Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt : Fragrance Review

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Patricia on the Boston Harborwalk, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt and tide.

The Boston Harborwalk is a 47-mile continuous public walkway from Chelsea to the Neponset River along the Boston waterfront. Currently 80% completed, it is a treasure for locals and visitors alike, and I never tire of strolling along a small portion of it, watching the boat traffic and inhaling the briny, mineral scents that are part of a busy working harbor. The tides, too, influence the degree of intensity of salt and vegetation in the air. During high tide, saltiness predominates, and the breeze is fresher and cleaner smelling. Low tide, however, uncovers the rocky bottom, exposes wood pilings and seaweed, and adds an interesting vegetal and animalic muskiness to the air.

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Wood Sage & Sea Salt, a cologne created by Christine Nagel for Jo Malone, falls within the cleaner range and is what I would call a high-tide fragrance. It opens with a refreshing blast of grapefruit and ambrette, which as it is an unusual combination of top notes, sadly doesn’t last long enough to suit me. The overall effect is one of freshness from the citrus and depth from the plant-based musk tones in the ambrette seed. Soon, the sea salt and sage come into play, and they, too, are clean and polished and not likely to offend. This stage lasts for a few hours, not changing in essential character but gradually fading to a pleasant skin scent.

As pretty and well constructed as Wood Sage & Sea Salt is, it is fairly simple and non-demanding, much like other fragrances in the Jo Malone line. Not that wearability is in itself a bad thing. No doubt I will often reach for my decant and enjoy it for what it is. It is a perfect fragrance for the office, going out for dinner, meeting the in-laws, or any occasion when your perfume shouldn’t have the starring role. And there are many such instances in daily life. Although Wood Sage & Sea Salt is unlikely to stand up to the chill of winter temperatures, it is just right for summer days and the warm days and cool evenings of early fall.

One issue I do have with this perfume concerns its longevity. Within two or three hours, it is no more than a barely perceptible skin scent on me. At $60 for a one-ounce bottle (30 ml), it is a bit pricey for the frequent reapplication necessary. However, I can see it being a good candidate for the layering technique (with other Jo Malone fragrances) recommended by the company.

For those looking for a low-tide fragrance with some dirty bits, I would recommend Sel Marin by James Heeley. This is an Eau de Parfum that has a strong citrus opening before the marine salt and seaweed take over. The heart of the perfume actually contains a hint of marine life, smelling like a bowlful of freshly steamed mussels accompanied by large lemon wedges.

Other low-tide options are the spicy Hermessence Epice Marine or the floral and herbal Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel.

Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne contains notes of ambrette seed, sea salt, red algae, grapefruit, sage. 30ml/$60. Available at Jo Malone boutiques, Neiman Marcus, Nordstroms.

Extra: Sea Salt and Brine : Perfume Notes

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34 Comments

  • Aisha: Thank you for reviewing this! I’ve been curious about it because … well … I kind of like the name. 🙂 I’ll have to get a hold of a sample just so I can experience it. It’s unlikely that I would buy a full bottle of Wood Sage & Sea Salt if it disappears as quickly on me as it did on you.

    I’m curious about which Jo Malone scents last longest on you. So far, I’ve found only three that last 6-8 hours on me: Blackberry & Bay, Blue Agava & Cacao, and Peony Blush Suede. September 30, 2014 at 7:35am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Aisha, My favorite Jo Malone (and the one that lasts longest on me) is Dark Amber & Ginger Lily. Its great for fall and winter, but use sparingly, as it really packs a punch! September 30, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

      • Aisha: I haven’t tried that one yet, but it sounds beautiful and warm. September 30, 2014 at 11:06am Reply

    • Liz: i have found that the nutmeg & ginger cologne lasts for a very long time on me. i keep sniffing myself throughout the day whenever i put it on, it’s such a warm and comforting scent. smells nice layered beneath the nectarine blossom & honey cologne as well. September 30, 2014 at 10:38am Reply

      • Aisha: I need to try layering their fragrances. I know Jo Malone encourages doing so, but I’ve never bothered. Your combination sounds yummy! September 30, 2014 at 11:08am Reply

