Classical, true patchouli is one of my favorite notes, so I thought I would take a side-by-side look at two soliflores that highlight the note. The first is Von Eusersdorff‘s Classic Patchouli, and the second is Lorenzo Villoresi‘s Patchouli. Neither fragrance is hugely complicated and, in fact, at first glance, they seem to be quite similar.
There are differences, however, and they add up at the end, resulting in fragrances with divergent focuses and aesthetics. As a result, one of them is an easy, approachable, refined treatment of the note that might be a good beginner’s introduction to patchouli, or suitable for those who don’t worship at the Temple of the Leaf. The other, in contrast, is more classical, traditional, and hardcore in nature, and only likely to appeal to a true patch head. One of them wins out for me, but they are both very enjoyable fragrances.
VON EUSERSDORFF CLASSIC PATCHOULI:
Classic Patchouli is an eau de parfum that was released in 2011. Twisted Lily provides its official description and notes, which are as follows:
Long lasting, rich exotic woody blend of bergamot and warm black patchouli.
Bergamot, Patchouli, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Sandalwood.
Classic Patchouli has a warm, golden opening on my skin, reflecting patchouli in several of its facets from the boozy to the spicy and sweet. There is a tiny bit of spiciness and smoke, but much less than one frequently encounters with patchouli fragrances. It’s even less woody, which is another common aspect, and there is absolutely no tobacco, leather, or chocolate nuances.
As a whole, Classic Patchouli’s opening feels quite bright in nature, rather than skewing to the darker side. There isn’t citrus, per se, to accompany the main note, but a faint suggestion of it lurks at the corners. Much more noticeable is the boozy, cognac aspect. It’s strong in the context of the other notes here but, comparatively speaking, Classic Patchouli is much less boozy than some of its cohorts in the genre, like Oriza L. Legrand‘s Horizon, Jovoy‘s Psychedelique, and the individual patchoulis from Profumum Roma, Santa Maria Novella, and Reminiscence.
Classic Patchouli quickly begins to shift. After 5 minutes, the vanilla creeps in, adding a creamy sweetness. Hint of peppered woods stir in the base below, perhaps from the “sandalwood” though it doesn’t smell like the real thing to me. A few minutes later, the cognac weakens and retreats to the sidelines, where it joins the first hints of something green and camphorated. Taking its place on center stage is the bergamot. It has a slightly sour nuance, but it adds to the overall sense of brightness while also helping to keep the vanilla’s sweetness in check.
I can’t get over the perfume’s lightness and thin weight. Using 3 big smears, I initially had 2.5 inches of a very gauzy cloud. Adding one more large, generous swipe back and forth across my arm increased that number to 3 inches, or 3.5 at best. The bouquet is strong at first in terms of its actual notes, but the fragrance definitely seems to flatten after 15 minutes. Even with 4 huge smears, equal to about 3 sprays from an actual bottle, Classic Patchouli hovered a mere inch above the skin after only 90 minutes and felt very sheer.
For the first few hours of its life, Classic Patchouli is a very simple, sweet patchouli fragrance with limited woodiness, and only the tiniest whiffs of camphorated greenness. It feels like a patchouli fragrance for those who aren’t actually hardcore patch-heads who enjoy the more funky or dark aspects of the note. For example, the plant often demonstrates earthy, musty, fusty, and/or dry qualities, but none of those are present here. Instead, the patchouli is heavily laced with vanilla, abstract creamy woods, and occasionally sour but technically “bright” bergamot. It is flecked only lightly with peppered woodiness and camphor. Once in a blue moon, the boozy cognac pops up from the far distance, but it is a very muted, tiny note. There is almost no smokiness or spiciness; only an increasing wave of creaminess etched with slivers of sweetness. In short, this is a cleaned-up, stripped down, bright and clean, very refined, creamy patchouli that tries to make the main note approachable for those who aren’t genuine patchouli lovers.
Von Eusersdorff doesn’t always succeed in keeping the plant’s greener characteristics clamped down and suppressed. There is a period of time starting 3.5 hours into the perfume’s development and lasting until the end of the 5th hour when the camphor escapes from the sidelines to dance on center stage. It adds a minty quality for the most part, but never smells actually black, medicinal, smoky, or oily. Still, as compared to the first hour, something about the patchouli feels slightly darker, drier, and greener.
It’s a matter of degree, but it also doesn’t last for long. When the 6th hour rolls around, Classic Patchouli is primarily simple patchouli lashed with creamy sandalwood, lightly dusted by powdered sweetness from the tonka, and flecked with a smidgeon of vanilla. The sandalwood takes over fully in the 9th hour, dominating the scent along with the vanilla and tonka, and leaving the patchouli in its wake. In its final moments, Classic Patchouli is merely creamy woodiness with tonka. All in all, the perfume lasted just a hair over 11.5 hours. The sillage was generally soft after 90 minutes, and the fragrance became a skin scent 3.75 hours into its development.
