The story of Indian emperor Ashoka The Great is a tale of redemption. Having slain his siblings as soon as he came to the throne, then spending the first eight years of his reign expanding his empire and squashing rebellions, Emperor Ashoka found himself standing by the Daya River, looking at the consequences of his actions: dead bodies as far as the eyes could see. Over 100,000 civilians and 10,000 of his own soldiers perished in one battle. Ashoka, known for his blood-thirst up until then, did not like the man he'd become. The change of heart that started that day has lead the young emperor to Buddhism, which he later made into the foundation of his empire. According to various historic sources, the great hunter also became a vegetarian, made provisions for medical treatment of animals, banned hunting and restricted fishing.
This was the inspiration for Ashoka, the newest addition to Neela Vermeire's perfume line. It isn't the first time a reference to Emperor Ashoka appears in Neela Vermeire Creations. The brand's logo is actually the Wheel Of Ashoka (Ashoka Chakra, which was built by Ashoka during his reign. It signifies is the cycle of time- as in how the world changes with time, and the 24 laws in the base of the Emperor's regime). The number 24 also appears as the twenty four ridges on Neela Vermeire's full-sized perfume bottles. All of this points to Ashoka, the legendary emperor as well as the perfume, having a special place and perhaps a more personal meaning. Bombay Bling, Mohur and Trayee are gorgeous perfume stories. I wear them and relish the joy they bring to my life. Ashoka is all that but in a different manner.
Created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour for Neela Vermeire, the main attraction of Ashoka is a somewhat unusual composition of fig and leather. The fig is complex and layered: there's the ancient tree standing by a brook, providing shade and relief from the heat. But there's also the milky green of the leaf itself with its almost heady sweet aroma. Fig is my catnip and I could just roll in it. Then there's leather. Actually, the powdery quality I smell in Ashoka makes it more suede-like, at least when the fragrance develops on skin and reminds me of the aged leather of another Duchaufour perfume I love, Traversee du Bosphore (L'Artisan). Maybe that's why my nose interprets the powdery-floral-earthy accord as an iris.
The iris-like veil slowly dries down into a sheer incense-sandalwood. Both are incredibly soothing and surprisingly comforting. Ashoka is softer and more introspective than the original Neela Vermeire trio; the new fragrance doesn't open a window into a colorful outside world as much as it places a mirror in front of you and allows you to reflect on all that's good and of the incredible gifts that are all around. As far as I'm concerned, Neela Vermeire's Ashoka is one such gift.
Notes: fig leaf, leather, white lotus, pink lotus, mimose, fig tree, osmanthus, rose, water hyacinth, vetiver, styrax, incense, sandalwood, myrrh, tonka bean and balsam fir.
See other reviews on Olfactoria's Travels and Chemist In The Bottle.
Ashoka by Neela Vermeire will launch in the coming weeks. It'll be available from neelavermeire.com and hopefully also at Luckyscent. The sample for this review was sent for my consideration free of charge.
Photos of the Shanti Stupa (built in 1972 in the Dhauligiri hills in Bhubaneswar, India), by DP|Photography on Flickr. It was at Dhauligiri that emperor Ashoka laid down the weapons of violence and accepted Buddhism after the Kalinga war.