Well, this will clear your nose! The most intense patchouli I have ever experienced is Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561 Patchouly Indonesiano, which is also the longest named patchouli fragrance around. Patchouly Indonesiano is, quite literally, patchouli tripled: the best and highest quality leaves from Indonesia, from top to bottom, without a single thing to leaven them. It is quite… an experience.
Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561 (or “Farmacia SS. Annunziata” as it is called for short) is an Italian niche house based in Florence whose history goes back to 1561, when a chemist called Brunetti worked with the Benedictine Nuns of San Nicolò to create all-natural beauty products and potions. As Roullier White explains, the ancient, original apothecary:
passed from the nuns to various owners until it was acquired by the Azzerlini family, who has now managed the brand for over three generations. However the apothecary which was recorded in existing documents in 1561 still survives, with white ceilings and dark wooden shelves decorated with apothecary jars from the 1800’s and although it preserves its old traditions, Farmacia SS Annunziata uses modern machinery and new materials to make its world renowned fragrances.
Patchouly Indonesiano is a concentrated eau de parfum which, in my opinion, is more like extrait de parfum that feels like undiluted perfume oil which you’d find in a naturalist’s store. Farmacia SS. Annunziata describes it quite simply as an
[a]roma that never sets, a symbol of history. Intense and eternal aroma. It surrounds the wearer of a seductive atmosphere. A fragrance with an unmistakable character, an earthly beauty.
Top notes: PATCHOULY
Heart notes: PATCHOULY
Base notes: PATCHOULY
An Indonesian patchouli plantation. Photo: Aromahead on Flickr. (Website link embedded within.)
Patchouly Indonesiano explodes on my skin with a blast that did, indeed, clear my nose. If you have sinus trouble, you may want to consider this fragrance because it has a seriously potent opening. It is a strong blend of: dry dust, dark earth, medicine, camphor, smoke, sweetness, raw black leather, and musk. Mere seconds later, a rubbery note, bitter coffee, and dark chocolate join the party, along with hints of something vaguely sweaty. The whole thing makes my head spin a little. The combination is truly intense and with powerful projection, though the sillage seems to drop almost instantly to coat the skin like a perfume oil.
It only takes a few minutes for the camphor that leads the charge to soften, and for Patchouly Indonesiano to shift a little. The nose-clearing menthol is joined by an oily smell that resembles castor oil, as well as by a strong element of paper. Patchouly Indonesiano’s primary bouquet is now of: paper, oil, menthol, dry dirt, black rubber, dust, and a hint of chocolate. It makes me think of an auto mechanic’s shop where a greasy pool of castor oil and the smell of rubber tires swirl with the scent from a nearby coffee-maker that is on a table with dusty old ledgers. The mechanic is wearing patchouli oil from a nearby health-food store, and eating a bar of dark chocolate. Outside, construction is going on, with a diesel-running machine uprooting mounds of dark earth, as dust particles fill the air.
Indonesian patchlouli fields. Source: boccecreative.com
I realise none of that sounds particularly good, but there is something oddly fascinating, even entrancing, about the panoply of aromas in Patchouly Indonesiano. It’s as the though the essence of nature with sweet, rich soil has mixed with the most intense manifestations of something industrial and mechanical. There is a sweet, spicy muskiness that is earthy and soothing underlying Patchouly Indonesiano, and that I like quite a bit.
It’s just the rest of the bouquet that I’m dubious about and struggle with. The menthol is seriously medicinal, as if our car mechanic slathered himself in Vicks Vapor muscle rub, but it is the distinctly rubbery rawness of the patchouli that is the hardest to take. This is not the more burnished, soft, richness of leather that can sometimes underlie the note. This is sharp, raw, black rubber with a hint of diesel fuel. The notes feel distilled down to their concentrated essence, then mixed with castor oil, and rubbed right into my nostrils. It actually made my eyes go a little cross-eyed at one point.
Patchouly Indonesiano is largely a linear scent where the notes vary only in degree and prominence. Fifteen minutes in, the dustiness, tobacco, and that fleeting drop of sweatiness vanish, while the smoke, paper, menthol, rubber, oil, and dirt elements go stronger. At the end of the first hour, the fragrance is primarily camphor and castor oil, followed by subtle nuances of black rubber and smoky woods. There are muffled, muted whispers of sweetness and spiciness, but they can’t counteract the rougher elements.
Things improve, however, about 2.5 hours in, when Patchouly Indonesiano becomes much more focused around the traditional aromas of the note. The scent is now a warm, brown, spicy, sweet patchouli scent with very little of the dusty, rubbery or diesel elements. There is still a hint of something mentholated lurking about, but Patchouly Indonesiano is much better balanced and mellower. The fragrance turns into a skin scent at the end of the second hour, and remains largely unchanged until its very end. By the end of the 6th hour, it is a mere blur of sweet woodiness, and then it fades away entirely about an hour later.
The reviews for Patchouly Indonesiano on various sites largely center around the fragrance’s dirtiness and its price (which is $160 for 100 ml). On Luckyscent, a number of people find the perfume to smell like simple patchouli essential oils that you can purchase from places like Whole Foods for $16. Others find it to be the truest and most refined patchouli scent around:
- This is what I’ve been looking for, for years even. A gorgeous patchouli that has all the rich, earthiness and dry, woodiness without that nasty, unwashed hippie thing going on. This is an elegant, refined and very true patchouli that smells wonderful on its own, and layers very well with musks and ambers to create really sexy scent combinations. Outstanding!