LORENZO VILLORESI PATCHOULI:
Lorenzo Villoresi’s Patchouli is an eau de toilette that was released in 1996, and which is described on the company’s website as follows:
The gentle breath of verdant jungles and remote lands. An intense fragrance of Patchouli and aromatic woods. Balsamic and earthy notes. Undertones of Citrus, Cedar and Rose Woods.
Top note: Patchouli, Lavender
Middle note: Patchouli
Base note: Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Oakmoss, Musk, Benzoin.
The description of Lorenzo Villoresi’s version of patchouli is quite accurate, because this is, indeed, a much earthier, woodier, darker and more aromatic treatment of the note. The perfume opens with patchouli that is infused with the tiniest whiff of boozy cognac, and a strong element of something herbal. The latter initially doesn’t feels like lavender, per se, on my skin but, oddly enough, more like herbs that have been lightly sweetened with vanilla. It’s unusual, but it doesn’t last for long because Patchouli quickly segues into a very woody smell.
The best way I can summarize it is to compare it to an old wooden attic or cellar that has had a bit of cognac splashed in its musty, dark corners. The booziness is not significant, though, and definitely not as prominent as it is in the Von Eusersdorff fragrance. It lurks in the shadows, next to a touch of powdery and herbal cleanness. For the most part, the opening of the Villoresi scent is dominated primarily by a very woody patchouli with musty, fusty, and earthy tonalities. Once in a while, the lavender emerges in its own right, wafting by to add an aromatic touch, but it’s a quiet note that doesn’t last long as a whole.
As for the plant’s characteristic green, medicinal, and camphorated facets, the Villoresi scent follows the same path as the Von Eusersdorff in keeping them largely suppressed for the perfume’s opening stage. Both perfumes have tiny flickers of mint or camphor in the background, but they are not major elements at this point. Perhaps 6% for the Von Eusersdorff, and 3% for the Villoresi. The difference, though, is that the notes escape far sooner with the Villoresi and play a more prominent part in the fragrance, starting roughly at the end at the end of the first hour.
There are a few things that I find very interesting about the Villoresi scent. First, it actually seems to grow chewier, richer, and deeper as it develops. Second, and on a related note, this mere eau de toilette has the richness of an eau de parfum. If I were to do a blind test, I would not have guessed that the Von Eusersdorff was the one labelled with the higher concentration. The Villoresi has more boldness and power in its olfactory bouquet; more fullness, depth, and weight in its body; and a hair more projection, though not substantially so in the latter regard. Using 3 large smears initially gave me 3 inches in projection, but that number ballooned up a tick to about 4 inches after 10 minutes. The sillage dropped to 2 inches at the 1.75 hour mark, then to half an inch after 3 hours. The numbers aren’t dramatically different from the Von Eusersdorff, but the Villoresi is only a mere eau de toilette. It doesn’t feel like it.
Villoresi’s fragrance is much more of a classic, traditional patchouli in its overall profile. That point becomes even clearer at the start of the 2nd hour, when the perfume turns darker, woodier, and greener. Both the vetiver and cedar bloom, while the camphor greenness and mintiness grow a hair stronger, and a splotch of oak moss pokes its head up in the background to say hello. I’ve noticed that old-school, truly classic patchouli fragrances often have what seems to be a Holy Triumvirate: patchouli, vetiver, and cedar. The original, benchmark patchouli by Reminiscence is strongly based on the trio, but so is Les Nereides Patchouli Antique/Precieux and non-soliflores with a heavy patchouli presence like La Via del Profumo‘s Milano Caffé. The reason why is because vetiver and cedar both bring out different but innate facets of the plant, amplifying them and resulting in a more authentic patchouli scent.
And that is what happens with the Villoresi fragrance. Roughly 75 minutes into its development, Patchouli turns woodier with strong amounts of cedar and vetiver. The perfume loses its mustiness and earthiness, ending thoughts of a dark cellar or fusty attic, but a wisp of darkness now falls over the patchouli instead, thanks to the small streak of blackness wafting from the camphor. Tiny drops of boozy cognac still lurk about, but Patchouli is slowly turner drier. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the fragrance somehow feels richer and deeper than before. I have the word “plush” written several times in both sets of notes I have for the fragrance. (I’ve tested both the Von Eusersdorff and the Villoresi scents a few times each.)
Patchouli remains largely unchanged for the next few hours, before finally shifting at the start of the 5th hour. Tiny wisps of smokiness, spiciness, and sweetness begin to creep into the mix, replacing the camphor and adding plushness to the bouquet. The fragrance is now a browner, warmer patchouli infused with slivers of cedar and minty vetiver, atop a base of incense-like smokiness and spicy sweetness. At the start of the 8th hour, a balsamic benzoin resin appears, the patchouli and vetiver both grow weaker, and the perfume shifts its focus to the woody notes. The latter feel quite abstract and amorphous. I can’t pull out the “sandalwood” and any of its creaminess, and even the cedar seems nebulous.
More and more, though, Patchouli is a simple blur of sweet, slightly spicy, brown woodiness that is only lightly flecked by patchouli. It is gauzy, wispy, and clings to the skin in a way that makes me often think that it’s died, but the perfume actually hangs on tenaciously. After the 9th hour, I had to put my nose right on the skin to detect it, but Patchouli lingers on. It finally dies as mere woodiness 11.25 hours from the start.
