New Perfume Releases: Neela Vermeire Créations

Neela Vermeire Créations, Paris has some surprises in store for us. First, a brand new perfume that made its debut at the Milan Esxence show last week and which will be officially released in early Autumn 2013.

The perfume is called Ashoka, in tribute to a legendary Indian emperor. The press release states:

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.

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

Ashokacard7

According to Wikipedia, Emperor Ashoka played a critical role in making Buddhism a world religion. In Sanskrit, his name, “aśoka,” means “without sorrow.” His importance was such that even H.G. Wells wrote about him in A Short History of the World:

In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves “Their Highnesses,” “Their Majesties,” “Their Exalted Majesties,” and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day.

In addition to the new perfume, Neela Vermeire is also offering the fantastic Mohur from her existing India series in a new, higher concentration form. The original Mohur — which I loved and which I reviewed here — is an eau de parfum. Now, Neela Vermeire Créations will also offer Mohur in extrait de parfum concentration. It will come “in the original flacon in amethyst glass with a special panache spray.”

NVC_Bottle_images_at_Esxence,_Milan_2013

Lastly, it seems that all the current perfumes will be offered in a new bottle design. The press release states: “we now have a beautiful new mist spray (panache spray) bottle designed by the design legend Pierre Dinand. The new silver metal cap has the NVC logo on it. There are twenty four ridges on each side like the spokes on the wheel on the logo.”

Perfume Review – Mohur by Neela Vermeire Créations: A Princess’ Wistful Rose

The princess stared out into the garden from her cold marble bench. The sun was setting, turning the sky into an artist’s canvas of pinks, yellows, and fiery oranges before the oncoming wave of violet and blue. In the horizon, the silver birch trees trembled in the night wind. Delicate and frail, their thin bodies added a touch of somber beauty to the tableau of colours filling the sky behind them.

Source: my own photograph, taken in Sweden, near the Arctic Circle.

Source: my own photograph. Location: Sweden, near the Arctic Circle.

The Northern light rendered everything crisp and silvered, casting the tall rose bushes surrounding the princess into stark relief. Every pink petal — and every red one, too — seemed brighter, more concentrated and filled with the force of life. Their intensity was a sharp contrast to the princess’ pallor. As she welcomed the coming night, her large, dark eyes were filled with longing and wistfulness, as she remembered her lost love. How many times had they sat in this very spot, watching the sky turned violet and blue?

Source: my own photograph, taken in Sweden, near the Arctic Circle.

Source: my own photograph. Location: Sweden, near the Arctic Circle.

As the sun bid its final adieu, the princess took out a violin and played in the violet, blue light. A single tear streamed down her milky, almond skin to drop on the irises at her feet. The tall rose bushes around her quivered, as if trembling with the force of her longing; the peppered trees swayed over the water, sending out her call to distant shores; and her sandalwood satin dress glowed amber in the night like a beacon.

Fjallnas Sweden

Source: My own photograph.

Princesses of old, legends tinged with beauty and loss, the coming of violet night, and wistful remembrances of times past…. that’s what I feel when I wear Mohur by the French perfume house, Neela Vermeire Creations, Paris (“NVS“). So many times in the past — often in reference to a Guerlain classic — I’ve heard talk of wistfulness in a scent, but I’ve never truly felt it until now. Mohur is a stunningly haunting perfume whose very quietness lends strength to scenes of longing and melancholy. Filled with restrained elegance and classic notes of violets, irises and roses, it never takes me to India but, rather, to the silvery light of northern Scandinavia. It is a fragrance for Isolde in Tristan and Isolde, for Guinevere, for the countless maidens of legend whose beauty was tinged with loss.

Mohur.

Mohur.

Mohur is technically not supposed to evoke any of that. It is a tribute to 500 years of India’s history from Moghul era of the Taj Mahal to the end of the British Raj period in 1918. It is particularly inspired by India’s most powerful Empress. As the Neela Vermeire website explains:

Known as Mehrunissa, the most powerful Empress of the Mughal dynasty, Noor Jahan was the favorite wife of Emperor Jehangir. She was the true power behind the throne while her husband lived, so much so that after his death her male relatives had her sequestered (in comfort!) for the rest of her life. In her confinement, she devoted herself to the art of perfumery as it had been passed down from her mother.

Mohur is a rose-based fragrance, a combination of opulent moghul rose perfumes and a distinguished spicy leather bouquet that can only be imagined during a high tea after a polo match. To capture this moment, Mohur has been created as a refined rose-oudh alliance that pays tribute to Noor Jahan’s power and talent.

As for the name of the perfume, Neela Vermeire Creations explains that “the word ‘mohur’ derives from Sanskrit and refers to the most valuable gold coin in India’s history, the last of which were minted in 1918.”

Mohur is the second in a trio of scents, all of which were made in collaboration with the legendary perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour, and all of which were released in 2011 to great acclaim. Mohur’s stunning sibling, the award-nominated Trayee, is perhaps one of my favorite perfumes that I’ve smelled in years and years. And Bombay Bling is pure joy in a bottle — so incandescent, bubbling, bouncy, happy and ebullient that people repeatedly call it their “happy” scent or the perfume equivalent of an anti-depressant.

