Historically, Ashoka was one of India's greatest emperors. Here the name refers to a fragrance that projects a warm woody floral scent with figgy/milky/creamy undertones. Don't ask me, I can't make the connection; there's nothing remotely regal in terms of style or presentation.
Exactly how floral is Ashoka? Apart from a powdery almost buttery iris/mimosa accord in the opening, the main floral accord is not overtly fragrant nor perfumey although there is a fleeting camphorous nuance that evokes certain indolic white flowers. But it's not significant enough to deter the average male fragrance user.
I don't find Ashoka particularly sweet nor gourmand either, counterbalanced as it were by a vein of dry cedar and sandalwood in the base. A hint of grassy vetiver on my skin signals the rather disappointingly rapid conclusion of this (non)epic. Wearing on fabric as Way Off Scenter had suggested earlier is therefore not such a bad idea.
Overall this is a nice, competently constructed fragrance, straining under the weight of expectations due in part to a wallet-busting price tag. Price tags are funny. Knock $100 off and it starts smelling better.
A fuller pyramid, from Luckyscent.com: lotus, rose, water hyacinth, fig leaf, parsley leaf, osmanthus absolute, cassie absolute, iris, incense essence, jasmine sambac, fig milk, geranium, ylang-ylang, fir balsam absolute, myrrh, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla accord, ambre gris, birch, Haitian vetiver, leather, styrax, heliotrope
Ashoka opens on a powdery blend mimosa/cassie and iris, soon overlain by an accord of milky fig sap and incense, lightly sweetened by vanilla. It chugs along in a linear fashion before trailing off into a chalky/woody drydown. (Comparisons to Hermèssence Santal Massoïa are apt.)
Unfortunately, the base notes of chemically sweetened green vetiver and cedar wood are highly reminiscent of those encountered in Arquiste’s Boutonnière No. 7. They were anticlimactic in the context of Arquiste’s gardenia, and I find them equally disappointing and off-putting here. I enjoy Ashoka for the few hours that the fig and incense endure, but find myself wanting to scrub it off in the drydown. Much better on paper or fabric, where the drydown is postponed, than on skin.
Ashoka was one of my favorite releases in 2013 and was in my rotation for early spring this year.
I get sweet, fruity notes (osmanthus?), milky fig, an incense note, a mild plastic-leather note and a floral melange, all well blended and quite concentrated. After an hour or two, a salty sandalwood note slides in to anchor the whole thing, and it dries down as a milky fig / salty sandalwood combo. To me it is suggestive of Santal Massoia, Profumum Eccelso and aspects of its sib, Trayee. Projection is just moderate, but longevity is good.
The opening few minutes really are beautiful. Ashoka approaches my 'too sweet' limit, but stays just this side of the line. Winner!
A common thread to the Neela Vermeire collection (with the exception of Bombay Bling) is a certain luxurious milkiness. If Mohur is the most dreamy rose milk pudding imaginable (no, believe me, you do want to smell like one where Mohur’s concerned), Ashoka extends the natural sappy quality of fig leaves into a pool of lactones. The fleeting opening flourishes of pine needles and leather (in the floral mode of Heeley’s Cuir Pleine Fleur) quickly make way for the main event – a sumptuously milky and pale green fig, a thousand-fold improvement on the gaggle of sharp fig perfumes that followed in the wake of fine, fully realized, first-wave creations like Philosykos. Sandalwood (which also has a creamy aspect) and a touch of ambergris in the base make for a perfectly calming and gentle composition.
It’s a shame that something so beauteous is so quiet, but there you go – that’s another common thread of the Neela Vermeire range. Also, the deep base evolves into a more humdrum woody fig.
The opening is apparently simple, but actually basing on a quite complex texture, a floral-green accord on amber-vanillin, with a bold "yellow flowers" feel, a fruity hint (the fig leaves, I guess) and even a vegetable note, but above all, flowers and green leaves. The base is a mellow, canonic white musks-sandalwood accord, a milky and creamy pillow – if you are familiar with Duchaufour's style, that's quite it. The overall balance is nice, I like the contrast between the creamy base and the pungent, fresh crunchy green notes, with a pleasant silky floral accord halfway these two. It's basically a dense, but not particularly opulent Oriental scent, dangerously tending towards a gourmand territory. It luckily eventually dries and turns towards a more organic-vegetable floral side, always on a soft base, with a nice "vegetable garden" fresh breeze all around and a tasty blend of spices. As minutes pass it gets more and more denser and cozier, the rose emerges better, it all darkens and gets on a rose-vegetable territory, with a slightly more leathery dusty base, delicate but dry and sharp. This is a nice scent which just... wants to be too much (rose, gourmand, floral, green, leather, woody) and ends up in smelling undefined and a bit unstructured – not in a positive way, since it's quite classic and traditional. The drydown is a bit disappointing – and unrelated, solitary, neverending oud debris. Not bad, but... meh.