“The Happy Hippie King” in a bright Hawaiian shirt, smiling and affable in his patchouli warmth. The sweetness of white flowers, laced with darkness and spices, then encased in amber. Those are two very different images, but they are both parts of Patchouliful, a paradoxical scent that starts out as one thing before transitioning into another. It’s almost as if the fragrance were split in two, first echoing a true patchouli scent like Santa Maria Novella‘s Patchouli before turning into a very close replica of the orange blossom, tobacco, myrrh fragrance inspired by George Sand, Jardins d’Ecrivains‘ George. Regardless of the split focus (or identity), all of it is beautifully done with Italian polish in a smooth, high quality, and very appealing scent from a house that has really piqued my interest.
Patchouliful is an eau de parfum from Laboratorio Olfattivo, an Italian house based in Rome that was founded in 2010 by Roberto Drago. We saw his hand yesterday in Van-ile, the wonderful vanilla scent from Jacques Zolty, a brand which Mr. Drago took over in 2014. So far, I’m impressed with the results of his creative direction because all the things he puts out are very wearable, easygoing, good quality, and reasonably priced. (A third fragrance called Kashnoir that I hope to review soon caught my breath as a wonderful cousin to vintage Shalimar with all the latter’s former smooth beauty, and none of the hideous screeching synthetics of the modern version.)
Spicy, brown patchouli isn’t always the easiest note for people and it has a terrible reputation left over from the 1970s, which may be one reason why Mr. Drago did not want Patchouliful to be a hardcore soliflore, but a refined, “bright” interpretation where the main note ebbs and flows like a wave, and where the scent as a whole feels like “The Happy Hippie King.” On its website, Laboratorio Olfattivo has a long description of the scent, but it is in Italian with no English counterpart. However, Mr. Drago spoke in detail about the scent in an interview with Fragrantica, and I think his comments are significant. For one thing, they accurately describe Patchouliful’s unusual movement on my skin. Long before I ever read that interview, my notes for Patchouliful are filled with references to how the patchouli waxes and wanes like a wave, often playing peekaboo and feeling almost like a mirage at times in the opening moments. Apparently, all of that was intentional: