One fateful morning, Cleopatra sailed up the Nile to meet Antony on a barge whose billowing sails were made from gossamer-light orange blossom petals. Her white silk robe bore a long train made from even more orange blossoms, carried by her handmaidens, Neroli and Mandarin, who wear garlands of jasmine in their hair. The trio danced joyously and exuberantly, sending out a bouquet far and wide like a royal proclamation, one whose sweet floralcy was redolent with tart tanginess from green fruits and the zesty oils of the rind. The fruits’ sun-ripened juices poured off their bodies to drip below decks on sailors hewing oars of buttercream sandalwood and green vetiver. It was as though the Queen had captured every part of an orange tree — from the bright floralcy of the fresh flowers to the multi-faceted fragrance of its fruit, the green leaves which surround them, and the wood which bears them on the tree — and made them all genuflect in worship before enveloping her like a protective shield.
As the barge moved up the Nile, the scenery changed and the mood softened. The white-blossomed sails now merely fluttered in a soft breeze; the pulvarizingly energetic, zesty, brightness of the wild Bollywood music became a slow dance; and the Queen of the Orange Blossoms lay languidly in sensuous repose on a pile of greenness as a golden haze of velvety ylang-ylang and sweet jasmine hung heavy in the air. The barge itself almost seems to melt into creaminess, and the water glistened with a shimmering of benzoin powder. They occasionally passed bits of driftwood, overly desiccated and oddly out-of-place, but they were small pieces that soon passed out of sight. When they arrived at the meeting place, the barge docked and you could see its name: Pichola.
Pichola (pronounced “Pitchola”) is a new fragrance from Neela Vermeire Creations (hereinafter just “Neela Vermeire” or “NVC”) that will be released in April. It is a floral-oriental eau de parfum created in conjunction with Bertrand Duchaufour. Unlike my tale, the inspiration for the scent has absolutely nothing to do with Cleopatra, let alone Ancient Egypt. As always, Ms. Vermeire was moved by her native country, India. In this case, specifically, Lake Pichola in Udaipur, Rajasthan, scene of the stunning Lake Palace (among other palaces) and the location for the James Bond film, “Octopussy.” Udaipur happens to be one of my favorite places in one of my favorite countries, so I hope you will indulge me and forgive a few photos of three of the four majestic palaces on the lake. Plus, both the colours of the area and the reflections off the lake are a big part of the perfume’s description. Ms. Vermeire told me that even the driftwood note in Pichola was used to represent the colours and light playing on the water.
Pichola and its notes are described in the NVC press release as follows:
Lake Pichola is the crown jewel and central focus of the princely city of Udaipur.
A myriad of colourful historic, architectural and spiritual reflections fall on this splendid water body – the sunlight and moonlight of each season bringing out the eternal and timeless beauty of Lake Pichola.
Our latest fragrance captures such countless reflections on the lake from the past to the present – showcasing the splendour of opulent and vibrant flowers, princely spices and precious woods taking us on an unforgettable and hypnotic fragrant journey. Once you have experienced the diverse and stunning beauty of these indescribable reflections you will understand the true meaning of timeless luxury and effortless beauty….
TOP NOTES: Cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, juniper, magnolia, neroli oil, clementine, bergamot.
HEART NOTES: Orange blossom absolute, rose absolute, tuberose absolute, Jasmine sambac, ylang-ylang.
BASE NOTES: Benzoin absolute, sandalwood, driftwood, vetiver from Haiti.
Pichola opens on my skin with the brightest of sweet, heady orange blossoms, the sort that have finally unfurled their buds to greet the sun but still have a youthful, green freshness about them. They may gleam golden white in the light but, to me, they feel as brightly orange’d as a glowing nebula. There is no deconstructed, camphorous blackness; there are no blowsy indoles that smell like either mothballs, over-ripeness verging on decay, or fleshy, skanky muskiness. These are fresh orange blossoms that are heady in the most natural of ways, as though they were still clinging to the tree and only starting to release their fragrant sweetness.
Peeking out from behind the blossoms, hovering like the shyest of ghosts, are wisps of jasmine and ylang-ylang. For a few, brief minutes, they are joined by a crisp, green tuberose note, but then it scurries away and is never again to be seen. I have to admit, I’m saddened by that because tuberose is my favorite flower (both in life and in perfumery), and I had been banking on a tuberose-heavy scent. Alas, on all three occasions that I tested Pichola, the tuberose was barely perceptible and never lasted more than a few moments on my skin. The rose is even more elusive. It didn’t bother to show up in two of my three tests, and the third time there was merely a tiny flutter at the very end that may well have been a figment of my imagination. As for the magnolia, I’m sure it contributes something to the creaminess that later appears in Pichola, but I can’t smell it either in any noticeable, distinct way at all. No, on my skin, the orange blossom is the Queen, while the jasmine and ylang-ylang are the only other supporting players, though they generally hover on the sidelines until midway in Pichola’s development.
From the very first moment, the orange blossom is supported by two faithful handmaidens: Neroli and Mandarin. Each and every petal is drenched with their tart, tangy juices in a mix so bright, so intense, so saturated with flavour that it almost glows neon in my mind’s eye. There is the same sort of wonderful mouth-puckering greenness mixed with sweetness that the mangos in Bombay Bling displayed, the same effervescent fizziness, the same burst of bright zestiness, only this time the choice of fruits is different. Plus, the note here feels a tad tarter than even the green mangoes in Bombay Bling. Yet, there is a clear relationship between the two scents, and clearly the same vision and artistic hand behind the multi-faceted accord as well.
More importantly, it is an integral part of Pichola on my skin from start almost to finish, so it’s worth explaining its aroma in depth. It a bright, bright aroma that smells simultaneously of: the heavy pulp from a sun-ripened orange; the zesty, zingy tartness of oil which feels as though it had been squirted from the rind of hundreds of green tangerines and then reduced down further into a potent absolute; and the more piquant, crisp greenness of neroli. (“Neroli” refers merely to the steam method by which the orange tree’s flowers are distilled, resulting in a more aromatic, slightly woodier, less sweetened, less floral and less feminine scent than when orange blossoms are distilled via solvents.) Tiny slivers of bergamot pop up in the background in the opening moments, but they are really hard to make out and are quickly swallowed up by the bright intensity of the two other citrus notes.
The fruits and orange blossom flowers form the fundamental structure upon which Pichola is built on my skin, but other notes flesh out the perfume’s shape like sinew and muscle. Right from the start there is a light sprinkling of saffron, dry cinnamon, and a dash of woody cardamom. I’m initially a little distracted by the sheer foodie butteriness of the saffron which meshes oddly with such buoyantly effervescent, fresh accords, but it only takes 15 minutes for the spices to melt into the floral bouquet. It’s as though the orange blossoms swallowed them up, making them a part of its fragrancy in the most natural of ways. You can absolutely tell that Pichola has a spicy side in the first hour, but none of the individual components are a clearly delineated presence. Rather, the spiciness is hazy and quiet, impacting the flowers indirectly, underscoring their heady aroma, but never intruding in a strong way that would detracting from Pichola’s main focus. By the middle of the 2nd hour, even their hazy abstraction fades away.
Underneath the billowing blossoms, deep down in the furthest part of the base, you can just about discern streaks of vetiver and sandalwood. The former feels merely like a slightly woody, earthy greenness, while the latter smells merely like creamy white woods. Pichola is the first Neela Vermeire creation I remember not to list “Mysore” as the sort of sandalwood that was used. Given the prohibitive cost of the extremely rare wood and the whopping amounts of it in scents like the glorious Trayee, I’ve always admired Ms. Vermeire’s extravagance in using it in her fragrances. This time, though, I suspect that the spicy, smoky, heftier richness of Mysore would have detracted from what is ultimately a very ethereal scent, so she opted for a milder form of the wood. I think it was a wise choice because the softer, admittedly more generic, beige woods not only keep the focus on the florals but retain the perfume’s delicacy.
Speaking of lightness, Pichola has the Duchaufour signature all over it in terms of its paradoxical contrasts. Several of the core elements are intensely concentrated in feel, but the perfume itself is incredibly airy. A reader of the blog, “Tim,” coined the phrase “hefty weightlessness” to describe the Duchaufour aesthetic, and it’s very true. Here, several of the individual notes have heft, particularly when smelled up close, but the overall scent is almost weightless in its lightness.
That said, I think Pichola is sheerer than most of its siblings, more translucent in feel, and softer in both projection and sillage as well. 3 spritzes from my mini atomiser, roughly the equivalent of 2 sprays from an actual bottle, initially gave me 3 inches of projection at best, but within that small cloud, there is a definite punch that belies the image of thin, summer gauze curtains billowing out in the wind or sails on a boat that Pichola conveys. The problem is that I had to bring my nose near my arm to get some of that punch after the first 20 minutes, because Pichola barely left a scent trail at all. In fact, there is a very elusive quality to Pichola in general on my skin, particularly as it develops.
I’ve spent so much time on all the details of the opening moments in part because Pichola doesn’t have multiple twists and turns on my skin. Its core essence remains the same from start almost to finish, and only the strength, prominence, and order of the supporting players vary.
In essence, they fluctuate, but they all worship at the same altar, the altar of orange blossoms infused with the tangy greenness of a neroli-mandarin mix. The spices are the first to genuflect and, as mentioned earlier, they sink into the flowers roughly 15 minutes into Pichola’s development. Then, streaks of green appear, floating at the edges 45 minutes in, smelling not like vetiver but simply dark, slightly bitter, and a wee bit woody and earthy. At the same time, the woodiness in the base grows more noticeable too. It’s as though the orange blossom tree were being replicated in every way with the new addition of the leaves and the body of the tree. By the end of the first hour, Pichola is essentially a bright, fresh, lightly spiced, sweet orange blossom scent, drenched in the juices of its fruits, lovingly framed by greenness, and with just a hint of the woody tree below.
