You know how you only need to see a few square inches to know that a painting is a Van Gogh? Or read a paragraph to know a story is by Hemingway? Perfume brands can have a distinctive style, too. It’s wonderful when an artist has a “voice.” On the other hand, can a style become limiting — or even boring? For perfume, how do you avoid the olfactory equivalent of playing the same tune, but in a different register?
Neela Vermeire Créations’ fragrances have a definite voice: spice, a creamy density, a love of incense, wood and rose. When I sampled Rahele, I wondered how Neela Vermeire and Bertrand Duchaufour, the perfumer she works with, would spin something fresh. I needn’t have worried. Rahele melds well with the rest of the perfume house’s offerings, but smells like something new, too: a sheer yet complex fragrance that feels partly like a spice-tinted leather chypre and partly like a gentle cologne.
Rahele’s notes include green mandarin, cardamom, cinnamon, violet leaf, osmanthus, rose, magnolia, jasmin, iris, violet, cedar, sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli and leather. The Neela Vermeire Creations website says “Rahele is intended as an ‘ode to exotic travel,’ and was inspired by three Frenchmen who traveled to India during the 17th century.”1
Rahele goes on fresh and sheer, but not bright — more “iced tea with a trace of orange and spice” than “lemonade.” It warms up and gains shape right away with glove leather, cedar, and enough cream-and-purple toned florals to soften it and give it body. The skin-like softness of patchouli lurks underneath and blends gently with sandalwood and moss. (Note to patchouli-phobes: no one would call this a patchouli fragrance at all, but it’s noticeable.)
As Rahele murmurs along on my skin, it twists now and then, showing a bit more sandalwood and supple leather, or a puff of cinnamon and osmanthus, a tingle of cedar. After half a day, it’s gone.
I’m worried that my description makes Rahele sound like a big, masculine fragrance that should come with cigars and a key to the executive washroom. It’s not. Rahele is light on my skin and present, but unobtrusive. It’s not an elevator-clearer. Rahele does tip slightly masculine, and men who cower at the mention of “rose” would feel comfortable wearing it. But it’s perfectly unisex, and I plan on taking it out on the town today with peony pink lipstick and a 1950s cotton sundress festooned with blue mums.
All in all, to me Rahele feels light, but not bright or simple. It wears with the airy ease of a cologne, but it’s warmer and more complex. It’s not a dabber, either. You’ll want to spray liberally and enjoy Rahele all around you. Which means it should come in a quart-sized bottle, if you want to make this a Rahele summer and fall. If it weren't for the mortgage, I’d be tempted.
Neela Vermeire Creations Rahele Eau de Parfum is $235 for 60 ml. For information on where to buy it, see Neela Vermeire Créations under Perfume Houses.