Patchouli Homme by Parfums de Nicolai

I’ve removed it from under all of my fingernails, but it’s stuck, godammit, under my left thumbnail. The dirt. So when I’m dressed up smart, advising senior leaders in schools, there’s always a reminder of my basic scruffiness underneath; that I am, to some extent, pretending my workaday role, and what I really am about is rolling  in mud, fondling foliage. The calluses and blisters on my hands don’t diminish the picture, either.

And somehow, when I wear Nicolai’s New York, as much as I love it, this role-performing aspect of my identity seems highlighted and to the fore. That elegant mix of spice and warmth is too well cut, too debonair, for an essentially slovenly type like me, who prefers to shave twice a week and wear jeans with brown toned knees.

Patchouli Homme is cut from the same cloth as New York. Patchouli’s a dirt smell, I tell myself, yet here it’s the dirt in a belle epoque orchid house, where a gentleman with waxed moustaches and a slightly crumpled cream linen suit moves languidly from plant to plant, admiring a blossom here, removing a browning leaf there. He’s the type who can eat a croissant without a flake left on the plate, and whose cigarette holder – ostentatious in most cases – is exactly right for him. All in all, it’s just not me.

Opening with a rounded spiciness – cinnamon and bay according to the notes – this new perfume never becomes so male that it’s easily identifiable as such. There is a lavender warmth to begin with, but this never veers into chest-puffing braggadocchio qualities. The elegance is a patchouli tamed by floral notes – clearly rose, but there are other supporting facets there too. It’s slightly bitter, slightly green, pretty floral, a touch leathery and too complex for someone as inexpert as me to unpick. The overall effect is understated elegance, and it’s so reminiscent of… of… of… something I can’t yet name, that it haunts me. A chypre, I think. But I’ll never buy a bottle. It’ll make me fixate on the left thumbnail at all the wrong moments.

  • minette says:

    this sounds good, because i love patchouli and because it sounds different enough to add variety to my collection.

    but lee, honey. it’s EASY to clean your croissant plate of every flake.

    all you have to do is LICK IT.


  • carter says:

    THIS JUST IN <:-p and off-topic, I'm afraid (although it is definitely in the spiffy patchouli category) but I know that some of you were looking for Habit Rouge extrait to do a split or for FB purchase, so with apologies to Lee I thought I'd risk butting in to report that Jason @ Bergdorf called today to say that he has just received a shipment of Habit Rouge Eau de Parfum, which is a limited edition brand new release from Guerlain. He says it's gorgeous and smells very like the extrait, which he makes his partner wear because he loves it so much. It is $112 for 3.4 ounces, which is significantly less $-) that the impossible-to-find extrait, which I believe sold for $350 for the same size. I don't know if anyone else has it yet, although I imagine it is also available in the Guerlain boutiques @};-

  • carter says:

    What I love about perfume is that you can spritz on a brand new identity every morning and at the end of the day you are completely yourself again. Like Cinderella, but without the crooning mice (~~)

    • Shelley says:

      Yup, that. I tend not toward make up or dress up clothes, but perfume…well, now I do.

      Incidentally, the first Cinderella I read, for better or worse, was pretty true to Grimm…step sisters being dragged inside barrels studded with nails and all, their own prescription come to rest upon themselves. Probably contributed to those crooning mice looked SOOOOO ridiculous when I first saw them on screen. @-)

      • Shelley says:

        :”> The gloomy day we are having around here has affected my delivery and my diction. Sheesh. All said with a :d upon my face…know that Quinn loves that…

        “those crooning mice looking” Gak. Think anyone noticed? (ARGH! No whistling guy!!}

  • sweetlife says:

    What a funny review! I’ve never read something that makes it so clear the perfume is wonderful but not for the reviewer. Lovely, Lee.

  • sybil says:

    I have an analogous problem with Un Lys. Except I fixate on my broken fingernails and shreddy cuticles. sigh…

  • Shelley says:

    Took me a minute to respond…was looking for the inevitable dirt under my own fingernails… #-o

    I understand you perfectly, and probably vacillate between your approach and CarmenCanada’s…sometimes it is fun to put on a little disguise. (That is then a perfume that I would never have in any size larger than a small decant.) Occasionally, as Musette points out, you learn that it actually is somehow at least a small part of you. (Hello, large decant.)

    I’ll never lose the dirt under my nails, even if there is none to be seen. So, if I were you, this would be one of those that never became full bottle worthy…but maybe worth visiting occasionally. We’ve some bluster of our own around here; must start rescuing plants that need to come indoors for winter. We’ll see which make it through ’til Spring. [-o<

  • karin says:

    Ha! Your description of a dandy made me think of Daniel Day Lewis as Cecil in Room with a View…though Cecil may be a mite too uptight for patchouli. I envision Cecil smelling like roses or powder…or even something medicinal, something to “cure” his ails. Hmmm…perhaps Patchouli Homme would be perfect for him! Those floral notes with the medicinal haze of patchouli in the background. I love Nicolai, though, so will try this!

  • Musette says:

    Darling –

    It’s freezing drizzle here and everything is muddy – with that really cold, arthritis-inducing chilliness, that makes me want to stay indoors all day. Not happenin’, alas.

    Lovely post! However (and I’m just projecting here) – I think you have TONS of elegance. What you don’t have is pretension, masquerading as elegance. So I think you should give this a whirl again – you may find it to be ‘you’ more than you think! Worked for me with the minty freshness of Charmes y Leaves!

    xoxoxo >-)

  • carmencanada says:

    I still haven’t tried this… I’ve been meaning to go see Rebecca at the Parfums de Nicolaï Left Bank shop for weeks now (note to anyone who’s reading: she’s the person to seek out at Nicolaï, she wrote a perfume guide in French).

    It’s strange to wear a perfume that feels like a not-quite-fitting persona, isn’t it? But I’m a woman and love disguises (as any little girl would)…

  • Louise says:

    Morning, farmer. It’s sweet to close the work week out with a Lee post 😡

    Dirt, and especially mud, are far under-rated. I love dinge, dust, and squish equally 8-|

    I enjoy and admire my PdNs a great deal, and this sounds consistent with the line-smooth and generally elegant. And not the ballsy patchouli I love-Borneo, Sballo, head-shop stuff. Though, I do like some patch fancied up-Coromandel comes to mind.

    But the dandy side of this appeals to me-as a gift for my sometimes dandied son-he wear New York so well. This may go on his Hanukah short list 😕

    Happy Weekend to all :d/