O Patchouli, how I love thee, let me sing thy praises, let me revel in your beauty. There are many beautiful materials out there, but one of the most versatile, complex, heady, and instantaneously addictive to me is my beloved patchouli. What else can so perfectly enhance both a chypre’s oakmoss and an oriental’s amber, florals, vetiver, vanilla, florals, incense, or woods? With nuances ranging from boozy cognac to dark chocolate, smoke, spices, green leaves, dry woods, wet earth, ambered resins, camphor, menthol, and even oily turpentine and musky leatheriness, patchouli is the unsung hero in many compositions, elevating its individual components, amplifying them with even further richness and depth.
Obviously, I’m not talking about ghastly “fruitchouli,” the synthetic formulation where a typically red-berried aromachemical is added to god-only-knows-what-other-hideous synthetics to create a purple-skewing, jammy hot mess of nauseatingly cloying proportions. No, I’m talking about actual, real, true, proper patchouli — one of the very best things ever in perfumery, even if it’s in my completely biased and non-objective opinion.
Unfortunately, patchouli has a terrible rep, one of the worst in fact. No, it’s not because Angel has traumatized a portion of the perfume-smelling population, though it has. (I would actually argue that Angel is not a true, proper, patchouli soliflore and that real patchouli scents smell vastly better, even if that may not mean much to the traumatized amongst you). Patchouli’s terrible reputation really stems from the lingering effects of the 1970s with all the attendant associations to head-shops, unwashed hippies, and cheap hippie-dippie, peace-love-crystal-power movements. I grant you, cheap patchouli or earthy, hippie-herbal patchouli concoctions aren’t great, and they certainly aren’t my personal cup of tea, but I think really good patchouli can be as intoxicating as the richest amber, rose, or oud perfume.
My mission today is to tempt the naysayers out there to give patchouli a second look. So, I’ll provide you with 15 names, all of which are soliflores where patchouli is the star of the show. The fragrances may contain other notes, but those ingredients exist merely to highlight patchouli’s innate characteristics and they’re never co-equal players. The primary focus of these scents is always patchouli, patchouli, patchouli. In short, I’m not talking about mixed compositions where the patchouli is one of many significant players like, for example, Chanel‘s Coromandel, Guerlain‘s LIDGE/L’Instant Eau Extreme, PG‘s Coze, Malle‘s Monsieur, or Roja Dove‘s Danger Pour Homme. No, I’m talking soliflores, baby!
The fragrances listed below have different styles, different accompaniments, and not all of them suit me personally, but each of the 15 soliflores below is, at the very minimum, good, if not great. Five of them are so appealing, in my opinion, that I’ve ranked them as such because they are the ones that I would personally recommend and single out for an initial foray into the genre. The remaining ten really depend on one’s individual tastes and subjective preferences regarding notes or styles (i.e, leathery, semi-animalic, semi-gourmand, etc.), but they are all either noteworthy or popular patchoulis that are worth mentioning for one reason or another. They are listed in no particular order. Between the 15, there should (hopefully) be something to tempt you. I’ve provided small blurbs for each, and you can read the full reviews later on your own to decide which ones are best suited for your personal tastes and style.
Finally, if you prefer something where the patchouli is significant but not the entirety of the focus, the second section of the post briefly covers some mixed-focus fragrances as well.
Sammarco Bond-T: Dark, bold, and rich, Bond-T parfum is almost (almost) my Holy Grail for patchoulis. The star of the show is accompanied by unsweetened, incredibly dense, non-gourmand black chocolate along with accents of smoke, castoreum leather, tobacco, booze, spice, balsamic amber resins, and vaguely animalic dark musk. During its early development, there are occasional similarities to fragrances like Ambre Loup; later on, the bouquet feels like a mash-up of the middle/late stages of several Roja Dove fragrances, namely his patchouli-driven Danger Pour Homme with Enigma/Creation-E Pour Homme‘s boozy cognac and its (Tobacco Vanille-scented) drydown of plum pudding, vanilla, and tobacco. A cup of his milk chocolate Amber Extrait is poured in there as well. If you like any of those fragrances, then this is one for you to try.
Santa Maria Novella Patchouli: SMN’s Patchouli is many Patch Head’s Holy Grail. I would consider it to be the second most hardcore of the lot in terms of the unadulterated nature of its aroma, at least initially before the amber resins mellow the edges and the occasional “head-shop”-like camphor. It is a gorgeous, powerful, deep, and robust patchouli that feels almost raw, yet, paradoxically, also elegant and refined in its rawness. As I wrote at the time in my review, one commentator admiringly stated, “SMN weren’t f*$%ing around when they made this one.” No, they most certainly weren’t. Prior to my trying Bond-T, this was the patchouli which came the closest to my personal Holy Grail imaginings. I remember the first time I tried this, my head whipped around for a double-take as a big smile crossed my face. [Update March 2022: Fellow fragrance reviewer Claire Vukevic told me that her 2019 bottle of SMN’s Patchouli had been reformulated to have rose and possibly some other ingredients. In other words, it was no longer the hardcore soliflore of old. There aren’t a lot of people who talk about this fragrance these days, so I haven’t heard if anyone else has experienced a significant change in the scent but I thought you should know Ms. Vukevic’s thoughts.]
