DSH Patchouli

By March

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


  • Queen Cupcake says:

    Dawn makes a beautiful Vintage Patchouli, which for me was full-bottle worthy. I also like CB I Hate Perfumes’ Patchouli Empire, DSH Ashram, Les Nereides Patchouli Antique, to name a few.

    • March says:

      Ooooh, I never tried her vintage patch. CB’s Patchouli Empire was lovely but I wasn’t hankering after it… :”> I’m a weenie.

  • Aparatchick says:

    Eugene, Oregon. 1967. Now THAT was some dirty-hippie love oil. Probably explains why I grew up to love patchouli. My favorite? Another vote for Coromandel, though it is far more refined than the stuff I remember as a child, which was more in line with Smell Bent’s Hungry, Hungry Hippies (“freshly baked pot brownies dusted with cassia over an earthy dose of finely aged patchouli”)

  • Angelina says:

    “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”

    Just as I read – shudder

  • nozknoz says:

    I’m with Dante’s Bra on PG Coze. Tried that and Coromandel and Borneo back in 2009, I think, and decided I like Coze best ALTHOUGH I what I really wish for is a perfume that smells like the top notes of Coze.

    I’m also rather fond of FM Portrait of a Lady, even though it’s basically a 500-pound lady gorilla. And I adore the lemon-patch combo of Shalimar. Admittedly, it took me a few decades to warm up to Shalimar, though.

    Great to see you around the virtual ‘hood, March!

    • March says:

      Nobody’ll read down this far so I’ll admit that *I* kind of like POAL, which I think got mostly dissed as boring by the perfumistas. I don’t want to WEAR it, mind you, but I have a samp I like to take out and sniff. Have no idea why, it’s not my thing at all.

      Shalimar I’ve given up trying to like, which means I’ll probably fall in love with it.

      I missed you guys too.

      • nozknoz says:

        :-) I actually wore tiny dabs of POAL on my wrists TO WORK the other day. muWAAhaha!

        I think POAL just wasn’t what perfumanity expected or hoped for, and it IS difficult. I’m both attracted and repelled by it – I can’t leave it alone. Which is how I used to feel about Shalimar before I totally fell in love with it.

        • March says:

          Wow, to work? Must have been tiny dabs. Although in its powerhouse way it smells more “normal” than a lot of niche frags. Maybe I’ll have the same change of heart you did about Shalimar.

  • Ann says:

    Hi March, hope you’re doing better now. That kind of thing is awful, as I well know. About 4 years ago, I got such a bad crick (for lack of a better word) in my neck that I could barely move it at all. Couldn’t drive so had to stay out of work for 3 days, take muscle relaxers, ibuprofen, etc., until it wore off.
    Count me in as a Coromandel fan as well. I am looking forward to trying the Dior one however. And I have an Aquarius sample around here I need to dig up (probably locked away in the storage pod, ha!). I’m hoping they’ll be unloading all our furniture back into the house tomorrow (crosses fingers, toes, and anything else that will cross).

    • March says:

      How does that neck thing happen? And it stuck around and annoyed until yesterday. Today, magically gone.

      Oooooh, I hope you get your furniture (and all your perfume samps) back at your fingertips!

  • Francesca says:

    Yup, Coromandel for me, too. I also like MPeG George Sand. Though today I did get a nauseating OD from someone in the office wearing a combination of “rose” and “patchouli” oils she mixes herself and then applies with a ladle. I’ll have to go home and smell my Coromandel to remember what the good stuff is like.

    Hope your neck is better pronto!

    • March says:

      glargh, that rosechouli. There’s some legit “niche” fragrance that smells like hand-mixed rosechouli to me … what is it? Can’t remember!

      • london says:

        Voleur de Roses? Or the thief who stomped on the roses and buried a few measly petals under 6 feet of dirt and dead things? That rosechouli?

    • Dante's Bra says:

      That’s just… wrong. I bet she can’t even smell herself anymore.

      Voleur de Roses makes me think of graves and chintzy goths.

  • Julie says:

    Yet another Coromandel fan here. I had the “dirty hippie” association too and when I first started getting into perfume, thought I didn’t like patchouli. But then as I tried more and more scents with patchouli in them and realized I do like patchouli – not by itself and not too much of it, but it adds so much depth to a scent. My husband is super-sensitive to perfume of all types due to migraines (lucky me!) and will always notice when I’m wearing Coromandel (even smelling it in the bathroom hours and hours after I’ve applied it!)and scrunch up his nose. I don’t wear it that often, but it’s perfect on chilly days. He’s going out of town next month for a few days so I’m already planning to slather myself in that and several other heavy hitters while he’s gone!

  • Dante's Bra says:

    Parfumerie Generale Coze– somehow airy and light but grounding at the same time. Like a magic trick!

    I wish Coromandel didn’t smell like Brown Sugar on me– it’s really elegant and pretty, and i love it on other people. Great sillage.

    I just got a sample of the Dior Patchouli Imperial, and it was similar to Coromandel but leaner and drier. Not exactly, er, shy in its patchoulity, though! I have to give it a couple more rounds to figure it right.

    • March says:

      How did I miss your comment yesterday? Weird. Sometimes the screen fails to reload. :-w

      It smells like brown sugar on you? That’s hilarious. And you know what, I bet that Dior would work for me. Leaner and drier sounds about right.

