Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt ~ fragrance review

Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt

Wood Sage & Sea Salt, the latest release from Jo Malone, has just begun to appear in stores. It's a fragrance inspired by the salt air, sea grasses and rocky cliffs of the English coast, developed by perfumer Christine Nagel; its official notes include ambrette seeds, sea salt, sage, grapefruit and red algae. In a recent interview about this fragrance, Nagel also mentioned buchu leaves, plum, dried fruits, driftwood and musk as compositional elements. 

Jo Malone has been hit-or-miss for me over the past year or two; I liked Peony & Blush Suede, but I wasn't crazy about Silk Blossom, and I found the London Rain trio too dull even to think much about, much less review. Still, Wood Sage & Sea Salt sounded appealing, so I gratefully took the sample that was offered to me at a Malone counter in a department store. It turns out to be one of the recent releases that I enjoy, and it feels just right for the final weeks of summer.

I'm not going anywhere for late August, but if I were, I'd want to go somewhere that smelled like this fragrance. It's primarily a mix of air, mineral and wood notes that turns into something of a skin scent; the only thing I dislike about it is its short staying power (since, as usual for Jo Malone, it's a cologne concentration). The fruity top note smells (to me) like bergamot as well as grapefruit. It's followed by a musky-sweet ambrette and a subtle salt-spray note. If you enjoy certain marine-air notes but you dislike the suntan-oil accords and melon-y Calone that often accompany beach-air notes in perfumes, you might enjoy this alternative. Wood Sage & Sea Salt has a very quiet plum-berry note buried in its heart, and some discreet dry woods. The dry down is still salty, but warmer than the earlier phases. (As for the wood sage? — I don't detect sage or any other herbal note, which is a little confusing. I forgot all about it when I was actually wearing this fragrance.)

There's nothing daring about Wood Sage & Sea Salt, but it's a well-made, low-key, "natural"-feeling fragrance that perfectly suits a summer-into-fall mood. If it had better longevity, I'd consider buying a small bottle. Although I usually consider Jo Malone a more "feminine" house, I think this scent would work just as well for men as for women. And, although I typically ignore Jo Malone's "combining" prescriptions, it just occurred to me that Wood Sage & Sea Salt would layer nicely with Blackberry & Bay. Lastly, it's reportedly Christine Nagel's final fragrance for Jo Malone; I'll be curious to see what happens next for the brand.

Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt will be available in 30 ($60) and 100 ml ($120) Cologne. A matching Body Creme ($75) is also available. (I wish they would offer a candle!)1 For purchasing information, see the listing for Jo Malone under Perfume Houses.

1. Ed. note: there is a candle (and a body/hand wash) on offer in the UK but not as of this moment in the US.

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  1. KateReed says:

    Is there a good list somewhere of sage-y perfumes? I do love the smell of the herb.

    • Jessica says:

      Hm, good question! Sage by Sage Machado comes to mind. You might try a search on Basenotes or Fragrantica… or perhaps people here will have some other suggestions!

    • relleric says:

      L’Homme Sage (Divine) comes to mind. I have a couple of decants of it that I can only wear in cool/cold weather.

      • PhinClio says:

        There’s no sage in L’Homme Sage, which is a wonderful fragrance (part of my regular rotation) whose name means “The Wise Man.” Here are its fragrance notes:

        Top Notes
        Saffron, Mandarin, Lychee, Cardamom, Mace wood

        Middle Notes
        Gaiac wood, Cedar wood, Fir balsam, Everlasting flowers,patchouli

        Base Notes
        Oak moss, Styrax, Cistus, Incense

        (The French word for the herb sage is “sauge” not “sage”)

    • AnnieA says:

      I believe Miller Harris has sage as one of its herbal top notes. Wonder how Wood Sage & Sea Salt and FdS compare.

      • Jessica says:

        I haven’t sniffed anything from MH in ages! I need to track down that line somewhere in NYC…

    • SmokeyToes says:

      The original Gap Grass is a fabulous sage and citrus cologne.
      Diptique’s L’ Eau Trois – more herbs and resins than just straight up sage but it’s fabulous anyway. Notes are: Myrrh, Myrtle, Oregano, Cistus, Pine, Laurel, Thyme, Rosemary..

  2. Jonas says:

    Demeter makes a sage perfume. I haven’t smelled it though.

    • Jessica says:

      I think Demeter must have made a scent based on every smell known to human noses by now, hah! :)

    • KateReed says:

      Ah, I might try that one first then. I haven’t bought Demeter in a very long time.

  3. annemarie says:

    I’ll try and give this one a go, although there is no JM counter in my city and that always makes it hard to try new things from the brand. I somehow never go to the trouble of buying samples from JM.

    I’m a bit over the standard beachy smells of coconut etc. I like Nicolai’s L’Eau a la Folie, but it’s d/c.

