I pulled a muscle in my neck about a week ago, doing something strenuous (pouring coffee? Emptying the dishwasher?) and since then I’ve mostly been smelling of Icy-Hot, so much so that Diva and Enigma have complained about the after-reek if I pop on one of their sweaters. (Too bad, girls. It could be worse.)
I was rooting around in the candy on my desk and ran across the samples Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH did for the Peace, Love and Patchouli Project, you can read more about it on her blog.
Quoting Dawn as she contemplated the direction she wanted to go: “It seemed that the big question was: are we, with this project, hiding the patchouli or making true patchouli perfumes, in the same way that one would think about a soliflore (which is to create a unique setting upon which the ‘gem’ note is placed to SHINE)? Or are we attempting to create perfumes with patchouli that ‘hide’ it in a way to try and get non-patchouli lovers to say: “Oh, there’s patchouli in that?” Patchouli is such a versatile perfumery material and depending on the origin, whether it’s light , dark or aged (my favorite! I age all of my patchouli) the patchouli feels and acts differently in a composition. I knew that I had to first answer this essential question and the answer was: let’s go for a PATCHOULI perfume, first and foremost. Another thing I also knew from the beginning was that this was a Summer patchouli project. So, I decided that I would attempt a bit of a trick, which is to make a LIGHT, soliflore patchouli perfume. (Patchouli is not exactly known for its “lightness”, you know.”
Now, I know you patch hags are out there, but patchouli as a dominant note is not my favorite. As Dawn notes, it can be pretty aggressive, and I can’t escape my instant impressions of patch as a dirty-hippie love-oil smell any more than some of you can escape associations of straight frankincense as a lingering memory of church. On the other hand, I took the girls to see Hair at the Kennedy Center last year and we loved it. So since I was already in the mothball/menthol/eucalyptus territory with my neck issues, I decided to give them a whirl.
No.1: BodhiSativa. This was her final entry into the Patchouli Project (click here to see the long list of other entries by other perfumers), and it’s my favorite, notes from the DSH site: Top notes: Bergamot, Cassis Bud, Galbanum. Middle notes: Cannabis Accord (Botanical), Centifolia Rose Absolute, Champaca Absolute. Base notes: Australian Sandalwood, Benzoin, Buddahwood, East Indian Patchouli, Frankincense co2 absolute, Texas Cedarwood, Tolu Balsam, Vanilla Absolute.
This one smells the most like “classical” perfumery to me, with a heavy overlay of patch. It’s definitely a patch-oriented fragrance without being at all hippie-ish. The woods and incense really shine through, and that rosey-vanilla makes it warm and rich rather than floral. While I wouldn’t exactly call it light, and I definitely wouldn’t have busted it out in our August heatwave, it’s a fragrance I’d turn to in the winter months when I’m craving an “old lady” scent (high praise from me) with both heat and an edge to it.
Aquarius (Natural; Patchouli Project no.2) “A warm, animalic fantasy patchouli perfume inspired by the original cast of HAIR and the (unwashed?) hippies of the Summer of Love. My second design developed for the “Summer of Patchouli Love 2011” Peace, Love and Patchouli ! project. “ Top notes: Cassie Absolute, Clary Sage, Galbanum. Middle notes: Ambrette Seed,Australian Sandalwood, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Costus, East Indian Patchouli, French Beeswax.Base notes: Ambergris, Cumin Seed, Indonesian Vetiver,Labdanum No. 3, Texas Cedarwood, Tonquin Musk.
I thought this would be my favorite based on the notes, and I was wrong. I magnify the hell out of the ambrette and musk, leaving me with something that smells like sweet pickles and patch. It’s not terrible; it just reminds me of Chanel No. 18, and not in a good way. YMMV.
Bodhisattva (Natural; Patchouli Project no.3). “A creamy, delicate floral patchouli perfume inspired by the glorious spiritual images in Tibetan Thangka paintings. Walk in the clouds on rolling pillows of incense, exotic Indian flowers and rich, aged patchouli.” Top notes: Bergamot, Davana, Moroccan Neroli, Orange Flower Absolute – Spain. Middle notes: Centifolia Rose Absolute, Champaca Absolute, Orris Root, Spice Notes. Base notes: Atlas Cedarwood, Australian Sandalwood, Benzoin, Ciste Absolute, East Indian Patchouli, Frankincense co2 absolute, Vanilla Absolute.
Very, very pretty, and when it’s doing its champaca thing I’m in loooooove. But then it becomes a more powdery floral, and powdery florals just aren’t at the top of my priorities list. The least patch-intensive of the three on my skin.
It was fun reading Dawn’s notes about how she went at this project; I’m not a perfumer, and following her thought processes and her goals in terms of rendering such a powerhouse aroma in different ways reminds me of how complex the art of perfumery really is. While I’m still not a patch-hag, I’m impressed with the variety in her results. You patchouli freaks out there, feel free to list your favorite patchouli frags in comments for the rest of the readers who want to explore this note.
samples: courtesy of DSH Perfumes