- I have tried many of the other Patchoulis (Patchouli Patch, Patchouli Leaves, LeLabo’s 24) but this is by far the loveliest and most refined. […]
- This is the dirtiest patchouly I’ve ever smelled (and that’s a good thing). I really enjoyed sampling this scent, it is the rawest patch I’ve come across. This one is about as earthy/dirty as you can get, it’s pure patchouly oily and nothing else. Everytime I closed my eyes and smelled I pictured myself surrounded in a warm grassy dirt patch. This oil has a slightly above average longevity rating from me lasting just about all day and projects a strong 4-5 hours. Really good scent but it smells pretty close to your run of the mill patchouly oil you can find at any herbal store. I do find this to be a bit stronger and a slightly more unique than your typical patch oil but I can’t see paying the extra money for something you can find for around $20.
The focus on Fragrantica is more about the scent itself, with all its dusty complexity:
- Patchouli + cobwebs. Very earthy, dry, dusty, and almost moldy. [¶] This is how an antique rocking horse that’s been sitting in an attic for several years would smell. [¶] All that being said, I like it. It’s full of character and smells like historical objects.
- I love patchouli, and I guess I expected this to blow me away, but maybe I am learning that I like my patchoulis best when blended with other notes. It started out bracing, camphorous, and dirty, and within an hour it was a velvety smooth, warm, and woody skin scent, but Patchouly Indonesiano had very poor staying power on my skin and was barely detectable after that first hour. Four hours later there was no trace of it on my wrist. I like it for being a high-quality single note fragrance, but I would have to reapply it constantly to be able to fully enjoy it.
- Dust and patchouly. And a little more earthy dust. In my imagination this is the type of dust that could be found settling on a crypt or kicked underneath the heels during a dry desert walk.
Dusty, dirt road in Laos. Photo: Daniel McBane. http://www.danielmcbane.com/laos/dusty-road-central-motorbike-loop/
The most interesting comment for me comes from someone who has purchased two bottles of Patchouly Indonesiano, and is still ambivalent about it!
I have been through two bottles of this, and I have a ambivalent relationship with it. Most of the time I love it for it’s true, up-front patchouli note – it’s everything that patchouli is supposed to be. This would be: camphoraceous, dusty, earthy, dry, linear and even wine-like at at times.
However, sometimes I think that I’d get the same results by adding a good amount of aged patchouli absolute, iso e super, a touch of cedar and a synthetic musk (all easily obtainable) to some perfumer’s alcohol. This would probably result in a similar scent for a good deal less $$. There really isn’t much more to this other than patchouli and some bolstering modifiers.
It just depends on the day. Nonetheless, if you love patchouli, this will be absolute heaven for you – nobody will mistake what you’re wearing.
I adore patchouli, but I share the feelings of a number of those quoted up above. I’m starting to realise that I need some modifiers and softening agents to go with my patchouli. This sort of untamed, concentrated, and very raw form isn’t really my cup of tea. Patchouli Indonesiano is, as one commentator on Basenotes put it, “a balls-out, take no prisoners” patchouli. It would be lovely once in a blue moon, but not for $160, especially if there are similar scents which one can purchase as pure essential oils from a health food store for $16. Even if the fragrance were cheaper, the hard-core, balls to the wall (to paraphrase that Basenotes’ description) extremeness of the opening blast makes the scent too much like a novelty fragrance for me personally, while the poor sillage and minimal longevity on my wonky, unobliging skin would be frustrating.
I’ve been trying to imagine what would happen if a bottle of Patchouly Indonesiano fell into my lap, and the simple truth of the matter is that I doubt I would reach for it very often. Perhaps it might work as a layering scent, though I don’t really do that. It might be interesting as a bath oil (since the perfume really feels more like an oil), but that’s rather heretical and ridiculous for something that costs $160. I wouldn’t want my sheets to smell of castor oil and black rubber, so that would be out, too. I would probably do what some chap did on Luckyscent: give the bottle to someone who is a hardcore patchouli nut, and whose skin chemistry works wonders with the thornier elements in question. I have no idea who that imaginary person might be, but it’s definitely not me.
Cost & Availability: Farmacia SS. Annunziata Patchouly Indonesiano is a concentrated eau de parfum that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $160. The European price seem to range from €110 to €129, but I can’t figure out the set retail cost. Farmacia SS. Annunziata does not seem to have an e-store, and it doesn’t provide any pricing information. Discount Price: I found Patchouly Indonesiano offered by an Italian eBuy boutique called Store Perfumery for $148 with free worldwide shipping. The exact link (which will obviously be inapplicable if the perfume sells out) is here. In the U.S.: Patchouli Indonesiano is available for $160 from Luckyscent, along with a sample. Outside the U.S.: The entire Farmacia SS. Annunziata line of fragrances, body products and samples is available from Italy’s AllaVioletta. You can also find Patchouly Indonesiano at Profumeria Manuela for €110. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells the perfume for €121, while the Netherlands’ ParfuMaria sells it for €129. In Switzerland, Beauty Flash sells the fragrance for CHF 175. In the UK, some of the Farmacia SS Annunziata line is carried by Roullier White, but Patchouly Indonesiano is not listed on the website. Rich Perfumes in Buckinghamshire also carries the line, and you may have to call to see if they have the Patchouly. Samples: I obtained my sample from eBay, but you can also buy one from Luckyscent. Surrender to Chance does not carry Patchouly Indonesiano, and neither does The Perfumed Court.