By Amy Derungs

April 4, 2021


Patchouli smells like:

The Patchouli scent is described as a strong, slightly sweet, intoxicating scent with a dark, musky-earthy aroma profile, can smell like wet soil, or slightly overripe apple or a cork of wine.

Perfumers wouldn’t be without patchouli for the richness that it gives to fragrances. Patchouli makes its way into many chypre and powdery fragrances, swirling exotically alongside lavender, sandalwood, labdanum and bergamot, clove, clary sage, as well as vetiver. 

Perfumes and Colognes often use patchouli as a base note because it provides for long-lasting and deep fragrances.

In this article we start with the history of perfumes and continue by looking at Patchouli in perfumery. We discuss 8 patchouli fragrances you will absolutely love.

1. A  Short History of Perfumes

scents mesopotamia

Perfumers in an old mesopotamia artwork 

Perfume goes back thousands of years. Wall artworks created thousands of years ago were discovered in Egypt, Israel, the Roman Empire, Mesopotamia and the Persian Empire. Perfumes were used in religious ceremonies, and for hygiene and cleanliness.

A clay tablet from Mesopotamia suggests one of the first perfume makers was a woman chemist named Tapputi.

One of the innovations attributed to the Romans is the use of blown glass containers for perfumes. Glass is odorless and easy to shape, perfect to contain the first cosmetics and scented oils.

Fragrance was important in Egyptian high society. Egyptians made perfume by distilling natural ingredients. The popular scents were made from flowers, fruits and aromatic woods. Egyptians had an intense trade of spices, aromas and resins that were abundant in Egypt but also imported from lands such as the Middle East, Arabia and India. They imported fine woods, scented resins, myrrh and incense that made up some of the main ingredients of the scents.

Egyptian queen and her perfumer

Egyptian queen and her perfumer

The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra used fragrances to scent her body and baths. Some Egyptian royalty like King Tut were buried with big quantities of perfume.

In the Bible, in Exodus, the Lord gives Moses instructions to build the Ark of the Covenant, upon which his brother Aaron is told to burn incense: “And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.” (Exodus 30:7) 

Aaron the priest

Aaron the High Priest

The ancient Romans and Greeks documented their perfume making processes. The cult of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, used perfumes and scents in worship services.

At the same time Antique India and China used perfumes in homes and places of worship. 

The Chinese used perfume and oils for their medicinal qualities and as disinfectant. Nobel Chinese began to use personal perfumes, importing ingredients via the Silk Road. During later dynasties, the use of fragrance had begun to spread among the public.

Oriental fragrances focused on herbs and spices; some were also used for medicine like patchouli oil.

Fragrances were introduced to Europe in many ways, it began during the Crusades and continued with Marco Polo and his traders who brought many aromatic materials back from travels to the East. This allowed Venice to turn into a major fragrance trading spot.

The introduction of perfume to France and the rest of Europe can be accredited to Catherine de Medici who had her own perfumer, and Napoleon returning from his campaigns in Egypt.

We can safely state that de Medici started the perfume industry in France.

Merchant making his bow

Merchant making his bow

1.1 The Perfume Industry In France

Grasse town of noses

Grasse

The French perfume industry centres in Paris, where the creators of perfumes are based, and Grasse, the historical capital of flowers and of the professional "noses" of the French perfume industry.

Due to its jasmine, rose and orange-growing trades, Grasse established itself as the largest production centre for raw materials. The statutes of the perfume-makers of Grasse were passed in 1724. Paris became the commercial counterpart to Grasse and the world centre of perfume. Perfume houses such as Houbigant, Lubin, Roger & Gallet, and Guerlain were all based in Paris. In 1760, in London, James Henry Creed founded the House of Creed perfume.

Bottling became important, and perfume makers formed a partnership with producers of bottles. Baccarat produced the bottle for Mitsouko (Guerlain), Shalimar (Guerlain) and others. Brosse glassworks created the bottle for the famous Chanel No.5.

Floral fragrances became more popular in the 20th century. Fracas perfume by Robert Piguet was released in 1948 by master perfumer Germaine Cellier and this is known as the premier Tuberose fragrance.

Old perfume advert

Old perfume advert Guerlain, which includes patchouli 

In 1921 couturier Gabrielle Chanel launched her own brand of perfume. Created by Ernest Beaux, Chanel No.5 was the fifth perfume presented to Chanel by Ernest Beaux.

In the 1930's leather fragrances were launched, and florals became popular with the emergence of Worth's Je Reviens (1932), Caron's Fleurs de Rocaille (1933) and Jean Patou's Joy perfume (1935).

In the 1950's French perfumery was at it's peak. Designers such as Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Nina Ricci, Pierre Balmain and others started creating their own scents.
Patchouli was in the 1960's the hippie scent of choice.

The recent popularity of celebrity fragrances has also made an impact on the industry. Today there are over 30,000 designer perfumes on the market and perfumes are no longer only for the wealthy. 

Now it is the right time to go back our flower: Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin).

2. What Is Patchouli?

What does patchouli mean? Patchouli plant is a bushy herb with frilly green-leafed, purple-flowers. It is a member of the Lamiaceae family, or mint. The name is derived from the Tamil words “patchai” for green and “ellai” for leaf.

What does Patchouli smell like

Field of patchouli flowers

3. The Origins Of  Patchouli

As said the use of herbs to give fragrance in perfumes dates back thousands of years in Egyptian culture. Aromatic herbs were also used in Chinese, Indian and other cultures; the Chinese used it in medicine and the Indians used it as insect repellent. 