I actually hadn’t expected to like Mohur as much as I did. It’s considered to be the quiet sister to the other two, each of which were said to have more immediate impact — and I’m generally not one for the quiet, subdued, and restrained. Trayee is the mysterious, seductive older sister; Bombay Bling, the happy, innocent, playful, joyous baby sister. Mohur is the quiet, reserved, elegant one. To my surprise, however, it was immediate love upon first sniff. I never thought it could equal Trayee in my estimation, but it does. Oh, but it does!

Mohur has an enormously long list of notes. Unlike many perfumes nowadays with their six or, maybe, ten ingredients, Mohur has twenty-three! The fragrance has:

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.

In the opening seconds, Mohur begins with single note of great purity: roses. The most absolute, concentrated note and it quivers in the air, like the very first stroke of a bow on a violin. It’s as tens of thousands of rose petals — pink and ruby-red — have been distilled into a single drop. The purity and strength of that note is beautiful, but it’s never cloying or sickly sweet.

Immediately thereafter, other notes trip and dance on its footsteps: woody notes that seem soft and like the white woods of the description; spices; amber; almonds; and a base of creamy sandalwood. There is the merest hint of cardamom and, perhaps, some saffron too. The latter is never red, rich or reminiscent of Indian desserts. Rather, it just adds some underlying sweetness and depth to the fragrance. 

There is also something which truly surprised me. My notes read, “Oh my God, I actually do smell carrots!” Here, the carrot note is exactly like that in a really creamy, sweet, spiced carrot soup, the sort you’d mix with butternut squash or pumpkin to create a velvety sweetness and richness. And, somehow, it works magnificently with the roses — probably due to that amazingly creamy sandalwood which is such a significant note in all of Neela Vermeire’s creations.

VioletsAs time passes, the violet and almond notes become more distinctive, contrasting with the black pepper and the subtle hint of creamy vanilla. The violet notes…. words can’t describe its beauty or its melancholy. Yet, two hours in, the violets and almonds recede a little to make greater way for the peppery elemi woods which — in combination with the actual black pepper — turn the rose into something spicy and fiery. At the same time, the patchouli works in the background to make the rose very jammy and plummy as well. One can’t smell any actual patchouli, but its effect on the rose is distinctive. Parts of my arm smell like pure, sweet pink roses, while other parts smell like fruited, purple, jammy roses.

Roses may be the motor, but violets (and their accompanying purple sibling, irises) are the petrol which truly drive Mohur forward. They are the exquisite center of the fragrance, adding a classique and very European backbone to the spicy rose. It is these purple notes which add that longing and wistfulness to the scent, emotions which are so hard to explain in the context of perfume. When people talk about Guerlain‘s L’Heure Bleue‘s blue hour or the inherent sadness of certain perfumes, I’ve always been left a little at a loss. I’ve never found L’Heure Bleue to evoke melancholy, or any other perfume for that matter. Until now. 

"Proserpina" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

“Proserpina” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Mohur definitely seems to be a call back to the most classique of French perfumery and, for a thirty minutes, I struggled with what it was. Finally, it hit me: Guerlain‘s 1906 masterpiece, Après L’Ondée. Like Mohur, it too is a fragrance whose notes are filled with violets, irises, almonds, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, oriental resins and, yes, some roses, too. Bois de Jasmin has a lovely, emotional review of Après L’Ondée’s “radiant and exquisitely graceful composition… [with its] suggestion of a brooding darkness hiding in its opulent layers,” and its “bittersweet beauty” with its “wispy and ethereal” velvety iris heart.

I feel as though all those words are the perfect description for Mohur. That said, there are substantial differences in the two scents. Mohur is predominantly a rose fragrance which is significantly woodier, as well as spicier. And, unlike many Guerlain perfumes, the powder note is subtle on my skin. But, despite those differences, there is a definite connection between the two fragrances in my mind. If Après L’Ondèe had an affair with a very tall, dark, woodsy, peppery Orientalist, their love child would definitely be Mohur. And she would be as blue as the blue hour of L’Heure Bleue, mourning a lost love like those fragile beauties who so stole my heart in Pre-Raphaelite art. In truth, Mohur’s representative woman probably would be one of Gabriel Dante Rossetti’s feminine, graceful beauties with their long necks, large eyes, quivering lips and haunted gaze.

"La Ghirlandata" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the leader of the Pre-Raphaelites.

“La Ghirlandata” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the leader of the Pre-Raphaelites.

As Mohur develops, it shifts away from the blue wistfulness of the violets and the dark, brooding heart of elemi and black pepper. Now, it turns softer, creamier, sweeter. The sandalwood is out in full force: creamy, heady, and as lush as custard. At the same time, the amber and benzoin resin turn things soft and hazy; the milky almonds return; and the vanilla becomes much more noticeable. There is also the merest suggestion of oud. It’s sheer, light, far from pungent, and never (thankfully) medicinal or antiseptic. For some on Fragrantica, however, the oud was a significant part of the perfume’s later hours; and a few smelled leather. I did not.

It’s an odd experience but, on both occasions, when I tested Mohur, different parts of my skin would reflect different scents — all at the same time. It’s not only the constantly shifting nature of the rose note — sometimes pure, sometimes peppery, sometimes spicy, sometimes jammy or fruited — but the perfume as a whole. It’s so incredibly well-blended that I suspect it will throw off different prisms at different times, like a light-reflecting crystal. All of Neela Vermeire’s creations are like that; they reflect different facets each time you wear them.