Nobile 1942 Patchouli: Nobile’s take on patchouli is the smoothest of the lot and, as such, perhaps the most approachable for those who like patchouli but aren’t hard-core, fervent, salivating Patch Heads. It has a wonderfully bright opening, thanks to some citrus, then soft, quiet, muted accents of smoke, dry woods, and resins. There are times when some parts feel like a cross of the next two fragrances, Horizon and Psychedelique, with its elements of cognac and amber, while other parts nod to the woodier aspect of more classical patchouli fragrances mentioned in the second section below. The review explains it better, but what you need to know for now is that this is the patchouli soliflore which is the smoothest, most approachable, and silkiest on the market. That may be why it appeals to a number of woman who don’t like the more hardcore offerings. Regardless of gender, if you want to explore patchouli soliflores, this one has to be on your list. Top-notch stuff!
Jovoy Psychedelique: Psychedelique pairs patchouli with strong amounts of labdanum amber for a heavily boozed, cognac-drenched patchouli. Lesser amounts of other ingredients add caramel, vanilla, cocoa, and, in the early hours, small wisps of camphor, peppermint, dry woods, dry earth, mentholated greenness, leatheriness, and incense-y smoke. As a result, Psychedelique lies midway between the purer patchouli approach and the more modulated, boozy, ambered, mixed-oriental style. It’s a great scent, and one which I would have bought for myself if it didn’t turn quiet and discreet on my skin after only 2.5 hours. But that may be a personal skin issue, and it doesn’t change the fact that many Patch Heads put Psychedelique high on their list of personal favourites.
Oriza L. Legrand’s Horizon: I almost put Horizon fourth on my list instead of fifth because I truly love its head-turning opening bouquet which is rich with waves of Armagnac cognac licked by soft tendrils of smoke, dark chocolate, and ambered resins. On fabric, there is also bitter orange, tobacco, nutty hazelnut, leatheriness, and ambered resins. On my actual skin, however, it’s a simpler bouquet and sheerer than one might expect from something so strong in the opening stage. Plus, the scent doesn’t last as long on me as it seems to on everyone else, many of whom experience great longevity as well as roses, almond, anise, and/or dry woods. Even so, simple or complex, Horizon is still grand, in my opinion, and it’s definitely worth a test sniff. It’s also worth noting that this is one of the patchoulis, along with Nobile’s Patchouli, where there is little to no camphor, dry earth, or anything remotely “head-shop”-like about the patchouli, at least not on my skin. [UPDATE MARCH 2022: I ended up falling hard for Horizon. During the lockdown of 2020 and in the many months since then, I found myself turning to my bottle again and again. It comforted me, soothed me, made me happy, and was also fantastic as a scent to spray on my pillow. I have actually turned to Horizon five times more often than Santa Maria Novella’s Patchouli, probably because of the booziness and variety of other notes. No, it still doesn’t last long on skin but, thanks to the big bottle, I just spray with wild abandon. Plus, it lasts a long time on fabric, like scarves or bed linens; since I typically like to sniff or wear Horizon in the evenings in order to relax, the pillow or bed sheet longevity gives me more bang for my money.]
- [UPDATE MARCH 2022: I have to add Maître Parfumeur et Gantier’s Patchouli 1969 which I absolutely fell in love with and tried to buy for myself mere hours into my second test. The bouquet varies depending on how much I apply. With a small amount, Patchouli 1969 is an utterly addictive mix with cardamom chai latte patchouli, cocoa, vanilla, and sandalwood (similar to that in Guerlain‘s famous LIDGE or L’Instant de Guerlain Eau Extreme). With an extravagantly large amount, Patchouli 1969 shifts quite a bit and goes to the other extreme, redolent of the classical style (see below) with strongly hippie, earthy, woody, slightly dirty, hardcore patchouli.]
THE REST (in no particular order):
Classical Patchouli: Reminiscence Patchouli; Reminiscence Elixir de Patchouli; Lorenzo Villoresi Patchouli; and Von Eusersdorff Classic Patchouli.
The classical tradition took patchouli and then accentuated its innate facets with cedar, vetiver, and, in some cases, a small degree of labdanum resin. Occasionally, a drop of citrus, spice, vanilla, or some other note was included as well. The cumulative effect is a much woodier patchouli than the current or modern style, and there is also much more greenness, camphor, dry earth, smoke, and antique cedar-chest dustiness. Reminiscence‘s Patchouli was probably the benchmark classic patchouli for a whole generation, appealing to both men and women alike, and it’s as straightforward as the rest.
The other fragrances follow in its classical footsteps. All of them are nicely done and hew closely to the conventional template. However, each of them has a different balance of notes (like the degree of camphor, cedar, smoke, cedar, or vetiver), even the two Reminiscence fragrances. Which one you prefer will depend on your individual tastes and on what nuances are brought out by your personal skin chemistry, but if you want a straightforward, classical patchouli accentuated by dry woods, these four are all noteworthy. My advice is to read the two reviews (which have a lot of comparative analysis), decide which one suits your personal tastes and styles the most, then order samples to see what interacts best on your skin.
Mazzolari Lui: I’ll repeat the opening to my review because it sums up the gist of the fragrance: “Somewhere, there is a horseman who smells like this — and, I don’t mean that in a bad way. Lui is a patchouli fragrance with a surprisingly animalic, leather twist, and I quite enjoyed it. It is the scent of dark, slightly dirty patchouli infused with the aroma of a leather saddle and a heated, musky horse galloping over earthy vetiver. Despite an intensely masculine opening, its animalic nature is ultimately a refined one that calls to mind virile, macho polo players more than cowboys on the range. On the right skin, it would be sexy as hell. On me, it was a bit less than what I had expected.” In some ways, Lui follows the classical template because it is primarily a triptych of patchouli, vetiver, and animalic, musky, horsey leather, and it remains that way for an incredibly long period of time. This is one best suited to guys who love those elements and are looking for a slightly animalic take on patchouli.
LM Parfums‘ Patchouly Boheme: This is probably the most unorthodox of the patchoulis on this list because the opening stage is all about the smoky sweetness of singed woods and a mesquite barbecue. I literally felt as though I were wearing a mesquite barbecue, complete with the aroma of cooked, smoked meats. Yet, this very woody take on patchouli later transforms into an absolutely lovely, cozy cloud of more typical patchouli, caramel amber, darkened resins, balsams, and dry vanilla. It’s the most unusual “patchouli” fragrance that I’ve ever encountered and I can’t say it’s my personal thing, but I know a handful of men who like it quite a bit.
Profumum Patchouly: Patchouly can be summed up simply as patchouli layered and enveloped within Profumum’s Ambra Aurea. In other words, patchouli swaddled between ambergris, labdanum, and some degree of incense-y smoke. On my skin, it took only 30 minutes for the Ambra Aurea part to take over and for the primary, dominant note to become salty, musky, caramel-sweet ambergris, then labdanum, both of which were flecked by fluctuating, sometimes minor degrees of patchouli and incense. It’s lovely but, if you already own Ambra Aurea, it may feel a little redundant, as it did for me. I should note that Profumum has reportedly reformulated and/or diluted some of their fragrances, including Ambra Aurea and Patchouly. My reviews are for the earlier versions and I have no idea what Patchouly smells like now.
Serge Lutens Borneo 1834: Borneo 1834 is now only a Bell Jar Paris/Barney’s Exclusive and it has been reportedly been reformulated since the time I wrote about it. Back then, however, it was dark, earthy, patchouli paired with dark chocolate, woods, cedar, vetiver, smoke, and some skanky cumin that, on my skin, turned towards the body odor side. In a nutshell, it was the classical patchouli formula given a modern touch of dark chocolate along with Lutens’ favourite cumin-cedar signature accord. I don’t know what the fragrance smells like now, but no patchouli guide can skip mentioning Borneo 1834 because it was once very popular and was sometimes described by its female fans as the dark chocolate counterpart to Chanel’s Coromandel. If you’re near a Barney’s or Serge Lutens’ Paris headquarters, it’s worth a sniff but I don’t know that I would urge anyone to seek it out otherwise, given the reformulation issue, cost, and difficulty in access.
Farmacia SS. Annunziata Patchouly Indonesiano: This is the most hardcore, intense patchouli on the market, period. It is, quite literally, patchouli tripled: the highest quality leaves from Indonesia, from top to bottom, without a single thing to leaven them. It is quite… an experience. In fact, it may clear out your nose with its powerfully camphorated, mentholated, medicinal, and blackened notes. It certainly did for me. There is also an immensely oily quality to the scent, like motor-oil castor oil, and a pronounced black rubber aspect to its smokiness. None of it is my thing, but this is, hands down, the butch-est, most testosterone-laden, masculine patchouli out there and some men love it for that precise reason. So, if you’re looking for a take-no-prisoners patchouli that skews practically black in visuals and that thumps its chest like King Kong, then look no further than this extrait.
Montale Patchouli Leaves: In a nutshell, this is semi-gourmand patchouli. Its patchouli has been steeped in Bourbon vanilla for a long period of time, but its overall character is really vanilla-caramel-praline patchouli. The patchouli is enveloped in a cloud of caramel, nutty praline, ambered toffee’d, and boozy vanilla which are laced with varying, fluctuating degrees of incense-y smoke, dry woods, dark chocolate, chilly peppermint menthol, camphor, and damp, earthy soil. Unlike many or most Montales, this one has no overt, intrusive presence of its usual ISO E Super. Some people love its gourmand character, while others find it to be too hippie/head-shop patchouli for their tastes. If you want a sweeter take on patchouli and love a lot of vanilla, then this might be one for you to consider.
