Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Sometimes I encounter fragrances that are the equivalent of overpriced haute cuisine—glittering table settings, 5 waiters per customer and a gnawing sense of disappointment at the end of the meal. That is exactly how I find Christian Dior Patchouli Impérial—the promise of a beautiful experience with little substance and character when it finally dries down on the skin.
Since Patchouli Impérial is a part of Christian Dior La Collection Privée, I would have preferred something avant-garde and edgy. The tame and safe nature of the Collection surprises me, especially since the perfumes are meant to be niche. Considering that François Demachy is one of the top perfumers with extensive experience, why does Dior continue playing the same tune as everyone else? When I smell Patchouli Impérial or New Look 1947, I feel more frustrated than when I am testing the latest Mariah Carey Lollipop Bling. These fragrances contain fascinating ideas, but unfortunately they are not pushed far enough.
Overall, Patchouli Impérial is an elegant composition with some surprising touches. Although billed as patchouli, it is much more nuanced than this. The composition opens up on a lush animal and iris accord, with subtle spicy touches lifting up the richness. It feels like Guerlain Shalimar stripped of its citrus and vanilla layers, with its animalic and woody facets rendered lighter and fresher. However, Patchouli Impérial retains its interest and drama only for its initial stages.
The drydown is where it falls apart into the predictable sugary and musky chord of most contemporary fragrances. The dissonance between the elegant opening and pedestrian finish is striking, and however much I like the initial stages, I cannot bear the sweet blandness that follows. It is also a good illustration that expensive ingredients are not enough for a great perfume. While the materials that comprise Patchouli Impérial are luxurious, the juice itself is anything but.
Patchouli Impérial is a part of Christian Dior La Collection Privée. It includes notes of patchouli, coriander, and sandalwood. Available from the Dior boutiques in various sizes: 125ml ($150), 250ml ($225) ml spray as well as 450ml (330€) splash.
Sample: my own acquisition