The Maharani of Rajasthan ~ Pichola by Neela Vermeire Creations

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“India for the Indian’s” she purred as she stretched and turned on the silk pillow in her perch under the columns of the pavilion of the City Palace.  Shaded from the hot sun she surveyed her kingdom with glittering green eyes. As far as those exotic impenetrable eyes could see out across the lake and into the hills around Udaipur she knew that with the British leaving at last her people were free.

She sighed with pleasure as she took a sip of honey milk, her favorite drink. Let everyone else drink Chai or Champagne this little Maharani when you got right down to it preferred the simple pleasures of life. Her palace on the lake. Soft silk pillows to lie upon, her diamond choker and the loving attention of her servant. She must be the only Maharani in all of India who had a little British maid. Now that was something. Of course after independence she would have to send her back to London. It would be hard to say goodbye to the one who had waited on her hand and foot, who brought her all her meals and showered her with so much attention. Sometimes even when she just wanted to be alone there she was…demanding to take care of her. Well it would have to be done hard as it would be. Goodbye to all things British and hello to a new world. Yes 1947 was going to be the best year yet.

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Something caught the corner of her eye, someone was coming. She was in no mood to see anyone. She would simply pretend they were less than a mouse an ignore them.

Ah India, her beautiful land, it was now hers to rule, well anyway this part of it called Rajasthan where she had been born. “India for the Indians.”  How wonderful that sounded. The British Raj was at an end at long last too. Since Alexander two thousand years ago and even before him many had swept into India and tried to claim it as their own.  Bit in fact, she swatted at a tiresome bee buzzing past her ear on its way to the tuberoses in the garden. What was she thinking? Ah yes…but in fact India was unconquerable. No matter how long the invader stayed India remained in its soul its very own. It remained always India, the jewel in its own crown.  It would absorb and slowly change those who tried to take it and they eventually and inevitably became part of her or as in the case of the Greeks and the British they would leave…India for the Indians.

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The approaching quickening steps grew louder. “Little Maharani where are you?” She ignored that shrill clipped voice and closed her eyes to mere slits of green and turned to look out over Lake Pichola. Another lazy regal sigh. She rolled on the pillows and stretched again in the all-encompassing heat. The rains would come soon. She loved the Monsoon and how it made the lake sing like thousands of bells when the water fell from the heavy clouds onto its silver surface. Then when the rains finally ceased the flowers would come back with the heat to perfume her palace on the edge of the lake.  Pichola was really most beautiful in spring, when the orange blossoms burst the air with their glory. In the night the jasmine filled the warm breeze off the lake to enchant her. Summer roses enticed her in the mornings and magnolias heavy in the trees smiled down on her, the beautiful little Maharani of Rajasthan. She would never leave this place that smelled of cinnamon, sandalwood and saffron in the summer. And in the autumn could only be described as heaven on earth. The place where the gods touched earth and found the land to be divine. She would never leave her beloved India.

“There you are Little Maharani!” Her servant’s hands reached down to pluck her rudely from her silky soft pillows of peace.  “You are the silliest cat in all of India. I had a devil of a time finding you. Now come along or we shall miss our train. You are going to love London!” Mary Elizabeth Thurber hugged her cat tightly as she turn on her heel to see her parents waiting at the end of the terrace looking tired and a little sad.

Little Maharani’s eyes widened in horror as she was carried away from the pavilion to the waiting boat below. The first leg of her journey into exile.

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  ***

Pichola by Neela Vermeire Creations just released in March of 2015 is a lush fleurs blanches rush of romanticism as well as a homage to the beautiful lake in Rajasthan for which it is named. It is a splendid perfume that I find to be intoxicating and perhaps the most beautiful perfume yet from the impeccably brilliant house of Vermeire. It is a fragrance of love, and spring beginning, it is a wedding fragrance that promises a honeymoon of carnal delights that with a holy blessing may never end. It is glorious.

The nose behind this creation of Neela’s is the wonderful Bertrand Duchaufour who is responsible for the entire canon of the house. A brilliant nose who has created many modern masterworks for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Dior, Acqua di Parma, Aedes de Venustas …the list is longer than the  Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The idea for this house is to blend and marry two worlds. The exotic rich beauty and history of India with the equally rich tradition of classical French perfumes. We are not disappointed in the least by this attempt to bring the two worlds together. Bertrand Duchaufour once again has met the challenge and succeeded brilliantly.