OTHER FRAGRANCES & MIXED-FOCUS BLENDS:
A few side notes are warranted in this discussion. First, I have tried to list fragrances currently in existence, which is why I have not mentioned Les Nereides Patchouli Antique. It, too, should be in the section on Classical Patchoulis, but the fragrance was first reformulated and renamed as Patchouli Precieux and then, subsequently, it seems to have disappeared entirely. I’m pretty sure that it’s been discontinued because it’s no longer listed on the company’s website, but I’m not 100% certain on that. That said, if you prefer the classical patchouli formulation (i.e., with cedar and vetiver) and if you ever come across an old bottle called “Patchouli Antique” on eBay, then this is one to consider as well.
Second, as I’ve said repeatedly in the past, favourites lists are, by their very nature, subjective and a matter of personal tastes. And, personally, I do not think much of Tom Ford‘s Patchouli Absolu. It’s not so much that this is a very butch, masculine treatment of patchouli but, rather, I find it to be an unbalanced one with materials that are, in my opinion, of average to minimal quality. It’s not a scent that I find to be either opulent or smooth, and parts of it are quite abrasive to my nose. Moreover, I think that there are much better patchoulis for the price or, in some cases, much below it. However, having said all that, if you’re looking for a mega-butch, testosterone-laden patchouli with loads of aridity, darkness, smoky leatheriness, and woodiness, and if you have no issues with aromachemicals, then I suppose this might be one to consider. (However, if all those factors are the case, then I would actually recommend Nasomatto‘s Duro over this one.)
For somewhat related reasons, I personally do not recommend Malle‘s Monsieur. For one thing, I do not consider this to be a patchouli soliflore but, rather, a mixed-focus fragrance. To be precise, it’s really an old-school, 1970s cologne-style composition. In addition to all that, it contains a whopping amount of the horrific Amber Xtreme aromachemical, which even Luca Turin describes as the most nuclear woody-amber on the market, so it’s not just me who has disdain for it. Putting that aside, the bottom line is: if you’re looking for a good, smooth, opulent, or unisex patchouli soliflore, this is not it. However, if you’re looking for something in the masculine mixed-cologne style, if you have no issues with aromachemicals, and if you don’t mind the higher price, then you can try this one.
Finally, I also think little of Dior‘s Patchouli Imperiale in the Privée Collection. I’ll simply sum it up as dusty old man cologne, like great-grandpa in an old, shabby, moth-eaten, mothballed cardigan, living in ancient dusty woodiness. No, just no. If you want to go the classical patchouli route, then I think that there are far better, more appealing iterations of it on the market. (See the quartet linked up above.)
If you sought mixed-focus compositions in which the patchouli was a significant player but not sole or driving thrust, I personally think there are much nicer fragrances out there than something like Monsieur. The ones that I would recommend trying are, in no particular order: PG‘s Coze, Chanel‘s Coromandel, Guerlain‘s LIDGE or L’Instant Eau Extreme, or Roja Dove‘s Danger Pour Homme. One thing to keep in mind with that list is that some of these fragrances have been reformulated since the time of my review. For example, I wrote about Coromandel EDT, and I have not tried the new EDP formulation to know how it compares or what changes, if any, may have occurred. In a somewhat related vein, there is a fair chance that Coze is no longer identical to what I described in my review as one or two people have told me that it’s been further diluted since my post. Be that as it may, Coze was one of my favourite mixed-patchouli blends, as was Coromandel EDT, and I own bottles of both, so it may be worth your time to seek out their current renditions to see what you think. I also recommend sampling the other two fragrances mentioned here. LIDGE is unisex and should appeal to fans of Guerlain’s Coromandel, amongst other things. Roja Dove’s Danger skews to the masculine side, though, and was inspired by Guerlain’s Heritage. You can read the full reviews for more details.
While those mixed-blend recommendations are purely oriental in character, there is one patchouli floriental that is worth mentioning as well. Laboratorio Olfattivo Patchouliful is almost like two fragrances in one, starting off first (and relatively briefly) as a true patchouli scent in the vein of Santa Maria Novella‘s Patchouli before subsequently turning into a very close replica of Jardins d’Ecrivains‘ lush, heady, and unisex orange blossom, tobacco, myrrh fragrance called George. Regardless of the split focus or identity, all of Patchouliful is beautifully done and has a very Italian polish to it. One of the noses behind the scent was Cécile Zakorian; the goal for the scent was to make something bright and happy suited for “The Happy Hippie King;” and the patchouli is meant to play hide-and-seek amongst an unconventional note list that includes, among other things, bergamot, cinnamon, cloves, frangipani, iris, cedar, and labdanum. In short, if you’re looking for a mixed-patchouli fragrance that goes beyond the usual oriental template by having a bright floral element to it, then this may be one for you to consider. As one Fragrantica reviewer said, this is a patchouli fragrance for those who usually hate the note. I know both men and women who love and wear Patchouliful, and it is definitely unisex.
So, that’s my round-up of patchouli. Hopefully, there will be something on the list to tempt you to explore further. Have a lovely evening, everyone.
