Perfume Giveaway: Neela Vermeire Créations

I’m excited to announce that Neela Vermeire Créations, Parfums Paris (“NVC“) has kindly offered to give away two prizes, each of which will include samples of the upcoming Ashoka fragrance that will be released next week, on September 13, 2013. The only restriction is that you have to have an address in the U.S., Canada, or the EU.

Source: urduplanet.com

Source: urduplanet.com

THE PRIZES:

Mohur Eau de Parfum

Mohur Eau de Parfum

Grand Prize: one full bottle of Mohur Eau de Parfum (retail cost: $250 for 55 ml/1.85 oz at Luckyscent), along with a sample vial of Ashoka Eau de Parfum and a sample vial of Mohur Extrait pure parfum.

Second Place: The “Try your India” sample set (Trayee, Mohur Eau de Parfum, and Bombay Bling), plus one sample of Ashoka and one sample of Mohur extrait pure parfum. Each vial is about 2 ml, though perfumers rarely fill them to the top for leakage fears, so the liquid may be about 1.7 ml.

All the fragrances are Eau de Parfum in concentration, except the not-yet-released Mohur Extrait which is pure parfum and which won’t be out until the end of the year. If you’re unfamiliar with the fragrances, you can read my reviews linked within each name. In a nutshell, however:

Trayee encapsulated. Source: paramountfocus.com

One of Trayee’s many sides, encapsulated. Source: paramountfocus.com

Trayee is a powerful, spicy Oriental temptress with too many parts to list. She’s a complicated, dark seductress who blows through life like a force of nature.

Mohur is a exquisitely refined, quiet, elegant, haunting, floral beauty, centered around roses, violets, iris, sandalwood, cardamom, and more.

Bombay Bling is a happy, bouncy, outgoing, but sophisticated, fruity-floral scent. Considered by many to be an anti-depressant in a perfume bottle, she’s a flirt, made up of mango, lychee, jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, ylang-ylang, vanilla, sandalwood, and a few other tricks up her flirtatious Bollywood sleeve.

The brand new Ashoka is a refined, sophisticated comfort fragrance with milky fig, iris, lotus, osmanthus, tonka bean, leather, sandalwood, and more. It soothes you with a heart that is both powerful and gentle, and very much reminded me of a mother’s warm embrace.

Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2013. Source: FlipZone and Tweets.seraph.me

Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2013. Source: FlipZone and Tweets.seraph.me

And Mohur Extrait is one of the most va-va-va voom glamorous, sophisticated rose florals I’ve ever smelled. It takes Mohur Eau de Parfum and revs it up about 10 notches, turning her quiet elegance into diva glam, and sending her to a gala in an haute couture dress. To give you an idea of what I thought about it, I called Mohur Extrait “A Queen to Rule Them All.” And I’m someone who doesn’t particularly like rose fragrances, so I think that says something!

ENTRY RESTRICTIONS & REQUIREMENTS:

Both gifts are limited to people living ONLY in the EU, US or Canada. The problem is that new postal regulations make it extremely difficult to send fragrances (classified now as hazardous materials) to certain parts of the world. Some fascistic postal services go out of their way to search for and destroy perfume, even apparently using x-ray machines in their efforts. So, we’re terribly sorry, but please do not enter if you live outside of the three zones listed above.

To enter, you have to do two things:

1- “Like” Neela Vermeire Créations’ Facebook Page, if you haven’t done so already. (If you’re not on Facebook, you can follow Neela Vermeire on Twitter.)

2- Leave a comment here about anything you found interesting, fun, or appealing in yesterday’s interview with Neela Vermeire, entitled Neela Vermeire: Ashoka, Perfume, Food & Life. Okay, I guess that’s three things if you haven’t read the interview yet, but hey, the main prize is a $250 bottle of perfume, and samples of fantastic, not-yet released eau de parfums. I’m sure you can find the motivation… 😉

WHEN DOES IT START & END:

The giveaway starts today, Saturday September 7th, 2013 and will continue for 8 days until Sunday September 15th, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. which is -6:00 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

WINNERS & EMAILS:

The Grand Prize and Second Place winners will be chosen by Random.org, and will be announced sometime the next day, September 16th.

Once I post the winners, you have FIVE (5) days to contact me with your shipping information. Deadline is end of the day, my time, on September 20th. Please send an email to Akafkaesquelife @ gmail . com  (all one word, scrunched together). If you don’t, and if I fail to hear from you within the deadline, I will give the gift to the next person on the list.

SHIPPING:

Neela Vermeire Créations will send the prizes directly to the winners, and pay for all shipping costs. Given that NVC is located in the Paris, it may take some time (up to 14 days, depending on your location and Customs processing) for you to receive your gift. It may take even little longer if your country has really nightmarish customs issues. Neither Neela Vermeire nor I am responsible for items that are destroyed by customs or that are lost in transit for some reason. The Grand Prize cannot be replaced.

FINALLY:

I’d like to express my enormous gratitude to Neela Vermeire for her generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness in offering two fantastic gifts. Some companies may give away a small samples, but a whole bottle of expensive pure parfum and samples of not-yet released fragrances, along with a generous consolation prize?! Amazing! I cannot thank Ms. Vermeire enough. Good luck to everyone! May the perfumed winds blow you to India. 

Source: mariyatourtravels.com -

Source: mariyatourtravels.com –

Interview – Neela Vermeire: Ashoka, Perfume, Food & Life

In Rig Veda Psych4u  blogspot

Source: In Rig Veda Psych4u blogspot

A while ago, I asked Neela Vermeire of Neela Vermeire Créations (“NVC”) if she would be kind enough to do an interview. She graciously agreed, and I sent along some questions. “Some” is an understatement — not being one for brevity, I’m afraid I inundated her with rather a lengthy list. Ms. Vermeire never blinked, and never once said that her incredibly busy schedule couldn’t accommodate such a barrage. Instead, she spent a portion of her holidays answering them. (And she never told me to fly a kite when I came back with follow-ups, twice!) I’m incredibly grateful for her graciousness, her time, her enormous patience, and her always sunny disposition.