When the 2nd hour rolls around, the woodiness and greenness both grow exponentially greater, and now dance around the orange blossom queen and her handmaiden fruits on center stage. I have the oddest image of greenness cupping the flower’s face like a lover’s hands. There is a subtle tenderness to the interplay of notes at times, perhaps because Pichola is such a delicate scent on my skin and, yet, the intense fragrancy of neroli also makes the fragrance something that feels energetic and energizing. Like its sister, Bombay Bling, Pichola is a primarily a happy, cheery scent on my skin. It’s true that orange blossoms fragrances often take a turn on the lusty, debauched side, but the ones in Pichola feel more festive and brightly merry than anything else.
Around the same time, the perfume turns softer in both its notes and projection, a subtle creaminess stirs in the base, and there is the first glimmer of the driftwood. Ms. Vermeire told me that it was meant to reflect the colours and reflections of light on water, and that it is an accord created for her by Mr. Duchaufour. Perhaps that’s why I find it so hard to describe. Frankly, I’m not keen on it, mere glimmer or not, and I think it smells odd — both individually and in connection with the other notes. It’s slightly salty, slightly aquatic (but not quite), possibly mineralised (but not quite) aroma that lies side by side with a synthetic, overly desiccated woodiness. The latter is like a very arid, artificial dryness that also happens to be woody and a little salty-aquatic at the same time. As I said, it’s a hard accord to describe. I don’t like it, nor the small chemical whiff underlying it. Thankfully, it’s the mildest, weakest part of Pichola on my skin, and barely noticeable in any real way until the drydown.
As the second hour draws to a close, Pichola is still the entire orange tree dominated by the lush flowers first and foremost, but the sandalwood has risen from the base to transform every part of the scent into something smoother and creamier. It’s as though a thin layer of buttercream had coated the petals, while also taming the citrus fruits as well. At the same time, the ylang-ylang awakens and joins with the sandalwood to add a textural softness that almost feels velvety and, once in a blue moon, wafts a faint banana-like nuance as well.
The combined effect is a less fizzy, energetic bouquet at the start of the 3rd hour, one that feels more languid, as though Cleopatra and her handmaidens had tired of their dance and decided to lounge in slight deshabille. The pulse of the fragrance has slowed, and all the players are starting to commingle into one. The base limbs of the tree are intertwined around the white flesh of the orange blossoms, the green rind of the neroli has melted into the green “leaves” of the vetiver, sweet orange juices drips over the whole lot which is enveloped in a silky sheet of buttercream woods with ylang-ylang.
From under this pile of sprawling, fused bodies, the jasmine peeks out her tiny head and says hello. She soon pulls herself out and joins the party, smelling as bright and fresh as the orange blossoms. Once again, there is no mentholated blackness, no mothball indoles, and nothing so ripe or lusty as to evoke images of musky, heated flesh. (Jasmine can do that, you know.) Instead, the flower is heady in a natural way and sweet, though never overly so like syrup. If anything, the jasmine feels as if it, too, were still hanging fresh on a tree, wafting almost a bridal delicacy with a touch of greenness.
Now, the balance of notes suddenly changes, as the ylang-ylang and jasmine join the neroli and mandarin as the Queen’s dames d’honneur or ladies in waiting. Out of the four, the ylang-ylang’s buttery, velvety softness sometimes seems the most noticeable and distinct, swirling around with its occasional hints of banana custard. The other notes are all much more fused within the orange blossom, almost impossible to tease out, but Pichola is turning more blurry and hazy in general. Everything feels as though it is overlapping up top, except perhaps the neroli and orange blossom which cast the longest shadows. In the base, the benzoin starts to stir, adding a fine dusting of slightly vanilla-ish powder to the sandalwood. The vetiver has dissolved into the tiniest wisp, though there is still a sense a greenness about the flowers. I simply can’t tell now if it comes merely from the neroli or from a combination of notes.
The odd thing is that Pichola feels like two different scents now, depending on whether you’re sniffing it up close or from afar. It feels particularly elusive when smelt up close, in part because the scent is so gauzy that it feels translucent, and in part because most of the notes are so blurry. One thing is clear, though: Pichola has suddenly switched its focus from representing the entire orange tree in its various parts to a scent that is now primarily a mixed floral-oriental bouquet atop a base of creamy woods.
What confuses me is just how different Pichola smells from a distance. The florals completely disappear, and all that’s left is a citrus-centric bouquet dominated sometimes by neroli and sometimes by oranges. Actually, a lot of the times, especially from the 3.5 hour mark onwards, Pichola smells from afar merely like a tart orange-neroli creamsicle. It’s not one that is gooey sweet by any means, but it’s definitely some form of neroli creamsicle, complete with the beige wooden stick inside. This one merely happens to be coated by the lightest dusting of vanilla-ish benzoin powder. It’s still a tart, tangy, sweet, and fragrant bouquet, but it’s absolutely not floral at all, which stands in very sharp contrast to how the bouquet smells up close. I’ve tried Pichola three times now, and the same thing always occurs at some point during the fourth hour.