I find your review of Bond-T interesting because for me, while I agree with almost all of your comments, I do not get any patchouli! Similarly, the dark (dark, dark almost burnt-for-mole) chocolate and birch tar profile does seem to overpower any inclination of castoreum. But your categorization as “booze”y is definitely on target here — a certain head rush every time I come near. Wonderful round up.
First, welcome to the blog, Mr. Rusk. Second, how fascinating about the patchouli. A shame, though, as it’s great patchouli on my skin. That said, booze, dark chocolate, and birch tar leather sound like an appealing combination as well. Do you have a personal patchouli Holy Grail scent? Actually, I suppose I should first ask if you’re a patchouli fan to begin with?
Admittedly I am not the biggest patchouli-centric fan, but the patchouli quality of Téo Cabanel’s Oha, I feel, works well and drives me crazy (for the better).
Someone familiar with Teo Cabanel… I’m impressed! There aren’t a lot of guys (or women) who are. And Cabanel’s Alahine was one of my all-time favourite modern florientals before they gutted it and totally ruined it with reformulations.
I look forward to learning more about your tastes in the future. 🙂
I have been waiting for this post for so long! Yeay! I went on a patchouli first two years ago and ended up trying 12/15 soliflores and buying psychédélique blindly just to get my hands on it (no regrets) and Nobile’s patchouli. I loved horizon but it was so faint on me. I might give it another go. And it was a tie for Profumum and Patchouli Indonesia purchase wise and ended up with neither because I really wanted to try SMN’s one but never did. ….. well. Now we know what’s next ! Thrilled to be able to refer to this. I know these take a lot of time to create so thank you K!!!
How much Horizon did you apply, and did you dab or did you spray? I get moderate sillage initially, like in the first hour, and even better sillage by spraying 3+ sprays, but there is no doubt that my skin eats up the sillage much sooner than I would like when I take the fragrance as a whole, from start to finish. In general, it definitely is quieter and sheerer on my skin than I would expect from such a rich, strong early opening or from such dark ingredients. Then again, my skin also makes Psychedelique into a discreet, quiet thing after only a few hours, so who knows?
I think it’s probably just as well that you never blind-bought a full bottle of Farmacia SS. Annunziata’s Patchouly because… holy cow, that one will put hair on your chest! I mean, this thing practically skews black oil in terms of the visuals. It’s too, too much, even for me, and that’s saying something.
I absolutely love Psychédélique! Also like SMN,Patchouliful, Patchouly Boheme, I am currently enthralled with ELDO’s Une Amourette, which contains a patchouli isolate called Akigala Wood that is awesome.
Une Amourette sounds interesting, so thanks for the tip, Rich! I’ll definitely look further into it.
I’ve been enjoying your reviews for a long time but just recently subscribed to this blog, and lo and behold, one of the first posts I was notified of was this one. As a fellow patchouli lover I was happy to see some of my favorites make the list (Psychedelique, Patchouly Boheme) and I can’t wait to try your other suggestions–some of these I’d never heard of so this is quite exciting!
One other thing that you wrote caught my attention–that about Profumum reformulations?!? I just discovered this amazing house fairly recently, and own a few of them (all purchased during the past year). They’re strong and long-lasting, which is the main thing I love about them, but I haven’t had the chance to give my bottle of Ambra Aurea–the most recently purchased–a proper wearing so I will definitely need to investigate to see if it’s different than the sample I have. Do you happen to know which of their other scents have been supposedly redone/diluted? I was planning on purchasing a couple more in the coming year but now I might need to proceed with caution. Reformulated I can handle, but diluted would be really disappointing…
The reformulation seems to be primarily a dilution issue, but not always. Last year, the head of one of NY’s main luxury niche boutiques told me that a good number of the Profumum scents had changed. Some were diluted, but others had their ingredients changed, in part due to market conditions and shortages. Specifically, Profumum’s two vanillas — Vanitas and Dulcis in Fundo — were reportedly different, according to the bottles she was receiving and their scent. Both she and a number of readers thought the vanilla aroma was different in scent as well as being weaker, less dense, less rich, and a lot less sweet. Since roughly late 2015, the world vanilla supply has taken a hit and there have been quite a few shortages across the different varietals. Prices have gone up, and there were even fears at one point of it impacting vanilla ice cream supplies. Perfume was impacted as well. With regard to Profumum’s vanillas, the current theory seems to be that they had to use a different, more affordable type of vanilla in their fragrances as a result of the world market prices.
Quite separate from that, however, some of the non-vanilla fragrances have reportedly changed, mainly in terms of dilution. Ambra Aurea is one whose name keeps coming up. I first heard of Ambra Aurea being reformulated in 2016. I heard/read quite a few people saying it. One was a reader of mine who told me that, when he went to Harrods (? I think it was Harrods that he mentioned?) roughly in the late summer or early fall of 2016, the AA bottles he saw were completely different in colour than what they used to be. They were lighter in comparison to the old bottles that he was accustomed to seeing there. Upon smelling the scent and spraying it, he thought the bouquet itself had changed to be much less chewy, rich, and dense. I think he also said there was less ambergris in it than there used to be, but that part I’m a little hazy on because all of this was a while back.
