10 Favorite Modern Patchouli Fragrances

I started my 2-part patchouli series by describing classical fragrances, or rather classical uses of patchouli. This material was once used as an accent note to enrich ambers, leathers, and mosses, add darkness to herbs and citrus, and to create shadows in floral bouquets. Then Thierry Mugler Angel happens in 1993 and perfumery hasn’t been the same since. Today, using a formula with 25% patchouli won’t make anyone raise their eyebrows, and this ingredient has become so ubiquitous in sweet, gourmand perfumes that it has engendered its own family.

Why has this happened? Angel certainly showed that pairing patchouli with sugary notes like caramel, vanilla, or cotton candy creates a striking contrast. The sweetness recedes, while the warm dryness of patchouli shimmers. Imagine that almost thirty years later Angel remains one of the most copied perfumes. It’s also still among the top-selling fragrances.

For this reason, compiling a list of modern patchouli fragrances was easy. I titled my post “Favorite” patchouli fragrances, although I should say that I also included perfumes that made a splash and influenced other creations, whether in fine fragrance, candles, shower gels, or home cleaning products.

And here is my top 10 contemporary patchouli list

Thierry Mugler Angel

Angel is polarizing but intriguing. I can count on my fingers how many times I wore it for pleasure–not for work, but I still find it fascinating. I just don’t want to sit next to someone on a plane or at a movie theater wearing it. A great example of patchouli’s tempering effect on sweet, rich notes.

Prada Eau de Parfum

Angel, Prada, and Flowerbomb are all siblings with different personalities. Prada is the most elegant and aloof of the trio, so it’s recommended for those who like warm ambery patchouli fragrances but without heavy sweetness. I also smell a curious toasted rye bread accent in it.

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb

Not a favorite, perhaps, but it’s representative of the genre and must be included. Patchouli here lacks its earthy facets, so its effect is soft and woody against the gourmand-floral accord.

Reminiscence Patchouli

A definitive patchouli created in 1970, it was reformulated enough that I classified it with the post-Angel perfumes. Its generous use of patchouli blended with amber and musk is impressive. But be warned, it’s a fragrance for serious patchouli lovers.

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834

If I were to select my favorite patchouli, Borneo 1834 would be my choice. I wouldn’t even hesitate naming it. Everything about this fragrance is perfect–the balance of dry, earthy patchouli and luscious bitter chocolate, the elegant development, the slow burn. If you find it too edgy, see below for a milder recasting.

Chanel Coromandel

A softer, warmer version of Borneo 1834 created by the same perfumer Christopher Sheldrake. I like the bitter chocolate and patchouli pairing so much that I own and wear both fragrances.

Dior Gris Montaigne

One of the most sophisticated patchouli-rose combinations. Agent Provocateur is another option, if you prefer more spice.

Guerlain Patchouli Ardent

An elegant take on patchouli layered with fruity-green notes, pink pepper, rose, and musk. Warm and elegant and suitable for both men and women.

Guerlain Pamplelune

The first version of this perfume was striking for its strong sulfuric note that nevertheless captured the smell of pink grapefruit. The current iteration is milder but still fun, and patchouli is used to offset the bittersweet citrus rind.

Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose

The combination of patchouli, rose, and mineral notes creates an effect of sun-warmed stones and Mediterranean herbs. Linear but evocative.

If you missed the first part of the series, here is the video:

As always, I’m curious about your favorite fragrances and your thoughts on patchouli in general.

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29 Comments

  • Tourmaline: Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for another interesting post. I’d forgotten that there was patchouli in Pamplelune! It is the only fragrance on your list that I own. I bought it a few years ago, largely on account of the many good reviews of it that I read. At first, I didn’t particularly like it. But last summer, when I wished for an alternative to my usual citrus scents, I began using it, and I grew to adore it. It was perfect for the hottest days, along with some dryer florals such as Anaïs Anaïs. I think we have a very hot summer coming up in Brisbane in a couple of months, so I’m glad I bought the largest bottle of Pamplelune!

    Based on your suggestions, I am very much looking forward to sampling Borneo 1834 and Coromandel. I hope I can detect the chocolate note in both of them.

