Les Nereides Patchouli Antique : Perfume Review

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If there is such a thing as a Proustian fragrance note, surely patchouli must be it.  The bushy herb that is part of the mint family provokes unbidden (and unwanted) associations with the Sixties, when it became the perfume of choice of the hippie tribe.  In its natural state a green aromatic that is used as natural insecticide, the herb is a basenote staple of perfumery as well as being celebrated as a central theme.

Les Néréides Patchouli Antique is one of a number of patchouli-centric fragrances in niche perfume lines that strips away the past and presents patchouli as something eminently more palatable for modern tastes. Patchouli takes well to a variety of diverse elements, from the overworked fruit to tobacco, amber, vanilla, leather, benzoin, musk, and woods, to name a few.  It does especially well with vanilla, which is the treatment Les Néréides has given it to create a smooth, well-tempered “golden” patchouli that smells as if it has been cask-aged like a fine liqueur.

Although the lasting power is superb and the strength impressive, Patchouli Antique is a mellow liquid using vanilla not as a sweetening agent but as a smoothing one.  Vanilla takes the edge off the green, aromatic and slightly minty quality that the note possesses in isolation. The “antique” of the name conjures up ideas of aging and one is hard-pressed to escape a noticeable mustiness that creeps into the fragrance after a fruity and golden opening.

Patchouli Antique is not enslaved to the herbal origin of the note.  After the fruitiness of the opening comes a lovely, semi-damp earthiness similar to what one finds in L’Artisan Voleur de Roses and then the notes of wood, paper, leather, and perhaps a vapor of alcohol.  At this point I’d not be surprised to find it served, straight up, in a specialty bar, the way the most esoteric tequilas are with their whiffs of the barrels in which they matured.

Vanilla comes into play in the drydown, rubbing out the earlier earthy and liqueur-like qualities but not in a degree that makes the fragrance gourmand.  It does tend to desensitize the patchouli a bit; those looking for straight-up patchouli should head immediately to the tongue-twisting Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561 Patchouly Indonesiano, which claims no note other than patchouli and which is both revelatory and a head-clearer.  Those looking to mostly eradicate the note by means of sweetness should consider Montale Patchouli Leaves, in which the leaves are steeped in vanilla.

It’s probably inevitable that one should liken Patchouli Antique to some sort of garment, generally cashmere, due to the ambery-vanillic plushness that appears after the mildew note dissipates.  Depending on the method of application (spraying or dabbing) it can become almost a skin scent when applied in moderation, or it can announce itself as patchouli and it will elicit remark when used that way.

This isn’t a fragrance for those who dislike the note. If that is the case, Patchouli Antique will not cause conversion. It’s a great scent for patchouli connoisseurs who make small distinctions in earthiness and sweetness and formality and in-.  It’s my third favorite patchouli after Chanel Coromandel and Reminiscence Patchouli and I can’t think of any way to “improve” it or to render it more pleasurable.

Les Néréides Patchouli Antique includes notes of patchouli, musk and vanilla. Available from Luckyscent and directly from Les Néréides boutiques

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31 Comments

  • maja: I’d love to sample this!

    ps. As soon as I read Coromandel I had to run and apply it from my tiny decant. There’s something mouthwatering about it, so gorgeous! Thank heavens I like patchouli 😀 October 24, 2012 at 7:35am Reply

    • Suzanna: Maja, fortunately this one is easy to try! If you like Coromandel, you will like this one. October 24, 2012 at 9:26am Reply

  • ElizabethW: Because this is one of my top favorite patchouli scents (and I have lots of them), I will have to try your top two! Your description of the scent and how it plays with vanilla is spot on, in my opinion. I think I’ll wear some today. 🙂 October 24, 2012 at 7:44am Reply

  • Canadianpetite: I have been reading your beautiful scent descriptions for a while now but never commented. I love the art of scents/perfumery but am not a perfumista — yet. I am learning though. I hear so much good things about Coromandel, I must get me some. October 24, 2012 at 7:48am Reply

    • Suzanna: Welcome, Canadianpetite, so glad you joined the discussion here on BdJ! Thanks for your kind words and let me know how you like Coromandel! October 24, 2012 at 9:26am Reply

  • rosarita: I’m so glad to see this excellent review of one of my very favorite perfumes. Led Nereides is such a good line of well priced and well made niche scents and I don’t see them mentioned much. That * aged in oak barrels * feeling to Patch Antique is my favorite part. Imperial Opoponax is good too; sometimes I’ll wear a little of both on a really cold day. October 24, 2012 at 9:26am Reply

    • Suzanna: Imperial Opoponax is the other scent from this line that I like, rosarita! Wearing them together does sound nice! October 24, 2012 at 9:27am Reply

  • Apollonia: This is so timely, Suzanna, as I was just considering this line the other day after Victoria’s post on niche lines. Thank you! And you even recommended the other scent I was wondering about, Imperial Opoponax! Now I will definitely get both samples to try! LOVE that patchouli! And sometimes don’t you just crave a fragrance without big white flowers? October 24, 2012 at 10:44am Reply

    • Suzanna: Absolutely, and that’s when I reach for patchouli (or woods) frags.