One thing that you have to remember with regard to ALL reformulation comments — regardless of brand — is that it typically pertains to the scent as compared to what it was when it was *ORIGINALLY* released. Something like Ambra Aurea debuted in 1998. Patchouly came out in 2004. Santalum in 2003 (my review in 2013 or so was already for the second version, even then) and Fumidus in 1996, I think. As a general rule of thumb, brands reformulate their fragrances (ie, dilute or change the proportion of their ingredients) anywhere between 5 to 10 years after the original release of a fragrance, and it’s done either as a cost-cutting measure, as a response to IFRA/EU regulations, or as a response to market costs for key materials. The usual reason, in my opinion, is cost-cutting.
For the Profumum fragrances, 2016 or 2017 would have marked 12 to 20 years since the four fragrances mentioned above (to give just a handful of examples) were released. So I would expect *some* noticeable change to the fragrances, even if I **hadn’t** heard so many people (one of whom is the manager of a major Profumum retailer) tell me that they thought the fragrances were different than what they originally were. It’s just the nature of the beast.
It seems to me that the bottles you’ve purchased are likely to be the reformulated version anyway since you’ve purchased them circa 2017. I doubt the brand is going to significantly change any of them even further in the immediate future because, basically, it’s already happened.
What’s great is that you like the ones that you’ve gotten! So, that’s good news. You just may want to be careful if the vanilla fragrances are the ones you want to purchase in the coming year due to the ongoing market situation regarding vanilla.
If you happen to be the US, when you’re ready to purchase, then I suggest calling Josie at OsswaldNYC. Tell her I sent you and ask her about the Profumum vanilla situation. She watches those bottles like a hawk and smells new shipments constantly to see how they are. Plus, she’s really the best, most honest, and most candid person imaginable about changes in scent, what will work for you, and every other possible situation regarding the luxury niche brands she carries.
I hope that helps a little.
Wow–thank you so much, that really does help! Having had what you might call an obsession with fragrance since I bought my first bottle as a teen in the ’90s, I’m unfortunately well aware of the scourge that is IFRA regulations as well as the damage “cost-cutting measures” can do to a beloved favorite scent. Somehow, though, I naively cling to the idea that niche houses are immune to that kind of thing. *sigh*
I am extremely relieved to hear that I have been testing and buying the reformulated Profumums–they are indeed very, very good (even the ones mentioned that might be affected by the vanilla shortage; I don’t know about Vanitas but Dulcis in Fundo is absolutely delicious). In case you’re curious, the current Ambra Aurea isn’t exactly dense or resinous…I wore it yesterday to refresh my memory and on my skin it’s quite smokey/incensey when first sprayed and it gets “cuddlier” as it dries down. While it is opulent in feel, it’s not really a heavy scent; there’s a surprising airiness about it that I feel saves it from becoming cloying and suffocating. It projected strongly for the first few hours, and following that I was still getting distinct wafts of it until I showered it off 10 hours later. I’m not sure how that compares to the old version or how disappointed a longtime fan would be, but I’m pleased with it even though it might not be considered chewy any longer.
You know what is chewy, though? The Profumum Patchouly you wrote about above (my sample is about 6 months old so I’m assuming it’s the current version). It’s next on my to-buy list. I didn’t, however, perceive a huge similarity between it and Ambra Aurea when I sampled them and would never have thought to link the two until you mentioned it, so that might be a consequence of the reformulation and maybe something to keep in mind.
I’ve gotten a bit off the topic of this post so I’ll curb it here, but I just wanted to add that I am also a big fan of Osswald NYC–all of my Profumum bottles were purchased there (well, online) and they are always such a pleasure to shop with. It’s great to know that I can reach out to them with questions and receive straightforward advice. In the meantime, I’m off to find samples of some of these patchouli fragrances…that Bond-T sounds particularly tempting!
Nice article. I, too, think patchouli is a great fragrant element and has nuances like oud. Too bad it is not as respected.
My favourites are old school vintages (Ho hang Club, Giorgio BH, Etro Patchouly …) – Givenchy Gentleman being the best of them.
Vintage Givenchy Gentleman was great!
Oh, I feel immensely proud: I seem to have picked—completely by hazard—the right ones: Bornéo 1834 (the vintage palace logo), Patchouli antique (also the vintage edition) and what I like by far the most: the Acqua Colonia by Santa Maria Novella! Hurrah!
I did though have a rather strange encounter with an overdose of Lutens’ Bornéo 1834: I entered the subway, sat down opposite a man, who then whipped up his head, as if he’d been slapped hard, and looked at me in sheer outrage. A few minutes later on the escalator: another guy shaking his head wordlessly when passing.
In other words: beware! That Bornéo 1834 stuff is very, very potent!
Absolutely HILARIOUS! I laughed out loud the first time I read your Borneo/subway story *and* also again just now upon re-reading it a second time. I can practically see the chap’s expression: “whipped up his head, as if he’d been slapped hard,” “sheer outrage” — hahahaha! So damn funny. Dare I ask how much Borneo you applied? 😛
As for your bottles, how lucky to have a SL with the vintage palace logo. Those are the very best ones of all. Did you ever try Les Nereides other great, old, now discontinued scent, Imperial Opoponax? That was my favourite from the line. Just loved it! As a recent vintage Shalimar convert, I think that you would love it as well because there were major similarities and overlaps. Since you’re in Europe, you can buy the old bottles on eBay with significantly better shipping prices/rates than what I would get, so give this a look:
I don’t think restraint with perfume is my forte: perhaps six good spays of Bornéo on that day… ?
Yes indeed: I bought four vintage bottles on ebay: Oriental Lumpur and Douceur de Vanille as well as the Opoponax. The first two: I wasn’t that thrilled. The Opoponax I remembered that you mentioned it as the poor man’s Shalimar. So on a Shalimar day, a few spays go on the coat before leaving. As I said: no restraint at all.
Greetings Beloved Kafka! I want to ad one to your list (and hopefully not get laughed off the page), but Fragonard, yes, Fragonard has a fantastic soliflore Patchouli in its “Wooded Naturals” line. Best part, it’s $60usd for 200ml. It’s a light, golden almost wheat like, Patchouli. Very friendly, and a great way to spend time getting to know true Patchouli if one is inclined. The 200 ml bottle I have, is just beginning to have a dent in it; and I’ve had it for 3 years now. Every Winter I break it out and spray the heck out of anyone who comes in my office and wants to know “what smells so good?” At that price, I can afford to spray others liberally, also. One year you could smell it all the way down the hospital corridor. I share your feelings that Angel has traumatized the Patchouli world. Every time I smell the likes of Coco-Mademoiselle, La Vie Est Belle, etc, etc, I just want to throw up. Seriously, when will the Fruitchouli (or as I like to call them “Candy-Patch’s) end? By the way, I think my moniker is a better one, given the syrupy crap that is forced down our throats every year. Hope his Royal Harriness is continuing to do well on the shots. All the best to you ALWAYS beloved Kafka!
I wouldn’t laugh at your mention of Fragonard, my dear. I liked some Fragonard fragrances quite a bit (for example, I remember one of them was called Soleil) but it was eons and eons ago, before they upped their white musk quotient to ridiculous degrees. I actually bought one patchouli-driven Fragonard fragrance in… hm… 2006 (?) (I think it was 2006), and it was delicious but, even then, its white musk was a little too much for me to bear and I’ve almost never worn the fragrance. The next time I visited the Paris store was several years later, and the degree of laundry musk made me flee the store.
If they now have an all-natural line (ergo, no laundry musk), then I can imagine that the fragrances would be quite lovely. I will definitely investigate further to see just how natural their line is, so thank you for the tip!
Thank you for asking about His Highness. I’m afraid he had a big set-back in his health since right before New Year’s Eve and he was in pretty awful shape. I thought he was dying. There were several things going on simultaneously but, thankfully, two of them are now under control and he does not have the cancer that I had feared. I hope the last major problem will be resolved soon, although it’s never good news when the specialist is talking about moving onto “Plan C or D”… :\
How is the new puppy? Vladimir Putin Rasputin, or something, was it not? A hilarious name. And are things improving in terms of Lulu’s disdain for him?
Vladdie is thriving! Thank you for asking! When we rescued him, he was malnourished, had pink eye, and whipworms. He’s been to the Vet and gotten EVERYTHING (I’m religious about it) he needs. He has finally got callouses on his feet, after being raised in a cage for the first 13 months of his life. He’s so grateful for everything. His incessant face-liking is hard to deal with at times but we don’t want to take that away from him either. Lulu is improving..a little… Her jealousy was bewildering, and amazing to behold, and even somewhat amusing, to me at first! I can’t stomach any of my animals suffering in ANY form, so now, we just give her constant reassurance that she is the apple of our eyes. (Seriously, we don’t even own a crate.)
I am happy that there is a Plan C, and Plan D for His Hairiness! Try not to see this as a negative, I’ve learned a thing or two administrating at the VA for over a decade,,. current medicine (even for animals) gives us so many options, if Plan A and B don’t work, something else will! It’s really just S.O.P. these days.
I would be happy to send you some of Fragonard’s Patchouli, I have about 150 extra mls than I would ever need! LOL, I just “borrow” sterile test tubes from my buddies at the lab…they make excellent decanters! Really, I have a lot! I have their Santal too, if that interests you. I have sent for samples of NOUN. I had to get my nose on it, apparently it’s good enough for “the mothership” to put it’s name on it, well it’s got to be interesting! Kindest Regards to you Beloved Kafka! 🙂
A wonderful article! Thank you.
I was wondering if you had a chance to try Gyan by Bvlgari’s Le Gemme collection?
Welcome to the blog, Mark. No, I’m afraid I haven’t tried Gyan or anything in Bvlgari’s Le Gemme Collection for that matter. I will certainly look into Gyan, though, as I’m always interested in trying a good, new patchouli scent, so thank you for the bringing it to my attention.
