Patchouli Fragrances : Part 1 Classical Patchouli

A green plant that evokes the scent of earth. A leaf that smells like wood. A wood that smells like chocolate. Patchouli is a complex, intriguing, and polarizing ingredient in a perfumer’s palette. Some like it, others hate it. It leaves nobody indifferent. Yet, it’s also a material that gives perfumery today its distinctive character. A modern chypre can be made without oakmoss, but not without patchouli.

My latest video is part of the patchouli series, and in the first episode, I discuss the material itself and cover classical patchouli fragrances. The way patchouli is processed affects its smell dramatically. A steam-distilled patchouli oil smells earthy, musty, loamy, while solvent-distilled patchouli absolute is reminiscent of cacao and dry woods. Other methods allow distillers to recompose fractions of patchouli essence to highlight certain effects, such as its licorice or sweet notes.

To describe patchouli in practice, I gives a few examples of classical fragrances.

Chanel No 5

You might be surprised to see patchouli and Chanel No 5 mentioned together, but this ingredient is essential in the formula to balance out the rich floral accord and the waxy-starchy aldehydes. The newer reformulations of No 5 feature more of patchouli, since many other materials that comprised its base are no longer available.

Caron Yatagan

Dark, handsome, and brooding. Meet Yatagan. Patchouli is married with leather and woods here and it smells like ’70s.

Grès Cabochard

Another dark and intense fragrance with a beautiful patchouli layer. Cabochard, unlike Yatagan, is meant to be a feminine fragrance, so the floral notes soften the patchouli and leather. Nevertheless, it’s still a bold perfume.

Aramis

A masculine classic and an enduring favorite, especially in the US. A good example of patchouli paired with aromatic notes and woods.

Clinique Aromatics Elixir

Patchouli works well with herbal and spicy notes, and this fragrance is a perfect illustration. The current versions of Aromatics Elixir are heavier on patchouli at the expense of other spicy and animalic notes.

Miss Dior (1947)

Known today as Miss Dior l’Original to differentiate it from Miss Dior (which is really Miss Dior Chérie.) The original Miss Dior is a green chypre that weaves patchouli into a white floral accord.

Balmain Jolie Madame

A creation by the legendary Germaine Cellier, Jolie Madame pairs dainty violets with dramatic patchouli. The result is striking and puzzling in its strong contrasts.

Other fragrances with patchouli

Byblos Patchouli, Bond No.9 Nuits de Noho, Caswell-Massey Aura of Patchouli, Dana Tabu, Etro Patchouly, Gobin Daudé parfums Jardins Ottomans, Jalaine Patchouli, Keiko Mecheri Patchoulissme, L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses, L’Artisan Patchouli, L’Artisan Fragrances Patchouli Patch, Lorenzo Villoresi Patchouli, Lush Karma, Mazzolari Patchouly, Molinard Les Scenteurs Patchouli, Montale Patchouli Leaves, Santa Maria Novella Patchouli, Serge Lutens Borneo 1834, Thierry Mugler Angel.

Some fragrances containing patchouli: Azzaro Pour Homme, Balenciaga Homme, Bond No. 9 Bleecker Street, Caron French Cancan, Caron Tabac Blond, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, Christian Dior Dune, Christian Dior Miss Dior, Christian Dior Miss Dior Cherie, Clinique Aromatics Elixir, Coty Chypre, Givenchy Gentleman, Guerlain Jicky, Guerlain L’Instant Pour Homme, Guerlain Quand Vient l’Eté, Jean Patou Câline, Jean Patou Enjoy, Lalique Eau de Lalique, L’Artisan Timbuktu, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Parfum d’Habit, Miller Harris Terre de Bois, Montale Aoud Lime, Parfums de Nicolaï Maharajah, Prada, Rochas Lui, Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khän, Serge Lutens Un Bois Sepia, Thierry Mugler A*Men, Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Pour Homme, Yves Saint Laurent Kouros.

Patchouli Perfumes Part 2

More on patchouli, perfumes and styles: Patchouli Note of the Week

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28 Comments

  • Peter Brunner: Le Labo Patchouli 24? August 15, 2022 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: It definitely deserves being mentioned on a patchouli list. August 15, 2022 at 11:00am Reply

  • ClareObscure: Hi Victoria. I’ve been a big fan of your YouTube videos and have eagerly watched them all.
    During the worst of the Covid pandemic it was so great to see & hear you at my house in the UK. It’s great to see you including these videos with more in depth reviews, boisdejasmin style.
    An aspect which stood out here is the different facets of Patchouli, depending on how it is distilled. Thanks again, Victoria. August 15, 2022 at 9:41am Reply

  • Joyti: I’m wearing one of the few patchouli-containing fragrances that I love and works on me today: Neela Vermeire Creations’ Mohur Extrait… August 15, 2022 at 9:41am Reply

    • Victoria: It has a beautiful patchouli note. August 15, 2022 at 11:00am Reply

  • Fazal: I am shocked by how much patchouli there is in Prada Eau de Parfum. Now it finally makes sense to me why Prada was so indescribable for me and also why I did not like it. I have mentioned in the past that I have a challenging relationship with patchouli. It plays a major role in the composition of first perfume (Givenchy Gentleman) that truly moved me even though I was a teenager at the time but I don’t tend to like perfumes where patchouli plays too dominant a role. August 15, 2022 at 9:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Prada is overdosed with patchouli, so if you are not a fan of this note, it will be a difficult perfume to like. August 15, 2022 at 11:01am Reply