    With kind regards,
    Tourmaline October 18, 2021 at 8:28am Reply

  • rosarita: I have loved patchouli since wearing the oil in high school. It took a long time to appreciate Angel and I enjoy it’s flankers more than the original: Angel Muse, Angel Cuir and Angel Liqueur. Les Nereides Patchouli Antique is a syrupy dark patchouli that I enjoy every winter. Parfums de Nicolai Patchouli Intense is great, a green patchouli with toasted tobacco to my nose. Thanks as always for another excellent post! October 18, 2021 at 9:29am Reply

    • Nina Z: Patchouli Intense is a really interesting take on patchouli because it captures the “leafiness” of patchouli–which is a leaf, of course–rather than just the earthiness of it. I like the way it uses geranium and lavender to create that herbal leafy quality, kind of the opposite of the gourmand interpretations, though I like those as well. October 18, 2021 at 2:34pm Reply

  • Muriel: Hello Victoria and all,
    I am no big fan of patchouli, I afraid… I find it a bit “cloying”, except when it is in a “dry” fragrance, but once something sugary comes with it… it’s not my cup of tea 🙁 I once received a sample of Flowerbomb at the office and I had to run and wash my hands over and over again. However, beginning of the month I attended a session at a perfumer’s in Brussels (Parfum d’Ambre, maybe you know it Victoria?) and he introduced us to Monom, a series of perfume essences (so only the oils, no dilution in alcohol) and one of them ‘Tari’ is made out of 3 different kinds of Patchouli + Cedarwood, Cloves, Geranium, Tonka and even if I’m not ready to wear this, I find it better fitted to my taste. Another perfume of theirs is Oscuro and that’s mossy, mushroomy + Patchouli. October 18, 2021 at 10:24am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: My favourites are Chypres and Florals, but I can appreciate Patchouli as well. I own Borneo 1834
    and wear it with pleasure. John reminded us of Heritage, one of my favourite perfumes as I love lavender.
    I also like Patchouly by Etro, but I gave it away: a friend found a second hand ”hippie-dress” from the seventies, and Patchouly was a perfect match.
    As a modern perfume I love :Coco Mademoiselle Intense, my ”home sweet home” perfume. Sometimes with a tiny drop of the original Mademoiselle. A very subtle kind of Patchouli.
    The Patchouli I really detested: Shocking by Schiaparelli. My mother used to wear it sometimes. October 18, 2021 at 10:26am Reply

    • rosarita: Ooh yes, Coco Mad Intense! Love that one too. October 18, 2021 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Kimberly: I wore Mugler Angel yesterday. I have been waiting for cooler weather to try it out again. It seemed a bit suffocating during the summer months. I now love it. This perfume is a big sky candy balloon filled with all sorts of fruits and sweets. I love the way that the patchouli and other base notes keep it tethered. I’m not the biggest fan of gourmand fragrances but I don’t want to be without an Angel. October 18, 2021 at 11:16am Reply

  • Zazie: Thank you for the interesting video! As always, it is lovely to get some perfume education.
    As for patchouli, I suppose that the fact that I don’t own any of the fragrances above is telling!
    I like Coromandel, actually, and celestial patchouli by sana jardin- when the weather gets cold…
    But it is not really love.
    And I never liked any other “patchouli” anything, though I know it is one of those ingredients that are found in greater or smaller quantities in all perfumes… including those I love.
    But as solinote, or predominant note… it’s usually a no, except for those two above.
    Tastes change, though, so who knows.

    PS Do you know by chance if there is a predominant patchouli note in By Kilian’s amber oud? I often wonder. I love that one, because it has an edge of discomfort in that sweet woody coziness, just enough to make it quite enjoyable… it is the same discomfort that I get from patchouli, a sort of earthy, raspy woodiness… October 18, 2021 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Jeanne: I currently own Reminiscence‘s Patchouli as well as Les Nereides’s less boozy, somewhat drier Patchouli. I enjoy the RP much more in winter. There’s an accord which smells like deep, dark chocolate cake soaked in chocolate liqueur…you have to be in the mood for this one, as well as considerate of those around you. Thoroughly satisfying! October 18, 2021 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Tati: I wore Reminiscence Patchouli for years and received many compliments. After an hour, it mellows into a beautiful amber-patch scent. A lighter, more sophisticated scent I’ve been wearing, to not overwhelm, is VC&A Moonlight Patchouli. October 19, 2021 at 1:06am Reply

    • Tourmaline: Hi Jeanne,

      Well that’s interesting… I didn’t know that Les Néréides created perfume. I only knew the brand for the pretty jewellery that I’ve bought from a TV shopping network here in Oz. But I checked the Australian Les Néréides webside and found two patchouli scents – Patchouli Precieux and Patchouli Antique. Is yours one of those?

      Based on your description of Patchouli by Reminiscence, I’d love to try it sometime!