Neela Vermeire. Source: NVC

Neela Vermeire. Source: Ms. Vermeire.

My goal with the questions was for us to learn as much about Neela Vermeire the person and perfume lover, as about the one who creates beautiful perfumes. Many of you know the brief outlines of Ms. Vermeire’s story. She was born in India, living life in the lushness of Calcutta (now Kolkata), before travelling around the world. She studied in America, completing a Master’s Degree in social sciences, then eventually moved to England where she studied law and became a solicitor. She spent a little time in Aberdeen, Scotland, practiced in London, and, for a brief period, moved to Paris where she remained for two years. She went back across the pond to England, then, six years after she left Paris, Ms. Vermeire and her Belgian husband moved back for good, this time for her husband’s work.

Bertrand Duchaufour. Source: mparis.ru

Bertrand Duchaufour. Source: mparis.ru

Ms. Vermeire was always passionate about perfumery and, in an almost organic process, she decided to express her love concretely by starting her own line. So, she approached Bertrand Duchaufour — one of the most famous perfume noses in the world, who has worked with everyone from Dior, to Acqua di Parma, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Comme des Garcons, Givenchy, Penhaligon, and many others. The result was Neela Vermeire Créations, three highly acclaimed fragrances, an award nomination, inclusion at the top of many perfume sites’ annual “Best of” lists, and a passionate following of admirers. And now, a fourth creation whose release is just a week away: Ashoka, Imperial Buddhist, a scent intended to capture the essence and life of India’s most famous Emperor, the man whose very symbol (a chakra) is now placed right in the center of India’s flag.

Emperor Ashoka.

Emperor Ashoka.

I asked Ms. Vermeire about Ashoka, its creation, and the feelings that she sought to capture. But what about the woman herself? As I said earlier, I wanted you to know the complex, intellectual, extremely diverse, fascinating woman behind the fragrances, as much as the perfumista who created them. Ms. Vermeire kindly shared everything from some of her favorite perfumes that she used to wear, to her favorite television shows, her culinary weaknesses, and even her favorite type of chocolates. I hope you enjoy the answers as much as I did.

*    *   *

What are some of your favorite notes in perfumes? Notes that make you sit up with excitement when you see them on a perfume list?

There are too many to list but here are some: iris, jasmine sambac, tuberose, rose, lavender, vetiver, galbanum, sandalwood and most precious woods, styrax, resins…

Are there any perfume notes that you struggle with or that you don’t like at all?

Certain fruits, heavy patchouli, overtly sweet “gourmand” notes.

Which fruit notes don’t you like? Peach? Grape? Grapefruit? Blackcurrant?

I have difficulty with fruity notes in general – difficult to point to and blame certain fruits. It really depends on how a perfumer works with some of the fruity notes.

What was your earliest perfume memory? 

It comes of course from my childhood years in India –smell of sandalwood paste, incense, tea, spices, flowers…

Before you started your own perfume line, what were some of your favorite perfumes?

There are too many to list as I collected many fragrances over the years. What I reached out for the most were:

Chanel Bois des Iles Extrait; Chanel No. 22 Extrait; Guerlain Jicky, Vega, and Sous Le Vent; Frederic Malle Iris Poudre and Une Fleur de Cassie; Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist and Bois de Violette. used to wear the Le Labo Tubereuse 40 NY exclusive, Iris 39 and Labdanum 18.

Also, I love and collect vintage perfumes. My main haul this year include an unopened Shalimar extrait in the box from the 1940s with the original wrapping paper, vintage Femme, and vintage Madame Rochas over summer from an antique fair, among a few…. [All font emphasis to the names added by me.]

Did you ever have a signature fragrance?

I don’t have a signature fragrance; I have always been too interested in experimenting or trying new scents. That said, I do wear NVC Mohur frequently, and a future creation which is still work in progress. [Font emphasis added by me.]

When you started your own perfume house, you obviously had a clear overall vision and inspiration for the perfumes that subsequently became Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling. What happens after you have that initial idea for a scent? Can you share a little about the steps in the creative process, and the methods by which you and Bertrand Duchaufour rendered your initial idea into something concrete? For example, would both of you test out different formulas each week? 

Once I have clear vision – it is expressed to the perfumer. Sometimes we can start with a part of the entire vision and then build the foundation of the fragrance – we usually work on a couple of options in line with the original idea.

For Ashoka, the challenge was rather different compared to the first trio (which express vast periods of history) and not a legendary personality who helped spread a magnificent religion Buddhism. [Font emphasis to the name added by me.]

Can you expand a little on the process of building the perfume’s foundation and working with different options in line with the original vision?

It is one of the ways for me to develop and flesh out ideas – when you express an idea – you may not get (as a mod) what you think it is going to be. [Me: “Mod” is industry-speak for “version.”] The guiding factor is in imagination of the notes and the balance of the work-in-progress creation.

A perfume can take shape from those early stages to something very different from what was presented at say stage one. It is truly a matter of being on the same page for all parties involved in the creation.

Things take time in general – it is either a matter of being quick/hurried and accepting mods which may not be fully formed or the tougher route when one decides to carry on with the development and make sure that one reaches a satisfactory stage where the “eureka moment” actually happens!

Why did Emperor Ashoka appeal to you in the first place as a source of perfume inspiration, as opposed to some other Indian figure representing peace? Has he always interested you?  