      One caveat about this line: Both of my bottles turned after a couple of years. This is to be expected, probably, but none of my other frags have, so something about these is more fragile. Either that or I just should use them up more quickly :–) October 24, 2012 at 11:10am Reply

  • Apollonia: And rosarita (whose opinion I respect) recommended Imperial Opoponax first, of course! Good enough for me! October 24, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

    • rosarita: I hope you like them as much as I do 🙂 October 24, 2012 at 2:52pm Reply

  • Steve: What a wonderful review. This is going to the top of my “must try list”! October 24, 2012 at 11:49am Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks, Steve, hope you enjoy this frag! October 24, 2012 at 6:30pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Suzanna,

    There are certain notes such as patchouli that have connotations of throwbacks to the 60’s. Today’s review puts that to rest with the refined description that this fragrance holds. L’Artisan’s Patchouli Patch was my personal patchouli find, which I still enjoy but this is clearly richer fragrance and one worth exploring especially with the chill in the air. October 24, 2012 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Nancy, this is much richer than the L’Artisan, which I always find kind of thin. Lovely in cold weather! October 24, 2012 at 6:27pm Reply

  • Emma: All those niche fragrance lines now and they all have hundreds of patchoulis, ambers and ouds, I don’t know how you do it to keep reviewing this but as much as I love perfumes, I’m losing interest here.

    Piguet now has a Bois Noir (couldn’t sound more Serge Lutens than that!), a Casbah and an Oud, it’s so ridiculous, these brands were always very “parisian”, they never explored the orientalist thing until now.

    Who are these unimaginative executives who work for these companies? I don’t get it. October 24, 2012 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Suzanna: It’s following a successful trend and often it doesn’t work, as you noticed! October 24, 2012 at 6:31pm Reply

  • minette: sounds delish!

    i get so many compliments when i wear my tunisian patchouli oil by kuumba made (more than i get with my expensive perfumes!), and i love wearing patchouli pure by fresh, and anything with patchouli in the dry down. l’artisan’s patch is pleasant, and voleur de roses is unique (though my sprayer doesn’t want to work anymore). patchouli and oakmoss are my friends!

    santa maria novella makes a patchouli that is like a kick in the butt – very medicinal, and very refreshing. but not soft or pretty. it’s like an antique potion or witches’ brew.

    love coromandel, but on my skin it reads like shalimar! wild. never get the patch from it. if it didn’t smell so much like shalimar on me, i would get it!

    will have to try this one – sounds like it’s right up my alley. October 24, 2012 at 3:47pm Reply

    • Suzanna: minette, I love that Kuumba Made patch oil, too! And also Voleur, which as you say is unique.

      Thanks for rec on the SMN, which I have not tried. October 24, 2012 at 6:28pm Reply

  • Memory of Scent: It is so nice to see someone write about a Les Nereides perfume. I haven’t tried this but I own several others and they are all incredibly good and underrated October 24, 2012 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Very underrated. I know quite a few people who wear this line, but it seems to have fallen off the map, perfume-wise. October 24, 2012 at 6:29pm Reply

  • Ann-Sofie: I love patchouli, and this one I will need to try, obviously. I have Coromandel and Prada Intense – do Les Nereides differ much from them, or are there such similarity that Les Nereides would be a bit obsolete?

    (I visited their website, and the pricing was a nice and not a niche surprise). October 25, 2012 at 5:57am Reply

    • Suzanna: A tough question, Ann-Sofie. I find Patch Antique something for the connoisseur who is able to make certain distinctions in their patchouli fragrances. Prada is fruitier and Coromandel sleeker. Patch Antique is “mustier” and has that barrel-aged, golden quality that is its signature. October 25, 2012 at 9:24am Reply

      • Ann-Sofie: Hmm, now I am really curious. I will sample this! Thanks. October 25, 2012 at 10:11am Reply

  • Daisy: Coromandel is one of my favorite scents of all time. I bet I would love this. Adding it to the must-sniff list! October 25, 2012 at 3:07pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Go for it, Daisy! October 25, 2012 at 9:35pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Suzanna… It reminded me to ask….will be reviewing Kilian’s In The Garden of Good and Evil trilogy? October 25, 2012 at 7:26pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks, Ariadne!

      I wonder if V. is going to review the trilogy. Perhaps she will surprise us with a review. October 25, 2012 at 9:35pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: This sounds divine. I know patchouli is sometimes an acquired taste, but I have always loved its rich wood/herbal scent…. it reminds me of burning marijuana, so it has a sensual, sophorific effect that I enjoy. (also reminds me of a really gorgeous man I used to know…). I know I keep haroing on this but Loree Rodkin’s “Gothic II” has a lovely blend of patchouli and vanilla- a kind of sweet/savory blend that I love in the Fall and Winter when I amm dressed up or wearing nothing else except a string of black pearls. October 26, 2012 at 6:19pm Reply

  • Leah: Hi Suzanna

    This sounds so wonderful! I also rank Coromandel as a top Patchouli so i must try this. Do you think this could work as a unisex scent? Amazing how different compositions bring out different qualities in Patchouli – I have smelled quite a few that were unintentionally reminiscent of a headshop. October 27, 2012 at 2:47pm Reply

  • Suzanna: Yes, it is absolutely unisex. And not reminiscent of headshops at all! October 27, 2012 at 3:39pm Reply

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