Despite Mohur’s prismatic nature, the final hours were — for the most part — the same during both tests. There was endless creamy sandalwood, vanilla, tonka bean, and dollops of jammy rose that would pop up, then flit away. Sometimes, there seemed to be more vanilla; at other times, there would be more almond. Sometimes, it was slightly more amber than sandalwood; at other times, the reverse.

All in all, Mohur lasted a little over 9.5 hours on me. For my perfume-consuming skin, that’s very good, though I have to note that it was much less than Trayee which lasted around 13 hours. (And, almost 14.5 on a recent day). But, then again, Mohur is a much softer fragrance. As noted on Fragrantica, its sillage is good-to-moderate for the first hour. If you apply two good sprays, the scent noticeable from a few feet away; if you put on a few dabs, the projection will obviously be significantly less. At no time, however, is Mohur ever bullying or bludgeoning in its presence; it’s not going to keel over your office mate. After that first hour, Mohur becomes much softer and hovers about five inches over your skin. It becomes fully close to the skin after about 4.5 hours, but it remains like a lovely silken caress for much longer.

I think Mohur is an extremely versatile fragrance. Its moderate sillage also makes it very suitable for the office, especially if you don’t apply it heavily. However, I must be frank, I don’t think the majority of men would be able to wear Mohur. Despite its woody underpinnings and the occasionally biting black pepper, the sheer quantities of roses — with one accord being at 11% concentration — makes this a very feminine fragrance.

"Boreas" by John William Waterhouse.

“Boreas” by John William Waterhouse.

It also has such a retro, classique, restrained elegance that I wonder if very young women might think it too mature a scent for them. Or, perhaps, one just has to have experienced a lot of life and heartache to respond to Mohur’s wistful, longing calls. To be frank, it actually bowled me over. And I found that to be an enormous surprise. Traditionally, I am not a huge fan of rose scents, and I certainly am not one who usually falls for restrained florals. Yet, Mohur stole my heart from the very first sniff. I find its blue-violet melancholy to be absolutely exquisite — and exquisitely haunting.

I fear that, like many middle sisters, Mohur will get lost in the much more exuberant or forceful company of its sisters. Those who expect the immediate POW that they get from Bombay Bling or the WOW glam of the FiFi-award nominated Trayee will undoubtedly be disappointed upon the first sniff of Mohur. I think Mohur is like one of those quietly elegant women whom you never notice amidst all the exuberant, fun, laughing girls, or the smoldering seductresses. But, if you gaze upon her face long enough, you suddenly wonder: how did I ever missed her beauty?

When you apply Mohur for the very first time, I think you need to close your eyes, imagine Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and see that princess on her marble bench surrounded by roses amidst the incoming wave of violet night, as she thinks wistfully of the past and of her one true love. I think, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be haunted by her quiet beauty, too.

[UPDATE: Mohur will be released in a pure parfum concentration in Fall 2013. It will be called Mohur Extrait de Parfum, and it’s magnificent. You can read my early review for it here.]

DETAILS:

Full bottle, boxed, of Bombay Bling.

Full bottle, boxed, of Bombay Bling.

Cost & Availability: In the U.S., Mohur is an eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Luckyscent where it costs $250 for a 55 ml bottle. Samples are also offered at $7 for a 0.7 ml vial. (And the site ships world-wide.) Samples are also available from The Perfumed Court where they start at $7.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. A much better offer than both of those comes from Neela Vermeire Creations itself which offers Mohur as part of two different sets: A Taste of India set and the Discovery Set. Both sets are exclusive to the Neela Vermeire website and both include the award-nominated Trayee and the fan-favorite, Bombay Bling, Neela Vermeire’s fruity-floral perfume.The Taste of India set costs: €21 (or about $27) for three, much larger, 2 ml vials; the Discovery Set is $117 or €85/90 (depending on your location) for three, large 10 ml decants. Shipping is included in the price. In Europe, Mohur costs €200 for the 55 ml bottle and is available at Jovoy Paris, along with the Swiss Osswald Parfumerie. You can find a few additional retailers from the Netherlands to Moscow which carry Trayee on the store’s Points of Sale page. 

Perfume Review – Bombay Bling by Neela Vermeire Créations: Dance, Dance, Dance!

Source: National Geographic

Source: National Geographic

India stole my heart. I’ve said it before, and I will no doubt say it again, but it really did. While the ancient temples and palaces left me in awe, while the stunning beauty of Matheran left me speechless, it was really Bombay (as it was known then) which did it. For someone like myself with a nomadic upbringing and who stopped counting all the places she lived in before she was even twenty-one, Bombay somehow felt like home. It was the perfect mix of East and West, a city of contrasts with such incredibly high energy and with such a gusto for life that it left one feeling just a little more alive.

Marine Drive, aka The Queen's Necklace. Source: Floyd-n-Milan Deviant Art

Marine Drive, aka The Queen’s Necklace. Source: Floyd-n-Milan Deviant Art

Source: UncorneredMarket.com

Source: UncorneredMarket.com

Among my many memories of Bombay was one day which began with lunch at the Queen’s Necklace, a sweeping, gleaming curve of beautiful white buildings by the sparkling, electric-blue sea, and which ended at the wee hours of the morning the next day, staggering out from an exclusive nightclub to see lines of mango sellers with their stalls before us. There were cars and people everywhere, the street lights glittered, and the sheer volume of noise outside quite rivaled anything inside. Mumbai at night is as much an electric jolt of energy as Mumbai by day — perhaps more so.

Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai. Photo: Ravindra Zende. Source: Kemmanu.com

Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai. Photo: Ravindra Zende. Source: Kemmanu.com

From Moscow and Shanghai to New York or Paris, I’ve never quite seen or felt anything to rival the brightness, bustle and expresso-in-the-arm energy of Mumbai. Nor have I ever encountered a perfume that encapsulates the sights, the sounds, the colours, and the very feel of a city. Not until Bombay Bling, a ravishing, euphoric explosion that really has to be tried to be believed. I fear that I simply won’t be able to do it justice, this wildly energetic creation that — unbelievably — has managed to bottle a whole city’s bursting zest for life.

Bombay Bling is one of a trio of Indian-inspired scents from the Indie perfume house, Neela Vermeire Créations, Parfums Paris (“NVC”), and it was justifiably chosen by the prestigious perfume website, CaFleureBon, as one of their top 25 fragrances for 2011. Launched in late 2011, it is the result of collaboration between Ms. Vermeire and the famous perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour. Each of the three fragrances that they created is meant to pay homage to a different part of India’s history, with Bombay Bling (the third and last in the line) representing modern India and, in specific, the glorious vitality of Mumbai.

As the company’s website explains:

This joyful creation embodies every aspect of the very modern, colourful, eclectic, esoteric, ecstatic, liberal, happy side of buzzing India, a world economic power, where nothing is to be taken for granted, where the underbelly of the big city combines with the glitter of Bollywood on the vast sandy stretches of Juhu Beach and the Queen’s Necklace. Fortunes are made and lost on the Bombay stock exchange and gambling dens of Mumbai. Abandon yourself to the nightlife as dawn breaks over the city. There is nothing like it and there will be nothing like it. Welcome to a vibrant new India!

I can’t recall the last time I read a press release or perfume backstory and thought to myself, “I’ve actually experienced part of that tale!” And I have with Bombay Bling. (Well, minus “the fortunes made and lost” bit, unless you count the small fortune I lost shopping and at the races.) But I can tell you that Bombay Bling delivers on its promise because it truly took me back to the city, collapsing space, time and geography in a remarkable way.

The perfume manages this feat, in part, due to its long list of notes. Unlike many perfumes nowadays with their six or, maybe, eight ingredients, Bombay Bling has seventeen! The fruity-floral oriental has:

Mango, lychee, blackcurrant, cardamom, cumin, cistus, Turkish rose, jasmine sambac, Madagascar ylang-ylang, tuberose, plumeria [frangipani], gardenia, patchouli, tobacco, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla.

Bombay Bling opens with a veritable BOOM of mango! It’s an explosion of the mumbai-mango fiascogelato dot cazestiest, sweetest, juiciest mango you’ve ever tried — short of cutting in twenty fresh ones and reducing them down to their most concentrated levels. It’s unbelievably fresh and bright. Even though Ms. Vermeire has used green mangoes — not yellow ones — yellow, red and orange are the colours that practically shine before your eyes. 

Black currants or cassis. Source: NWWildfoods.com

Black currants or cassis. Source: NWWildfoods.com

Seconds later, other notes follow. There is tart black currant (or, as I call it, “cassis”), carrying a hefty punch of zesty tanginess, and sweet, light lychee. There are also light hints of jasmine and rose, too, but the accompanying floral notes are primarily dominated by sweet plumeria. It’s soft, fruity, almost peachy, and has a subtle creaminess.

Thirty minutes in, the fruity-floral notes take on another hue with the arrival of sandalwood. It adds a slighty smoky creaminess and an element of woodiness to the mix. There is also a growing whisper of tobacco. It’s not sweet or fruited like pipe tobacco, nor is it anything close to cigars, but rather, like tobacco leaves being cured in the sun: honeyed, dry, and a little woody, as well as a little nutty. Or perhaps that last note comes from the cardamom — it’s sometimes hard to tell with a perfume that’s as superbly well-blended as this. Either way, the tobacco note adds a lovely depth and contrast to the perfume’s sweetness. It’s never masculine, heavy, or coarse but then, nothing in this lovely perfume is.

Source: Riflebirds.com

Source: Riflebirds.com

For some reason, my nose also detects something that really smells like bright, zesty lemon, along with a hefty dose of fresh ginger. To my surprise, there is also something that smells distinctly like anise or black licorice. None of these ingredient are in the perfume, but that’s what it smells like.

Plumeria or frangipani.

Plumeria or frangipani.

What I don’t really smell in the perfume is any one particular flower. Though there tuberose, rose, gardenia and ylang-ylang, they’ve all been blended into a single, very feminine, sweet floral accord. This isn’t a perfume where you can smell, for example, tuberose in any dominant way; by the same token, neither the ylang-ylang nor the rose trump all the others. Perhaps the plumeria does most of all but, as a whole, no single flower really stands out — and that’s a very good thing. Tuberose, gardenia and ylang-ylang can be very indolic, heavy, even bullying notes. In less capable hands, they can lead to headaches and a sense of over-ripeness that verges on rotting fruit, sourness or plasticity. None of that ever happens here.

