Most of you know I’m not particularly fond of patchouli. In fact, I’ve made it abundantly clear how much I can’t stand the stuff. Well, I’ve had a change of heart.
Last month I reviewed some amazing natural perfumes by perfumer Amanda Feeley, some of which contained natural patchouli in their blends. She sells her wonderful scents under the brand Esscentual Alchemy.
Shortly after my 2-part review appeared, I got a message from Monica Miller, one of my Facebook friends, and another natural perfumer at Perfume Pharmer. Monica wanted me to take part in her “Summer of Patchouli Love” as a “Patch Test Bunny”. After I’d sung the praises of Amanda’s compositions, I’d have been more of a crash test dummy after a 50 mile an hour impact in a SmartCar if I refused.
The idea was for a bunch of us perfume bloggers to blind-test 13 different natural patchouli based scents and pick our top 3. And these were no ordinary scents; they were composed by well known natural perfumers including Liz Zorn, Opus Oils, Dawn Spencer-Hurwitz, Amanda Feeley, Ambrosia Jones and others. The judges were nothing to sneeze at either: Marlon Elliot Harrison, Nathan Branch, Donna Hathaway, Felicia Hazzard, and some other well known bloggers. And me!
I have to admit I was a bit frightened by the task, since, well, the idea of patchouli used to make me want to hose myself down with a power washer. I now have to specify that it’s the patchouli found in mainstream scents, such as Angel, or those ubiquitous “fruitchoulis” that make many of us squirm. Natural patchouli is a totally different animal, and when it is blended with other ingredients by skillful perfumers like the ones who participated, it bears absolutely no resemblance to the stuff that makes me want to exfoliate myself with cement.
All the selections were 100 percent natural and contained at least 25 percent patchouli. Monica lovingly hand-decanted all the scents into vials and sent packages to all us judges. She created a Facebook group for all of us to share our thoughts. Now, here’s where things get interesting:
Monica mailed out all the samples around the second week in June, just before a postal strike/lockout was declared here in Canada. There were roving postal strikes in some Canadian cities before Canada Post decided to cease all mail delivery nationwide. My original package from Monica was hijacked by the strike.
As time wore on and there didn’t seem to be an end in site (the workers were finally legislated back to work by Parliament last Sunday), Monica decided I needed an alternate means of getting my sample package. She somehow managed to get more samples to another one of the judges, Cirque de Soleil casting advisor, Gillian Ferrabee, who happens to live in Montreal. So, my second set of samples were ferried from Gillian in Montreal via courier service to me in Toronto. I finally received them last Friday, and spent the better part of a week completely enrobed in patchouli. Laugh all you want, but it was fabulous. I am now a reformed patchouli hater.
The composers of each scent were finally revealed on Thursday, after I picked my final 3. Much to my delight, one of the compositions I chose was the Amanda Feeley scent, “Queen of Punk” that I loved so much. Remember, I had no information other than a numbered vial.
My other choices were a scent called “Happiness” by Ambrosia Jones (Perfume by Nature) and “Patchouli Paisley” by Lyn Ayre. Truthfully, all 13 compositions were fabulous, including one by Shelley Waddington, named “Go Ask Alice”, which was chosen by most of the other judges. It was absolutely stunning, but too strongly floral for my comfort level. For me, it is one of those compositions I could sniff forever, but never wear on my skin.
Speaking of judges, there is also a cadre of celebrity panelists waiting to be heard from: Singers Patti Austin, Mary J. Blige, actresses Kim Novak (!) and Jodie Foster, and some other well known industry people. Us bloggers were first, and now the celebs are poised to weigh in.
I am so grateful to Monica for giving me the opportunity to expand my fragrance horizons and I now appreciate the art of perfumery on a completely different level than what I’m used to. I’ve dabbled in natural fragrances before, but never in this setting, and it was a wonderful experience. I’m so impressed by the talents of these artists, as well as the dedication of the natural perfume community to spreading the word about their wonderful creations.
I’m looking forward to sniffing many more natural perfumes; look for another review from me in the coming weeks from another natural perfumer I’ve heard good things about.
Happy Canada Day and Happy Fourth of July to everyone! And remember: Peace, Love and Patchouli – or PLAP for short!