Pogostemon cablin – that’s its full Latin name – originates from the Philippines, but nowadays it mainly grows in the islands of Sumatra, Sulawesi and Java.
Hidden among precious cashmere shawls manufactured in India for their moth-repellent properties, Patchouli leaves arrived in Europe by mid-XIX century via boat. Initially very much loved for its seducing smell, by the end of the XIX century it was considered too sexy and only cocottes were wearing it, while high-society ladies preferred floral and lighter scents to it. During the 70s it gained back its primary position, for the connection with Easten spirituality.
With no ambition of being exhaustive, I am going to mention some Patchouli-based fragrances: most of them are currently in my collection – or were in the past.
Patchouli Réminiscence (1970) composed by Maurice Sozio, this is one of my favourites of the kind, and it totally reflects the spirit of the 70s. It is ambery and woody with an earthy type of patchouli, and the impression of chocolate. It is a reference patchouli, a total classic
Aromatics Elixir Clinique (1971) by Bernard Chant is another fantastic must-have: a floral chypre, where patchouli and oakmoss are typical ingredients of that kind. To me it is a very severe perfume, maybe because I relate more with the bitterness of the chypre structure, while many other perfume lovers find it incredibly sensual.
Patchouly Etro (1985) is another classic type of patchouli that I loved, for its elegant character. Slightly dry and green, it reminds me of Lorenzo Villoresi as well as Santa Maria Novella’s Patchoulis
Angel Thierry Mugler (1992) by Olivier Cresp is a kind of turning point of modern perfumery: I still remember when it was released, I was 17 and was travelling in France, I entered a perfume shop and the owner presented it to me. I immediately had to buy it as I was mesmerized (PS: I was a very thrifty teenager, but at that time I was already a perfume enthusiast and wouldn’t hesitate in from of a love-at-first-sniff). The combination of a dark patchouli with ethyl maltol, chocolate and vanilla creates a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, not immediately understood but quickly then relentlessly copied.
Patchouli Blanc Réminiscence (2015) is a more recent release always centred on the same note, which I enjoy a lot but it is extremely different from the original from the 70s: this is creamy, powdery, with a sparkling opening due to the aldehydes.
Coromandel Chanel by Jacques Polge (2007) is probably one of the highest examples of this category for its refined character and elegance. A rich woody, ambery with spicy facets, which I find very subtle and sophisticated.
The essential oil of patchouli is a material I have used in almost all my perfumes as a facet – very noticeable in The Dark Side (2016), but only with Sticky Fingers (2020) I focused on it as the big protagonist.
There are many different types of transformation of patchouli leaves, and I used a purified distillation. It is the so-called Patchouli heart, obtained through a second distillation process which starts from the ‘whole’ essential oil (brut), by extracting the more volatile particles first, then the medium-volatile one, eventually leaving aside the heaviest components.