An ingredient that circulates many misconceptions, due to its most prominent reputation and connotations as the scent of the ‘60s; as the sweet hippie scent that was worn to mask over a cloud of cannabis. Nevertheless, ironically it is exactly its olfactory similarities to cannabis that actually attracted users to Patchouli in the first place.
The name derives from old Tamil, and translates as “patchai”, meaning “green”, and “ellai”, meaning “leaf”, which thus justifies the appearance of the plant: an upright bushy, evergreen perennial herb, that reaches half to one metre in height, and whose grass is scattered with delicate, white pink and violet marked flowers, and intoxicatingly fragrant leaves. Part of the mint family, it belongs to the genus Pogostemon, and originates from the tropical regions of Asia, specifically Indonesia, where it grows wild on both the islands of Sumatra and Java at high elevations. Patchouli equally grows well in other warm, tropical climates, including West Africa and South America.
Pungent, slightly sweet, herbaceous, with a deep, rich, dark, and musky-earthy profile, vastly reminiscent of wet soil. As the most powerful of any plant-derived essence, Patchouli is surely a favourite of perfumers, as they grasp any chance of integrating it into their famous compositions, where it is used as a base note due to its heavy profile, as well as a fixative. From Patchouli Absolu by Tom Ford, Aromatic Elixir by Clinique, Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel and La vie est Belle, by Lancome, only to name a few, the spicy, smoky scent of Patchouli can be found in almost all of our favourite oriental, chypre and even powdery modern fragrances!
A LITTLE HISTORY
Native to the tropical Southeast Asian countries, the cultivation of Patchouli has been widespread and dates back thousands of years. From the rituals of King Tutankhamen of Egypt who arranged ten gallons of Patchouli oil in his tomb for his burying, to the Romans who used the oil as an appetite stimulant; yet, for Europe, Patchouli was brought slightly later.
The famous conqueror Napoleon had brought cashmere shawls perfumed with patchouli oil from Egypt into France. The scent on the shawls was successful in repelling insects, as well as creating protection from mites; and yet the origin of the mysterious Patchouli scent remained a secret. The mesmerising patterns of the oriental fabrics were soon quickly reproduced; however, European manufacturers were forced to import the fragrant oil from the East, in the attempt to not reveal the wonders of the oriental aroma. However, in 1837, the secret was finally revealed to the West by Francisco Manuel Blanco who recognised the scent as Mentha Cablin, or as its more commonly known, Patchouli. From then onwards, early European traders were vastly fond of the ingredient and gladly traded one pound of Patchouli for one pound of gold.
Still considered an expensive and luxurious raw material, Patchouli oil is not only capitalised within the perfume industry. With the regions of the Middle East and Asia truly believing in its aphrodisiac properties; patchouli is similarly used in spiritual and aroma therapeutic practices, due to its relaxing and calming properties, and especially employed medically, where it is traditionally used in treating skin inflammations, scars, headaches, muscle spasms, bacterial and viral infections, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, modern scented industrial products, including paper towels, laundry detergents, and air fresheners also commonly use Patchouli within their products.
FROM THE PLANT TO THE OIL
The olfactory profile and quality of the Patchouli oil varies and depends vastly on the time of the harvest, the cultivation and distillation techniques, as well as the process of drying. With the highest quality, mature oil to be found in the top three to four pairs of leaves, as they have the highest concentration of fragrant pure oil, they are hand-harvested and left to dry. During this process, the cut stems and leaves are placed onto a dry surface, and frequently turned over to prevent rapid fermentation. Following on, the leaves are stripped from the stems and placed into woven baskets, allowing for the process of fermentation to commence, as they release their elaborative, distinctive aroma. Although the leaves can be CO2-extracted, most commonly, and ideally, the oil is extracted by steam distillation. And yet, the final drop to add the quality touch, solely lies on the skills of the grower, who controls the level of fermentation merely through the use of his own nose. In fact, there are only a few distilleries to specialise in the production of highly refined, perfume-suited Patchouli oil, thus amplifying its uniqueness and rarity.
OUR RECOMMENDED MIXES
An ingredient that is for the bold and daring….add it to your fragrance mix and be prepared for a trail of your scent wherever you go!
Our first recommended mix is for our ladies. A fragrance of empowerment, something that will simply boost and enhance your strong, bold, fierce personalities… PATCHOULI POWER along with TUBEROSE TRIBUTE. Magnetic, intoxicating, yet feminine, fresh yet suave and silk-like, swirled into a mix of hypnotic spice. The white floralcy adds a soft touch to the green patchouli and thus is perfect for an everyday wear.
Our next recommendation is quite truly the elixir of the new Coco Mademoiselle: PATCHOULI POWER with RASPBERRY REDEMPTION. The light, sweet invigorating burst of red berries, complemented with the oriental and warm notes of Patchouli, creates a trendy yet daring composition for our ladies once again!
With Patchouli often used in fragrances with warm and exotic notes, we couldn’t resist sharing this parfum pour le soir: PATCHOULI POWER and AMBER AFFAIR. Hypnotic and delicate, this truly is the perfect perfume for your later evening wear. A scent that integrates an intricate Mediterranean fairytale with the intense spicy and Middle Eastern escapes. With each spray onto your body, it will hook you in, wanting for more…