The pattern continues until the 5th hour, when it becomes impossible for me to single out most of the notes. Pichola is now a blurry, vaguely neroli-ish, generally citrusy-fruity floral mix atop creamy woods. Except for those times when it smells like a neroli creamsicle from afar. The driftwood is noticeable now in a more consistent manner, but it’s merely tiny wisps that float by the edges from time to time, like passing flotsam in a stream. Actually, Pichola as a whole feels like a tiny wisp. It is so elusive, I sometimes think it’s about to die out entirely.
Near the end of the 5th hour, all that’s left is a smear of creaminess that feels somewhat woody in nature and that has a lingering trace of tartness about it. It feels as though Pichola is essentially dead. And it happened even sooner when I used a smaller quantity of scent. With tiny spritzes equal to 1 spray from an actual bottle, I had almost written Pichola off after 4.5 hours. Yet, in both cases, the perfume persists for quite a while longer; it simply takes a substantial effort to find it. I had to put my nose right on the skin and inhale really hard. When doing that, I managed to detect a few more hours each time: 7.5 hours with the larger amount equal to 2 sprays from a bottle; and just under 5.75 hours with the equivalent of 1 spray. I don’t know if others will make the effort or will merely conclude that the scent has a short duration. In fairness, my skin does eat through pure florals quite rapidly and, for all its oriental spices and woods, Pichola is essentially a fruity-floral on my skin.
Pichola will be released officially in April, but there is already one review out for the scent already and it is a very glowing one. Fragrantica‘s Ida Meister recent wrote a detailed analysis of Pichola in one of her Scented Snippets pieces. It reads, in part, as follows:
What happens when you open the vial vs. test Pichola on skin is revealing: at first sniff from my bottle, the clementine leaps out joyfully amplified by neroli and duetted by bergamot and the tonicity of juniper. All the while spices vie for attention and are soothed by magnolia’s dulcet temperament.
The heart is a riotous profusion of floral absolutes, heady and vertigo-inducing. There is no poverty of abundance—ever—in Neela’s perfumes. This is an unapologetically voluptuous, knowing heart possessing potent powers of seduction. It is a “petite mort” all by itself.
Then, there’s the base: balsamic, woody, creamy, slightly leathery [as in old saddle leather]. Driftwood [accord or otherwise] feels drier and more astringent in comparison to sandalwood; benzoin is a bit of a chameleon, as it possesses several facets all on its own. Haitian vetiver is green and gracious, sweet and grassy with an edge. […]
It’s a lovely review and I urge you to read it in full. As for Pichola’s Fragrantica page, the only comment there thus far comes from Ms. Meister writing as “chayaruchama,” essentially saying that the scent is “spectacular” in a very brief comment. However, there are two votes already for Pichola’s longevity and sillage. For duration, there is 1 vote for “Poor” and 1 for “Moderate.” For sillage, both votes are for “Soft.”
I think Pichola is a scent best suited to hardcore lovers of white florals. I really enjoyed the first 90 minutes but, afterwards, I was a bit frustrated by Pichola’s softness, translucency, and elusiveness. That is an issue of personal taste and style, though, because I like my white flowers (and my scents in general) to be Wagnerian, to feel like the Ride of the Valkyries. That is not Pichola. While it’s not precisely an intimate, office-suitable scent (at least not unless you apply just a few dabs and then wait a bit), it is very ethereal and gauzy, in my opinion. More so than, say, Trayee, and Bombay Bling. Its notes may be bolder, brighter, crisper, and more intense than Ashoka and Mohur (EDP), but it does share a certain delicacy and tenderness with both of them.
I think skin chemistry will be quite significant with regard to both Pichola’s notes and the longevity issue. I think most people would find the opening to be a beautiful, glowing nebula of joyous effervescent, but I don’t know how the possibility of a neroli creamsicle developing midway will strike a few of you. I also think skin chemistry will impact which florals dominate on your skin, how the driftwood manifests itself, and the prominence of the citrus-fruity accords. As for Pichola’s longevity, please keep in mind that this is not a scent with which you should be miserly in application, because a few dabs will not work in your favour.
On the right skin, I think Pichola would be absolutely radiant, a breathless, billowing wisp of sweet femininity mixed with merry sparkle, succulently tangy citruses, crisp greenness, and soft woods that slowly turn into soothing creaminess. If you’re a lover of white florals, I definitely recommend trying it for yourself.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of the company. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Looooove the photos! I’d love to visit India one day. I haven’t tried any Neela Vermeire and frankly they don’t speak to me. I’m not even curious. At first I thought they wouldn’t be my style but I’m starting to believe that it’s because I might fall in love with them. Now, why don’t you take a much needed break? 🙂 We can handle your absence for a while. Not that we want to but if you need it you owe it to yourself! 🙂 xx
India is such a mesmerizing, complex place. I better not start on the subject or I will never stop, but it truly stole my heart. As for the NVC line, I think Trayee would be one for you to try. It’s my absolute favorite NVC scent and not just because of the heaping amounts of real (real!) Mysore. The incense and spices are so wonderful, too. Actually, Trayee took me back straight to India, to one of my favorite places there called Matheran. It was incredible how it closely it recreated the smell, feel, and just…. I don’t know, I can’t describe it. But Trayee made me immediately think of Matheran. (And Bombay Bling does evoke the joy of a Bollywood dance, as it was partially meant to.)