  • Kate S. says:

    March, sorry you still have a pain in your neck. har har. My fave patch is MPG George Sand. I stopped wearing it when nice dewd at work recoiled. But I don’t work with him anymore so maybe I’ll return to it.

  • dleep says:

    Another Coromandel lover here. I hope I can buy samples of those. They sound great to this patch lover!

  • Joanna says:

    I haven’t tried these yet but look forward to doing it soon. I really like DSH. I can’t find Cimabue on her website anymore, was it discontinued? I might cry.

    • March says:

      I can’t find anything on Dawn’s website. 🙂 Actually, I can’t get the site to load right now, but I did find it on indiescents.com

      • Joanna says:

        Oh thanks I will check there too. DSH’s website is always difficult to navigate.

        • Lisa D says:

          Joanna, I’m with you on the Cimabue. That’s my favorite of the few I’ve tried. You’re also right on target about the website – rather vexing to work one’s way through.

          • Joanna says:

            Lisa, yeah isn’t it! It’s frustrating. She has so many fragrances which makes it a little daunting to try and focus in the first place but there is nothing easy or user friendly about that DSH website.

  • maggiecat says:

    March – hope you feel better soon! I’m not a patch fan (though I do like Coromandel in small doses in cool weather) but I enjoyed reading about these scents. Who knows – I like a lot of things now that I didn’t used to care for, so patchouli may be next!

  • mals86 says:

    … backs away slowly for fear of alerting the Patch Monster…

    … pokes head back in the door to whisper that she sometimes like patchouli, if – IF – it’s a) aged, b) paired with rose, or c) in PPM quantities. Otherwise, runs screaming for the Tide Free.

  • DinaC says:

    My favorite patch-prominent scent is Le Labo Iris 39. I like it when it smells earthy and green. I also like patch when it’s mixed into some other green or chypre scents. What I can’t stand is the fruity-patchouli mixes like Angel and all its knock-offs. Those kind of make me shudder.

    • March says:

      Fruitchouli has been a big trend, one I’d like to see the last of as well. I’d forgotten about the Le Labo. Their names crack me up. I’m always surprised if the name matches the scent…

    • Musette says:

      see, this is why I LOVE DA POSSE! 😡

      I would’ve gone to my 8-x without knowing there was patch in I39. I thought I hated Patch. But I LOVE I39. And now, as it turns out, there are quite a few patch scents I love, including a couple of DSH’s.

      So……ya nebber know what you will learn! 😕

      xo >-)

  • Olfacta says:

    I used to dislike patch. Now I don’t. It’s used creatively in so many ways. In a complex mixture, a drop of good-quality patch adds the bass note but doesn’t take over….it’s the wearing of straight patch EO that gets on my nerves. It has it’s fans, though, loyalists who refuse to wear anything else. So let ’em.

    • March says:

      Hey, I am in NO position to complain about the way anyone else smells in public! Unless it’s Angel. 😉 And I sometimes wear straight-up frankincense, which I’m sure gets on people’s nerves.

  • Jared says:

    Lord, I’m such a patchouli nut that my head starts to spin when I read about this Summer of Love project! I WANT IT ALL!! That being said, I still haven’t smelled any of them, and they seem to be trickling into blogs recently. Gotta get some! I often wear some straight up patchouli oil on my ears in addition to other fragrances, just to lend that patchouli edge and wondrousness. Chanel’s Coromandel is perhaps my favorite: it certainly gets the most wear. I’ve been trying some of Neil Morris’ fragrances, some of which are heavy on some patchouli (Rumi is a favorite), and I like those. I also need some Mazzolari Lui, as I still don’t own a bottle. I think along with Coromandel, my patchouli trifecta is Bond No. 9’s H.O.T. Always and Parfumerie Generale’s Intrigant Patchouli. I still need to add all of these Summer of Love’s to my collection though…..now.

    • March says:

      I saw that list and thought, that’ll get the patch fans fired up!! And another vote for Coromandel. Thanks for the recommendations.

  • Adrianna says:

    My favourite patchouli- definately Chanel Coromandel. Now question, though not related to patchouli. Does anybody else out there find Jubilation XXV very similar to Silver Factory???

    • March says:

      Jubilation XXV definitely has a lot of incense in it, but I find Silver Factory sweeter. Both beautiful fragrances, though.

      Coromandel hates me. But it smells great on other folks.

      • Musette says:

        Silver Factory is one of the only BNY scents I really like, even though I can’t actually wear it! I have a samp of Jube XXV – will have to try it alongside the SF, see how they match up.

        I remember liking Coromandel but not loving it. But that might’ve been because I was all caught up in the love of 28 LP and 31RC. Will have to revisit that as well.

        Hope my sinuses hold up!

        xo >-)

        • March says:

          Good luck with those sinuses. And I’d love to hear your comparison of Silver Factory and XXV.

          • Masha says:

            XXV smells more Church incense combined with Middle Eastern incense, though not as heavy as that combo sounds, it wears more lightly than that. Silver Factory is a very modern take on incense- it’s light and airy to the nth degree! It isn’t churchy at all. Love it, love it…. Nu is similar in spirit to Silver Factory, though it’s a bit heavier.

          • March says:

            I agree with you about Nu, although they’re all different enough to sample, right? Right? :”>