Christian Dior Patchouli Imperial : Fragrance Review



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



  • Tuip: Seems to me blogoland could come up with a simple term for these disappointments: rip-off (RO), 3star, dummy…. there must be some word/phrase out there that would say it all! November 2, 2011 at 8:09am Reply

  • Suzanna: I don’t think the original three have ever been eclipsed. And will cotton-candy drydowns fall out of fashion already? I know exactly what you mean and I have noticed it along with a trend of general dissonance bet. opening and finish, as if one has nothing to do with the other.

    “Sweet blandness” is the new unisex fragrance accord. November 2, 2011 at 8:21am Reply

  • Michael: The only one I’ve truly appreciated so far has been Leather Oud. Even in a market of overdone ouds, this really stands out for me, and has some heft and longevity. November 2, 2011 at 9:34am Reply

  • Victoria: I guess, I use my star ratings this way. But yes, it is possible to coin something even more descriptive! November 2, 2011 at 9:52am Reply

  • Victoria: I liked Leather Oud the most, and the original ones. Mitzah is very enjoyable, but not earthshattering. November 2, 2011 at 9:53am Reply

  • Victoria: I completely agree, it stands out. One of the best, if not the best, in the Collection. November 2, 2011 at 9:56am Reply

  • carmencanada: I agree Leather Oud is the most compelling in the collection — in fact, it’s probably the most elegant Western oud, and I’ve tried a dozen for an article I’m writing. I seemed to have enjoyed Patchouli Impérial more than you did, but I haven’t really paid atttention to the drydown. I’ll have to re-test it. As it was I found it engagingly animalic…
    I don’t think the Collection Privée was intended to be very groundbreaking — I can imagine some of the ideas are launching pads for the mainstream products. November 2, 2011 at 12:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, that's true! They aren't meant to be cutting edge, which in itself seems to be a lost opportunity. November 2, 2011 at 2:17pm Reply

  • annemariec: I was very impressed with the salty, piney, herbal windswept qualities of Granville. I thought that genuinely interesting, tho’ it is not a long-lived fragrance. New Look bored me, although it does have its fans, I know. I have not tried the others. Too many … too confusing … tho’ Mitzah (is it?) sounds good. November 3, 2011 at 3:06am Reply

  • Victoria: I also get confused by the numerous simultaneous releases. And I agree with you on Granville. The salty-resinous note is very alluring. I find that all of the fragrances are well-made, but many of them lack some spark or character. Leather Oud is an exception. November 3, 2011 at 10:47am Reply

  • Edward: Hello Victoria.

    My post is very late as I was only able to smell some in the La Collection Privee today. I somewhat agree with your observation on Patchouli Imperial. To my nose, it is a straightforward, sheer but exquisite patchouli smell. It is good but something that will not really build a strong lemming in me. I agree on your 3 stars.

    On the side, I liked very much Bois De Argent. This I will definitely buy a bottle!

    Have a good day and Happy 2013!

    Edward December 29, 2012 at 4:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy new year to you too!

      Bois d’Argent is one of my favorites from that collection. You’ve reminded me that I need to revisit and review it. December 29, 2012 at 4:30am Reply

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