks to the fashion for clean, simple scents and the cheapening of luxury perfume overall. My latest encounter of such a hybrid is Jo Malone Wild Bluebell. It is a bright, lily of the valley dominated floral that I can envision far easier as a shampoo or fabric softener rather than a fine fragrance.
For all of their exquisite loveliness, English bluebells have a rich, heady fragrance that combines the green freshness of lily of the valley with a spicy bite of gingerbread with the voluptuousness of white rose. Wild Bluebell mostly hits the sharp floral notes. The lily of the valley, jasmine and rose form the main impression, with clove adding a characteristic bluebell or hyacinth warmth. The almond sweetness of heliotropine becomes obvious as the fragrance dries down, while layers of soft musk set against the floral accords make for an expected finish.
Unlike Penhaligon’s Bluebell, Jo Malone’s version is sweeter and fruitier. Although I am not at all a fan of Penhaligon’s take on bluebells, wearing Wild Bluebell made me appreciate the former’s green and earthy character, which at least captures in part the scent of real flowers. Jo Malone’s fragrance has the strident brashness of many modern florals. Considering that lily of the valley notes are used heavily by the functional products industry, the associations could not be less fortuitous. I suppose that if one likes smelling like clean laundry, Wild Bluebell will be a good choice. On further reflection, if that were the case, I would rather buy a bottle of Frebreeze, which is nicely scented with rose and lily of the valley and costs only $6.
As an interesting aside, I would like to mention that as part of its Wild Bluebell launch, Jo Malone has made a donation to the Woodland Trust, a conservation charity that protects the UK’s woodland heritage. English bluebell, which inspired the fragrance, is on a protected plants list, and it is illegal to harvest their bulbs and seeds for commercial purposes. In fact, if you are a gardener in the UK and are trying to create your own field of fragrant bluebells, be sure to buy bulbs of Hyacinthoides non-scripta. There are many hybrids and foreign varieties of bluebells such as unscented Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthiodes hispanica) that hybridize the native species, a current main concern to conservationists of the local flora.
Jo Malone Wild Bluebell Cologne includes notes of clove, jasmine, bluebell, lily of valley, persimmon, eglantine, white amber, and musk. It is sold at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom. Wild Bluebell is available in the following sizes: 30 ml ($55) and 100 ml ($110.)
Sample: my own acquisition