How does patchouli smell?
“Woody, herbaceous, sweet, fresh, minty, earthy”
Patchouli EO (essential oils) is a versatile natural raw material that falls into the woody family. Although woody is often associated with masculine fragrance, patchouli EO is commonly used in feminine perfume creations. The amount used varies; it can be used in a trace and also in overdose.
The first time I smelled patchouli EO, I imagine walking barefoot in the cold forest. It is a full sensorial experience of feeling the fresh air, breathing the greenness of surrounding trees, smelling the damp and dirty smell of woods and soil, and feeling the texture of the wet ground.
Patchouli on the first sniff has a fresh-green-mint effect, although not as punching or as cold as peppermint or spearmint. This effect is accompanied by a herbaceous, almost medicinal scent, which reminds me of the Chinese concoction my mom gave me.
Moreover, patchouli EO is, in fact, sweet. Sugary sweet. The sweetness comes after the herbaceous facet and stays for a long time until the dry down. I find this sweet aspect interesting because it gives a nice twist to the herbaceous and medicinal facet, making it more satisfying to smell.
Patchouli is one of the key ingredients to make fougere and chypre fragrance. It blends well with aromatic raw materials such as lavender, rosemary, clary sage, and woody-balsamic materials such as labdanum, opopanax, and myrrh. It is also interesting to combine patchouli with other woods such as vetiver and sandalwood, strengthening the woody nuance of these creamy woods. Patchouli is very tenacious; the scent stays for days.
Patchouli in Fragrances
Many perfumer use patchouli to boost their creation therefore it is very important for them to understand what does patchouli smell like. In floral fragrance, patchouli often used in a small amount to accentuate the woody facet. Rose, jasmine, neroli; those three flowers unite very well with patchouli. Together with rose absolute, patchouli makes beautiful Arabic perfumes. When added to jasmine perfume composition, patchouli could act as the modifier to the structure, elevate the white floral facet, giving elegance and sophistication. Patchouli and neroli are good together in a citrus or cologne composition, as neroli itself has this citrusy nuance. Patchouli does not pull the fragrance down; instead, it beautifies the citrus facet and makes it even more sparkling on top.
Patchouli is considered as principal wood used in building chypre perfumes, along with citrus, moss, and amber materials. These days, modern chypre perfumes use patchouli in a quite significant amount, such as Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, and Chance by Chanel. The chypre facet is modernized with balsamic materials–vanilla bean absolute is the most common example.
Patchouli and Oriental Scent
Vanilla and patchouli make an excellent pair in oriental fragrances, which turns gustative or gourmand in overdose. One of the breakthrough perfume using excessive amounts of patchouli is Angel by Thierry Mugler. Launched in 1992, Angel is the first oriental-gourmand fragrance in the market, smelling like chocolate. A few years later, Thierry Mugler launched a masculine version of Angel, named A*Men, which also carries chocolate accord. The similarity between chocolate and coffee is that it gives the idea to create coffee accord with patchouli as the main ingredient. We can smell a well-balanced coffee accord using patchouli in AMen Pure Coffee, launched in 2008.
The versatility of patchouli oil makes this ingredient a must-have in perfumers palette. The leading producer of patchouli oil is Indonesia. The oil is produced using steam distillation of a small plant called nilam (Pogostemon Cablin). The oil is brown and a little viscous. The patchouli is not very expensive, making it an efficient raw material both in prestigious fine fragrances and consumer fragrances.
You can also check out our other Ingredients post