    • Angeliki: When first dablling in the world of perfume, i trdted Prada. It was a horrifying experience to say the least!! Many years later, it is now one of the perfumes i love in cold temperatures! August 16, 2022 at 12:01am Reply

      • Fazal: We do come around some perfumes over time. I have this experience with Grey Flannel. My initial experience was horrible. It took some years and I fell in love with it. Now I have tried wearing it in recent weeks and I cannot stand it even though I tried the superior, vintage version. There is something in it that now smells rancid or maybe I am noticing some note that I did not before. To think I frequently called Grey Flannel the best cheap perfume for years. But I do know I will keep it in my collection because it is still unlike anything I have smelled and it has a character not many perfumes can claim to have. August 16, 2022 at 6:11am Reply

  • pklagrange: I love all the Neela Vermiere fragrances and the Mohir Extrait is so special! The rich layer blend so well. Am waiting for her Fragment series
    To come to the US August 15, 2022 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: I also look forward to that series. August 15, 2022 at 11:01am Reply

      • Rosie: Hi Victoria,
        I enjoy your videos so much, and treated myself to a bottle of Coromandel last Christmas.
        Talking of Neela Vermeer, I was so looking forward to visiting her shop in Paris and when I got there, me and my kids walked up and down, and no sign of a perfumery, do you know where she has allocated too? The address I visited was the one on her website.
        Thank you August 22, 2022 at 9:38am Reply

    • Joyti: Mohur is a scent that feels “made for me”. I love how it transitions through the day of wearing it… August 15, 2022 at 11:04am Reply

      • Victoria: Don’t you love finding such perfumes? August 15, 2022 at 11:15am Reply

  • Ashley: I’ve been loving a sample of the Escentric Molecules + Patchouli – so sexy and somehow fresh but not in an annoying laundry scent way. August 15, 2022 at 11:42am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Patchouli seems to be almost everywhere, even in No.5. Very interesting videos! Patchouli is not my most beloved perfume note, but I really love Borneo 1834, so I was happy that you payed so much attention to it.I like also to eat chocolate with 90% cacao, to me that’s like wearing Borneo 1834.
    I had Etro Patchouly, liked it, but gave it away to a friend who bought a hippie dress from the 70s. A perfect match in my opinion.
    I love Coco Mademoiselle Intense, that’s my home sweet home perfume. I suppose it is a clean patchouli?
    I wore Borneo 1834 in the heat of yesterday , and it was amazing how well it worked! August 15, 2022 at 11:53am Reply

  • Nina Z: How about Chanel Coromandel? That’s my favorite patchouli fragrance, which highlights the chocolatey aspect of patchouli. August 15, 2022 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Kelly Willow MacNeil: Love seeing you back at your perfume blog!
    Love original Dior and the version (of the old version ) Saks 5th sells (or did sell ?), lol 💗 August 15, 2022 at 12:33pm Reply

  • Aurora: So interesting to see you cover this workhorse of perfumery. One favorite is the patchouli in AdP Profumo. August 15, 2022 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Hamamelis: What an informative post. I should have Aromatics Elixer somewhere, so I will try to smell the patchouli accord after an hour.

    I was very pleasantly surprised to see that you have made many videos. I so prefer the written word that I rarely visit Youtube. Now I have a good reason to!

    Patchouli favourites are Arbolé Arbolé by Hiram Green and Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille by Annick Goutal. August 15, 2022 at 1:23pm Reply

    • Nina Z: Arbolé Arbolé is such an interesting fragrance. At first I was disappointed because I thought it smelled like an eraser or something and didn’t really smell like what I thought patchouli should smell like, but then it really grew on me. August 15, 2022 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I googled and found out that my beloved Ysatis has Patchouli as well! August 16, 2022 at 6:36am Reply

    • Sandra: I love that perfume too! Who knew it had patchouli August 18, 2022 at 9:35am Reply

  • Marianne: Victoria thank you for a very interesting video about a scent that once held me spellbound and encapsulated an era of change, earnest optimism and embroidered caftans. It represents my youth when art, music and design along with a revolution in social and gender roles made anything seem possible. I wore patchouli oil, enchanted by its exotic scent and promise of travels to distant lands, no matter that I never left the country. I painted my bedroom deep burnt orange with accents of blue and mustard and decorated it with art nouveau posters and a striped Indian bedspread. I also wore Arpege at the time and wonder now how their sillage could possibly have coexisted on my scarves and ponchos. August 16, 2022 at 6:45am Reply

  • Carys: I used to adore Aromatics Elixir, but I get unpleasant soapy notes now, which makes it unwearable on me. I miss it so much. Of all the reformulations, this one’s hit me hardest. August 16, 2022 at 10:02am Reply

  • Sandra: I am wearing Rose Prick today which is a patch forward rose background kind of fragrance

    Love this article! Didn’t realize so many fragrances contain this note August 18, 2022 at 9:34am Reply

  • Sel et Vanille: Thank you for such an in-depth take on this note. To me, patchouli also seems to have different facets depending on where it comes from. One of my favorites is Chanel Coromandel. TF Black Orchid did a great job of adding notes highlighting existing facets of patchouli and Noir de Noir is another great take on this. August 30, 2022 at 9:02am Reply

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