As an oriental floral Pichola sings in accords of spices and white florals, of woods and the aromatic splendors of the East.  It is undulating and sensuous. A sublime seduction of the senses.

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It opens with notes of spices and citrus, bergamot, clementine, neroli oil, sparkle like early morning sun on the lake…the magnolia smooths and sooths the citric notes down and lays its fleshy white carpet over them to make way for the spices of saffron, cardamom, cinnamon with a twist of juniper that are spilled like jewels before a monarch on unfurled bolts of red, purple and gold silk.

The middle notes take us to the heart of this perfume, the palace where passion dwells on her throne of love. Orange blossom absolute, Rose absolute, Tuberose absolute come in waves designed to weave into a marriage made in heaven with yellow blossomed ylang-ylang and a slyly beautiful midnight Jasmine Sambac.  It shimmers on the skin more beautifully than gold dust in the light of a full moon.

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This is all supported by a fine if not in fact very glamourous dry down of vetiver, benzoin absolute, bone dry driftwood and a creamed almost caramelized sandalwood.  A brilliant armature of notes that is almost architectural, an armature if you will from which all that came before it hangs in perfect harmonious balance.  But the notes do much more than hang from this support, they dance.

The longevity of this perfume is epic but never overwhelming. The silage is full and lush and you will be noticed. This is a perfume for both sexes but keep in mind that this sexy perfume demands a bold personality to wear it well. Pichola embodies all the glamour and youth, the romance and beauty, the fluttery butterflies one feels with the realization that you are falling in love with India though the eyes of Paris. This is no shrinking wall flower…this is the belle of the ball at the dawn of a new Belle Epoch in perfume.

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PICHOLA

SONG OF INDIA ~ Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Creations

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“At sunset in the top of the jungle canopy the monkeys sing his name. Across the sky at dawn it is written by the clouds in the east as the sun guilds each letter in crimson and gold. At the roof of the world, where the mountain gods abide it is written a thousand thousand times in the stone of the Himalayas. Ashoka the Great.”

ashokaShah Rukh Khan as Ashoka in ASOKA (2001)

 The gasp from the circle of children was audible. Eyes wide in wonder at the splendor of his imperial glory began to unfold. The old storyteller continued.

“As a boy he was such a fierce warrior that he killed a lion with a stick.”

“No that is impossible.” Said little Parnashri in disbelief. “A boy and a lion? The Lion will always eat the boy.”

The old storyteller nodded and with a half smile raised his hand to beg for patience. “He was not an ordinary boy, but an exceptional boy who grew to be a great man.”

Parnashri gave him a displeased look that said with the tilt of her head. “Prove it.”

“After Ashoka came to the throne he desired to expand the empire of India wider than ever before. With great wars he pushed our boundaries to the west deep in to Persia. To the south almost as far as the very tip of India and eastward to the very gates of Burma, but this was not enough for the Emperor. His eyes fell upon the land of Kalinga.

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A great battle ensued and many thousands died. Kalinga fell to Ashoka and in his joy he walked into the filed of battle to celebrate and glory in his victory over his enemy. But his joy short lived. It was quickly transformed to grief. Ashoka the Fierce looked upon the hundred thousand dead and cried.

‘What have I done? If this is a victory, what’s a defeat then? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Did I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other’s kingdom and splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant…. What’s this debris of the corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil?’

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His tears ran down his face and washed the bloody earth upon which he stood. In that moment his heart was softened by the savage sorrow and hideous death he had rendered upon Kalinga.”

“This makes him a great man? Because he cried after all the death he made” Said Parnashri.

“This was the transfiguring moment, Parnashri, the door to enlightenment was before him on the battlefield of Kalinga. If he embraced it and stepped through the door it would be the beginning for the boy inside the Emperor of becoming a great man.”

And did he step through the door?” Parnashri said as she and the entire circle of children under the Bodhi tree leaned forward in anticipation.

“He turned away from war and toward the path of the Buddha.  He found on that path a way to peace, for himself and for all the land. And in so doing he brought the teachings of the Buddha to all of India. He built monasteries and great Stupas across the land and hospitals for people and animals as well. For forty years he reined in peace and created a golden age to India.”

