The story of Rituals and how it has come to be is an unusual story of trying to get away from as many pushy salespeople and a day at John Lewis armed with gift vouchers. As it was, the moment I turned into John Lewis in Edinburgh, I found myself looking at a company brand I have never heard of before, Rituals who appear to deal in "natural" herb based body products with the usual marketing hoof of Feng Shui. All the "country feel," neutral colours in its back drop posters, round water basins and near-steamed pressed white towels surrounding the desk were set in place. However much I was swayed by the foot creams, body mists and what not, one thing caught my eye - massive reed diffusers - helped along by the fact that they were held in the biggest oil scented bottle holder I have ever seen for a long time - measuring almost 20m in height! Thus I was attracted at the size and for £19-95 these are probably one of the most expensive reed diffusers/fragrance sticks I have ever seen. Rituals however have now reduced their prices to £14-50 online, making a bit of a bargain come to light!
Rituals make quite a few different scents on offer and luckily for the company they are all priced the same. However, as much as I would love to pad this review any further by listing the entire range of scents on offer, I can't. The company website is shockingly poorly made, with small font writing and having to go through the entire family of so many different sub category ritual experiences, it gets a bit annoying after a bit just trying to find the entire family of fragrance sticks and I had to email them to find out where the entire range is located. Whilst I saw 7 or 8 different scents on display on the day of purchase, it was the nattily titled "Under A Fig Tree," that really attracted me on scent.
The packaging for this product is very classy and it's not the kind of product you need to wrap since it comes in its own presentation box, black with a flowery pattern, and silver tie hooks. Then inside the rectangular carton you're greeted with an inner cylindrical carrier that looks and feels like a bottle of special edition whisky! Rituals have wasted no money on the packaging and the whole concept feels special. On appeal the outer box looks like a massive Tetra carton of milk. Once disregarded, the bottle is about 19.5cm in height, frosted and clear coloured and there is a proper mahogany wooden top that sits on the outer rim of the bottle once the cord stopper has been removed. The "Under A Fig Tree," smells absolutely divine once the screw top is removed with little alcohol smell even though it does contain alcohol. This product knocks Yankee Candle and Shearer's Candles for dead, not just because of the strong potency of fragrance that comes across, but for the sheer amount of scent that the reeds give off.
In total there are 12 long stemmed bamboo reeds that measure 40cm length. Clearly Rituals aren't worried about their quality here, because each reed gets fairly saturated in oil and starts to freshen rooms instantly when they reach the oil. Purchased for Mother's Day at the start of March (this product has since lasted up until now with only a quarter of the oil left (8 months) and that is quite an achievement for any reed diffuser.
The top notes of this fragrance consist of a golden and sweet fig, which is easily detectable, but soon after middle tones consist of warm musky amber tinged sandalwood and copaiba float through. Flowers in the form of freesia, peony and gardenia are later revived in the root of this fragrance oil but as a whole, this product has a very welcoming and warming touch. However, despite the flowery content I was absolutely hooked on this fragrance and wondered how long it would last or indeed how strong it really is when used as a room freshener. I initially thought that the flower content would incite sneezing - but it's been smiles all the way instead!
Contained in a room that is not centrally heated, when left for a day with doors closed over, the room is awash with thick fragrance within an hour and in every opportunity Under A Fig Tree arrives with a good sense of occasion. In heated rooms, the fragrance takes a little longer to come through and visitors and friends have already tried to find out what the fragrance is and where it comes from! Although it doesn't mask tobacco smells, Ritual's Under A Fig Tree is freshly pungent and extremely vibrant. The scent warms my heart and lifts my senses - and if that's the essence of Rituals as a company then their promise shines easily in this product. The bottle is also fairly classy and arty with its wooden top, but unlike Shearer, the top just sits on the screw mounts of the bottle to keep the reeds in place. Once the reeds have dried out, it only takes seconds to grab them together like spaghetti and reverse them back into the oil. Unlike a lot of reed diffusers on the market, Ritual's reeds actually bend over a little with the oil infusion, looking rather life like rather than straight up reeds that constantly sprout out the top.
These reeds are quite a dream come true where strength, quality and longevity are concerned and for the amount you get, I'd say hand on heart they're probably the best find of the year. I've bought another two since mother's day as they have gone down a real treat! However, there are a few downsides.
As a company, Rituals was founded by a gentleman called Richard Cloosterman who previously worked for Unilever and decided to branch out on his own and launched the Rituals company with body products as well as the line up of fragrance sticks and candles. However, the company are based in Holland and upon my discovery of their desk at John Lewis, I managed to gleam info from the sales lady who told me that the company are only doing a pilot scheme of trial desks around the UK selling the Rituals line up. Therefore if you think your own store of John Lewis (or affiliated stores) has a Rituals sales desk, think again! There are only a few selected stores in which this product sells in and that's a major disappointment given that Rituals started out in Holland in 2005 and has taken them 4 years to get established with "signature" shops in London.
Whilst availability is one thing, you can buy the products from Rituals website but this poses another problem. The website that comes up, although in English has an awkward payment system - not forgetting their fragrance sticks - which are difficult to find. Although the company can take off credit cards/debit cards and payment options easily enough, my computer at the time had already actioned for my secure bank window to appear before going ahead with the final purchase. No window appeared and then later when I checked my home email account was surprised to find an email bill sent from Rituals in Holland. In this respect I don't feel this is safe enough for consumers and the fact that messages come in Dutch first and foremost before an English reply is sent again, payment isn't particularly reassuring.
Rituals are setting up in many stores of John Lewis and currently sell a lot of good products in some selected stores. I have since returned to Edinburgh where the Rituals desk is and bought face-to-face two more of the "Under A Fig Tree," diffusers. I strongly suggest that you don't sign up or don't use the product purchasing online until Rituals have sorted themselves out properly! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2010
Entire list of fragrance sticks:
A list of UK Stores:
Belfast Rituals Store, 1 Victoria Square
Bristol Rituals Store, Cabot Circus
Cambridge Rituals Store, Unit SU04, Grand Arcade
Canterbury Rituals Store, 21a Marlowe Arcade
Leicester Rituals Store, Highcross Leicester Unit UL100
London Rituals Store, Gatwick Airport North Terminal, 6th Floor
London Rituals Store, Heathrow Airport
London Rituals Store St. Christopher's Place, 9 Gees Court
London Rituals Store St Pancras Station, Eurostar Entrance
London Rituals Store Westfield London, Westfield London Shopping Center
Notice the fact that John Lewis in Edinburgh isn't even listed - Sadly this is an example of just how organised the company are.