Hello K, hope your 2018 is off to a good start for you though I haven’t had time yet to review your backlog of reviews…..saw the Patchouli one and realised how much I miss your blog! And you of course. Now that my life is finding some semblance of normalcy I will be back like I used to be. God I really can’t tolerate mall fragrances anymore bleh…all the same plus I’ve been finding they are causing headaches. I am down to maybe 3 almost empty bottles of fragrances from the good ol’ days ha. Since it has been eons since I’ve ordered samples, I think next week I am going on a spree. Any Leathery/Amber/Oudy/Rosey/Animalics in one you may recommend?
I think this weekend I’ll just spend a day in bed reading the last year of your reviews. Thanks, Don :).
Thank you Kafka for this wonderful round up! As a patchouli fan, my love for it was actually initiated by my shocking but eye-opening experience with Angel. 😛 I realise later on that the patchouli in Angel is not of the same calibre as most patchouli solinotes and indeed has an artificial feeling( even though I still love it for what it is), but I think Angel may have influnced my preferences towards patchouli with a pronounced dark chocolate nuance such as Bornéo 1834 and Horizon, or those with piercing camphor-like opening SMN Patchouli and Patchouli Antique. I haven’t tried FSSA Patchouly Indonesiano, but after reading your description, I will definitely add it into my next sample order.
I hesitate to classify Bond-T and Patchouli Bohème as patchouli solinote, as both have co-players with equal importance as patchouli on my skin. But regardless of which side I put them, I absolutely adore them and they renewed my passion towards patchouli after trying a few mediocre and uninspiring solinote. I’m also very glad to find Mazzolari Lui on the list,as I don’t see it being mentioned very often. I tried their Patchouli which was ok in my book, but was pleasantly surprised by the musky, slightly animalic patchouli in Lui.
Another patchouli that I enjoy is Parfumerie Générale Patchouli Intrigant which is kind of musky and dusty, and quite different from the dark tone of Cozé (love!).
Dear Kafkaesque, I love reading your articles!
It is hard to find my holy grail patchouli. My first and only love until now was Borneo by Serge. But since I don’t appreciate the brand so much anymore, I am searching for another patchouli with the same character. Bond-T seemed a possibility, but after an hour or so, the patchouli had gone. It was just a sweet chocolate on me. I also tested Nobile patchouli. After an hour it was a very male (white) musk on me. No patchouli left ☹. This week, I wore Real patchouli (Bois 1920). It was labdanum and woods on me, no patchouli at all.
I guess I am looking for a not-so-synthetic dry patchouli (somehow my nose detects synthetics very fast) without any musk, would you have any suggestions?
Hi Ine, welcome to the blog. You might try the Lorenzo Villoresi patchouli, but I have to say that I don’t know if there have been any changes to the fragrance since the time of my review so I don’t know about the white musk issue.
Other than that one, I can’t think of anything else which would fit your criteria since I don’t think the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) one would be woody enough for you. I also don’t think of it as “dry,” although that word is open to definition and it may depend on how *you* are defining dryness to begin with. But the SMN one is certainly camphorous and pure in the opening stage. I don’t know if they’ve added any white musk to it since the time I reviewed it or bought my bottle, but you may want to see if you can get a sample of it just to try anyway. I wish I could be of more assistance.
I’ve had a number of these and I don’t even consider myself a patchouli lover! Not sure which is my favorite from here – I recently tried SMN’s from a sample and it was pretty rough on me.
I had a full bottle of Lorenzo Villoresi’s Patchouli probably 15 years ago when I was going through my “Villoresi” phase, but it was before I really had much patchouli experience and I never got past the opening few minutes and traded it away (wish I still had it.)
Absolutely loved my Montale Patchouli Leaves. Bourbon vanilla and amber, if I remember correctly. I need to get more of this sometime down the road.
I did have a bit of Les Nereides Patchouli Antique at one point and recall enjoying it, but like you have no idea where it’s gone.
I had a sample of Profumum Patchouly and would say that rates amongst my favorites, probably because, as you pointed out, it’s enveloped in a bit of Ambra Aurea.
Last, but not least, I know I have a sample of Mazzolari Lui floating around somewhere (I now recall going on a Patchouli sample blitz from Luckyscent about 8 years ago, lol.) I’ll have to find it and give it a try again.
I sniffed only Jovoy’s and Villoresi’s fragrances from the ones mentioned in article. Mazzolari Lui sounds intriguing, i’ll have to try that one! Have you tried Emilie by Cerchi nell’Acqua? It’s my favourite so far but I am not very experienced.
Great buying guide! I have you to thank for my blind buy of Nobile 1942 Patchouli. Both my wife and I enjoy wearing it. Thanks!
Hi Kafka 🙂 Love your reviews!! In the smaller description of Psychedelique you said that the scent only lasted 2.5 hours on your skin, but in the more complex review you said it lasted 15-19 hours. Just wondering about the difference in description there.
Thanks again for all of your wonderful reviews… 🙂