Emperor Ashoka's Chakra, which is the very symbol in the center of the Indian national flag.

Emperor Ashoka’s Chakra, which is the very symbol in the center of the Indian national flag.

Personally as an Indian, Ashoka has always held a very special place since my childhood. One cannot ignore his importance if you grow up in India.  In a nutshell – he was a true humanist (after his self-realization) and possibly one of the greatest emperors ever. He believed in secularism and was way ahead of his times.

NVC LogoIn fact, our logo was adapted from Ashoka’s famous Chakra.

The bottle for Ashoka, as designed by Pierre Dinard.

The bottle for Ashoka, as designed by Pierre Dinard.

Our new bottle, designed by Pierre Dinand, has 24 ridges just like Ashoka’s chakra. The logo [adaptation of the chakra] is also embossed on the metal cap. [So, the perfume] is about the meaning of this important symbol.

H.G. Wells summed up what you need to know about Ashoka in his book A Short History of the World. (1922):

“Asoka was at first disposed to follow the example of his father and grandfather and complete the conquest of the Indian peninsula. He […] was successful in his military operations and —alone among conquerors—  was so disgusted by the cruelty and horror of war that he renounced it. He would have no more of it. He adopted the peaceful doctrines of Buddhism and declared that henceforth his conquests should be the conquests of religion.

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, constructed by Ashoka. Two monks are meditating in front of it. The tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment is on the left, behind the monks. This temple is the number 1 pilgrimage site of Buddhism in the world.  Source: Wikicommons.

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, constructed by Ashoka. Two monks are meditating in front of it. The tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment is on the left, behind the monks. This temple is the number 1 pilgrimage site of Buddhism in the world. Source: Wikicommons.

His reign for eight-and-twenty years was one of the brightest interludes in the troubled history of mankind. He organized a great digging of wells in India and the planting of trees for shade. He founded hospitals and public gardens and gardens for the growing of medicinal herbs. He created a ministry for the care of the aborigines and subject races of India. He made provision for the education of women. […]

Such was Asoka, greatest of kings. He was far in advance of his age. He left no prince and no organization of men to carry on his work, and within a century of his death the great days of his reign had become a glorious memory in a shattered and decaying India. […] But beyond the confines of India and the realms of caste Buddhism spread—until it had won China and Siam and Burma and Japan, countries in which it is predominant to this day…”

Perhaps the sole sculptural depiction of Emperor Ashoka that remains today.

Perhaps the sole sculptural depiction of Emperor Ashoka that remains today, though the identity of the figure has not been fully established.

What made you both decide on certain notes, like fig, being a perfect way to reflect a stage in Emperor Ashoka’s life?

The main idea was to ensure that the fragrance has a contrasting start from a strong top note to a gentle drydown. We included some floral notes, fig leaves and fig milk, styrax, and sandalwood as some of the important notes to bring about this contrast.

Buddha achieved his enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree/Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa) and the fact that Ashoka converted to Buddhism to gain his own enlightenment.

Ashoka.

The new NVC bottle design by Pierre Dinand.

For each of the perfumes, including the upcoming Ashoka, when did you finally know that a particular version or formula was “the” final, perfect one? Was there one of the perfumes that was a little harder to finalize and perfect (according to that mental vision) than the others?

I could go on perfecting a perfume forever and I do not care to rush towards any deadline. In the case of the trio, Trayee was the toughest to declare “final” as well as Mohur. Bombay Bling appeared to be relatively less complex to finalize in comparison to the other two.

Ashoka was incredibly tough and took many iterations. [All font emphasis to the names added by me.]

Speaking of Ashoka, there is already a tidal wave of anticipation and excitement. I read your interview with Fragrantica back in April about the two versions of the perfume that you showed at Milan: versions 108, 110 and their differences. To quote the relevant part of the Fragrantica reviewer’s perceptions: “108 is more masculine, green and harsh, with a fierce start recalling the period of the youth of Ashoka—a fearless hunter, cruel warrior and a great conqueror. 110 is more lactonic and sleek; it shows Ashoka after his enlightment [sic], as a kind and compassionate person…” Given his description and your own words about having different versions in Milan, it sounds like you went through numerous different interpretations for the scent. Did you finally settle on #108? And, if so, what made one formula seem like a better, truer, more representative fit for Ashoka than the other?

The numbers got juxtaposed somehow and did not get amended! It is 110 we settled for as it “is more masculine, green and strong, with a fierce start recalling the period of the youth of Ashoka—a fearless hunter, cruel warrior and a great conqueror.”

110 was the overall character of the perfume that we had in mind for Ashoka.

108 was relatively gentle in the opening.

One of the many, many things that I think will make Ashoka such a hit is that it hits that sweet spot in your line-up for a comfort fragrance. Each of your other ones represent a certain type of fragrance: Trayee is the seductive temptress with flair; Mohur is quiet, refined elegance; and Bombay Bling is fun, jubilant, exuberance. For me, Ashoka represents soothing comfort, a sort of serenity mixed with a mother’s protective embrace. Obviously, that’s my subjective interpretation of it, but I’m curious if you thought about the types of perfumes that you had already, and if you sought to create a type of refined, sophisticated comfort fragrance for your line-up?

Thank you for your faith in our fourth creation! To answer your question, for us – it is about the general mood of a fragrance.

Trayee is spiritual, contemplative and refined.

Mohur is elegant and glamorous as the same time.

Bombay Bling is sheer sophisticated fun.

Ashoka is intended to be that sophisticated comfort fragrance that you describe, both powerful and gentle.

All are created for men and women. We wanted everyone to be able to select a fragrance wardrobe from the collection. [All font emphasis to the names added by me.]