      • Patricia: That does sound good! September 30, 2014 at 11:30am Reply

  • limegreen: Hi Patricia — Thanks for reviewing this, as I was a little disappointed with this fragrance. I wanted more sage, or at least would have liked to known what sage does in a fragrance. I didn’t smell it at all or perhaps it was too fleeting. It is a pleasant fragrance, nevertheless.
    We loved the Boston Harborwalk when we lived there, thanks for the visual and olfactorial memories! There is a walk they completed all around the Charles River so one can walk through the Charlestown locks area and cross from Cambridge to the North End. Very marine smelling as well.
    I don’t worry about the longevity of Jo Malone fragrances (i.e. it does not trouble me that most only last 4-5 hours on me), but the roses last longer on my skin — Red Roses and the Intense, Velvet Rose and Oud also packs a punch. September 30, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi limegreen, I did smell the sage, although not strongly, but found that I tired of the fragrance a bit after wearing it on and off for about a week.

      The Boston area has changed so much since I first came here as a student back in the Dark Ages. 😉 There is so much more to do and see. But I must say that I miss the old Quincy Market before all the renovations and “upscaling.” September 30, 2014 at 11:05am Reply

      • limegreen: Some areas needed upscaling, or at least maintenance work. I got tired of slipping on black ice on cobblestone walks in need of repair!
        Wonder if your comment about wearability around in-laws is a subtle damning statement about this fragrance? 🙂 September 30, 2014 at 11:51am Reply

        • Patricia: Well, maybe…but what I really meant is that sometimes a pretty scent is enough. 🙂 September 30, 2014 at 4:58pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Was that before fire and the wheel were discovered? 🙂 September 30, 2014 at 12:02pm Reply

        • Patricia: And dinosaurs roamed the earth… 😉 September 30, 2014 at 4:56pm Reply

  • Sarah: If you want a cleaner salty scent and a longer-lasting ambrette fix, you can’t go wrong with The Different Company’s ‘Sel de Vetiver’ September 30, 2014 at 10:32am Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks, Sarah, I don’t think that I’ve tried that one, but I may have a tiny sample tucked away, so I’ll check my baggie with TDC samples at home. September 30, 2014 at 11:09am Reply

  • Pipe: I love the distinction between high tide and low tide scents!

    I’m not mad about Wood Sage and Sea Salt scent, there’s something not right about it on my skin, but in love the opening.

    I adore Fleurs de Sel thought and it put me in mind of the sunken forest on the beach at Borth in Wales at low tide, so definitely a low tide scent! September 30, 2014 at 10:41am Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks, Pipe! I agree with you about the opening of Wood Sage & Sea Salt. I’m sure that it will sell many a bottle.

      Fleurs de Sel is so wonderful. A sunken forest on a beach sounds like a fantasy, and even though many of my ancestors were Welsh, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never visited Wales. A trip to the beach at Borth must surely be worth making a trip there! September 30, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

  • Joy: Thank you for this review. I was pleased that I had a sample so that I could compare it to the review. As I sprayed it and during the dry down, I did get the enchanting sage. My first thought was that it reminded me of what I loved about Diorella and Au Sauvage before reformulation. however, by the time I got to my desk to reply, there was nothing left. I will try it again with a more generous spray.
    I am interested to try Fleurs de Sel.
    We have a river walk in Astoria, OR. It is on the Columbia River and is tidal. It has beautiful views, interesting people and their dogs, apple trees, and a lot of smells. When the tide is out there is the smell of mud and methane from decaying matter. when the tied is in there is the smell of salty air. When the wind is blowing down the Columbia from the east, there are smells from the Eastern WA desert such as sage and dry earth.
    Joy September 30, 2014 at 1:09pm Reply

    • Theresa: Astoria is one of my favorite spots on the Oregon coast! I love that it is still a real town. The river walk is great – esp the eastern end near the tidal marshes September 30, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

    • Patricia: Astoria sounds just beautiful, Joy. My husband says that there is a river cruise down the Columbia River from Spokane to the Pacific. I would love to do that, especially after reading your evocative description of the area. September 30, 2014 at 5:07pm Reply

  • Annikky: I love the sea and am a sucker for perfumes that have a salty note (my favourite is Sel de Vetiver), so unsurprisingly, I already own a small bottle of this. I agree with you, it’s not a very complex fragrance and certainly not strikingly original. But just like my other favourite Jo Malone, Blackberry & Bay, it’s atmospheric and not boring.

