While her official title is Global Head Of Fragrance, at Jo Malone London, we like to think of Céline Roux as something of a scent magician. Because when she conjures up a brand-new, often unexpected fragrance, she tends to begin with a magical journey. These intriguing, immersive jaunts follow a playful path, with the final destination being a dreamy scent that one can't help but fall in love with. A case in point: the exciting launch of English Pear & Sweet Pea, a fresh new take on a timeless ingredient. ‘Ah, with this one I have nothing. There is no journey,’ Céline says, laughing. No one is fooled by this, though; the story behind the new English Pear & Sweet Pea is nothing less than captivating. ‘We asked ourselves which wild flower we could use that could bring a bit of a twist [to English pear].’ And it is exactly that; a subtle new twist that is the youthful, pastel-soft counterpart to the original English Pear & Freesia. If it was a colour palette, this scent would be corals, light lilacs and blushy pinks. How would Céline describe it? ‘It is beautiful.’
While she may not have taken one of her meandering, tangible journeys to create English Pear & Sweet Pea, Céline did take a few trips down memory lane. ‘There is a pear orchard at the back of my parents' country house, where I have spent all my summers since childhood,’ she reminisces. ‘My bedroom is the only one with a window that backs onto the orchard.’ This throwback is something she admits to taking for granted: ‘I did not realise how lucky I was actually to grow up with this – how special it was to be able to just go to the tree, pick up a fruit and eat it.’ Seeing the trees heavily laden with juicy, ripe, ready-to-eat pears takes her right back to the original, if accidental, inspiration for English Pear & Freesia and, more recently, English Pear & Sweet Pea. ‘Really, the orchard is the star,’ she says, her voice filled with wonder. ‘That, and the John Keats poem.’
The poem she’s referring to is To Autumn, the sensuous ode written by the prolific English poet, which considers the point the season turns from late summer to autumn – which also marks the season of the pear. As the name suggests, the words pay homage to this time of year: the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ became one of the starting points for English Pear & Freesia when it originally launched in 2010. ‘We did the press launch in John Keats’ former house in Hampstead,’ recalls Céline. ‘To be in this house, to know the poet lived there, the way he describes the atmosphere in his ode… you are there. It is such a precious memory of Englishness.’
From the inspiration to the ingredients, this sense of Englishness was intentionally threaded right through English Pear & Freesia and now, many years later, through its sweet pea-centred sibling too. At the heart of this family is the Williams pear, a gloriously luscious fruit famed for its distinctive bell shape and the blushing hue that emanates from its golden skin when ripe and ready to be plucked from the tree. ‘There is something really nice about the evolution of the pear trees,’ explains Céline. ‘You see the flowers in spring and then the flowers go away and it's just the leaves. And then at the end of the summer the fruit comes.’ Her adoration for the pear was cemented further when she spoke with a coterie of experts who shared her passion. ‘The way they talked about the pear, describing it as elegant, luscious, sophisticated… the fact that it has a curve that reminds you of a woman’s body, the russet colours that come with the change of seasons, the taste, the weight, the slightly grainy texture… Honestly,’ she admits, smiling, ‘I have never eaten a pear the same way since.’
It is no wonder, then, that the desire to capture this sensation and bottle it became something of a quest for Céline. ‘When we started to work on the original fragrance more than 10 years ago, it was near impossible to include a natural pear in the fragrance. So, we had been working on how we could reformulate.’
‘We’re now very happy to say that both of our English pear colognes are now created using a 100% natural pear fruit extract. We looked outside of the fragrance industry for a solution and we found it within the food industry, where pears are steamed for fruit juice. The final extract is the equivalent of one pear in every bottle, which is easy to visualise and a simple and powerful message – a real contrast with the two years’ work it took to develop.’
It was no easy feat, but perseverance paid off. The process to create the extract and the extract itself are exclusive to Jo Malone London and form the basis of the pear accord in both English Pear & Freesia and English Pear & Sweet Pea.
Considering just how difficult it is – even now – to use real fruit in fragrances, overcoming this challenge is nothing short of impressive. The decision to couple up English pear with sweet pea was, thankfully, much less arduous. ‘Oh, that was very easy,’ laughs Céline. ‘I love the sweet pea, it’s so English. So this was a no-brainer. It was always going to be English Pear & Sweet Pea.’ And the result is magical.