If you had to choose a painting, picture, photo or place that you think sums up the overall feel of Ashoka, perhaps as an emotional experience, what would it be? 

It is very much a collage of various images – it is very tough to link it to one single image. The only image I can think of right now is the Ashoka’s chakra.

Emotionally it is a fragrance that works from a powerful top note to a very warm and comforting heart and base notes.

Ashoka's Chakra in stone

I’m always in awe of the quality of your ingredients but, especially, of that stunning sandalwood in your original trio. Without getting into trade secrets, can you tell us anything about the sandalwood or perhaps the Laotian Oudh that you use?

I have faith in a specialist perfumer like Bertrand Duchaufour’s choice of materials – naturals and aroma chemicals he uses in the compositions and we know that in the case of the NVC perfumes we did not cut any corners for the sake of economics.

We have used some precious woods like Mysore sandalwood oil and Laotian Oudh.  We hope to continue on this path.

To what extent has your creative process or the perfume’s development been impacted by sourcing issues for ingredients? For example, that beautiful sandalwood is neither cheap nor in great abundance.

As mentioned above, I leave this to the perfumer and the essence company. The perfumers are specialists and know their materials well. It is their tool. Using some of the rare and precious raw materials can make a formula exorbitantly expensive.

When you work with experts/professionals in the fragrance world and I will underline experts – who know how to create a formula and know that if the ingredients are excellent – the end result will usually be very good.

There is a level of complexity to get an idea or message across through the perfume – even though the message is used mainly as an intellectual prop.

The perfume should make one “feel”/emote…

You make very French perfumes, even if they have an Indian inspiration. I think there is a very definite style to French perfumery as a whole or, at least, there was. Do you think that may be in danger in the years ahead due to things like IFRA or EU restrictions? Do you see any changes ahead for French perfumery?

Yes, but as long as one can conform to the new rules – it will hopefully be ok.

Perfume and your company obviously take up a vast amount of your time. What do you do to relax? Or, to put it another way, what are some of your non-perfume-related passions? Do you have any guilty pleasures — whether in television, books, food or something else — that you would confess to? 🙂

Music – all forms – I do enjoy going to classical concerts and productions of baroque opera.

Theatre when we visit London or NYC. We enjoy some French Theatre.

Art – everything from street art (like Space Invader), to Chagall.

Food – see below.

I adore the Cinema but rarely find the time to go.

I am also a fan of intelligent TV series – enjoy some excellent HBO productions, BBC and Nordic productions.

I know you love the TV show, Borgen, but what else? Which HBO or BBC series?

Borgen, Wallander, The Killing, The Bridge. On the BBC, there are too many to list, as I grew up with the BBC – crime, justice, comedy. But I am a Downton Abbey fan. I’m also a HUGE Poirot fan.

From HBO or American television, there are also too many, but some include The Wire, Boardwalk Empire (fabulous), The Sopranos…. I also watch other shows like: Engrenages (French), The Shield, and The Good Wife.

I’ve enjoyed Mad Men very much. It’s very stylish, and I love John Slattery’s part, as well as many other characters. Homeland is also great, and I liked the original Israeli version, Prisoners of War. Another show I like is the new Netflix series, House of Cards, mainly for Kevin Spacey. I’ve been a fan of his since early in his career with The Usual Suspects.

I do not dare to mention feature films, as I am film buff and have an endless list that may bore everyone.

Source: Ms. Vermeire.

Source: Ms. Vermeire.

Since you live in Paris with all that glorious food, and since I’m a foodie myself, I have to ask as my last question: what are some of your favorite dishes, cheeses, patisseries, breads, or other aspects of French culinary life? Please let us live vicariously through you!

Even though I live in Paris, I remain a huge fan of all types of Asian cuisine (which I still like the best). Second for me comes Italian cuisine. I also enjoy savoury Persian and Lebanese cuisine. In fact, I am known to impose Asian or Middle Eastern cuisine on my friends.

There is nothing like good organic bread and we have some excellent artisanal boulangeries near us.

Sadly, we have not found a truly great Indian restaurant in Paris, the UK and the US just seem better for that.

In India, the cuisine is varied – I love most regional cooking. My favourite type of cuisine is Dum Pukht. If you are in New Delhi, you must try the restaurants Dum Pukht and Bukhara for an excellent culinary experience.

I also enjoy creative meals from any of the great French chefs and from chefs from all over the world. There, I go more for quality than quantity.

Source: goodealmart.com

Source: goodealmart.com

However, if I have to go for general French cuisine, I enjoy good fish restaurants. I enjoy platters of my favourite French oysters — speciales Gillardeau with some vintage champagne — followed by a deliciously cooked sole (grilled or fried), or grilled sea bass with olive oil or cooked in salt crust.

Biscuits Roses de Reims. Source: agence-des-grands-crus.com

Biscuits Roses de Reims. Source: agence-des-grands-crus.com

I also enjoy wine tasting wherever we go. And we enjoy looking for good champagne houses that are rather niche in production. My favourite champagne maison is Jacquesson. I also enjoy dunking rose biscuits from Reims in champagne.

I’m not fond of heavy patisseries, but I enjoy some good dark chocolate from time to time. My favourite chocolatiers include Pierre Marcolini (Belgian), Patrick Roger, Debauve et Gallais (French)…

*    *   *

Oh my God, I don’t know about you, but I salivated like a dog reading her food answers! Wouldn’t you love to go eating and drinking across Europe with Ms. Vermeire?! Coincidentally, I went to the famous Bukhara in New Delhi years ago, and can attest that it is as good as Ms. Vermeire says it is. (Actually, it was completely mind-blowing. And I gained 6 pounds to prove it!) Ms. Vermeire clearly knows her food. And her oysters, too! The New York Times calls Gillardeau “the most famous name in oysters.” If you’re curious about Jacquesson, the champagne house has a fascinating history that goes back to 1798 and not only pre-dates Krug, but arguably gave rise to the latter.

