Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka : Perfume Review

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Patricia talks of emperors and leather miniskirts.

In one of my favorite comics, “Rose Is Rose,” the title character, a mild-mannered housewife and mother, has an edgy biker chick alter ego complete with big hair, thigh-high boots, a leather miniskirt, and a rose tattoo. This character pops up when Rose is stressed, conflicted, or otherwise feels the need to exert some power in her life. This kind of power is what I felt on first application of Ashoka, Neela Vermeire’s fourth fragrance, created in collaboration with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour.

india

Ashoka (304-232 BCE) was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty. Through his frequent military conquests, he eventually ruled over what is present-day India. A fierce warrior and leader, he converted to Buddhism after witnessing the mass death and destruction of the Kalinga tribe, and he played an important role in making Buddhism a world religion. This perfume, which honors him, follows the same trajectory: from strong opening, to floral heart, to a quiet complexity of earthy notes.

Since fig and leather are two of my favorite notes in fragrance, and Vermeire’s previous three perfumes, Trayee, Mohur, and Bombay Bling were beautiful and original, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Ashoka was destined to please. And please it did, from its powerful and vivid opening to the quiet and contemplative drydown.

On first application, the strength of the dry leather caused an unexpected intake of breath. But almost immediately the creamy fig and green leaves temper the smoky sharpness, and powdery mimosa wears it down to soft suede. This prelude lasts under an hour, with medium sillage, a bit disappointing only because I want it to go on forever. I keep pressing my nose to my wrist to capture the fading leather notes, now mixed with mild incense and creamy sandalwood. As it reaches the drydown, Ashoka becomes a warm skin scent, like the dying embers of a bonfire. Although quiet, this phase lasts a very long time.

A word or two must be said about the classic bottle design by Pierre Dinand. The wheel shape of the Ashoka Chakra, the wheel of righteousness, is formed with 24 spokes, signifying the passage of time and impermanence of life. NVC has taken this icon and cleverly inserted a small figural Eiffel tower between each spoke of the wheel, referencing Vermeire’s combined Indian heritage and current life in Paris. The gold bottle top is engraved with this icon, and the design is carried down through the fluted columns of the bottle itself.

I must add that I wore my sample of Ashoka during a week of extreme heat and high humidity, and the perfume held up to it beautifully, remaining soft but distinctive. This speaks to the quality of the composition and its balance. Despite its somewhat rapid development from larger-than-life creamy leather to delicate skin scent, I look forward to the day in the near future when I can spray with abandon from my own bottle, don the leather miniskirt, and take the motorcycle for another spin around the block.

Neela Vermeire Créations Ashoka includes notes of fig leaves, leather, white & pink lotus, mimosa, fig milk, osmanthus, rose, water hyacinth, vetiver, styrax, incense, sandalwood, myrrh, tonka bean, and fir balsam. Available from Luckyscent or directly from neelavermeire.com. $260, 55ml

Photography by travelmeasia via Flickr, some rights reserved.

Sample: Neela Vermeire Créations

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51 Comments

  • Lucas: Earlier it was Bombay Bling which was my favorite perfume from NVC and now that Neela launched Ashoka, the new perfume became number one from this house, Bombay Bling becoming a second position.

    What I love about Ashoka is its buttery iris, creamy and soft leather, milky fig. Delish! October 10, 2013 at 7:54am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Lucas, Bombay Bling was also my favorite Neela Vermeire fragrance until Ashoka arrived on the scene. Ashoka is so wearable, especially during these cool autumn days in New England. October 10, 2013 at 8:10am Reply

      • Lucas: So cool our favorites of the line are a match!
        I could say the same about Ashoka fitting the scenery of Polish autumn! October 10, 2013 at 10:59am Reply

        • Patricia: Plus we both liked Silver Iris :). October 10, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

  • Gretchen: I have been waiting impatiently for this to arrive, and now I have a good size decant to test. If it turns out I like it as much as Trayee, I am in deep trouble… October 10, 2013 at 8:53am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Gretchen, Please let me know what you think of Ashoka once you have tried it. The NVC fragrances certainly are pricey, but the quality of the ingredients is excellent! October 10, 2013 at 9:09am Reply

      • Gretchen: Oh, I certainly agree they are worth every penny….it’s just a big chunk of change when I know I want BOTH in FB! October 10, 2013 at 11:12am Reply

        • Patricia: :) October 10, 2013 at 11:29am Reply

  • Connie: I love Rose is Rose. On the other hand, not sure how I feel about the insertion of Eiffel towers into the wheel of righteousness… October 10, 2013 at 8:59am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Connie, Good point! I was looking at this from purely a design standpoint :). October 10, 2013 at 9:09am Reply