In contrast, Pichola didn’t make me think of India at all or take me back to Udaipur, but somehow made me think of Cleopatra going up the Nile. I kept imagining billowing white sails made of orange blossoms on a boat where certain notes were all dancing. I don’t know if Pichola would be your style since I know you like potent scents, but I would love if it you could try Trayee.
As for a break, your comments were so sweet. I need one badly. I’ve been utterly wiped out lately, so I may take off a few days just to test and not to write. 🙂 Hugs, my dear.
Another for the test list then! 🙂 or 2, as I love orange blossom as well! Btw if you get the chance, do try Lust by Lush. Out of all places this is the best and most potent jasmine I’ve found. It’s indolic and even has a bubblegum sweetness to it, and it makes A la Nuit hide in the corner! Happy weekend!
I haven’t found a NVC that works for me, but I love scents with magnolia and ylang ylang. If a sample fell in my lap, I would try it.
There are some lines that don’t work for me, either, for one reason or another, so I can understand. Sometimes it’s a longevity issue, something it’s the brand’s aesthetic style, sometimes it’s due to a completely different trend. I always hold out hope for those houses that I will find an exception to the rule. In your case with NVC, I hope you will find one for you and maybe it will be Pichola, given your love for magnolia and ylang-ylang. 🙂
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Non of the NVCreations worked for me so far – they are in the cupboard of “absolute no-go” together with those by Vero Kern and Tauer
Now this one could go there untested : with all that orange blossom, tuberose, ylang ylang…
But then again, since weeks I’ve been drenched in Black Gemstone, I haven’t felt the need to touch any other parfume, and i might empty a full bottle – that hasn’t happened to me for ages (ca 7years )
Given how much you loathe or struggle with tuberose, orange blossom and the like, I think we both knew from the start that Pichola would be an immediate “no-go” for you. Heh. I think you have the same reaction to the word “tuberose” as I do to “ISO E Super.” 😀
How glorious and unexpected about Black Gemstone. Emptying a full bottle is really something for an experienced perfumista, even more so given that you just bought the SHL 777 last year!!! (Seriously, in that span of time… wow!) Well, you know my feelings about the scent and how much I love it. So, does this mean that Black Gemstone has actually managed to trump Soleil de Jeddah (and Oumma) for you?
Black Gemstone has made it step by step : I appreciated it on first spritz, but didn’t think it’s mine. But then, after testing it 2-3 times, I started to crave it : it has a strangely calming influence on me… It’s confidence, it’s wisdom, it’s depth
i seem to be describing a trend here, but i’ve also been left cold by the line so far (Mohur is marginally a fave) but this could be worth trying; certainly the lovely, evocative photos and the typically epic review create the impetus to sample. glad the typification of BD still holds true – i’m wearing the stupendously wonderful chypre palatin today…. 😉
I can’t see you wearing this one, Tim, simply because I don’t see you in the “Big White Flowers” genre at all, at least not for pure florals. If I recall correctly, I think HdP’s Tubereuse 3 Animale is the only tuberose fragrance you like/wear? I don’t recall you being an orange blossom lover or wearer either, but I do know you love animalic jasmine when combined with a lot of other notes (Sarrasins).
I’m surprised to hear about you and the NVC line, though. I would have thought that Trayee would be right up your alley, not only because you’re a Duchaufour fan boy but because of all the incense, spices, oud, and that sandalwood.
i was suprised too, and i gave trayee repeated wearings. it felt unbalanced, confused and a bit cloying. ashoka smelled like a wet moldy rag on me (honest!), and mohur is a good prettied-up rose, similar in vibe to tf cafe rose. i suppose i love the associations with orange flowers rather than wearing them. orange itself is good, as i really enjoy. azemour and bigarade concentree. i remain a BD fanboy, even after that mess of copal 😉
Tim,I can’t believe,in fact I refuse to believe you don’t like Trayee.Try it again,so I can forgive you
lovely ana maria, my sample was small and is now gone to heaven. so i’m going on memory…. 🙂
This made me laugh so much. 🙂
Ashoka wasn’t for me, either, but then I’m not an iris lover. I don’t see the similarity between Mohur and the very jammy, syrupy, patchouli rose in Cafe Rose. Mohur (EDP) is quite, quite different on me than Cafe Rose. As for Trayee, at least you gave it a good few wearings and tests. If something doesn’t work for one, it doesn’t work. 🙂
Chayaruchama is my real name.
I also do not do paid reviews.
I am perpetually puzzled by your constant quoting of other writers : your own opinion is surely good enough. After all, it is your opinion we seek, not that of others.
Wishing you only the best,
My apologies for the error on your name. I was not aware Chayaruchama was also your name.