Macarons, Pierre Marcolini, via Wikicommons.

Macarons, Pierre Marcolini, via Wikicommons.

Lastly, if you’re a masochist who loves to torture yourself with food porn from afar (as I do), then you really should check out the handsome Pierre Marcolini, his lovely website with its various chocolate collections, and his e-Boutique that offers everything from macarons to your own choice of chocolate selections. (No U.S. deliveries, alas.) A much less visually appealing website is that of Debauve & Gallais, and it offers chocolate deliveries on a more global basis, including FedEx shipments to the U.S. The company was founded in 1800, and became the official chocolatiers to Emperor Napoleon, as well as to several kings who followed him.

As for the perfumes, I think we would all agree with Ms. Vermeire that the fragrance should make us feel. And the very best ones always do. I have felt the soothing comfort of Ashoka, and I think many of you will love the Emperor’s embrace. I’m still madly in love with the upcoming Mohur Extrait above all else (yes, even more than Trayee!), but I think Ashoka has a refined gentleness that makes it very appealing and perhaps the most versatile of all the NVC creations. I can’t wait for you all to try it!

I would like to repeat my grateful thanks to Ms. Vermeire for taking big chunk of time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer my questions. She is working on a new fragrance, is constantly on the move, and is also preparing for the new launch of Ashoka that is mere days away. The fragrance will be officially released at the Pitti Immagine Fragranze Faire in Florence on September 13th! In light of all that, her graciousness, and patience mean even more. I shall see if I can one day repay her with dark chocolates or, perhaps, with some grilled sea bass.…

[AVAILABILITY UPDATE: Ashoka will be available for sale starting on September 23, 2013. In the U.S., it will be sold at Luckyscent and Min New York. I asked Ms. Vermeire about Ashoka samples and the Discovery Sets. This is her reply:

Here is what we are planning till we have Ashoka in the sets.
Try your India sample sets (3×2 ml) and Discovery sets with Ashoka EDP from late autumn from the site.

We will include a free glass vial sample of Ashoka with every purchase of the NVC Discovery set 10 ml x 3 of the first trio.

Please stay tuned for news on e-boutique.

The full flacons of Ashoka will be available at 190 Euros plus shipping.

So, starting on September 23rd, if you order the Discovery Set, you will get a glass vial of Ashoka. Ms. Vermeire says that samples of Ashoka won’t be available to go with the smaller “Try your India” sample set until much later in the Fall. So you can only get a sample if you order the NVC Discovery Set. As for a possible 10 ml bottle of Ashoka, at some point much later in the Fall, Ashoka will be added to the Discovery Set, but it is not offered being right now. (When it is, the Discover Set’s prices will presumably change for 4 x 10 ml, instead of 3 x 10 ml, but that is just my guess).]

Neela Vermeire Mohur Extrait de Parfum: A Queen To Rule Them All

Va-Va-Voom! Mohur has put on her ball gown and is ready for a gala! The new Mohur Extrait** de Parfum by Neela Vermeire Créations (“NVC”) takes the existing Eau de Parfum formulation up a notch in sophistication, richness, luxuriousness and creaminess. It is — quite simply — spectacular.  **[UPDATE 10/20/13 – This article was originally written when the perfume was called Mohur Esprit de Parfum, but the name has subsequently been changed to just Mohur Extrait de Parfum. I believe legal and trademark issues were the reason. Consequently, I’ve changed this post to reflect the new name.]

Mohur Esprit de Parfum. Source: Fragrantica.

Mohur Esprit de Parfum. Source: Fragrantica.

Mohur Extrait de Parfum (hereinafter “Mohur Extrait” or “Extrait”) is a new concentration of Mohur and the very first pure parfum offered by Neela Vermeire. It will be released in early Fall of 2013. [Update: it will now be released in Winter 2013 or in 2014.] The perfume was recently shown at the Milan Esxence show, and a European friend got me a small vial. I don’t know if the Extrait has had any slight alteration in notes, or if it is exactly the same perfume in a greater concentration, but something about it feels a little different.

I’ve always felt a little badly for Mohur Eau de Parfum. Trayee is the mysterious, seductive older sister; Bombay Bling, the happy, innocent, playful, joyous baby sister. Mohur is the quiet, reserved, elegant one. Like many middle sisters, Mohur EDP always seemed a little overlooked and forgotten in the company of her much more exuberant or forceful sisters. I myself loved Mohur, but I was just a little more bouleversée by Trayee. While something about Mohur EDP stayed in my mind, inching its way further and further into my heart with time, it could never quite compete with the force of nature that is Trayee. Until now. Until Mohur Extrait de Parfum.

It may be useful to briefly refresh your memory of Mohur’s notes, at least for the Eau de Parfum. The incredibly long list — twenty-three ingredients in all — includes:

Top: Cardamom absolute, Coriander seed oil, Ambrette seed, Carrot, Black Pepper, Elemi oil;

Middle: Turkish rose oil, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Rose Accords 11%, Jasmine accord, Orris, Aubepin Flower [hawthorn], Almond milk notes, Violet Flower, Leather vitessence:

Bottom: Sandalwood, Amber, White Woods, Patchouli, Oudh Palao from Laos, Benzoin Siam [resin], Vanilla, Tonka bean.

rose de reschtI tested Mohur Extrait de Parfum side by side with Mohur Eau de Parfum. One on each arm. Twice. The differences are merely of degree and are not substantial — but they are there. Mohur Extrait de Parfum opens with a considerably greater degree of sweetness. The roses are concentrated and heightened, tinged only subtly with the other notes, instead of sharing equal space with them. The flower is touched with carrots, followed then by violets, all atop a lightly ambered base with muted almond milk. There is a much stronger note up top of lightly powdered iris and a quiet hint of white woods. In contrast, Mohur Eau de Parfum has the rose note well mixed in with the other tonalities. The carrot accord is partnered side by side, but the rose never full dominates in quite the same way. There are also much more noticeable spices, pepper and elemi right at the front with the EDP. The violet note is considerably more subtle right at the start but, later, it deepens more and is a much more consistent vein throughout the Eau de Parfum in its subsequent development.