      With kind regards,
      Tourmaline October 21, 2021 at 6:29am Reply

  • Jane: I love the smell of Patchouli oil also from my younger days as rosarita mentioned. I would like to wear it very occasionally for nostalgia and the memories it evokes but unfortunately my husband cannot stand it! His negative reaction to it is so unlike his overall demeanor. I have only tried Angel many many years ago and it wasn’t for me-at least at the time. Perhaps one of the other scents mentioned will be a happy compromise. October 18, 2021 at 1:27pm Reply

    • Rhinda: Oh Victoria, you never fail to deliver an interesting post.
      I love Patchouli in all its forms.
      Each year I challenge myself to grow an exotic plant. Imagine my happiness at receiving this plant as a gift! My expectations of my patchouli plant scenting the entire house were a total bust! I’d rub the leaves and could barely smell the famous scent I was hoping for! I now know steam distillation is necessary! That probably won’t be happening.
      There is an indie company in the US called Zum. The make various sprays, candles, salts, even laundry soap. I buy the patchouli spray and keep it in my car. I get many complements about the way my car smells from the Zum Patchouli spray. It’s just enough but holds its own.
      I like to think of Patchouli as being one of those scents that says, “get in to yourself/get on with yourself”! October 19, 2021 at 7:09am Reply

  • Fazal: From the list, I enjoy Coromandel, Borneo, and Gris Montaigne.

    You have praised Prada EDP. I am beginning to wonder if the bottle I got was ruined or there was something else wrong with it because I had so high expectations and did not enjoy it at all. While most of the reviews I read, highly praised it, my experience was more in line with some of the minority opinions. I do remember, however, some reviews saying Jessica Simpson Fancy Nights is similar though I have not smelled Fancy Nights. Like you report, I do remember it being not so sweet.

    Given your knowledge and experience with perfumes and, particularly, your training, it is quite possible I did not understand the fragrance as well as you, or the used perfume I bought on ebay was not in the best state. October 18, 2021 at 2:11pm Reply

  • Aurora: You make me yearn to try Borneo 1834, meanwhile I love the patchouli in AdP Profumo and in Terry de Gunzburg Rouge Nocturne. October 18, 2021 at 2:54pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: Very informative video. I love Chanel Coromandel and Eau d’Italie’s Paestrum Rose best from your list. October 18, 2021 at 3:31pm Reply

  • Frances: Angel was my signature fragrance a few years ago. Surprisingly it didn’t smell cloying or loud on my skin. Actually I fell in love with Angel on a bright summer afternoon after trying on a sample. It was really out of curiosity because I was convinced I would hate it. One of my classmate back in college wore Angel and to say the fragrance didn’t suit her is an understatement. For whatever reasons, Angel smelled like bug repellent on her. Sitting next to her in class was a scented kind of torture. Maybe Angel decided to redeem itself and make me forget about this but on my skin it smelled…luminous. Yes, luminous, this is the word that comes to my mind. Of course it was gourmand, of course it was sensual but somehow in a pared down way. And above all else it was truly translucent. I was very surprised but then I remembered another classmate who wore Angel at the same time (it was very popular back in the days) and who smelled indeed really good. The bug repellent had overshadowed it in my memory. Now I wonder if I have to thank patchouli for this wonderful effect. However the fragrance never smelled dry on me.

    Because of this luminous quality I could wear it in every occasion, even when attending classes. But to be honest, my skin tend to lessen the intensity of scent, this is maybe why I can get away with wearing bombastic fragrances. Interestingly enough, I was often complimented when wearing it, but people were amazed and even shocked when they realized it was Angel. I remember a fellow student asking me about my fragrance, assuming it was one from Guerlain (!) and when discovering it was Angel almost screaming: “But it is a fragrance for scum!” Erm, yes, very polirizing indeed.

    All this to say, people should really go for Angel in spite of its reputation, it is a very intriguing fragrance indeed but also a very surprising one as it seems to have many facets depending on the person wearing it. I guess it is true for all fragrances actually but I suppose it is more noticeable when a scent is as famous as Angel. You think you know it, you think it cannot fool you and then…ta dah! Luminous dove out of the black shinny gourmand hat.

    ps: last year I really longed to wear Angel again but heard it changed alot, it lost its strenght and was afraid to try it on and be disappointed. October 18, 2021 at 4:26pm Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Frances,
      When Angel was new, I wore it, it was so new and exciting.
      It was sold out everywhere here in Amsterdam, and I smelt it a lot; most of the time it was not agreeable to the nose. But on some persons it is heavenly, really heavenly. I think you are one of those heavenly smelling people. October 19, 2021 at 5:49am Reply

      • Frances: Thank you for your kind words Cornelia, heavenly is a beautiful adjective to describe Angel’s luminous side. I remember these times when Angel was all the rage and the trend lasted quite a while actually: more than 10 years after its creation it was still super popular. Today it is a classic and while it gave birth to many gourmand copycats in its wake I think it is fair to say that (with a few exceptions) these scented distant relatives could only dream of Angel’s big personality. But as I said, I read and heard the new version had thinned alot and has more sugar than patchouli. Too bad because I suppose this is the fragile balance between the sweetness and the dryness, which Victoria explained so well, that made the fragrance so special. October 19, 2021 at 1:43pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: Hi Frances,

      What a wonderful word to describe strong fragrances – “bombastic”!