I don’t know how to say this without sounding rude, so please don’t think I am trying to be, but I’m confused and puzzled in turn as to why my quoting of other opinions might be interpreted as having anything to do with the validity of my opinion or even my valuation of my opinion. I seek to give the fullest portrayal of a perfume possible within the confines of some word limits, albeit very generous word limits. lol. It’s a question of pros and cons; whenever possible I provide opinions that differ from my own, experiences that depart from what I describe, as well as similar ones. If I don’t find the latest Lutens to be a jasmine soliflore but others do, then I think that’s relevant. By the same token, it’s also relevant if others had a similar experience to my own. It provides a sense that there may be some minor consistency in terms of how a perfume plays out or, at least, as much consistency as varying skin chemistries may allow. And I try to have as many options or sources as possible all compiled in one place in order for a person to have a lot of jumping off points for them to subsequently conduct their own research and make up their own minds.
Back in the days before I started my own blog, when I was interested in a perfume, I would spend a ridiculous amount of time going all over the web, reading different sites or trying to find diff. opinions in order to get a good sense of how a perfume really was. Many reviewers just gave lovely stories but insufficient details: I frequently didn’t know how a perfume was at the end versus the beginning; any pitfalls I needed to consider; potential problems in terms of longevity or projection; or didn’t have a sense as to its development. Trying to get all those precise details required scouring an endless amount of sites or painstaking scrutiny of endless Fragrantica comments.
When I started my own blog, I wanted to cut out some of that leg work or, at least, make some of it easier. And I wanted as many specifics as possible because I had been badly (BADLY) burnt by blind-buys based on overly flowery, descriptive stories without any details, let alone discussion of the negatives. I still have a stack of perfume bottles stuck at the back of an armoire that I stare at with loathing and with frustration over the money I spent on them, all due to some ridiculous reviews that valued emotive descriptions over concrete facts. I started this blog, in part, so that I might help just one person avoid wasting money on similar bad buys and to give them as much information at their fingertips as possible for them to conduct their own inquiries.
To that end, quoting other people is essential in order to give people a sense of just where my opinion may fall with regard to others. And it’s as useful to quote a layman as it is to quote bloggers. We tend to have heightened noses or an ability to parse out notes; the average reader is more in tune with the average poster on Fragrantica, so the latter’s perceptions carry just as much weight as that of us so called “experts.”
So, I hope all that explains my thinking on the matter. 🙂 BTW, I never meant to imply that you did paid reviews. That comment in the disclosure at the end of my review is a standard one whenever I write about a fragrance whose sample was provided by the company. Twice in the past, some people on MakeupAlley wondered if one of my rave reviews was because I was paid, because “why else” would I write like that in their opinion? So, it seemed best to have a statement on that issue provided as a constant for all reviews when I didn’t buy the sample, and the point is also repeated in the “About Me” section of the blog.
All the best to you, too. 🙂
Thank you for taking so much time and thoughtfulness with your reply; I really appreciate it.
I understand those betes noires in the closet or armoire
You’re more than welcome, Ida (if I may call you that). I’m just glad you didn’t take my response the wrong way.
As for taking so much time, I type very quickly and, as you may have gathered by now, I’m rather OCD about giving full explanations. Heh. 😉 😀 I’m glad we spoke (figuratively speaking) for the first time. I’ve wanted to for some time now. I sometimes think about your review for Chypre Mousse which you were the first to write about and which conveyed the same sort of stunned disbelief and amazement I felt at smelling it. Have a lovely weekend.
You as well !
Thank you Kafka for this post. I am struck by your practised and refined sense of smell, and by your ability to recreate it through precise and well chosen words and word imagery. Ofcourse you smell through your nose and skin, but still it is possible for me as a reader to get a scent sense through your description (and being partial to both orange, neroli and orange blossom, as well as vetiver and sandalwood I will sample Pichola) that is to a certain degree objective (if that is possible). I wonder if the practise of smelling and describing perfumes your other senses have started to refine as well, obviously taste, but I would be curious if you see or hear a greater nuance or range (i.e. depth of colour, details in faces, range of tones). Since coming back from Oman I am on a bit of an incense spree, I hope you will do a favourite incense list one time!
I still owe you an email and I am so sorry about the delay, Hamamelis! I’ve just been swamped lately and so exhausted when I finally do have some time that I’m practically incoherent to type/write anything more. I promise that I haven’t forgotten though and I’ll reply as soon as I can!
In terms of developing one’s senses, I’ve always thought that I have a good nose because I have a good palate, food wise, and that’s how things developed as opposed to the other way around. We do taste with our nose (which is why our taste buds often register nothing when we have a cold), but I started loving food before perfume and, to this day, gastronomy matters far more to me than perfume does. I think I have a rather good sense of colour nuances, but I think expanding one’s knowledge of food, flavour, and taste is perhaps one of the most critical things in refining one’s nose. Even more so given that many perfumes have food notes in them these days, in addition to such obvious things as citruses, fruits, and spices. 🙂
Thank you Kafka, very informative to read. I like food, and am a reasonable cook, but don’t love it (yet). I love perfume so it may present a good reason to refine my cooking and tasting (and a good reason to go to a very good restaurant once a while!).
Absolutely no pressures to reply to my mail, if it provided you with a smile I am happy!