Mohur Eau de Parfum is also much sharper in its opening minutes. Now, I have never thought Mohur to have a sharp note whatsoever. Until I put on the Extrait de Parfum. Side by side, on both occasions, the EDP has a sharper, thinner aspect to the initial opening minutes. In contrast, Mohur Extrait was deeper, stronger, richer and with significantly increased sweetness. The Extrait also has, quite naturally, a greater sillage and power. We’re talking Fracas levels of potency if you apply a lot!

As time passed, other changes were perceptible, too. The Extrait seems more ambered and spicy. The woodsy notes and oud are stronger, though the latter is still not a significant part of Mohur for me. It is far too well-blended and sheer a note as a whole; it adds subtle depth to the fragrance — in both formulations — but I would never consider Mohur to be a real or hardcore oud fragrance by any means. With the Extrait de Parfum, I also detected subtle hints of the leathery undertone which has always been negligible for me in Mohur EDP. The latter seems more purely floral, much more violet infused and slightly milkier. It also feels as though there is less noticeable patchouli in the EDP, whereas it’s a plush, velvety, almost mossy companion to the sandalwood that begins to come out within the second hour of the Extrait.

Lastly, Mohur Extrait differs in terms of both sillage and longevity. I applied the same quantities of both fragrances from a dab vial. While the EDP became close to the skin about 4.5 hours in, the Extrait de Parfum became a skin scent after 8 hours. Mohur EDP lasted approximately 9.5 hours on me. The pure parfum concentration is, naturally, much stronger and lasted almost 13 hours on my perfume-consuming skin.

"Proserpina" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

“Proserpina” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Again, the olfactory differences between the two versions seem, for the most part, to be very minor and just one of degree. But those differences somehow make Mohur Extrait de Parfum a much more sophisticated, more grown-up and regal version of the perfume in my mind. More importantly, they have taken away some of the wistfulness that seemed so much a part of Mohur EDP. Unlike her sisters, Mohur has never been a perfume that evoked India, one of my favorite places on earth. In my review of the EDP, I consistently compared Mohur to one of the slightly melancholy, pale beauties of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings, or to an ancient princess of long-ago, mourning a lost love. She was Iseult of Tristan et Iseult, Guinevere, or one of the countless maidens of legend whose beauty was tinged with loss. 

"Boreas" by John William Waterhouse.

“Boreas” by John William Waterhouse.

Mohur Extrait de Parfum is different. The melancholic heart seems lessened; the spicy sandalwood, oud and woodsy foundation seems stronger; the milky opening notes much milder; and the roses significantly sweeter and more concentrated. The violets which underscored the Eau de Parfum and which evoked, in my mind, faint parallels to Guerlain‘s 1906 masterpiece, Après L’Ondée are still very much a presence in Mohur Extrait. They are definitely more concentrated at the very top of the Extrait, particularly in the first thirty minutes. Yet, the note doesn’t create quite the same sort of haunting, brooding, and bittersweet thread throughout the long-term development and life of Mohur Extrait as it did in Mohur EDP.

The problem in attempting to ascertain minor differences is that Mohur is a brilliantly blended perfume in both formulations. Its prismatic nature means that the minor differences I smell today may not be the same ones I smell tomorrow, if I even smell them at all. When perfumes throw off different notes like reflective rays off a crystal chandelier hit by sunlight, the facets are sometimes mutable. But I definitely sense a difference in degree that goes beyond mere richness and depth.

The best way that I can explain the differences in feel, to me, between the two perfumes is through photos. The woman in the new Mohur Extrait starts off as:

Sarah Jessica Parker in Vogue, March 2010. Dress: Dior Haute Couture. Photo: Mario Testino. Source: Vogue.com

Sarah Jessica Parker in Vogue, March 2010. Dress: Dior Haute Couture. Photo: Mario Testino. Source: Vogue.com

She then turns into:

Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2013. Source: FlipZone and Tweets.seraph.me

Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2013. Source: FlipZone and Tweets.seraph.me

She is no longer quite the restrained, reserved, quietly elegant, haunting sister, living in the shadows of her more forceful sisters. Mohur is now full diva, a glamourous star in her own right, luxuriating in her femininity and richness, dripping with opulence. The wistful princess has now become a powerful queen. She may well rule them all. 

[ED. Note: You can find a review for the new, upcoming Neela Vermeire perfume, Ashoka, which will come out at the same time as Mohur Extrait here.]

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Mohur Extrait de Parfum is extrait de parfum concentration. I have no idea as to pricing or size, particularly as this is the first pure parfum released by Neela Vermeire Créations.

Perfume Review – Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Créations: A Comforting Embrace

Mary Cassatt. "Sleepy Thomas Sucking His Thumb." (1893)

Mary Cassatt. “Sleepy Thomas Sucking His Thumb.” (1893)

A mother’s warm, comforting embrace, holding you close and protectively. A journey into a green wood of peppered vetiver. And a final resting place of creamy sandalwood infused by smoke, ambered resins, and gingerbread vanilla, caressing your skin like the softest of golden veils. 