All these new additions add further complexity to the perfume and take it far beyond the confines of a mere “fruity” scent. The sudden spiciness, subtle dryness, and smokiness are a noted contrast to zesty mango and the tart cassis fruits, as well as to the sweetness of the slightly tropical florals. Each note adds up to much more than individual parts, creating a balanced, harmonious whole that is never boring, singular, or generic.

The combination of these contrasting elements means one thing: Bombay Bling simply doesn’t smell like any fruity-florals I’ve encountered. And it is a testament to the very sure, very expert hand of the legendary Bertrand Duchaufour that all these eclectic, rich notes melt so perfectly together without any discord or abruptness.

Shopping at Colaba Causeway, Mumbai. Source: MyGola.com

Shopping at Colaba Causeway, Mumbai. Source: MyGola.com

By the second hour, there are still further newcomers on the scene. This time, it’s pine needles! The cedar tree has a distinct role here, adding some chilled freshness and coolness to the mix. It brings to mind a pine forest where the floor is covered with sweet florals but there are tangy black currant berries in bushes nestled near the giant roots of the tree. It’s unexpected — like much of this perfume — and it’s the one time that Bombay Bling didn’t truly evoke Mumbai for me. Then again, eclecticism and sharp contrasts is perhaps the ultimate embodiment of that city of paradoxes.

Four hours in, Bombay Bling is a fascinating mix of tart cassis, cool cedar pines, creamy sandalwood, and some slightly musky jasmine, with just a faint dash of earthy, dry cumin. The earthiness and spiced dustiness underlying the sweetness really brought me back to the dusty, spicy, sweet aromas of Bombay’s bustling street bazaars. But the really entrancing part is the sandalwood. It’s copious and positively swoon-worthy.

As Ms. Vermeire showed in the astoundingly beautiful Trayee, she prefers to use real Mysore sandalwood. That is a very rare thing in perfumery today given its prohibitive cost and the Indian government’s protection of this over-sourced prized wood. The expert perfume critic, Luca Turin, has often bemoaned the use of a synthetic replacement in “sandalwood” perfumes or the reliance on the very different Australian sandalwood, and he’s right. Real sandalwood is usually too expensive for most perfumers, especially if used in any significant quantity.

Here, as in Trayee, there is a significant amount of absolutely genuine, lovely sandalwood. And it dominates the final hours of Bombay Bling’s development. At the ninth hour, the perfume is sandalwood and cedar with tart black currant and hints of some musky jasmine. By the thirteenth hour, it’s just sweet, soft vanilla and creamy sandalwood. Yes, I said the thirteenth hour. Bombay Bling’s pure essences and rich ingredients makes this one very long-lasting perfume! Even on my voracious skin where very little lasts for a significant amount of time, Bombay Bling had incredible longevity. I smelled faint traces of it here or there well past thirteen hours, truth be told.

It is remarkable and supports everything Ms. Vermeire has said regarding her goal of using only the finest raw materials and expensive essences in her perfume. For example, her amazing Trayee was made without regard to cost:

I did not give a budget cap so Bertrand Duchoufour never had a budget – Trayee is one of the most expensive perfumes he has created. We made sure there are lots of high quality natural ingredients…. Most niche companies want to spend 150 euros or so max per kg of essence. We went more than 7 times that so the essences are expensive (and hopefully exceptional).

The same “to hell with the cost, we’ll only use the very best” approach shows with Bombay Bling, too. Neela Vermeire Creations is a tiny company that clearly has put the bulk of their resources in their production costs. The perfumes are not cheap, but they don’t work with giant distributors to add further mark-ups to their expenses. There is no corporate slickness behind any of this. When you order from the company, you will receive a handwritten note from Ms. Vermeire herself.

The goal is one thing and one thing only: to make truly rich, luxurious-smelling perfumes that are the very best they can possibly be. And Neela Vermeire Creations has succeeded in that goal with one perfume, Trayee, receiving a Fifi award nomination (the perfume world’s equivalent of an Oscar nomination) and the other, Bombay Bling, being critically-acclaimed as one of the best perfumes of its year.

Bombay Bling deserves that accolade without question. What you have is an unbelievably vibrant, bouncy, joyous scent. Like the Bollywood movies that it is a partial nod to, Bombay Bling screams out high-octane energy and begs you to “be happy!” and “go dance!”

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that when the perfume blog, Olfactoria’s Travels, recently asked “What is the most uplifting perfume you know?,” the repeated answer was “Bombay Bling!”  Read the answers; the references to Bombay Bling are so numerous, that Birgit at one point said it should be considered as “prescription medicine.” It’s not just the readers of Olfactoria’s Travels, either. On numerous different sites or perfume groups, people repeatedly turn to Bombay Bling when they’re blue, when the weather is grey and chilly, or when they’re in need of an energetic pick-me-up.

On Fragrantica, there is almost a uniformly gushing assessment of the perfume. One commentator raves that it is like ” like the spirit of Mardi Gras or Carnival captured in a bottle,” while another writes “[h]appiness and sunshine in a bottle, this makes me see the perfume in rainbow of colours. Full bottle worthy???? Every last penny of it to me.” Clearly, Bombay Bling’s happy, incredibly exuberant heart seems to make it people’s “secret happiness weapon.”

