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.
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