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.