      I wear my bombastic perfumes in cold weather.

      With kind regards,
      Tourmaline October 21, 2021 at 6:35am Reply

      • Frances: Thank you Tourmaline, the word just sprung to my mind and I thought it was fun to use it as it is the exact opposite of demure (and demuse really isn’t Angel’s main quality).

        Intoxicating fragrances are beautiful comes winter time, they bring back life to stillness. The reason Angel worked so well for me, even in the summer, is because my skin doesn’t hold up on scents. Also it rounds them somehow. But a lot of the new radiant fragrances which are so on trend (like Armani famous Si, for instance), and that most people see as understated, smell too strong on me and I can’t stand them. Reaction to fragrances is really a mysterious thing. October 21, 2021 at 7:30pm Reply

        • Frances: *word correction: (and demure -not demuse!- really isn’t Angel’s main quality)

          ps: was I unconsciously thinking about Angel Muse? Never tried that one! October 21, 2021 at 7:33pm Reply

  • Michele Davis: I agree with the first poster about Guerlain Pamplelune. I adore it!

    Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose – love it! Especially when hiking.

    Victoria, you describe things so beautifully and always offer a list to explore.

    By reading this post, I realise I’m very much a patchouli person. I’m off to buy more!! October 19, 2021 at 6:51am Reply

  • Andy: Patchouli has always been a favorite note for me, but I don’t find myself reaching for patchouli-based perfumes all the time; it takes a mood. In the same vein as Coromandel and Borneo 1834, which are excellent to wear, Diptyque Tempo comes to mind. It’s a very nice perfume, but somehow it doesn’t strike me in the same way as either of the former two (I think it’s more woody at the expense of silkiness). Modern perfumes with patchouli so often feature the note prominently, but the new patchouli materials aren’t always the kind I like. I usually want my patchouli with a few rough edges. I don’t know if it will suit me, but I’ll have to try Reminiscence, as somehow it’s evaded me thus far though it’s certainly a patchouli classic. Visually, that dark chocolate-colored liquor inside the Reminiscence bottle bodes well with me. October 19, 2021 at 8:33am Reply

  • Silke: I know 5 of these perfumes – and I don’t like one of them! Now I realise why…. I never liked Patchouly. Some of the modern ‘clean’ Patchoulies ( Rodriguez, MiuMiu) are better for me – a heresy for parfumistas, I know 😉 October 19, 2021 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Monika: Paestum Rose is extraordinary — to quote Chandler Burr — it “unfolds with a scented crepuscular darkness, a twilight that is an exact balance of disappearing sunlight and incipient evening. Its rose aspect is ancient, blended with the smell of old stone”.

    Paestum Rose has been my signature perfume for over 14 (?) years — ever since it came out. I am heartbroken that not only was it reformulated when they switched to rectangular bottles (and I have anosmia to the new ingredients), but then Eau d’Italie stopped producing their original fragrances, including Paestum Rose. It feels like someone threw away an old master…

    I’ve had a half bottle of the original formulation in a round bottle sitting in upstate New York since March 2020, waiting for the border with Canada to open. October 20, 2021 at 7:27pm Reply

    • Tati: Hi Monika, I have only known Paestum Rose in the white rectangular bottles, but it’s a favorite. I can only imagine the earlier iteration was so much better. I, too, was heart-broken to find out it was discontinued. I bought a back-up bottle on ebay. Savor your original! October 21, 2021 at 2:56pm Reply

  • maja: Any rose-patchouli combination will have at least a piece of my heart. There is something so sultry about the combination. Agent Prov., Lumiere Noire, POAL, Reminescence Patchouli’n’Rose… Out of the non rosey ones – Mon Parfum Cherie. October 21, 2021 at 3:20pm Reply

  • Alityke: I have owned Pamplelune since it was released & have lost count of how many bottles I’ve spritzed through!
    Otherwise patchouli isn’t my thing, although SJP Lovely, Idylle Duet Rose & Patchouli & Voleur de Roses are all in my collection but are only worn at very specific times or specific events October 28, 2021 at 8:00am Reply

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