    • Jessica says:

      Oh, too bad. I like the Nicolai line, at least the one I’ve tried…

  4. AnnE says:

    Sounds nice!

    Slightly OT, but that model in the pic looks so skinny that I wouldn’t be surprised if that wind did carry her away.

    • sweetgrass says:

      Lol the picture is the moment just before the wind catches her jacket like a sail.

    • kindcrow says:

      Her legs the size of someone’s arm. I’m not criticizing someone’s natural body type, but anyone who thinks that most models get enough to eat is naive.

    • Jessica says:

      She is very slim! I like her dress and boots, though.

      • Merlin says:

        Slim, but judging by her legs possibly heading towards emaciation! I agree on the dress/boots combo :)

  5. Sounds nice. I like Jo Malones but never wear them. I wish Atelier Colognes would do an ocean scent.

    • Jonas says:

      I think Mistral Patchouli was intended to be an ocean scent.

      • Jessica says:

        Oh, I like Mistral Patchouli. I want the soap in that fragrance!

        • Jonas says:

          I really like it too. I got it in the 7.5 ml size from January’s freebie meet. I really like most of the Atelier line. The only one I flat out disliked was Oolong Infini.

  6. Laila says:

    I usually skip Jo Malone’s, although I like them, they are too short-lived for my taste (and money). But this one sounds so-o-o appealing, until you got to the grapefruit note. Grrr! The only citrus I dislike (and avoid) is grapefruit. How noticeable is it?

    • Jessica says:

      Laila, the grapefruit is definitely a topnote and it soon dissipates. However, the entire fragrance is pretty short-lived! What a shame. Typical of JM…

  7. Kady says:

    Ooh, marine air sans Calone sounds right up my alley! Fleurs de Sel fills that spot in my collection at the moment, but Wood Sage & Sea Salt has shot to the top of my must-try list.

    • Jessica says:

      Do give it a sniff if you can get to a JM counter! I happen to enjoy marine-air fragrances, as long as they don’t include too much Calone or coconut.

  8. floragal says:

    Do not like this one. I found it to be very fruity sweet to my nose and only after about 2 hrs did I just slightly like it.
    Salt is noticeable, but the fruit really is the main focus.

    • Jessica says:

      Really? Oh, darn. I was lucky not to get much fruit at all, after the topnote.

  9. happy888cat says:

    My Jo Malone is due to launch this at the end of the month.
    I always liked their aesthetics and concepts but I never get why they only offer Cologne? Surely an EdT wouldn’t hurt..

    I am looking forward to try this but I think I might end up with a small bottle of Marine Epice. How does this compare?

    • Jessica says:

      I need to sniff Marine Epice again — I sampled it very briefly when it was released, but I remember it as being more complex than WS & SS (not surprising!) and more spicy-woody.

  10. Kelly says:

    I just tried it at Nordstrom yesterday, and couldn’t get much of the salt, but more of a bland-ish, innocuous floral-y type freshness. Perhaps I was just disappointed because I recently purchased Lush’s Sea Spray hair mist/texturizer and THAT smells like what I would have wanted this to smell like!

    At any rate – the Lush product is great! ;)

    • Jessica says:

      I agree — Lush’s Sea Spray smells wonderful! It must be all that neroli. :)

  11. roseandamber says:

    love this perfume !!! ;)

  12. irisfreak says:

    I don’t get the sea salt. Does salt have a smell?

  13. Pipeo says:

    It’s not a patch on Fleurs de Sel for me. I liked the grapefruit opening (though the SA told me it was bergamot) but after that it smelled like a carpet showroom on my skin.

  14. Juliet Cain says:

    I too love Jo Malone perfumes but have had a very bad experience recently. I don’t know where else to publicize this as Jo Malone will not respond to my emails. On May 28th this year I bought a bottle of Orange Blossom Cologne at the Heathrow Airport store. I got home to the US to find that the cologne has no fragrance and is so watered down that it doesn’t even have the same color as the cologne in the bottle I was replacing. I have tried 3 times to email Jo Malone but have had no response – and in order to even send an email you have to agree to receive promotions from them which I get daily now. I tried calling and was put through to a number in the UK which no one answers. This is appalling customer service but more importantly, if Jo Malone is the victim of some scam where they are being supplied with faulty product, wouldn’t you think they would want to know? I don’t know what to do except let others know there appears to be a problem. I certainly won’t make any further purchases of Jo Malone product until I get some answers. Would be interested to know if anyone else has had this problem or has any ideas how to communicate with this company.

  15. Ayala says:

    Juliet, try taking it to a counter, where you can deal with a real person. They will likely exchange it if the bottle is indeed defective.
    This line tends to be very short lived though.

  16. Juliet Cain says:

    Thanks very much. I’ll give it a try although I’m not optimistic given that the Company has shown no interest……

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