  • Jillie: This sounds extremely lovely, and my fantasy has always been to don leathers and zoom off on a motorbike, so perhaps it will be an ideal perfume for me too! Even if I just stick to driving my boring old car ….. October 10, 2013 at 9:49am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Jillie, Aren’t fantasies fun? And perfume is one of the best ways to try on a new personality, even if only for a few hours. My fantasy is to splurge for some over-the-knee leather boots in black! October 10, 2013 at 10:33am Reply

  • Portia: Hi there Patricia,
    Lovely review.
    Ashoka!! Well worth the wait. Neela V and Bertrand D have done something so lovely and it feels elegant and magical.
    I think the idea of big fun opening and then soft, complex, interesting dry down that lasts for hours is an excellent design for work. You can spritz and enjoy on your way to work but then in becomes very introvert and selfish, just for you alone.
    Portia x October 10, 2013 at 9:56am Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks so much, Portia :). As a closet introvert, I enjoy that private dry down so much, especially after the big opening. October 10, 2013 at 10:36am Reply

  • rosarita: I look forward to sampling this at some point as I love Neela’s other creations. Wish they weren’t so expensive. October 10, 2013 at 10:29am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Rosarita, If you like the other NVC fragrances, I predict that this one will please you, too. Please do give it a try.

      I share your pain over the prices, though! October 10, 2013 at 10:37am Reply

  • sol: Beautiful review. October 10, 2013 at 11:43am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, sol! October 10, 2013 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Elisa: Fig and leather seemed like an odd combination but then I remembered that I once layered Bulgari Black and Philosykos as an experiment and it was nice! I wonder if this is anything like that :) October 10, 2013 at 1:27pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Elisa, It does seem odd, but it’s quite delicious. No rubber, though :). October 10, 2013 at 2:11pm Reply

  • Undina: Bombay Bling! is still my favorite but Ashoka shares the second place with Trayee. October 10, 2013 at 2:54pm Reply

    • Patricia: I love them both, but Ashoka has edged out Bombay Bling for me. In purely practical terms, Ashoka is a more wearable fragrance, I think. Bombay Bling is more of a special night out perfume, whereas I would wear Ashoka to work. October 10, 2013 at 5:03pm Reply

  • Annikky: This must be my lucky week – Epice Marine and Ashoka both reviewed! I’ve been really looking forward to these two.

    I loved Neela’s first three fragrances (Trayee is my No 1), I love leather and I love fig. The only problem I sometimes have with fig in perfume is that it can be a bit one-dimensional, but the leather and the greenness you describe should mitigate that. So it all sounds quite perfect to me.

    Thank you for the review, I’ve got a sample on the way and your words have made me even more excited about it. October 10, 2013 at 3:09pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Annikky, This has been a great fall for new releases, hasn’t it?

      I don’t find Ashoka to be at all one-dimensional, but I’d be interested in your take on it once your sample arrives. Be sure to check back in and let us know what you think! October 10, 2013 at 5:06pm Reply

      • Annikky: Well, if Duchaufour has been his usual self, I don’t think one-dimensionality is going to be a problem :)

        You know, I visited Place Vendome perfumery this weekend (Victoria has written about it beautifully). And when I was smelling through their selection with one of the owners (I think), I was thinking: despite all the whining how the golden age of perfumery is past and everything is going downhill, there are so many wonderful things to smell and enjoy. And I’m sure there’ll be more to come. October 11, 2013 at 5:12am Reply

        • Patricia: I was lucky enough to do some perfume shopping in Paris recently and felt the same as you…just gratitude at quantity and quality of what is available to us. October 11, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

  • Isis: Oooh this sounds nice! I am wearing Cuir de Russie now … I am still trying to figure out which will be my favorite leather (so far Cuir de Russie and Boxeuses are going head-to-head. I’ve disqualified Cuir de Lancome for being discontinued.)…. could you tell me how this compares to other leathers? October 10, 2013 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Patricia: Cuir de Russie and Boxeuses are two of my favorite leathers. I find that Ashoka, with its prominent fig note is closer to the fruity Boxeuses than to the more floral Cuir de Russie. You will need to like fig (I do!) to be a real fan of this fragrance. However, you will certainly appreciate the quality of the ingredients and how well they are balanced. October 10, 2013 at 5:18pm Reply

      • Isis: I love the fig in Hermès’ Jardin en Mediterannee… I used to thing of fig as a more greenish and cool note, and of leather as very warm… (that being said, I get much less warmth from my Cuir de Russie Edt sample then I expected.) I’d sample this if only to know how these notes combine! October 10, 2013 at 11:39pm Reply

        • Isis: ok, thinK, not thinG… sorry… October 10, 2013 at 11:40pm Reply

    • Annikky: Wonderful leathers, both! Or actually all three, but I can understand your disqualification of Cuir de Lancome. You have reminded me that I need to get my hands on some Boxeuses, I’ve only smelled it in store. October 11, 2013 at 5:15am Reply