Bombay Bling is not cheap. It costs $260 for a 1.8 oz/55 ml bottle. In perfumery, as in many other things in life, cost is no guarantee of either quality or a positive experience. But, in this case, I think you are actually getting what you pay for. There are many similarly priced perfumes out in the luxury market (albeit, usually for a slightly larger sized bottle) but the luxuriousness of Bombay Bling’s ingredients make it truly stand out. To me, it is the equal of perfumes from Ormonde Jayne and the uber-luxury perfume house, Amouage, and far surpasses many fragrances from better-known, luxury perfume houses. Thankfully, however, Ms. Vermeire offers a Discovery Set (see below, in the Details section) which lets you try 10 mls of all three of her perfumes for a very reasonable price. 

I highly recommend Bombay Bling. The complex notes mean that you don’t have to be just a fan of fruity-florals to like this scent. Nor do you have to be a woman. There are a number of men who adore and wear Bombay Bling. On Luckyscent, the perfume is categorized as “unisex,” and I think it is.

The sillage is not overwhelming, either, so it is definitely something that can be worn to the office. In fact, I was surprised by how moderate the projection was for a perfume with notes as rich and as heady as these. After the first thirty minutes, I’d say the perfume could be detected only from a distance of about two feet away. It’s a strong perfume, and you can smell it on yourself, but it’s softer than Trayee. And it’s definitely no Fracas that’s going to immediately overwhelm someone across the room. Thereafter, the projection became much less and you’d have to be close to someone to detect it. I also noted that Bombay Bling is even more moderate when you only dab on a little, as opposed to applying a few sprays. It’s office-friendly, but it’s also something that is extremely versatile. I could see this being used as an antidepressant in a bottle, to go on a date, or just to have dinner with friends.

In short, it’s sexy, it’s happy, and it wants you to dance, dance, dance! I suggest you take it up on its offer.

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of Neela Vermeire Creations. However, that did not impact this review in any way.

 

DETAILS:

Full bottle, boxed, of Bombay Bling.

Full bottle, boxed, of Bombay Bling.

Cost & Availability: In the U.S., Bombay Bling is available exclusively at Luckyscent where it costs $260 for a 50 ml bottle. Samples are also offered at $7 for a 0.7 ml vial. (And the site ships world-wide.) A much better offer comes from Neela Vermeire Creations itself which offers Bombay Bling as part of a Discovery Set that includes the award-nominated Trayee and Mohur, Neela Vermeire’s rose perfume.The set is available exclusively on the company’s website. It costs: €21 (or about $27) for three, much larger, 2 ml vials; or $117 or €85/90 (depending on your location) for three large 10 ml decants. Shipping is included in the price. In Europe, Trayee costs €200 for the 55 ml bottle and is available at Jovoy Paris, the Swiss Osswald Parfumerie and Munich’s Sündhaft. You can find a few additional retailers from the Netherlands to Moscow which carry Trayee on the store’s Points of Sale page. 

Perfume Review – Trayee by Neela Vermeire Créations: A Vibrant Kaleidoscope

In Rig Veda Psych4u  blogspot http://psych4u.blogspot.com/2010/05/in-rig-veda.html

I lost my heart to India many years ago. At the end of 1990, I spent about a month touring that magnificent country with some dear friends. India captivated my mind, overwhelmed my senses, and held me hostage. She brought me feelings of serenity, joy, amazement, and peace — a sense of having come “home” which was quite strange for someone utterly new to the country and who had lived the life of a wandering nomad. India was, quite simply, the most intoxicating, fascinating place I’d ever seen in my long list of travels. I fell in love and have never stopped. Among the many places in that gloriously dazzling country that stand out in my mind is Matheran. It is a hill station on the Western Ghat mountain range and a few hours outside of Mumbai. Every part of Matheran — and my trip up it — is etched indelibly in my mind. After a long drive, we arrived at the base of a giant mountain.

Source: BrooklynMeetsBombay Blog

Matheran. Source: BrooklynMeetsBombay Blog

Source: TouristLink.com

Source: TouristLink.com

Before us lay a vast, curling, climbing road covered in bright, terracotta-red dust. An endless phalanx of dark, leafy trees on either side provided shade and a green canopy above our heads through which peeked a bright blue sky. The trees were gnarled and twisted, their enormous, beige roots visible and clawing at what little remained of the dusty earth surrounding them, a victim of the battering monsoons. Everywhere, small taupe monkeys scampered around, chattering and talking a mile a minute as they ran ahead of us or leaped up on the trees.

Source: Trip Advisor

Source: Trip Advisor

Source: VirtualTourist.Com

Source: VirtualTourist.Com

You can’t drive up Matheran as it is one of the few places in the world where cars are completely forbidden, so you take donkeys or horses. Gingerly, you place yourself on their bony bodies as you slowly ride that long, winding, red trail up, up and up.

Matheran. Photo: Reza Ahmed Flickr

Matheran. Photo: Reza Ahmed Flickr

Eventually, you get to the very top to behold a canyon that seems as vast as America’s Grand Canyon — only this one is a sea of green trees and golden earth that stretches out as far as the eye can see. My friend had a large summer place at the very top, overlooking the canyon, and the sight at dawn and dusk rendered me utterly speechless. Words simply cannot convey any of it. Not even for one as verbose as myself.

