Pomegranate Noir: the joy of blind sniffing revisited

the odd one...

Finding a house with a very definite character in its perfumes is a great pleasure for me. Immediately recognizable, the “house texture”, is for instance very strong in all Ormonde Jayne perfumes, from the resinous Tolu to the floral Frangipani. Well, Jo Malone and Pomegranate Noir have nothing to do with the previous statement! This is the perfect example of “the odd one out”.

I met Pomegranate Noir in my early days in Perfumeland. I was on a business trip to London and I was wandering in Harrod’s when I saw the Jo Malone table with all identical bottles standing next to each other. The name caught my eye ( I fall easily for all things Noir) so I sprayed it on me. And it was love at first whiff. Pomegranate Noir is one of these fragrances that smell very differently and I will always remember the first time I smelled it.

I was lucky enough to be included in a recurrent blogging event taking place in La Gardenia nell’ Ochiello where Ermano, the host, sends 3 blind samples to fellow perfume lovers and asks them to draw a chinese portrait of the perfume. The first vial for this years Blind Sniff Roulette was labelled “1” but it took me a split second to recognize Pomegranate Noir. However there is no greater pleasure than to get reacquainted with a an old love in the dark. All  preconceptions forged by years of loving cohabitation are caught off-guard. No time for the mind to focus on what it is accustomed to love. Notes that have been forgotten or deliberately ignored stand in the lime light. I assure you there is no better way to appreciate a perfume you already love than to blind sniff it and the best way to do this is by letting friends and loved ones raid your perfume bottles. Let them wear what they want and then try to recognize what it is. You will be amazed by how different your perfumes smell this way and it isn’t only skin chemistry, it’s also mind associations that work differently this way.

What is truly remarkable about Pomegranate Noir is that it is the right perfume in the wrong line. Jo Malone colognes are light, simple, bright, even thin maybe. Definitely not ground-breaking. Pleasant but not remarkable. They are made explicitly to encourage layering with each other so they have to be simple. Longevity and sillage are not their strong suit. Pomegranate Noir is a masterpiece. Unique and memorable in every way. Adult, brash, moody, dark, mysterious but at the same time familiar, comforting and introverted. People who frequent the Jo Malone displays are probably shocked by this one and potential lovers will never go near the Jo Malone stands. If you read the official note listing you would think that this is another “everything but the kitchen sink” fragrance but nothing can prepare you for the unbelievable balance and depth of this composition. It was one of the last perfumes of the Jo Malone line composed by Jo Malone herself before the company was sold and this gives me great hope for her new creations under Jo Loves which I have not sampled yet. You can read my take on this and my chinese portrait if you click on the link to La Gardenia nell’ Ochiello. All I want to say here is “close your eyes and smell”! Everything smells better when labels are out of the way. Both literally and mentally.

Notes from fragrantica.com: raspberry, pomegranate, plum, rhubarb, watermelon, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, rose, pink pepper, clove, olibanum, opoponax, guaiac wood, virginia cedar, patchouli, musk and amber.

Notes from my nose: camphor, clove, pomegranate, patchouli, incense, cedar

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

15 comments

  1. Liam

    Love this one a lot. Dark, moody and mysterious as you put it. Kind of right too when you say “right perfume in the wrong line,” very apt.

  2. I don’t know where to start… :)

    I like Pomegranate Noir a lot, it was my first full bottle purchase from that line (and it’s almost gone) so I share your passion towards this cologne.

    I disagree on your blanket statement about the rest of the line though. I think that there are at least several other perfumes that aren’t bland and “light, simple, bright”: Black Vetyver Café and Wild Fig & Cassis (from the times when Jo Malone was still a creative director), Blue Agava & Cacao, Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, Lotus Blossom & Water Lily and Sweet Milk (from later additions). Some of them have a really great longevity on the skin (not only for colognes but in general).

    And just a side note: if to believe NST site, EL bought JM in 1999 but Ms Malone worked as a Creative Director until 2006.

    • Undina it is remarkable how similarly we appreciate Jo Malone. All the ones that I have are listed in your comment. Black Vetyver Café, Wild Fig and Cassis, Blue Agave and Cacao and also 154. I also love Lavender and Amber and Anise. I never implied that they are bland! They are however light, simple and bright. You have to admit that Pomegranate Noir stands out not because it is “better” but because it is more complex and moody than most of the line. I would like to know what my fellow blind sniffers thought when they heard it was a Jo Malone. My comments on the line are not implying that this is “bad”line but it is just a line that proudly creates fun, layer encouraging colognes and this is not bad at all. When I say “right perfume in the wrong line” I do not mean that there is something wrong with the line. It just doesn’t have quite similar company in there.

      Thank you for the correction on Ms Malone’s relationship with the line. Have you tried any of the Jo Loves?

      • Christos, I’m sorry if I sounded to harsh. I did realize that you weren’t against that line altogether and I have no idea why I felt like defending it. Probably you got it for everybody else who dismisses the complete Jo Malone line not even being too familiar with it. I’m positive that in a blind test many people won’t be able to tell Jo Malone’s colognes from L’Artisan’s – either in scents complexity or staying power, but the former constantly gets some grief from perfumistas and the latter is treated with much more affection. But I’m sorry for “attacking” you.

        I answered your last question in e-mail.

        • Don’t worry Undina. You are a passionate person and I like the way you snapped :). I agree with you that Jo Malone is underrated and yes, you are right, there is a very similar undercurrent in most L’ Artisan releases that no one seems to notice and everybody is happy with them being very weak. Same happens with Elena creations. Jo Malone’s are weak but Elena’s are sheer… I don’t get why such partial treatment myself.

  3. This really isn’t a line I have explored much. Everything about what it stands for turns me off, I’m not into layering, or simplicity, or subtlety really. This doesn’t mean I want everything to be a powerhouse, but I do like a challenge.
    I like my fragrances to be challenging already though, I don’t want to have to mix loads of other perfumes together to make something more what I want.
    However, you’ve inspired me to try this! I have read good things about certain fragrances in the Jo Malone line, and next time I’m by a Jo Malone stand I won’t just walk past without a glance. So thanks for that!
    As for Pomegranite Noir, it sounds lovely. I love the tart smell of pomegranite and haven’t really had the chance to pick it out easily in a fragrance, the only perfume I remember it well from is Aziyade by Parfum D’Empire which opens with a juicy splash of pomegranite juice – I’ll try review this one sometime becuase it’s fantastic!
    A great read thank you.

    • Undina made me feel bad so I need to defend Jo Malone. Which I shouldn’t have to because I love this house :) They do not necessarily have to be layered. If you get a chance also try Black Vetyver Café, a very strange vetiver.

      • Christos, I don’t think you should feel this way. Undina was just bringing more clarity and food for thought to the discussion, and that’s always a good thing. I love her direct approach.

        And you know what else I love? Your magnificent observations. But you already knew that, didn’t you? ;) You’re so right about smelling a fragrance that you love in a new way … blindly, and on other people.

        Also enjoyed learning what a “Chinese Portrait” is, and it was fun reading yours and others at the blog you linked to. I’ve not tried Pomegranate Noir, but it does sound intriguing.

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