Deserted Beaches – Review: Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt

By Tara

I’ve never had much luck with Jo Malone fragrances but last year’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt got a fair amount of positive attention, so I thought I’d give it a try.

jo malone wood sage salt


It contains notes of ambrette seed, sea salt, sage, red algae and grapefruit. Composed by Christine Nagel, the scent was inspired by “the unique character and quality of British beaches”.

Well, the girl in the advertising campaign is wearing a cardigan with her summer dress, so they’ve got that part right. I grew up spending day trips and family holidays at the English seaside, therefore I can attest to this being more than just a fashion statement. Our weather is nothing if not changeable. To modify a Mark Twain quote “If you don’t like the weather in England now, just wait a few minutes”.


In keeping with this, Wood Sage & Sea Salt isn’t a tropical white floral or a coconut laden sun-lotion fragrance. It’s all about a bracing walk along an empty beach on an overcast day, leaning into the sea breeze. Think of that strain of northern hemisphere seashore fragrances such as Heeley’s Sel Marin and The Different Company’s Sel de Vetiver.

Wood Sage & Sea Salt bursts forth with sparkling grapefruit, gradually dying down to a combination of dry, lightly salted woods and soft green notes. There’s just a hint of something mineral in the air, while a little of the citric zingy-ness lingers on.

The effect is outdoorsy; portraying fresh air, sea-salt speckled driftwood and marram grass.

The traces of citrus are all but gone as we move into the heart of the fragrance. Now an unexpected haze of salty/sweet amber moves in: like a piece of ambergris washing up on the shore.

From here, rather than evolving into a base, it slowly fades away.

I find it wears close to the body and lasts well considering it’s lightweight and (like most Jo Malones) is referred to as a cologne.
Wood Sage & Sea Salt is nowhere near as substantial or striking as Sel Marin but then it’s arguably a lot more wearable. There is no marine life lurking in the rock pools here.

It’s gender neutral but I suspect the guys would wear it particularly well. Wood Sage & Sea Salt is clean, fresh and subtly salty.

While you couldn’t call it a complex or exciting fragrance, it has an enjoyable carefree vibe about it. It does a good job of evoking the liberating feeling of escaping to the windswept British coast outside of high season.

Wood Sage & Sea Salt could work well as a casual fragrance to wear when it’s just a little too early – or too late – in the year for those hot and sunny beach perfumes.

Alternatively, simply spray any time you fancy a trip to our shores.


Does Wood Sage & Sea Salt appeal to you? What’s your experience of Jo Malone fragrances?


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23 Responses to Deserted Beaches – Review: Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt

  1. cookie queen says:

    I would sooner go for a bracing walk. And I desperately want a fat cardie. ( I will look in London.) I have never tried a Jo Malone. However if this smells like England then I want some. xxx

    • Tara says:

      This perfume is a bracing coastal walk wearing a fat cardie, but in a bottle. I won’t be buying but it makes me want to visit the seaside. See what you think.

  2. Sandra says:

    I liked this one quite a bit Tara. Now I need to go to the British seaside. Xo

  3. Ines says:

    I found several Jo Malone fragrances I liked but the one I regularly wear is Nutmeg and Ginger. 🙂

  4. hajusuuri says:

    I have a full bottle of this although I haven’t worn it as often as I should. My most recent Jo Malone purchase was Birch and Black Pepper. As to which one Ive worn most often, that would be Blackberry & Bay.

    • Tara says:

      Hi hajusuuri,
      I hope you wear it over this weekend. It would be perfect for that relaxed, laid-back vibe.
      Blackberry and Bay is hugely wearable.

  5. Annette says:

    There is something so wearable about Jo Malone fragrances. You’ve described it beautifully and I want to splash it all over me! Having grown up in Dublin I do empathise with the woollies on the beach (we still turned a beautiful rosy-brown though!)x

    • Tara says:

      Well the good thing about Jo Malone fragrances is that you can absolutely splash them all over!
      I have very fond “woolies on the beach” memories.

  6. Vanessa says:

    Love your review and good spot about the cardigan! The weather does indeed change every few minutes. It is one of those days today in fact, though I am nowhere near the sea. I really wanted to love this more than I actually did. It wasn’t quite salty or marine enough for me – and I am not a lover of grapefruit, sadly. I think I hoped for something more piquant like Sel de Vetiver or Fleurs de Sel. But I must say I was very pleased to see Jo Malone venture into such (relatively) offbeat territory, and I will use my samples up.

    • Tara says:

      I really like that ad, V.

      Yes, it’s rather changeable down here too. Lovely sunshine but windy and you feel it could change at any minute.

      I wanted to get what Thomas got in his review but I liked it all the same. The salt is very down-played but then I’m not good with salty notes. They can put my teeth on edge. I totally agree that it’s nice to see the brand go in this direction. I hope it continues now Nagel has moved on.

  7. Vanessa says:

    PS Extra props for featuring red algae, hehe.

  8. Asali says:

    Once again perfume synchronicity at large… I have been writing on another beach scent in this genre of ‘sea side at any time but summer’- perfume. I think for anyone with childhood memories of those windy out of season trips to the beach, these perfumes have something special, and I this is the only Jo Malone in ages (since White Lilac and Rhubarb to be precise) that I have been actively interested in. As always, you write with such beauty and finesse, I can almost smell it through the sceen. Thank you for this review Tara.

    • Tara says:

      Perfume synchronicity is very real!
      I think you’re spot on when you say these out of season beachy perfumes mean more to those of us for whom they trigger childhood memories.
      I hope it lives up to expectations when you try it.

  9. Hey Tara,
    Is there any correlation here to Epice Marice by Hermes? I sometimes think that smells like a cool day at the beach?
    Portia xx

    • Tara says:

      Hi Portia,
      I’ve only tried Epice Marine twice and one of those times was on you! But yes, they both askew the hot, tropical beach setting, EM is a lot more about rolling waves crashing against the rocks with lots of sea spray (plus spice of course!). It is a lot more torrid than the Jo Malone. More French, ha ha!.

  10. Lady Jane Grey says:

    I was a fan of JM few years back, but was rather disappointed with that one : no salt there, or sage on my skin – all I got was vague sweetness

    • Tara says:

      Lady Jane, the salt is extremely low-key and there’s nothing I would recognisably identify as sage. Sorry you were disappointed.

  11. Undina says:

    I liked Wood Sage & Sea Salt and wore it once or twice from a decant. And then a co-worker gave me a sample of the body cream from that line. I thought it would be a nice substitution for my regular hand cream – if I want a little more scent for the night. I tried it twice and almost hated it. Why twice? After the first time I thought I just wasn’t in the right mood, so later I decided to give it another try… Now I’m afraid to spray the perfume – what if I feel the same? 🙂

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