Matheran. Photographer: Peter Akkermans. Site: http://www.fotoakkermans.nl/

Matheran. Used with permission from the talented photographer: Peter Akkermans. Site: http://www.fotoakkermans.nl/

Matheran is what flashed before my eyes when I first smelled Trayee (pronounced as “Try-ee’), a brilliant, complex, rich perfume from the Parisienne Indie line, Neela Vermeire Créations, Parfums Paris (“NVC”). The niche perfume house was founded in 2011 by Neela Vermeire, a lawyer born in India and educated in the UK who now lives in Paris and is a self-taught nose of enormous talent. She collaborated with the famous perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour, to launched three perfumes paying homage to different phases in India’s history and each has garnered enormous praise. (They sent perfumistas chattering like those monkeys on Matheran!) One of them, Bombay Bling, was chosen by the prestigious perfume website, CaFleureBon, as one of their top 25 fragrances for 2011. The greatest recognition, however, came for Trayee with what would be the equivalent of a perfume Oscar when the Fragrance Foundation recognized its creative excellence and nominated it for a Fifi award in the Indie category. Trayee

The vibrant kaleidoscope that is India is at the very heart of Trayee — and it is amply demonstrated by the perfume’s long list of notes:

Madagascar blue ginger, elemi, cinnamon, ganja accord, blackcurrant absolute, basil, Sambac jasmine absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, cardamom absolute, clove, saffron, Javanese vetiver, Haitian vetiver, incense, Mysore sandalwood oil, patchouli, myrrh, vanilla, cedar, amber notes, oudh palao from Laos, and oak moss.

The Three VedasThe complex notes are quite intentional because Trayee is a concrete evocation of India’s Vedic period (1500 BC to 500 BC), a time of great antiquity shrouded in mystery but known to be the source for what eventually became modern Hinduism. As Luckyscent (Trayee’s exclusive U.S. distributor) explains, the perfume’s name is:

an allusion to the sacred origin of the first three Vedas, the most ancient sacred texts in India. The notes are drawn from the ingredients used in religious rituals and Ayurvedic medicine during the Vedic era. Rich in incense, myrrh and oud, the fragrance is a poignant blend of smoke, spices and resins that harks back to the very origins of perfumery – a burnt offering to the gods and an aid to meditation.

Trayee opens with a rich, potent burst of saffron, cardamom and oud. The oud was, as is often the case with agarwood, entwined with strong notes of rose. It was never synthetic or screechy, but true to the faintly medicinal, camphorous, chilly aspects of real agarwood. The combination of beautiful sweet saffron with the faintly nutty, aromatic sweetness of the cardamom provide a perfect counterbalance. Following on the heels of those notes is incense whose peppery, smoky accords provide a bit of a bite to the richness of the other ingredients.

That opening was the only consistent element in the two times that I tried Trayee. It is a perfume that is so magnificently blended that different elements peek out at different times, undulating like perfumed waves of richness, woodiness and spice. There is so much depth to Trayee that trying to pick out consistent notes is a bit of a hard task. In an interview with Bois de Jasmin, Ms. Vermeire summed up in one sentence much of my experience: “Trayee’s notes appear and reappear, keeping the wearer guessing and creating a memorable olfactory experience.” It is absolutely true. Equally true is Ms. Vermeire’s comment that:

Trayee is one of the most evocative fragrances for me. It is a rich woody composition, with sandalwood, oud, vetiver and incense lending it many facets. On me, it changes all the time.

Udaipur Market. Photo: Amos Rojter or "Brother Amos." Source: Redbubble.com

Udaipur Market. Photo: Amos Rojter or “Brother Amos.” Source: Redbubble.com

The very first time I wore Trayee, the opening was followed by hints of cassis (which is how I’ve always known “black currant”), cloves, and ginger. There was smoke that stemmed from either the incense, the myrrh, elemi, or the cedar, along with some woody elements, black pepper and sweetness. As always with Trayee, it’s hard to know what scents stem from what ingredients but it always evokes the rich kaleidoscope of India.

Saffron. Source: FoodandFarsi.com

Saffron.
Source: FoodandFarsi.com

All the notes were subsumed under the veil of saffron which is one of my favorite spices. There is a lovely floral nuttiness to the saffron due to the cardamom, and the combination calls to mind the richness of L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s Safran Troublant with its evocation of Persian Sholeh Zard or Indian Kheer desserts. Trayee, however, is like Safran Troublant heightened to the max and with a thousand more elements added to the mix for a richer, more intense, more spiced and luxurious experience.

The second time I wore Trayee, the usual beginning was followed by hefty doses of creamy, rich sandalwood mixed with the earthiness of vetiver. The sandalwood is absolutely real Mysore sandalwood, a rare thing in perfumery today given its prohibitive cost and the Indian government’s protection of this over-sourced prized wood. The expert perfume critic, Luca Turin, has often bemoaned the use of a synthetic replacement in “sandalwood” perfumes or the reliance on the very different Australian sandalwood, and he’s right. Real sandalwood is usually too expensive for most perfumers, especially if used in any significant quantity. Here, there is a significant amount of absolutely genuine, lovely sandalwood in Trayee. I smelled copious amounts of it during the dry-down in my first go-round, and even more of it in the opening hour on my second attempt.

It is remarkable and supports everything Ms. Vermeire has said regarding her goal of using only the finest raw materials and expensive essences in her perfume. In The Perfume Magazine, Ms. Vermeire said: “Trayee has a high concentration of pure Mysore sandalwood oil, nearly 1% pure oud, and two different types of jasmine.” And elsewhere, in a comment quoted by Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies (in a glowing review of Trayee for the Perfume Posse), she elaborated that the perfume was made without regard to cost:

I did not give a budget cap so Bertrand Dachoufour never had a budget – Trayee is one of the most expensive perfumes he has created. We made sure there are lots of high quality natural ingredients…. Most niche companies want to spend 150 euros or so max per kg of essence. We went more than 7 times that so the essences are expensive (and hopefully exceptional).