SIDE BY SIDE:
In a side by side test of the two fragrances, both the Von Eusersdorff and the Villoresi patchoulis would seem to open in roughly the same way: spicy, sweet, rich patchouli with booziness. If you pay close attention, though, there are definite differences. The Von Eusersdorff scent is initially much sweeter, boozier, less woody, and has a caramel nuance. There is little earthiness or cedar, but a faint hint of camphor lurks in the distance. In comparison, the Villoresi is richer, deeper, much more potent, and heavily woody in focus. Instead of sweetness, there is mustiness; instead of spiciness or smokiness, there is damp, dark earth; and instead of camphor or bright citruses, there is a subtle suggestion of aromatic herbaceousness.
The differences continue as both perfumes develop. After 30 minutes, the cognac booziness weakens or fades in each fragrance, though it is fractionally stronger in the Von Eusersdorff patchouli. The latter now demonstrates more of a vanilla and caramel undertone. In contrast, the Villoresi briefly takes on a nutty undertone in its base, almost like praline hazelnuts. The patchouli in the Von Eusersdorff scent seems encased in something almost approaching an ambered glow which serves to add a warmth and brightness, but it also undercuts the patchouli. The Villoresi, in contrast, goes darker, eschewing any amber dilution, and amplifying the main note through cedar and vetiver. There is absolutely no vetiver in the Von Eusersdorff, and not much of a major woody component, either. When it does appear, it is the creamier, softer, more amorphous kind from the very clean sandalwood.
In their drydowns, the perfumes diverge as well. One opts for the woody, dark route with a touch of spicy sweetness, while the other chooses the lighter, sweeter, gentler path with tonka, vanilla, creaminess, and a wisp of powderiness.
As noted earlier, both fragrances differ substantially in their strength and body. The Von Eusersdorff feels thin, soft, and lightweight, not bold and certainly not what I would call “plush.” The Villoresi is deeper and richer, but it’s also a much smoother scent as a whole. Significantly so, in my opinion, and the differences become noticeable about 2.5 hours into both perfumes’ development. In The Von Eusersdorff feels not only greener, but is much sharper, comparatively speaking. Its edges aren’t as buffed, rounded or polished. In addition, the perfume also feels like a complete wisp at this point, while the Villoresi continues to have lovely richness.
ALL IN ALL:
I think both fragrances are lovely when taken as a whole, but I personally prefer Lorenzo Villoresi’s Patchouli. As I talked about in my review of the other four Von Eusersdorff fragrances (Classic Mimosa, Classic Orange, Classic Myrrh and Classic Vetiver), I wasn’t swayed by Classic Patchouli when I tried it last year in Jovoy. I thought, “Nice,” sniffed appreciatively for a minute or two, but moved onto other things, and then completely dismissed the Classic Patchouli in the face of more interesting takes on the note. (For example, Jovoy‘s own patchouli scent, the gloriously boozy, ambered Psychedelique.) Here was my one chance to get a fragrance that I couldn’t find (at the time) in the States, but I left the store without even a sample of the Von Eusersdorff. It simply lacked boldness and plushness, in addition to having low-wattage sillage and airiness. The perfume left so little of an impression on me that I actually forgot that I’d tried it when I came across a review of it six months later.
I’m obviously a bit of an oddity, because a lot of people really love Von Eusersdorff’s Classic Patchouli. There are only a handful of reviews on Fragrantica, but they’re positive ones. In terms of the blogosphere, Victoria of EauMG calls herself a patch head and liked the fragrance, calling it “refined” and a “comfort scent.” Caro of Te Violetas does not consider herself a “patchouli worshipper,” however, and, yet, she loved the scent nonetheless. Her passionate, rave review calls Classic Patchouli “narcotic and addictive,” “voluptuous,”and “sensual.” And she used the photo below to underscore that point even further. (It’s a lovely review, and you should read it. Scroll down for the English version because Te de Violetas is a bilingual blog.)
It all comes down to personal taste. A few of the differences that I’ve enumerated in the side-by-section are small ones, often questions of degree, and noticeable only if you really focus, but I think they matter because it all adds up. The end result is that the two fragrances have very different focuses and aesthetics. The Von Eusersdorff tries to make patchouli approachable by diluting it with gourmand or ambered elements instead of amplifying the patchouli’s core characteristics via cedar and vetiver. The Villoresi is more authentic, classical, and traditional, not to mention cheaper, but I would never recommend it to anyone who wasn’t a genuine, hardcore patch-head. The Von Eusersdorff, in contrast, is like a beginner’s patch, and might even appeal to those who don’t actually like patchouli very much to begin with.
Which one works best for you is going to depend on what you’re looking for, as well as your experience and comfort level with patchouli. I will only say this, hardcore patch heads should try them both, but people who don’t worship at the Temple of the Leaf should skip the Villoresi and stick to the Von Eusersdorff.