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’Oranger, Fourreau 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.
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