Friday, 29 November 2013

The Monochrome Set: review of The White Company Noir and Blanc perfumes

No, it's okay, this is not going to be another of those band on tour-alogue posts, though I was down in London last weekend for another Monochrome Set gig, as it happens. This gave me the opportunity for a bit of early Christmas shopping in St Pancras to kill time before my train, which wasn't even going from there, but there's a limit to the shopping you can do in Euston in Upper Crust, Harry Ramsden's and Tie Rack, and believe me I have tried.

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.


Notes: black cardamom, ginger, pink pepper, jasmine, orchid, water lily, rose, leather, sandalwood, kyara incense, patchouli, black amber


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!


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.



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.


Sarah Waite said...

Oooh.. they sound well worth a sniff, maybe the blanc could fill my wish for the 'sparkles' in winter?
I didn't really know anything about The White Company other than where it is in Manchester. However, my mum gave me a bottle of their body lotion that she picked up in a hotel somewhere. It's delish, with more than a passing resemblance to L' Heure Bleue, in fact I use it underneath this scent to up the overall heliotrope thingamee. I don't think it has a name or if in fact it's the same one that they sell in the shop. I'll have to peruse..

Unknown said...

The noir sounds interesting, but it's the bed socks that cry out to me. Want them.

Carol said...

What Sabine said! (and that photo of the screaming sock made me giggle!)

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

I think it might just tick your 'winter sparkles' box at that. Or your 'crisp and upbeat' box, certainly.

Would be curious to identify the hotel product of your mother's. Maybe it was a special formulation for the trade. I do think their stuff is generally good, mind.

Nice to meet you today!

Natalie said...

What a nice wintry set of gifts to self. Pretty amazing that you wouldn't hesitate to "blind gift" (is that a thing? can it be a thing?) Noir.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine

'Cry out to you' is the word for it. I can thoroughly recommend The White Company's bed socks, and trust me I have put my toe through a few brands in my time.

Would you be the blogger that Nick met by chance on the bus? We appear to have similar glasses. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

The ne plus ultra of cosiness and wiggle room, those socks!

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

It is pretty amazing, I agree, though I will qualify that by saying that I would only give Noir to someone whose taste I knew to lie in that general style of scent, which narrows the field somewhat. Dita Von Teese is another perfume in similar broadly likeable vein.

And of course I may end up keeping all the wintry gifts, including Noir.

'To blind gift' is doubtless a thing in some quarters, but here at Bonkers we are holding out against such verbifications for as long as possible. ;)

Undina said...

It's funny that your perfume review has created so many lemmings for socks! (count my lemmings in as well ;) ).

I officially envy you on that Jo Malone's bottle. I have a decant of this scent and I like it a lot but I missed it while it came in a small bottle and now not only I do not need 100 ml of it but I liked that small black bottle itself. Oh well...

Unknown said...

I am indeed that blogger. Funny little world, isn't it?

Tara said...

From the title I thought you'd got The Monochrome Set to review the monochrome perfumes!

Loved hearing about what you like from The White Company as I don't think I've ever been in there. Noir definitely sound like your kind of thing. The orchid is also most definitely the smoking gun as it's such an unusual note.

Off topic, I heard on the radio that Lidl have a perfume charmingly called "Eruption" and I immediately thought "That's one for Bonkers to investigate!"

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I should send you on a mission to the Quality Inn at SFX to hunt for one of the pairs of errant socks! Someone has probably had them away in the past nine years, mind...

I agree that the 30ml bottle is very cute - perhaps you could lobby them to reinstate it. Look how well you did with those 5ml Jul et Mad bottles recently. ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Haha - that would be an interesting read...! I suspect they are more preoccupied at the moment with the fact that the guitarist just broke his leg and is hors de combat for a while.

Can recommend The White Company, even just for its calming white-out ambiance. Well worth a 5 minute hover in there, though there is also much to tempt. The Verveine hand wash smells lovely, for example.

Thanks for the heads up about Lidl Eruption. D'you know, I think someone else mentioned it and I thought they were joking! Must investigate, as you say... ;-)

Vanessa said...

Yay! Isn't it just?! ;-)

Undina said...

Good idea. I'll try it ;)

Hazel said...

The mensh of Eruption would probably be me: it's one of my favourite Doesn't-quite-work-in-translations. Mind you, I haven't seen it in Lidl in yonks.

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

I looked it up and it is apparently a dupe of Fahrenheit, a classic men's scent of the more 'in your face' variety!

Vanessa said...

We are pinning our hopes on you!