That was my experience with Ashoka, the newest release from Neela Vermeire Créations (“NVC”) which will be released in early Fall of 2013. The perfume was shown at the Milan Esxence show this past March and someone thoughtfully sent me a small vial. The quantity wasn’t enough for my usual two tests, so I may update this review later in the Fall when I obtain a greater sample, especially if it is from a spray. But I certainly had enough for a very thorough test, and I really liked the perfume.

Ashoka is very different from Neela Vermeire‘s existing trio of Trayee, Mohur, and Bombay Bling. For one thing, it has three, very distinct phases. For another, parts of Ashoka represent Comfort for me. If Trayee could be categorized as “Sexy Seductiveness” that can sometimes feel like a wonderful force of nature, Mohur as “Sophisticated, Elegant Femininity,” and Bombay Bling as “Ebullient, Joyful Energy,” then Ashoka is, in large part, “Soothing Comfort.” There is a middle phase where that doesn’t really quite apply, but the perfume as a whole is an easy, wearable, very soothing, relaxing scent.

Emperor Ashoka.

Emperor Ashoka.

Ashoka is meant as a tribute to a legendary Indian emperor whose personal history very much matches the perfume’s development. Intentionally so, if I may add. The press release explains both points further:

Inspired by a legendary ruler, Neela Vermeire Création’s new release, Ashoka, is a tribute to an emperor who was conquered by his own compassion at the moment his victory was assured. He converted to Buddhism and devoted the rest of his life to spreading the Buddha’s teachings, to truth, to justice and to compassion for all living creatures beneath the sun.

His own evolution from ruthless conqueror to benevolent emperor is reflected in Ashoka’s journey from the fierce opening to a softly floral heart & the gentle embrace of its richly complex drydown.

Ashoka: Source: Fragrantica.

Ashoka: Source: Fragrantica.

Ashoka is an eau de parfum that was created in collaboration with Bertrand Duchaufour. According to an article on Fragrantica, the fragrance underwent numerous formulations to try to achieve a development that matched that of the Emperor himself. Over a year’s worth — until it finally matched Ms. Vermeire’s exacting standards, and the olfactory image she had in her mind of Ashoka’s character and life path. The perfume’s long list of notes includes:

fig leaves, leather, white and pink lotus, mimosa, fig milk, osmanthus, rose, water hyacinth, vetiver, styrax, incense, sandalwood, myrrh, tonka bean, and fir balsam.

I’d read a few things about how Ashoka’s pyramid of notes feels inverted, with the darker, heavier elements being first, starting with leather and green notes, followed by a descent into milkiness. My experience was different, and the usual pyramid scheme seemed solidly in place. In fact, from the very start when I sniffed the perfume vial, there was a lovely bouquet of sweet, milky figs, accompanied by green leaves and a dryly woody note like that of a stem. In essence, it replicated the whole fig on a vine — sweet, fresh, milky, green and woody. 

Unripe Figs via Giverecipe.com. (For recipe on Unripe Fig Jam, click on photo. Link embedded within.)

Unripe Figs via Giverecipe.com. (For recipe on Unripe Fig Jam, click on photo. Link embedded within.)

The perfume was a bit different on my skin as Ashoka opens primarily with lactonic notes. It’s fresh, sweet, and supported by what definitely feels like coconut underneath. Fig leaves are said to smell like coconut, and that is certainly the case here. Generally, I’m not a fan of coconut in perfumery because it’s almost invariably blob-like, heavy, gooey, thickly buttered, and verging on Hawaiian suntan oil. But not here where the aroma is much more like coconut milk: fresh, light, delicately sweet, never buttery, or unctuous. It’s a lovely note that helps bolster the fruit’s naturally light aroma and milky sap.

Wild Fig Tree via Wildernessarena.com.

Wild Fig Tree via Wildernessarena.com.

Accompanying the various milky elements is some bitter green, adding balance and ensuring that the perfume is not excessively sweet. The green notes feel like leaves that have the faint vestigial hint of the trees they came from, creating a canopy over the fig and coconut milk. Sweet floral notes lurk behind in the shadows, feeling almost watery in their delicacy. It must be from the lotus flowers which are said to have an aquatic, sweet aroma. I like the contrast of the slightly bitter green leaves with the milky fig and coconut, but I was a little surprised not to get any of the heavy leather that I had read about. Frankly, I think it works better this way.

Five minutes in, Ashoka is a swirling blend of creamy milkiness with dark greenness, and delicate, watery florals. Vetiver and a subtle hint of vanilla arrive on the scene, accompanied by what feels most definitely like a small dash of ISO E Super. The earthy vetiver with the velvety wood accord of the ISO E Super are subtle at this stage, mere backdrops for the milky notes. The latter starts to turn sweeter and more floral; and the bitter leaves begin to fade away.

Mary Cassatt's "Breakfast in Bed."

Mary Cassatt’s “Breakfast in Bed.”

Ashoka slowly turns into an incredibly soft, soothing bouquet of milky flowers that strongly evokes a mother’s embrace. It feels like a mother’s loving caress when you’re ill and feverish. It’s the sense of comfort that you feel when, as a child, you would nestle in your mother’s arms at bedtime. Ashoka, in this stage, really reminds me of hugging my own mother. Her arms, velvety soft from the milky cream that she slathers herself in at night; the warmth of her body bringing out the light smattering of sweet flowers left on her neck and chest from her morning spray of perfume; the comfort as she holds me close, nestled, protected, and safe. The peppered wood notes underlying Ashoka never really take away from that image because they are just beneath the surface at this point. What is up top is that incredibly maternal, nurturing, comforting combination.

Mary Cassatt. "Mother Playing With Child."

Mary Cassatt. “Mother Playing With Child.”

