Launching this weekend at Esxence, Milan’s annual niche fragrance event, Pichola is the sixth perfume from Neela Vermeire Creations. Last year I interviewed Paris-based Neela. We talked about the perfume house she founded in 2012 that is an olfactory celebration of her Indian heritage and culture. Working with French perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, Neela tells India’s rich and complex story by dedicating each fragrance to a particular time or place that has inspired her. For this latest perfume, the inspiration came to Neela when she attended a wedding anniversary in Udaipur nearly two years ago. I didn’t attend Esxence this year, so Neela kindly sent me a sample of Pichola and we exchanged some words so that I could delve deeper into the story behind her latest creation.
Pichola is everything I expect from Neela Vermeire Creations. Working with Bertrand, the pair has created a strong olfactory identity for Neela’s brand. When I interviewed Bertrand about his work as L’Artisan Parfumeur’s resident perfumer, he told me that he does not accept design requests from clients if they impose budget restrictions on the formula. Although Bertrand uses synthetic ingredients in all of his work, an aesthetic necessity of modern perfumery, I smell a lot of artisanal natural ingredients in Neela’s perfumes, which many perfume houses that produce on a larger scale would avoid due to cost and supply. Each fragrance uses decadent amounts of ingredients extracted from exotic flowers, spices and woods. As the brand has evolved, this stands out to me as being one of its key signatures.
Neela’s new fragrance is named after Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India’s Venice of the East. Surrounded by histories of Indian royalty and their palaces, it is a place that Neela has visited on numerous occasions. Her last visit left her “awestruck yet again by the beauty of the reflections on the water and the hotel,” which was built on the lake during the mid 18th century. Originally a royal summer palace for Maharana Jagat Singh II, the palace now operates as a luxury hotel. Neela tells me that she “wanted to express luminous reflections on the lake through the notes. The top notes and heart notes (for me) – give a positive and happy feeling like being on the lake in daytime and then the dry down reflects the magic and sophistication one experiences after sunset.”
Bertrand neatly captures Neela’s sentiment with a perfume that glistens in a headdress of bright flowers and fresh spices. As the perfume wanes, it becomes a pashima of warm resins and calming woods. Pichola begins with sherbet-like notes of zesty clementine and bergamot. Facets of jade green neroli flow into textural notes of cardamom, cinnamon and juniper. Here, the wonderful scent of saffron gives Pichola a gourmand aspect and adds sweetness. This lush beginning smells of freshly picked spices that are abundant in India and unlike the imported dry spices I buy from my local supermarket. Pichola’s heart notes are a complex bouquet of opulent flowers. Potent absolutes of rose, orange blossom and tuberose are coupled with Indian jasmine sambac and ylang ylang. Swirling around these natural essences are modern notes of white flowers, which smell airy, buttery and indolic. This extroverted floral arrangement reminds me of opulent women’s perfumes that were popular in the late 20th century. Masterpieces like Poison by Christian Dior and Amarige by Givenchy. As the sun sets on Pichola’s floral bouquet, sweet benzoin absolute pushes the saffron, spices and flowers further towards the finish line. Sandalwood, Haitian vetiver and Bertrand’s driftwood accord form the core of the woody dry down. Pichola’s spices and flowers are the cohesive olfactory thread that connect it with its sibling perfumes, creating a comforting sense of familiarity for fans of Neela’s perfumes. But just as Ashoka was a significant departure away from the initial three launches, Pichola adds another interesting facet to the collection, which previously didn’t exist.
For more information about Neela Vermeire Creations and stockists, visit www.neelavermeire.com