I made a beeline for The White Company, with two very specific missions in mind: to check out their new monochromatic scent range, Noir and Blanc, about which my old English teacher had recently tipped me the wink, and to buy a pair of ivory cashmere bed socks. I have put these very same bed socks on the Christmas present wish list I issued to not one but two friends, yet so anxious am I to have another pair again that I decided to buy them myself to be on the safe side, and stockpile any bonus pairs I might receive at Christmas. For I have been a serial user of bed socks from The White Company for many years, and have either ruined (I routinely put my big toe through them in the end) or lost countless pairs in that time: one went AWOL at a hotel at San Francisco airport, another in the DoubleTree on Walnut in downtown Philadelphia. I am to bed socks what many people are to umbrellas, in fact. Come to think of it, I have also played fast and loose with hot water bottles on my travels. I left one in Slough in 1982 and never looked back. Anyway, these bed socks are soft and loose and really let your feet breathe, unlike many others of comparable luxuriousness that feel overly hot and constricting.
|An erstwhile bed sock doing a fine impression of The Scream|
So that was one thing, though frankly The White Company is a lovely place to shop generally for scented candles, bath and body products, white pine cones, white Xmas balls, white lights, white teddy bears, white towels, white bedlinen and robes - are you getting the picture? It's basically got all your white product needs covered apart from icing sugar and milk.
And then my other mission concerned the Noir and Blanc duo. My English teacher liked the Noir one so much she bought it on the spot, which was recommendation indeed I felt, as she is not given to impulsive behaviour. No one could have clocked up so many novels by Walter Scott as she has on a mere whim. That takes graft, focus and sheer bloody determination, says she, having just about skim read Heart of Mid Loathian (sic) - and then only because it was on the A-Level syllabus.
Now I had done a quick google of Noir before going along to try it in store, and one of the few bloggers to have reviewed it (Fleur de Force - am liking her punning style!), said how much Noir resembled Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, which immediately made me prick up my ears. For I own a 30ml bottle of Dark Amber & Ginger Lily from when it first came out, and it has since been discontinued and brought back again - possibly twice? I do know that its current incarnation is in the Cologne Intense range, in just the 100ml and 200ml sizes. This strikes me as utter lunacy, and would seem to have provided The White Company with a perfect opportunity to step into the breach with 30ml and 50ml bottles of its smell-alike offering.
So does Noir smell like Dark Amber & Ginger Lily? Too right it does! Not noticeably spicy - Noir is quite coy about its notes, and there is no mention (and no trace to my nose) of any ginger - but it remains very much in the same vein. It is borderline aquatic AND sensual, which is an extraordinary stunt to pull off, yet it does. I would also describe Noir as ambery and meditative and quietly radiant.
JO MALONE DARK AMBER & GINGER LILY
Notes: black cardamom, ginger, pink pepper, jasmine, orchid, water lily, rose, leather, sandalwood, kyara incense, patchouli, black amber
THE WHITE COMPANY NOIR
Notes: mandarin, orchid, amber, sandalwood
The orchid is the smoking gun for me!
|My Jo Malone bottle - rather a moody shot though I say so myself!|
As for Blanc, created by Beverley Bayne of CPL Aromas, it won an award for Perfumery Excellence this year from the British Society of Perfumers. Well, strictly speaking, this was in the category 'best fragrance in a personal care product' , but presumably they rated it as a stand-alone scent as well? Have just checked on The White Company's website, and they describe the award as being for the 'best personal fragrance', which is a subtle difference of semantics, but there you go. They also call is 'fabulously crisp and spirited', with which I certainly wouldn't argue. Now I haven't been able to establish if Beverley Bayne is also the perfumer behind Noir, but she did create Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir, so you never know...Ms Bayne clearly has a bit of a track record in scents called 'Noir' for Jo Malone - or in a Jo Malone style!
THE WHITE COMPANY BLANC
Notes: lemon, mandarin, juniper berry, white geranium, mimosa, cedar, patchouli, musk, amber
Now while the Noir scent is pretty darn evocative of Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, the comparison which springs to mind for Blanc is Jo Malone's Blackberry & Bay - but in more of a 'stylistically reminiscent' way, let's say, rather than a near dupe as such. As you can see, the notes are not remotely close, however, there is that same crisp sweet / tart / fruity / vaguely herbal thing going on with both.
JO MALONE BLACKBERRY & BAY
Notes: grapefruit, grapefruit blossom, bay leaves, blackberries, jasmine, lily of the valley, cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, and musk
I reckon that The White Company may have shrewdly clocked that Blackberry & Bay marks a return to form by Jo Malone after the Herbal Essences aberrations of Plum Blossom, English Pear & Freesia et al, and decided to create something in that particular vein, which I think it has pulled off very well.
I don't have samples of either Noir or Blanc, so please make allowances for my fading recall, however, of the two scents - and notwithstanding Blanc's award(!) - Noir was much more 'me'. I always have time for a 'subtly sensual' scent, and sometimes I am in the mood for something even more overt, which I am not sure is a box that any of the Jo Malone line tick. Dark Amber & Ginger Lily has always been my favourite of their large and rambling range, and is the nearest contender, on a par with others in the Cologne Intense line such as Amber & Patchouli, Oud & Bergamot and Saffron, say. Amber & Patchouli might just pip it in the sultry stakes, thinking about it!
So in short, well played, The White Company - if the word gets out amongst Jo Malone fans about Noir in particular, I think it could nicely plug the gaping 'small bottle' hole in the Cologne Intense line. If you do end up liking one of the fragrances, The White Company also has an ongoing discount programme - check it out here.
Me, I ended up spending over a ton on an assortment of bed socks, slippers, Verveine hand wash, Noir itself... and, er...the bath oil. I may give the perfume to someone for Christmas, as I still have some of the Jo Malone left...And Noir is so easy to like that that would be one blind perfume gift I think you could give with confidence, and I don't say that lightly.