At the end of the first hour, Ashoka starts to slowly shift, and the second phase in the perfume’s development begins. The wood and ISO E Super rise in prominence, overtaking the lactonic elements which slowly recede to the background. Now, Ashoka is primarily heavily peppered vetiver with ISO E Super on a quiet base of coconut-fig milk. It’s as if your mother — or, in this case, Father Ashoka — has taken you to play outside amidst the grassy vetiver at the outskirts of some peppered woods.

The ISO E Super is not overwhelming and never has the feel of rubbing alcohol underneath it, as it sometimes does. Unfortunately, after an experience last month, I think I have almost a Pavlovian response to the note, and I react even if the bell is the smallest one around. The faintest ring — or, in this case, the lightest note — will send my senses tingling. I simply don’t like it. Yes, I realise that prior experience has scarred me for life, but that is solely my own, personal, slightly neurotic issue. Thankfully for the rest of you, most people seem to be completely anosmic to ISO E Super which has been found, in some cases, to act almost like an aphrodisiac pheromone. So the majority of you should have no worries, and only those few people with acute sensitivities to ISO E Super may want to take heed.

At the start of the third hour, my favorite part of all NVC perfumes begins: the sandalwood. As always, it is that opulently creamy, richly spiced note that feels like real Mysore sandalwood and which is the hallmark of all the fragrances thus far. The wood is so rare, it might as well be priceless, so heavens only knows how astronomical the cost to have it as the base here. But it’s lovely, especially as the milky coconut-fig accord melds in seamlessly to add extra creaminess. The spicy sandalwood is accompanied by quiet hints of incense smoke, vanilla tonka and amber, but they are subtle at this stage, just flickers in the campfire glow of that wood. I smell a few vague, almost abstract, light florals too; something that seems like the suggestion of rose, accompanied by mimosa, but it’s not strong on my skin. The peppered vetiver is still present, but it has softened somewhat, letting the other players share some time on the stage. I should add that the combination of these notes makes Ashoka a definite Oriental in my mind, regardless of Fragrantica’s classification of it as a “woody aromatic.”

The rich purr of the sandalwood and the peppered woodsy notes with amber continue their dance for a few hours. There are occasional flickers of osmanthus, smelling like light apricots and black tea, but it’s extremely subtle. There is also a fleeting impression of powdered vanilla that darts about here or there, but it might as well be a ghost at this stage. I never smell the leather. I suspect that, if I had enough perfume for the equivalent of two big sprays, it may be a very different story. I’ve noticed in the past that it’s much easier to detect the subtle nuances in NVC perfumes if one uses both a spray and a fair portion. The fragrances are simply too well-blended to allow the small, microscopic elements to be detected with a small dose, since everything blends so seamlessly into each other. Still, I’m surprised to get no leather at all, especially as that it’s a heavier molecule and one which is supposed to be quite prominent in the perfume. The leather is intentionally meant to reflect Emperor Ashoka’s early life as a cruel, ruthless, military conqueror, so either my skin is wonky or I need a good few sprays.

Marc Chagall. "La Branche." (1976)

Marc Chagall. “La Branche.” (1976)

By the start of the sixth hour, Ashoka smells of a cozy gingerbread accord with vanilla — all sitting atop quiet, velvety, softly polished woods. The perfume has the same sort of subtly spiced, vanilla-infused, ambery resin base that some of the Chanel Orientals have (like Bois des Iles, for example), but the lingering traces of ISO E Super turns Ashoka’s base into something much woodier and, to my nose, peppery. By the very end, almost 10.5 hours later, the final notes are of creamy vanillic amber. I suspect that length of time would be significantly increased if I had a greater amount to apply, as NVC fragrances usually last between 12-14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin.

As a whole, Ashoka is a very airy fragrance that is moderately strong at the start, while being lightweight in feel. Its projection is moderate to low. The latter may stem from the reduced quantity that I used but, in general, I think Ashoka is fully intended to be a softer, lighter perfume than something like Trayee or Bombay Bling. It is in line with the whole goal of replicating Emperor Ashoka’s transformation into an advocate of Buddhism, peace, and serenity. The perfume’s comforting, soothing, maternal (sorry, this perfume simply doesn’t fit my mental associations and image of a paternal scent) opening was strong but gentle, never forceful or overpowering, and its final drydown is even softer.

I think all that makes Ashoka an easier fragrance in some ways as compared to its more intense siblings. It’s not that Trayee, Mohur or Bombay Bling are not versatile. They are, especially Mohur. But none of them is so gentle, soft, and casual. As I noted at the top of this review, Ashoka fills a gap in the NVC line, one that I never realised until now: cozy comfort. Bombay Bling may comfort a lot of people, but it does so through its energizing, ebullient nature. It’s not restful, the way that Ashoka is for much of its development. (I’m leaving out the middle part’s trip to the vetiver forest in my assessment, since I personally don’t equate vetiver with soothing embraces.)

I really enjoyed Ashoka. I absolutely adored the milkiness of the opening stage, and really liked the final drydown. My personal issues with ISO E Super made me struggle with the middle part, but that’s my own peculiarity. Most people I know can’t even detect it! So, don’t let it stop you. I think Ashoka’s creamy gentleness and soft embrace will make it a big, big hit.

[ED. Note: You can find a review for the new, upcoming Neela Vermeire “Mohur Esprit” which will come out at the same time as Ashoka here.] 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ashoka is an eau de parfum and will be released in the Fall of 2013. I will update this section at that time to include links to websites where you can obtain it. I have no idea as to pricing, but I’m sure it will be in the general vicinity of NVC’s other perfumes which cost $250 or $260 (depending on which one) for a 50 ml bottle. Samples are generally available from the NVC website or Luckyscent, but I will update that part, too, when they become available in the Fall