Sorry to read you are so exhausted, I would wish a few weeks of pampering in Oman for you (and I would look after his Highness!). My Aylah did a runner last week…I think sending out invitations as she is close to being in heat…She was found by a dog lover who found me through Aylah’s chip, and madam was brought home by taxi (we have special animal ambulances in the Netherlands), looking all pleased with her adventure. Me less so…
Hmmmmm.You definitely don’t sound too thrilled about it.I shall test,if at some stage it’ll fall in my lap,I’m done paying for samples I’m afraid or going out of my way to try something.I love Trayee with a passion,I think it’s remarkable,incense done very differently indeed.And I do like Mohur,Bombay Bling and Ashoka.I’m glad at least Pichola doesn’t seem like it’s up my street.
I actually love the opening of Pichola and that unbelievable explosion of brightness through the fantastic neroli-mandarin note. I also love just how realistic the orange blossoms are on my skin, so like the smell of the fresh flowers on my mother’s orange trees. It’s a wonderful change not to have deconstructed orange blossoms with a blackened edge but to have something so bright, so fresh, it was like the whole tree was in the bottle. But I was frustrated by the elusiveness of Pichola afterwards, as well as its airy lightness. That’s a taste preference because lots of people like gauzy fragrances. For me, Pichola was too diaphanous. The notes were initially strong within the airy bubble, but it felt hard for me to pin down afterwards and felt elusive. In a way, you can say that Pichola reflects notes the way things reflect and bounce off of water, shimmering in and out.
I didn’t experience that sort of thing with any of the other NVC fragrances and most certainly not with Trayee. Like you, I love that one intensely and think it’s remarkable. I think Pichola will be remarkable and utterly gorgeous for someone whose taste veers towards the lighter, brighter side, someone who wants that vividness I described at the opening in a fragrance that is more subtle and, yes, shimmering. It would probably be great for someone living in really hot weather who wants a lighter scent they can wear. But you know me, I like my personal fragrances to have a BANG or to have such heft that they have almost opaque density like a Middle Eastern attar.
I have to say the description of the beginning sounds enticing to me,as I don’t think I’ve ever come across an orange blossom perfume to smell like the real thing does in its natural habitat.The idea of a delicate skin scent doesn’t worry me as long as the perfume is interesting enough.I bought L’orpheline which is very ethereal but there’s something incredibly soothing and calm about it.Last year I’ve been fascinated by S-Perfume 100%Love(I want to buy it)-total oddball but so gentle and heartwarming(very much a skin scent but that fits the concept:it feels like cloudy,fluffy, pink dream of love).Cuir Beluga:soft,soft,soft!Love it,I want it!So yes I do like perfumes with a delicate touch,but not those that fall apart at the seams too quickly.That’s different.Will see what category I’ll think Pichola belongs too.
Well, damn, this makes me sad, as I had high hopes for this one…. and I do so love my white flowers. But thank you for such a thorough and beautifully written review, Kafka, you always make my mornings better when you have a new post out!
Is it the lightness issue? Because my skin does eat through pure florals with great speed, as you know. Given how much you love the Big White Florals genre, I think you should try Pichola for yourself because maybe your skin will handle it differently.
Lutens’ A La Nuit lasts about 8 hours on me, so yeah, white flowers stick to me like glue, but also, the translucency factor in such a pricy perfume is definitely an issue for me….. since I tend to agree with you on the Wagnerian front 😉
I, for one, am extremely grateful that you take the time to compare your experience and perceptions with that of others, and find it immensely valuable when I’m researching a new scent. After all, this is such a subjective topic!
I’ve tried it and love it. Then again, I tend to detect a note of “rot” in white florals, especially tuberose, lily, and jasmine. I don’t get “rot” in Pichola, just a bright, delicious, and sophisticated citrus-floral that maintains its “drinkable” quality even through the drydown. Plenty of sillage on me. This might be the only white floral scent I can wear. Highly recommended for people who typically avoid white florals due to a “scat” note, or for white floral lovers who want to try them in a balanced, delicate blend.
No, it’s not indolic at all. Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts.
Thanks, and thank you for your detailed review! I find it interesting the way “indolic” is described both as fecal/rotten and as emphatically NOT fecal/rotten (but more mentholated) in perfume reviews. So I deliberately didn’t use the word “indolic” for fear of being corrected by someone who defines it the other way. But you are indeed understanding the way I meant it, and that’s exactly what puts me off white florals typically, that and a “greasy” aspect I get with tuberose in particular. I understand that lovers of white florals might want to wallow in these fragrance aspects, like lovers of certain single-malt scotches want ONLY that aspect of the scotch to be amplified, and amplified to an extreme. Me, I love a good blended scotch (hello Johnny Walker Blue), and Pichola is like a beautifully balanced blended liquor of drinkable citrus fruits and flowers. My favorite of the NVCs is Mohur, but I find this harmonic balance to be consistent throughout her perfumes, and it works well for me. I must have the “right type of skin” (and nose and brain) of which you wrote.
For me, the issue of indoles and “indolic” is completely separated from the deconstructed method that brings out the mentholated, camphorous aroma. Indoles can, at the greatest extreme, smell either like mothballs, decayed rottenness, or like the “scat”/fecal/litterbox aroma that you referenced. At a lesser quantity, they are sensual, ripe, and fleshy. But, to me, that’s wholly separate from the blackened, camphorous thing that can appear. So, I do specify which one appears, or if both versions do.