It shows. It really, really shows. The richness of the scent, the use of the most concentrated “absolute” form for many of the ingredients, and the pure smoothness of the notes seep out from every moment that you wear the perfume.

The quality of the ingredients is matched only by their superb blending, the sure sign of an expert hand like the famous Bertrand Duchaufour. The development of the perfume in its later stages differed on both occasions I wore it. Sometimes, the dominant note was Elemi, a tree from the Philippines that is related to those from which we obtain frankincense and myrrh. (You can read more about elemi in my Glossary but, in a nutshell, it opens with a lemony note that thereafter turns into spicy, peppered pinewoods.) At other times, one notices the tobacco leaves which combine with the patchouli and earthy vetiver to create a vaguely chocolate-mocha impression. There are times when the perfume is predominantly sandalwood and vetiver, followed by cardamom, jasmine and sweet amber. On occasion, the spices take on a dusty, earthy quality, like that red road up Matheran mountain. It’s a perpetually shifting mystery that makes Trayee intoxicating, endlessly sniffable and always entrancing.

Source: Fractal ArtistFlickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8720628@N04/2257117100/

Source: Fractal Artist
Flickr (Click on photo for the link)

As a whole, however, the middle to end stages of Trayee are much sweeter than the dryer, spiced early stage. The perfume warms up in a way, evoking colours of soft burnished bronze and warm copper. The unctuous, creamy, luxurious sandalwood and deeply resinous, smoky amber rise like waves of molten gold and red, enveloping you in a scent that is deeply sensuous.

Trayee’s richness impacts its projection and sillage. This is heady, potent stuff! The perfume projected strongly for about 4.5 hours before becoming softer and less pronounced. It didn’t become close to the skin until around seven hours in — something I found to be utterly astonishing. Trayee also had remarkable longevity. On my skin which voraciously consumes perfumes and on which very little lasts for an extensive amount of time, there were very faint traces after 12.5 hours. I think that’s a new record, and one which left me utterly stunned. Granted, I did go a little crazy in the application (which is what tends to happen when I smell saffron) but, nevertheless, that ecstatic application has happened before and the perfumes never lasted anywhere remotely close to Trayee’s duration. On Fragrantica and Basenotes, however, I have read of shorter longevity with some saying Trayee lasted approximately eight hours. So, clearly, a lighter application will impact the perfume’s duration.

My one dilemma when it comes to Trayee is its cost. It is not cheap. It costs $260 for a small 1.8 oz/55 ml bottle. I was lucky to obtain my sample from a friend and fellow perfume blogger, The Scented Hound, who generously provided some from his own collection. He fell in love with Trayee, calling it “luscious, joyous, fragrant” — “like a magical day in the heart of India” — and eventually succumbed to a full bottle. I worry about the price (especially when I think of how beloved the other two perfumes in the India series are and how I’m bound to be tempted by Bombay Bling, in particular), but there is no doubt in my mind that I will try to obtain some Trayee — even if it’s only a decant. (You can read my Beginner’s Guide to Perfume to learn about perfume splits and groups that offer decants for sale.)

Summer palace on the lake Jaipur

Jaipur – Summer palace on the lake.

Despite Trayee’s cost, I honestly think you are getting what you pay for. There are many similarly priced perfumes out in the luxury market (albeit, usually for a larger sized bottle) but the quality of Trayee’s ingredients make it truly stand out. To me, it is the equal of perfumes from Ormonde Jayne and the uber-luxury perfume house, Amouage, and far surpasses those of several other prestigious houses.

Jodphur - Temple at Mandore. Source: Travel Pictures Gallery.com

Jodphur – Temple at Mandore. Source: Travel Pictures Gallery.com

At the end of the day, though, Trayee is more than just decadently sumptuous. It is elegant and evocative, mysterious and seductive, complex and quite mesmerizing. Wearing it, I was transported back to India. I was back on Matheran, but I was also in the palaces of Jaipur, the ancient temples of Jodphur, and the bustling markets of modern Udaipur. Trayee represents each part of the mysterious, complex, ancient beauty that is India. It is, very clearly, a work of love.

DETAILS:

Cost & Availability: In the U.S., Trayee is available exclusively at Luckyscent where it costs $260 for a 50 ml bottle. Luckyscent also sells a small 0.7 ml sample for $7. (And the site ships world-wide.) In addition, Trayee can also be purchased as part of a Discovery Set which includes, Bombay Bling and Mohur, Neela Vermeire’s other two India collection perfumes. The set is available exclusively on the company’s website and costs €21 for three small 2 ml vials, or €85/90 (depending on your location) for three larger 10 ml decants. Shipping is included in the price and, apparently, Ms. Vermeire writes a personal note for each order. (How lovely and rare is that?!) In Europe, Trayee costs €200 for the 55 ml bottle and is available at Jovoy Paris, the Swiss Osswald Parfumerie and Munich’s Sündhaft. You can find a few additional retailers from the Netherlands to Moscow which carry Trayee on the store’s Points of Sale page.