      • Isis: Do! I love wearing it, adn I am not a fan of fruits. And finally, this is a perfume my husband loves… he thinks it’s very warm and feminine and comforting and he keeps sticking his nose in my neck when I wear it. I might want a full bottle but I want a chance a trying sarrasins before I commit to this one… (leather and jasmine…. hmmmm). October 11, 2013 at 5:36am Reply

        • Patricia: My husband also likes Boxeuses :). I haven’t tried Sarrasins yet. October 11, 2013 at 11:59am Reply

          • Isis: I need to wait till I find the time (and money) to go to Paris….. I am excited already though… I hope it has lot’ of leather next to lots of jasmine, rather than a hint of leather in the background…. we shall see we shall see. October 12, 2013 at 2:19am Reply

            • Patricia: I can’t wait to go back. Two days was much too short for such a fascinating city. October 17, 2013 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Aisha: Eep! $260 for 55 ml?! I’m guessing I better not test this one because I love leather fragrances and will likely fall in love with it. LOL!

    I don’t think I’ve ever tested a fragrance with fig in it. Maybe I have but don’t recognize the scent? Anyway, Ashoka sounds like a beautiful fragrance. October 11, 2013 at 10:07am Reply

    • Patricia: I love fig fragrances and believe that Andy wrote an excellent article on BdJ recently. Let me see if I can find the link…. Here it is: http://boisdejasmin.com/2013/07/pacifica-mediterranean-fig-fragrance-review.html
      I bought a roll-on of Pacifica Mediterranean Fig on the basis of this review and enjoy it very much. An inexpensive pleasure, especially as compared with the cost of Ashoka! October 11, 2013 at 11:56am Reply

      • Aisha: Thanks! I will look for this one. I’ve heard of Pacifica, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the fig fragrance. Then again, I wasn’t really searching for that scent. October 16, 2013 at 7:29pm Reply

        • Patricia: I got mine in my local Whole Foods for under $20. The roll-on is a great size to tuck in a purse or briefcase. October 17, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Figuier: Oops, looks like I’m due to fall for another Vermeire fragrance – wh. I really can’t afford…

    I loved Mohur right from the start, but was not tempted to test the other two until I won a mini-set on this very site (yay!) At which point, completely counter to expectation, I fell very heavily for Bombay Bling, which I wore a lot through the late summer and is now the one I like best.

    So, given that (a) fig is one of my all-time favourite notes and (b) you & Lucas, both fans of BB, like Ashoka even better – I suspect I’m doomed. I ordered a sample earlier this week, and am anticipating its arrival more eagerly still after this gorgeous review :) October 11, 2013 at 10:34am Reply

    • Patricia: Dear Figuier (love your nom), please let us know what you think of Ashoka once it arrives. I hope we haven’t hyped it up too much! October 11, 2013 at 11:58am Reply

  • Si: I tried this couple of weeks ago. the first time was meh but i was blown away the 2nd time. the dry down is soft but present and lasted forever. October 11, 2013 at 3:33pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Si! Isn’t the drydown complex and satisfying? I like it almost as much as the big opening. October 11, 2013 at 3:48pm Reply

  • hajusuuri: Hello Patricia! I can’t wait to try this! There’s a split going on over at Basenotes (search “Fragrance Splits Board Palmbeach)…my name is so lonely there right now. It would be nice to see other takers :-)

    Thanks for a lovely review. October 13, 2013 at 12:09am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Hajusuuri! I’m all set with my Ashoka, any other takers out there for the Basenotes split? October 13, 2013 at 10:32am Reply

  • Jordan River: Buddhism in a Bottle.
    Hard to chose between this and Trayee but I am going with the moment and figging it. I did not know about the Eiffel Tower in the logo. Thank you for this reveal. October 14, 2013 at 1:02am Reply

    • Patricia: I wish I could take credit for spotting the Eiffel Tower in the logo, but I believe that I read it somewhere. Once you know it’s there, though, it seems obvious :) October 17, 2013 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Alice Dattee: I think, it’s Pierre Dinand and not Dinard, the bottle designer. October 14, 2013 at 4:27am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Alice! We have fixed it in the article. October 17, 2013 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Alice, for your sharp eyes. We have fixed this typo. October 17, 2013 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Mahesh: Nice fragrance and worth the praise but hang on. I have smelled the dry down somewhere… ah..it’s same as one of the Lartisan frgrances, AMOUR NOCTURNE or skin on skin. I don’t recollect exactly which one. Those too were done by Bartrand.

    I am not impressed anymore! July 1, 2014 at 4:30am Reply

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