Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Oriental Roses: Neela Vermeire - Mohur & Scent On Canvas - Rose Opera

Last spring I wrote about two of my favourite ‘alternative roses’, taking an exceedingly French angle with the exploration of Robert Piguet’s broody masterpiece – Calypso and Parfum D’Empire’s effervescent – Eau Suave. You can read about them by clicking here.
For the rest of the year my nose fatigued of the ongoing replications of current trends, i.e. rose + oud and rose + patchouli, samples of which lay unloved the dusty yawn of my ‘unlikely to review’ box. However, I searched hard for word worthy roses and discovered two with distinct and worldly personalities. Although both classified as unisex, I interpret them as ‘his and hers’ orientals, Rose Opera by Scent on Canvas and Mohur by Neela Vermeire Creations.

The Rose In Victorian Orientalism 
For him:
Men just don’t wear enough roses, and when they do it’s often butched-up with buckets of black pepper or a strident wood. I’m thinking of Cartier’s Declaration D’ Un Soir here which makes me sneeze uncontrollably with watering eyes. Some of the finest roses hail from the beauty counters of the high street, in particular YSL. I would grant a definite second glance to a man striding past me in a cloud of the aldehydic mossy rose - Rive Gauche (women’s version) or in the fizzy, sour, rose-Ribena of (the rather sickly named) In Love Again.
Scent On Canvas present an abstract rose composition that is dominated by a dry spicy saffron note, rendering it sufficiently butch to avoid being perceived as overtly feminine.

A complex composition, Rose Opera rather suits it’s orchestral name. It does that peculiar thing that we associate with Mitsouko in that it’s so well blended that single notes (it’s instruments) do not shout for noisy dominance, in fact some are undetectable amongst the symphonic aroma simply serving a supporting role. A peak at it’s Fragrantica page reveals that many can smell a wild strawberry note. I highly doubt this would be the case if it weren’t previously revealed to be nestling amongst the top. I can’t detect it. Above all else, this is a distinctly arid spiced oriental, rich in saffron, smokey woods and cardamom, where even the suggestion of rose appears in an abstraction. Alike YSL’s eternal spice bomb Opium, it lasts for aeons, unlike Opium, it’s subtle.

Maria Coluccelli's beautiful artwork for the Rose Opera  packaging
Rose Opera fits into the heavily replicated genre of ‘Cod-Arabic Rose’, a bore-fest of Western perfume houses filling everything with oud, naming it something to connote a desert or souk and overpricing it. Except, that this one is not boring. It’s beautiful. Thankfully it’s creator, Jordi Fernadez, avoided the recognizably nose piercing screech of dominant oud and relied on alternative harmonic notes to create a much softer souk-a-delic trip.

'Souk-a-delic', soon to be as frequently mentioned as 'fruitchouli' and 'floriental'

For her:

In opposition to the aridity of Rose Opera, Neela Vermeire’s Mohur is a heady voluptuous juice. Although it shares many notes with the former, it drenches you with the suggestion of rain on petals. Meteorologically, more Indian, which fits rather well with Neela’s heritage and the inspiration behind the range of scents.  I’ve been underwhelmed by recent Duchaufour compositions, but this one feels truly creative, as if he’s felt genuinely inspired by the brief.
Again, describing individual notes in Mohur is a challenge. Although it is noticeably ‘rosy’. This time the concept of rose is less abstract, feeling akin to the milky and almost ‘apple-like’ sensation that occurs when you press your nose into an old fashioned globe shaped shrub rose. My mum grew a ‘Geoff Hamilton’ rose in her previous garden that gave off a scent of such profound beauty that it would necessitate sniffs on an hourly basis. Rather than shrieking ‘rose’ it was creamy, powdery, confectionary and woody, as if it were soaked in Mysore sandalwood. This is how Mohur feels.

The Geoff Hamilton Rose

Mohur was inspired by an olfactory concept of the time of the British Raj in India. An Anglo-Indian atmosphere is conjured here by an impression of Masala chai (tea). We think of tea as a quintessentially English habit, amplified by the idea of the civil servants and gentry who inevitably continued their tea parties and upper class twittery on the croquet lawns and polo fields of their ex-patriot creation. This isn’t an old fashioned British brew up though. It is the exotic cardamom rich delicacy first offered to me by a mini bus driver in Dubai. I admit I gagged at the spiced tea, made bizarrely sweet and lukewarm by the inclusion of Nestle condensed milk, but it grew on me over the following months.

Tea chaps?

So that’s Mohur, a candied and creamed sandalwood rose with an exotic eau de Holland and Barret tea bag appeal. I adore it. I want a full bottle.

Also worth a mention:

La Parfums De Rosine - Rose Kashmirie (smells a little like the scented towels given out at up-market Asian restaurants, but in a beautiful way).

Ormonde Jayne - Ta'if (peppery and woody oriental rose, elegant and sensual)

Neal's Yard - Pure Essence EDP 2, Rose (as natural as a rose can be, affordable and photo-realistic).

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  1. Oh dear, iPhone ate my comment, so am trying again...I had never heard of the Rose Opera scent - LOL at your coinage of 'souk-a-delic'. And the packaging is exquisite. Glad you are enjoying Mohur - it is a beauty for sure.

    1. Vanessa, you are officially my witness. I hope to be remembered in years to come for the invention of souk-a-delic.. In fact, I might approach the Fragrance Foundation to ask them to create a new Jasmine Award category 'daft perfume words' so I can enter it. I just read the winner of the Literary Award's brilliant essay on perfume haters. It's very good. It deserved the award. Have you taken a look at the winners yet?
      Thanks for introducing me to Mohur. It has become a fast favourite.

    2. Hi Sarah, have been overtaken by work this week, but clocked the award winners at least. Reading the winning entries is next up - looking forward to it. Hmm, I love my puns and alliteration, but not sure I have ever coined a 'daft perfume word' per se. But we definitely need a category in the UK FiFis! ;)

  2. I'm with Vanessa: I've never heard of Rose Opera before. Mohur is beautiful but I like Mohur Esprit de Parfum better. And Ta'if is one of my most favorite perfumes.

    1. Hi Undina, Scent On Canvas do a really good sample set, 5 x 3 ml for 10 Euro. There is a leathery violet in it that is well worth a sniff too.