Patchouli, like coffee, is an acquired taste, and can run the gamut from gut churning to swoon inducing. For years, I associated patchouli with the environs in which I first smelled it: head shops, reggae festivals, and trustafarian dorm rooms. But over the years, a number of perfumers have schooled me on its beauty, most notably LVMH’s Francois Demachy—who used a liberal amount of patchouli in the sweet and sultry Fan di Fendi— and Chanel’s Christopher Sheldrake, who along with Chanel master perfumer Jacques Polge dumped a ton of it into Chanel Coco Noir, the sexy juvenile-deliquent cousin of Coco Mademoiselle. But good patchouli, I learned, doesn’t have the sweet-BO aroma I encoutered during college visits to the Import House (which was, I kid you not, located on High Street).
That stuff had as much in common with the real thing as a fruit roll-up does to actual fruit. True patchouli, a member of the mint family, is earthy, yes, but also resinous, velvety, and incredibly sensual. If you want to know what I’m talking about, here are three amazing patchouli fragrances that are the complete opposite of hippie-stanky:
Comme des Garçons Series Luxe Patchouli: If you’ve sworn off patchouli, this one will change your mind. It’s totally gorgeous—warm, spicy, sexy. A touch of vanilla. LOTS of patchouli. But never, not for a second, sweaty.
Tom Ford White Patchouli: Bergamot and roses and spices and patchouli—this is what women who don’t have nine-to-five jobs smell like. Women who wear white suits and dozens of gold bangles. Women who summer. Women who winter. You get it.
Christian Dior Patchouli Imperial: This one has a bit of a gourmand quality, but it isn’t overly sweet. You don’t really notice the patchouli until it’s been on your skin for a bit, and there’s a generous amount of sandalwood, too, which makes it soft.
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