    I have worn Wood Sage & Sea Salt a lot this September: again, as you say, it’s a good choice when one needs to consider other people and that’s most of the time. I spray liberally and then re-spray, I don’t really expect Malones to last that well – although you make a fair point about the price.

    In an ideal world, WS&SS would be a lot saltier and a bit drier, but…well. I think it’s actually better as a candle, I’ve already finished mine and consider repurchasing. It’s woodier in this format – a pale, dry, salty wood, the best candle I’ve found in some time.

    Thanks for the review! September 30, 2014 at 2:30pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Annikky, for the tip about the Jo Malone candle. It sounds perfect and is going right on my Christmas list. I find I don’t burn candles in the summer, but enjoy them once the weather starts to turn a bit colder.

      One that I burnt down to the last drop of wax last winter was the Black Figue & Chypre candle by Voluspa. It is a 12 oz. candle for only $27 at Luckyscent, but is probably also available elsewhere outside of the US. I’m definitely going to buy another one this year. September 30, 2014 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Mary K: I really like MH Fleurs de Sel. I need to try JM Wood Sage & Sea Salt to compare. It does sound like something I might enjoy. September 30, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

    • Patricia: It’s not as complex as Fleurs de Sel, but very nice in its own right. Let me know what you think once you give it a try! September 30, 2014 at 5:21pm Reply

  • annemarie: In Australia make that $90 for a 30ml bottle. JM is massively overpriced here which is why I’ve never really bothered with the line.

    I like the Wood Sage and SS concept though so it’s a pity about the longevity. I think I’d prefer a high tide fragrance. I appreciate the smells of low tide but don’t really want to carry them around on my skin. I prefer fragrances that can meld with my skin somewhat, and be human, like me! September 30, 2014 at 5:20pm Reply

    • Patricia: Ouch! That does seem a bit overpriced.

      A salty fragrance that melds with my skin is Hermes Eau des Merveilles. The more I wear it, the more I appreciate it. And it seems to last forever, albeit close to the skin. September 30, 2014 at 5:28pm Reply

      • annemariec: Ah yes, of course, I’d forgotten that one, and I have a 15 ml bottle too. Sadly, I don’t find Eau des Merveilles’ longevity all that great, and a few times I have over-applied, hoping to get some heft out of it, and ended up with a headache. But I will persist, I do like it.

        L’Ambre des Merveilles, now, that one I love unreservedly. And it lasts hours on me. October 1, 2014 at 2:30am Reply

        • Patricia: L’Ambre des Merveilles is one of my desert island fragrances. It is so beautiful and I never tire of it. October 1, 2014 at 9:17am Reply

  • hajusuuri: I loved this enough to buy the big honking 100 mLs 🙂

    I never thought of describing perfumes from a low tide / high tide perspective!

    Wonderful review. September 30, 2014 at 10:07pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks, Hajusuuri! Enjoy your big bottle. 🙂 October 1, 2014 at 9:25am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: I loved Wood Sage & Sea Salt as soon as I smelled it at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills! I cannot afford a beach house, and this scent was the next best thing! It was like a stroll on the sand, a sunset on Manhattan Beach pier….the clean, distilled essence of the serenity and beauty of beach living. I wish this perfume had existed when I was in college, trapped inland and far from the shore… I would have worn this perfume, and played ‘Hotel California’ on the jukebox and felt a lot less homesick. November 6, 2014 at 4:31am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Lynn, I’m glad that WS&SS brings happy memories to you. I’ve lived near the ocean for more years than I care to admit to and can’t imagine being further than a short drive away from the shore. November 6, 2014 at 7:51am Reply

  • Kristine: Love the basil and lime combo..spicy and foody! November 13, 2014 at 8:35pm Reply

  • GinaP: Fall 2016: I just layered Wood Sage and Sea Salt over Dark Amber and Ginger Lily and LOVE the result! The DAGL gives the WSSS the depth lacked by the latter; the latter disciplines the former a bit by brightening. I never saw myself as falling for the JM layering — at those prices the scents should be able to stand on their own — but this was accidental and serendipitous! October 9, 2016 at 1:49pm Reply

    • Patricia: Nice! I will have to try it as it sounds perfect for fall 🙂 October 9, 2016 at 6:32pm Reply

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