Here, with Pichola, as you so rightly noted, neither one does. It’s a wholly fresh, bright aroma that is very similar to the flowers growing on the tree. In that sense, it is a greener sort of floral note, a more natural and fresh one. I can absolutely see why you’d compare the feel of the scent to something almost liquidy, because Pichola does have a dewy, almost nectared freshness to it, especially thanks to the citrus accord of neroli and mandarin.
You’re not alone, you know, in your issues with the indolic side of white florals. I’d actually say that was quite a common thing. In fact, I’d say that hardcore tuberose lovers are a tiny, tiny minority in this world, especially as compared to the plethora of rose lovers. I think one reason why so many people love rose fragrances is because that is one flower that is actually NOT indolic at all. Scientifically, it’s the white flowers (like jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose) which put out indoles because bees can’t see the flowers at all. So nature has found a way to signal to the bees that the flowers are around. The indoles act as a sort of olfactory radio frequency or message so that the bees can pollinate the flowers. Really high concentrations of indoles smell like mothballs or the “scat” rotten note, and are picked up like blips on radar by the bees. Roses don’t need to do that because the bees can register them or “see” them, so to speak. So I think Mother Nature didn’t find a reason to make them indolic. You probably knew all that already, but I thought you might find it interesting if you didn’t, and it might explain to you why the indolic group of white flowers is more of a struggle for you. 🙂
I actually did NOT know the bit about the bees and indoles, which is fascinating. A wisp of decay attracts insects — it makes perfect sense. I also think it’s fascinating the way we ourselves can change in sensitivity over time, with age or hormonal fluctuations or illness. I used to love patchouli until an especially fragrance-sensitive pregnancy put me off it. Now, years later, I can only handle it in small doses, so I’m forced to acknowledge how others have felt about it all along, LOL. It must make perfume reviewing a challenge — you are but one person, and you’re describing in as much detail and honesty your own sensory reaction through hours of the perfume’s development, knowing readers might have a different reaction. If you disagree in overall assessment (love it or “meh”), you can both be “right.” Perfume reviewing is HARD in such a visually oriented culture!
It is a bit of challenge, because I can only describe my experience and it’s all rather individualistic. That’s why I think it helps to quote other people’s experiences in order to give a fuller picture, especially when their experience diverges from my own. In the end, there is no absolute, no one story, no “right” or “wrong” with any of this. 🙂
I’d been looking forward to this one, and am now looking forward to trying it all the more. I don’t need my florals to be Wagnerian at all (it is in fact rare that I love a Brünnhilde, though it’s been known to happen on occasion), so I’ve still got this on my to-test list. I also like the brightness of sandalwood from Australia or New Caledonia, so that’s a plus in my book as well.
I liked Bombay Bling, liked Mohur (in edp – I’ve not tried extrait), but was surprised that Trayee was the winner from this house for me, as a meditative and calming sort of fragrance. (Ashoka did not appeal on the basis of notes and I’ve not sought it out.)
At the risk of sounding disrespectful and possibly even ungrateful… please forgive me… I will admit to feeling a bit taken aback whenever I read someone else’s review substantially quoted as part of your review. Granted, I understand that your much-appreciated bent toward thoroughness is the reason for quoting other reviews, and these seem to appear most often when the other reviewer’s experience varied considerably from yours. You do attribute and provide links, entirely correctly, and I know that the laziness of padding your own review is absolutely remote from your reasons for quoting.
And yet. It still troubles me in a vague way that I’ve been struggling to define for myself since this review posted the other day. When I pin it down, I may attempt to explain it. (Perhaps this comment should have been made via email, but I noticed recently your reply to another commenter that your ability to respond to emails is limited due to time constraints – and I did want to express this vague uneasiness I feel with the quotes.)
In other news, I’m attempting another wearing of Maai soon. We’ll see if the chypre shows up this time.
I will send you an email to discuss your “vague uneasiness.”
Changing the subject, I think you’ll really enjoy Pichola, Mal. It has a brightness and natural freshness that is sweet without being cloying, fruitiness that is complex and energizing, and a creaminess that is very enjoyable. Ashoka wasn’t my cup of tea, either, for what it’s worth, but then I’m not an iris person. I’m surprised to hear that Trayee was the winner for you, as I don’t associate you with spice mixes, incense, or oud, but I’m glad you enjoy it so much. It’s my favorite from the house, too.
Udaipur looks stunning! I’ll have to add it to my never-ending list of places I’d like to see before I die! A lot of aspects of Pichola sound quite lovely and I think I’d like it, though perhaps not love it. The creamscicle thing sounds not up my alley, but so many other elements sound divine. I have a feeling this is one I would appreciate on others, rather than wanting it on myself. I really admire Neela’s talent, and Mohur is my favorite of her fragrances. I need to smell the extrait of that one soon!
I think you’d enjoy Pichola, Kevin, so I hope you get to sample it. And you must definitely try Mohur extrait!
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