Perfume Review : Borneo 1834 from Serge Lutens : Classic Patchouli

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I have a confession to make. I’m a patch head.  I adore patchouli in perfume and love Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens.  There’s nothing like a dark, rich patchouli and the experience of a pleasurable physical reaction when one hits the spot. I know that patchouli is not a universally adored smell though. Hippies in the 60’s and 70’s doused themselves in the oil, and this association continues to frighten people away Grateful Dead style.

Patchouli is widely used in perfumery and you will probably be surprised at how many scents utilise this green-leaved plant. It has an earthy, pungent smell and a camphorous aspect that will woo or repel you depending on your preferences.  Today patchouli can be found in many popular fragrances such as  Chanel‘s Coco Madamoiselle, and Thierry Mugler‘s Angel. In these scents though, an emaciated version is present, stripped of its guts and glory. The combination of rose and patchouli is also very popular in perfumery, and the raved about Portrait Of A Lady from Frédéric Malle is just one example.

The patchouli perfumes that tempt me the most have a full-bodied, curvy allure with a dark almost gluttonous feel. Recent releases such as Tom Ford‘s Patchouli Absolu have shone a light on this genre, and maybe we’ll see further patchouli centric releases from popular brands. One of the first patchouli perfumes that I fell in love with is Reminiscence‘s simply named Patchouli.  A friend’s signature blend is this paired with Sisley‘s Eau du Soir which I have to say smells quite fabulous. The upfront stage of Patchouli  is gorgeous with a grungy hit of the green stuff. Unfortunately the full force disappears a little too quickly for my tastes and it settles down to a vanilla, cosy scent quite quickly on me. I do like the sweeter dry down but I wish the full force patch effect would last a little longer. Still I do really love the perfume and I have no idea why I don’t own a bottle of it … yet.


Borneo 1834 EDP Nose : Christopher Sheldrake : Year : 2005  : Notes : Patchouli, White flowers, Cardamom, Galbanum, Cacao.

Borneo 1834 from Serge Lutens is a stunner and the first (and only) perfume I’ve bought from the Palais Royale in Paris.  I was very new to perfume love in 2013 and was just about beside myself with excitement when I entered the purple hued store. I weighed up whether to purchase Fumerie Turque, Borneo 1834 or Sarrasins. I chose Borneo 1834 and have never regretted the decision, although I’d definitely like to add the others to the collection. I’ve always been drawn to the name of the scent and the story behind it.  Once upon a time, patchouli was considered a sophisticated scent.

“Why did I pick 1834? That was the year Parisians discovered patchouli. In those days, it came wrapped in silk.” (Serge Lutens)

Borneo 1834 has significant amounts of the delicious deep, rounded, dark patchouli that immediately makes me go weak at the knees. The aroma is  akin to a hypnotic drug that sends ripples of excitement through my veins. Sometimes I sense a liquorice element and a nuttiness too. There’s cardamom here as well but it’s not overly strong on me but the camphorous smell stands out at first, but not too much so.  The lashings of dark chocolate carry this patchouli to an even more pleasurable state. This is no sweet milky chocolate that Willy Wonka would serve to the kids visiting the factory. No, this is what I would characterise as a more sophisticated, very dark chocolate. Not bitter but oh so right and tends to make me crave the real deal.

Borneo 1834 is also very smooth with a tempting resinous feel. There’s a dusty vibe after the more opulent opening and a hint of smoke too. If you’re a fan of the dark, heavier patchouli style you will no doubt love what is served up in this flacon. If patchouli is something you’ve smelt in Coco Madamoiselle and you thought it was heavy-handed then this will most definitely not get your knees knocking. In fact I would imagine you’ll have exactly the opposite experience to me.

It’s without doubt one of my great perfume loves and I won’t be parted from it. This is Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake at their finest. I’d categorise this fragrance with other must try classics in the range such as Ambre Sultan, Chergui, Fleurs d’OrangerFourreau Noir and Sarrasins (and many others besides).  If you haven’t yet sprayed this on skin and you love patchouli, you really must give it a shot.

Other patchouli perfumes I’m fond of are :  Intrigant Patchouli from Parfumerie Generale (vintage vibe) and a relatively new discovery – Pachuli Kozha from Nishane (leathery). Coromandel from Chanel is also superb (smooth and elegant).

If you like a full force hit : Try Santa Maria Novella‘s Patchouli and Farmacia SS. Annuziata‘s Patchouly Indonesiano. The Italians certainly know their way around density.

Perfumes that have a good hit of patchouli but it’s not the main focus are :  Mon Parfum Cheri Par Camille by Annick Goutal (plum, iris old school vibe) and I adore  L’Ombre Fauve from Parfumerie Generale (animalic amber, musk and patchouli).

Please do tell me your favourite patchoulis. I’m always on the lookout for patchouli centric perfumes to tempt me.

Or is it a smell that you can’t stand?

The Low Down : A dark and dusty patchouli, laced with smooth chocolate that delivers a decadent hit.  

Read more about Borneo 1834 on :  Bois de Jasmin, The Non Blonde and Australian Perfume Junkies 

For where to purchase : Please see the Serge Lutens website. This was previously available in the export (rectangle) bottles but is hard to find now. Currently it’s available in the bell jar from the Palais Royale and the website. The bell jar is priced at 160 Euro for 75 ml.  

Disclaimer : Tested from my own bottle. Opinions my own. 

Notes : Images :  Megan In Sainte Maxime 

8 thoughts on “Perfume Review : Borneo 1834 from Serge Lutens : Classic Patchouli”

  1. Hi there meganinsaintemaxime,
    You know, I quite like patchouli but rarely reach for the full on patchouli experience. As a backing singer though many of my frags include it for depth .
    This month though I have worn nearly 10ml of Patchouli Imperiale by DIOR. Can’t get enough. I had to put the decant away or it would have been empty and I would have found myself at DIOR buying.
    I also adore Olympic Orchids Patchouli Lovers soap, really yummy.
    Portia xx


  2. Hey Portia. The total patch experience is quite full on for most I think. I haven’t tried Patchouli Imperiale – thank for the tip. Nor anything by Olympic Orchids to be honest. Although this year I am going to try more US Indie perfumers – I’ve started already but so many more on the list. Another one on it! Have a great Easter x x


  3. You are making me crave this scent. I sampled a teeny tiny amount several years ago and now I am hankering to try it again. You describe it perfectly and bring that fragrant ghost right back to my nose. An excellent choice for a bell jar. I long to visit that store one day.


    • Hey there Julie. Right I’m sending you some as I left out Five O’Clock Gingembre from your package (sorry)! So I’ll send you that along with Borneo. Really different perfumes but both great. Hope you’re having a good Easter.


  4. Nice post. I love most patchouli and now I am really looking forward to trying Borneo 1834. My favourites are Intrigant Patchouli and Les Nereides Patchouli Precieux (I read somewhere about layering it with Avignon – so I did and it was fabulous). I also love Tom Ford Patchouli Absol which conjures up a 70’s disco vibe for me, like something which might have been worn at Studio 54.
    One day I will get to Palais Royale store…


    • Hi Katie. Glad you liked the post – thank you. I haven’t tried Patchouli Precieux but I have another perfume of theirs and like it a lot, so will definitely try it. The Palais Royale is beautiful, if not a little austere and I read on APJ that you can now do special smelling sessions upstairs, So one day … If you would like a little sample of Borneo, email me (via contact page).


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