“And that is why the monkeys sing his name at sunset.”

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************  

Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Creations is a contemplative beauty. A perfume for both men and women that is a thoughtful meditation on beauty and peace inspired buy one of the great leaders of not only Indian history but on the world stage as well.

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NEELA VERMEIRE

(photo from Ca Scent Bon! taken by Claudio Bonoldi Studio)

The nose behind the perfume is one of my favorite perfumers, Bertrand Duchaufour who has created for so many great houses from L’Artisan Parfumeur to Dior. Here in this perfume he has a soft symphony of notes. So many notes are in this perfume that in the mixing of them you find his great subtlety as an artist.

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BERTRAND DUCHAUFOUR

The perfume is green and calm with the major note of fig leaf and parsley leaf being a very easy green complemented by incense aromatic notes of styrax, incense, myrrh and osmanthus. It is the very picture of a smoky blue haze incense market under the shade of rows and rows of fig trees in the heat and heart of India.  Fig milk note along with vanilla and amber adds a creamy texture to the mix smoothing out all the incense. Other notes that flow through the perfume like a subterranean river are the florals of rose, water hyacinth, cassie flower, jasmine sambac, geranium, ylang-ylang and iris with the support of, rooty green vetiver, a soft tonka bean. There is a woody subtext and foundation of a tangy balsam fir and creamy sandalwood. The perfume is categorized as a Woody Aromatic. I find it to be more aromatic than woody.

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For me, on my skin it stays well bended and not one note other than the fig leaf dominate. It is not a huge dramatic perfume but rather a dreamy soft warm fragrance that longs to be on skin where it floats and shimmers in a nirvana bubble of beauty. It lasts on my skin about six to eight hours with a moderate sillage. And that is as it should be, one would not expect an enlightened perfume to be bombastic or all about ME! It is about sharing its beauty and inviting others in.

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ASHOKA by NEELA VERMEIRE CREATIONS ~ FIVE GOLD STARS *****

NEELA VERMEIRE CREATIONS: http://www.neelavermeire.com/

APPOINTMENT AT TYBURN ~ Eau Sans Pareil by Penhalagon’s

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Midnight bells rang far off in the midst of London’s slumber. Wary and alone Maryanne Stewart pushed herself to walk faster past Marble Arch toward her home on Connaught Square. She was almost there.

“Stand and deliver, Madame!”

Startled by the demand in a rich ringing baritone, Maryanne turned in the fog to find that there was no one there, she was completely alone.

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The street lights on Bayswater Road glowed like warm fuzzy fireflies in the thick hanging fog. The light they shed barley made it to the sidewalk below them.  So thick was the murky night that she could barely see across the road to Hyde Park. She shivered and pulled her muffler closer to her chin and turned to walk on.

As she crossed Edgeware Road to the little traffic island a vaporous figure  emerged before her in a swirling black cap and a three cornered hat. If sky blue were flames he carried them within his eyes.  What burned there was all that was visible of his face above the black silk kerchief that covered his nose and mouth. He held two Pirlet flintlock pistols aimed right at her heart. Maryanne’s mouth flapped open to emit only a chilled gasp.

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The man took two steps toward her, lowered his guns and laughed. “I will do thee no harm Milady, nor shall I take thy coin purse or jewels. Such beauty as you hold within your face makes a beggar of any man you look upon. Believe it honest and true, I have never clapped eyes upon, nor am I likely ever again to behold such a woman as you in this life or the next.” His devilish eyes fell to her mouth. “What I will take with great pleasure and at any cost be it gold or the hangman’s noose is a kiss from those perfect lips.” He doffed his hat and gave her a courtly bow.

Maryanne looked him up and down then narrowed her eyes. “Get out of my way!”  She took a swipe at him with her tote bag and to her surprise it sliced though him creating a rolling wave of vapor which slowly and amazingly found its way back into his form  She looked from side to side to see if she were truly alone and the only person on the street to witness this apparition. A buss trundled past with only the driver on board.

The man pulled his kerchief down around his neck to reveal a face unsurpassed in the realm of male splendor. He leveled his gaze upon her and gave her a dazzling smile. “If not a kiss, then what say you to a midnight ride with me on the back of my horse Black Bess?”

