by Beth Hammarlund
Patchouli gets a bum rap. People tend to associate it with incense and peppermints, unshowered and unshaven potheads, and Tim Robbins’ free lovin’ character from High Fidelity. But I’m telling you, there’s a reason that it’s been used in perfumed oils and incense for thousands of years in Asia. It’s warm, woody, and not only is it an incredibly common note in woody and oriental perfumes, it ties together feminine florals and creamy gourmands.
First off, what the hell is a patchouli? It’s kind of a minty tropical herb that apparently grows everywhere in Asia. Like, everywhere. The plant’s resin is the source of this easily identifiable fragrance that we’ve all grown to love or loathe. In my defense of patchouli, I’d like to recommend a few of my favorite scents:
Fresh Cannabis Santal and Cannabis Rose: That’s right. These two fragrances are chock full of patchouli and marijuana. But don’t worry, the cannabis is subtle, so you don’t have to worry that you smell like you just stumbled out of your friend’s hot boxed minivan. Cannabis Santal is the woodier of the two, really playing up the patchouli and creating a scent that’s both masculine than feminine. It’s way more unisex than CK One. Cannabis Rose shares many of the same notes, but also has an intoxicating top note of Bulgarian rose. Just spritz this on, and no one will be able to tell that you have a grow room in your basement.
Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb: When you first smell this fragrance, it punches you in the face with sweetness. It’s an explosion of florals that read slightly gourmand and powdery (even though there are no gourmand notes, from what I can tell). But what grounds this garden cocktail is the patchouli. Without it, it would be an overpowering mess. It’s no coincidence that Viktor & Rolf themselves are from Amsterdam. They’re the most avant-garde hippies ever.
Tom Ford White Patchouli: Though they’re certainly spendy, I appreciate Tom Ford’s line of fragrances because the scents are so streamlined. This scent is heavy on the patchouli and white florals, though it does have hints of rose and coriander. It’s like patchouli for super rich people.
Chanel Coromandel: If you want depth and luxury in a fragrance, this is it. This oriental scent balances patchouli and white chocolate, with two of my favorite scents, frankincense and amber. Combining oriental, gourmand, and woody notes should turn this fragrance into a bit of a shitshow, but it’s anything but. The effect is elegant and creamy. Inviting even. Sensual. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Chanel Coromandel bottle and I need some time alone.