Monday 24 October 2016


When Jo left school at sixteen with six ‘O’ levels she knuckled down, worked hard, and became the youngest-ever UK magazine editor when she joined Look Now at twenty-three. Alongside that she had always had a love of fragrance, and so it seemed inevitable that Jo would go on to co-found The Perfume Society with Lorna McKay. After winning a Jasmine Award for her fragrant writing, I thought it was time that we turned the tables and discovered her scented secrets during “Stephan’s Six”.

What is the first smell that you can remember?
My grandmother, fondly known by all of us sixteen grandchildren as ‘Lally’, had a falling-down lean-to greenhouse outside the kitchen of her Victorian house. She used to grow tomatoes and rose geraniums in there and I really vividly remember her taking me out there, I must have been about two, and rubbing my fingers on the tomato and geranium leaves, then getting me to smell them. The memory is so clear that I can actually remember the flower-sprigged pattern on her lavender-coloured dress, never mind her always-smiling face, and I think my obsession with scents and smells began at that moment.

What was the first perfume you remember your mum or dad wearing?
My father didn’t wear perfume, but he did use Floris Rose Geranium Shaving Soap. I have such fond memories of that smell, and treated myself to three bars of that same soap simply to help conjure up the memory of him. He died 18 years ago. My mum was generally muddy from gardening, covered in clay from pottery making, or up to her elbows in flour, but she also had a ‘glamorous’ side. Mum could definitely scrub up well when they went to a dinner dance, and the scent of Femme Rochas as (cliché alert!) she kissed me goodnight meant next morning there’d be a stolen napkin of petit fours for breakfast.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
YSL Opium. I actually went to the very glitzy launch party, at San Lorenzo in Beauchamp Place, and was given one of the red bottles with the tassel that I really wish I’d hung onto! I loved and still love Opium; it felt very decadent and also sophisticated. I spent a lot of time in nightclubs in my twenties, something I can hardly believe now since I definitely like to be in bed by 10, and Opium was the smell of Morton’s, Tramp, Régine’s, Maunkberry’s and more...

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
I bought a bottle of Parfums Delrae Bois de Paradis in San Francisco, I rarely travel without bringing back a scent ‘souvenir’ to remind me of my trip, smashed it in the sink after I got home and watched $140 of fragrance glug down the plughole. I suppose I should count my blessings; the last time this happened, it was the sink and not the bottle that smashed.

You can only choose one perfume?
Guerlain’s Mitsouko. It’s definitely my ‘desert island’ scent, although I can only wear it between October and April as it makes me feel over-heated in the summer. I return to it time and again. But please don’t make me choose one, Stephan...!

What perfume should I try?
The Lynx Daily Fragrance collection is extraordinary, notably Tobacco & Amber and Oud Wood & Dark Vanilla, and they’re about four quid. A VIP Subscriber brought these to a Perfume Society event and blew my mind!

Jo’s book The Perfume Bible, written with Lorna McKay, is available in all bookshops and full details of The Perfume Society can be found at

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