“Look here Mr. Ghost, I am tired and I want to go home. Besides hasn’t anyone told you it is not only very rude to frighten people but also quite out of fashion? Now if you will excuse me?” She stepped boldly forward and walked right through him. Half a block down the street she looked back. He was gone.

Along Stanhope Place Maryanne heard the clip clop of horses hoofs. She turned her head slowly to the left. There following along on the street was the apparition and its horse, the huge beast snorted and its eyes glowed with the banked embers of hell. Black Bess no doubt.  Once again the specter doffed his hat and bowed from the saddle. Maryanne sighed and turned her nose into the air and walked on. Black Bess and her master kept pace. When she reached number 20 Connaught Square she unlocked the front door and stepped inside. As she shut the door on the street she saw that he was still astride his horse in the middle of the street, watching her house with those eyes. Incredible eyes they were she had to admit with a slight shiver and a smile to herself. That night she kept the lamp on beside her bed.

By morning she had convinced herself that the entire thing had been a dream. On her way to Selfridges for a bit of shopping  she came to the traffic island where she had seen the ghost the night before. As she waited with the morning crowd for the light to change an odd feeling came over her. She turned around. In the center of the island there was a plaque.  She had steeped over hundreds of times  without ever reading it. Round and set flush with the sidewalk it simply read: “Site of Tyburn Tree”. She covered her mouth with both hands in shock. Of course, Tyburn, the place where criminals where hung in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Among the many who swung from the three cornered gallows was the Highwayman who rode a horse called Black Bess.  What was his name? Her mind reeled as she shut her eyes and his face appeared once more before her. Of course! His name was Dick Turpin the most famous Highwayman of them all. And on this very spot, April 7, 1739 by His Majesty George II order Dick Turpin was hung untill dead.

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For the rest of her life when she walked alone Dick Turpin always gave Maryanne Stewart safe passage home. Whether she noticed him or not, she never made mention to anyone.

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*****

Olfactory artist, Beverley Bayne’s  2011 creation of Eau Sans Pareil for Penhalagon’s is sparkling if fleeting cocktail for the end of summer in a haunted garden. A watery right bright effusion of Aldehydes open the composition with a basket filled with fruits. Bitter Neroli meets up with the sweetly tart Kumquats; Mandarin oranges do their thing with the help of a whispering pineapple. More whispers of the sun on a southern slid toward autumn is found with a little cypress, pink pepper and a very light honey sweet Tagete flower.  All of this is just a momentary introduction to a great big boisterous raspberry. The opening is promising for those who are looking for a light fruity Eau de Toilette that acts more like cologne, a beautiful melancholy ghost to follow you from summer into fall.

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In the heart the fragrance it moves from the fruit garden to the flower garden and in this transition it drops very close to the skin. Maybe too close to the skin for some.  Light lily of the valley, a delicate ylang-ylang bring soft caresses to a sleepy Jasmine. There is a touch of spice from clove and tangy thick Liquorice that gild a lovely late rose of summer. Under this rose there is a grounding earthy orris root to remind you that all things must return to the earth. It swirls around nicely and then evaporates like a ghostly ectoplasm to the dry down.

Here there is the haunting in the dying garden. The spirits of Patchouli waft over a dry, dry vetiver. Tendrils of vanilla tease a shy spectral Amber as together they float over a parched Cedarwood. Laudanum and Oakmoss are shrouded in a ghostly musk.  The sprit of the fragrance crosses over to the next world at about the fourth hour.

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As an Aromatic Fougere is it very soft and pleasing. I find it to be too wispy for my taste but still lovely in what it does. It is sold as a masculine fragrance but pushing that nonsense aside this fragrance would work well on a woman who is looking for a fruity floral that is not in the least bombastic but rather hauntingly beautiful.

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Eau Sans Pareil by Penhalagon’s  3 gold stars ***

(Why only three gold stars? Beautiful as it is, like summer Eau Sans Pariel fades much too quickly. )

 My sample of Eau Sans Pariel came with my August Olfactif delivery. I am so impressed with this sample service from every aspect, themes (August is all about the last days of summer) packaging and their wonderful website and blog complete with interviews with the perfumers. I encourage you to try Olfactif, a must for any perfume aficionado.

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