Patchouli was introduced into China for medicinal uses during AD 420–589 and later it was cultivated in the Guangdong Province. In Chinese medicine it has been used for centuries as a decoction with other drugs for treating cold, nausea, diarrhoea, dermatitis, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, fever, dampness and to stimulate appetite.

The Patchouli plant is not indigenous to India and it was introduced here only in 1834.

In India, leaves of the patchouli plant had been primarily used as insect repellent to keep insects away from garments. Patchouli became familiar in Europe in the 1840s through imported Indian shawls associated with the characteristic Patchouli odor.

Patchouli also conquered the hearts of the demi-mondaines of the Second Empire on the Grands Boulevards of Paris. In fact, this arrival of patchouli in the world of perfumery was not really foreseen. Indeed, originally, the large dried leaves of patchouli were used as moth repellents. They were slipped around cashmere shawls imported from India, to protect the luxurious wool during transport. And finally, they perfumed these precious shawls without it being really intended!

TheFrench perfume manufacturers at last discovered the secret odor of the Indian shawls was due to the association of the Pogostemon species. Later, they learned to perfume their homespun shawls and other articles with the imported patchouli leaves.

4. What Does Patchouli Smell Like?

So what does patchouli smell like? Patchouli is today at the heart of the “chypre” family of fragrances, that are most often described as warm, sweet and mossy-woody.

Perfumers and Colognes wouldn’t be without patchouli, for the richness that it gives to fragrances. Patchouli makes its way into many chypre and powdery fragrances, swirling exotically alongside lavender, sandalwood, labdanum and bergamot, clove, clary sage, as well as vetiver. Patchouli is describe as having a strong, slightly sweet, intoxicating scent with a dark, musky-earthy aroma profile, can smell like wet soil, or slightly overripe apple or a cork of wine.

Many perfumers and colognes from around the world have used Patchouli to mix with other scents to elevate the fragrance of flowers, citruses, spices, and more.

Perfumers and colognes often use patchouli as a base note because it provides for long-lasting and deep perfumes.

Patchouli made a big comeback at the beginning of the 90s. Since then, patchouli has inspired perfumers who have made it the central accord of magnificent creations for women but also for men. Even today, patchouli remains an ingredient that leaves no one indifferent.

  1. 5. Frequently Asked Questions

5.1 Why did Hippies and Flower Children use Patchouli?

Patchouli incense was often burned to disguise the scent of marijuana smoke.

5.2 What others benefits does Patchouli have?

Patchouli is soothing and has anti-inflammatory properties, according to a study published in Microbios

5.3 Does Patchouli help with skin problems?

Patchouli is used as a cure for dandruff, dry & peeling skin & dermatitis.

6. Some Patchouli Perfumes  

6.1 Guilty Love Edition pour Femme Eau de Parfum, Gucci

Guilty Love Edition pour Femme, Gucci

Guilty Love Pour Femme by Gucci debuted in 2020. This new fragrance is a chypre floral.

The opening notes are breezy and slightly aquatic. Violet, raspberry and flowery accords shine through to form a feminine scent. Amber and patchouli give depth to the ensemble.

This romantic perfume feels like an early morning through a garden of fresh violets. If a floral and powdery dry down is what you desire, then this is the fragrance for you.

Sweet fruity notes and heady musk frame this perfume. When used appropriately, this scent can be sexy and seductive. Be bold and give this patchouli scent a try.

Guilty Love Edition Pour Femme makes a name for itself with slightly sweet, aromatic accords. This perfume is ideal for daytime. Most suitable in warmer weather. The longevity is moderate, and the sillage quite strong.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Aquatic notes

Middle Notes: Narcissus, Raspberry, Violet, Jasmine sambac

Base Notes: Musk, Patchouli, Mineral amber

6.2 Black Orchid Parfum, Tom Ford

Black Orchid Parfum, Tom Ford

Black Orchid Perfume is a new unisex perfume by Tom Ford released in 2020. Tom Ford is known for his patchouli fragrances.

This fragrance is strong in character, memorable, opulent and unmistakably unique. All adjectives associated with the Tom Ford brand.

It must be said that this scent is well-formed and brilliantly harmonized. Dark orchid underscored with the spiciness of patchouli, as well as the pleasantness of ylang-ylang and plums. Rum adds a delicious booziness that is irresistible. The result is an extraordinarily deep blend.

This intriguing perfume is bound to make a statement. If you’re a fan of the original EDP you’re guaranteed to love this charming fragrance. It is very long lasting, and the sillage is enormous. 

Tom Ford's Black Orchid will complete your evening look. Appropriate for seasons across the board. You're set to leave an impression with this distinct perfume.

Top Notes: Black truffle, Black orchid, Truffle, Patchouli, Black plum, Plum, Crème blanche accord, Ylang-ylang, Rum absolute

Middle Notes: Ylang-ylang, Rum, Akigalawood, Black orchid

Base Note: Patchouli

6.3 Coco Mademoiselle Intense Eau de Parfum, Chanel

ChaneI Coco Mademoiselle

Coco Mademoiselle Parfum by Chanel is a predominantly floral perfume. This is a classic fragrance dedicated to brave, modern women.

The fragrance begins with sweet citrus notes. Floral and woody fragrance ingredient accords add a powdery aspect. The initial scent is light, elegant and luxurious.

The base is pure magic with white musk and hints of vanilla. Patchouli is discreetly present here along with other lingering floral notes. Coco Mademoiselle makes for the perfect feminine fragrance. You can’t go wrong with this romantic scent on a summer's day. It is very long lasting, and the sillage is strong.

Mademoiselle by Chanel is a beguiling fragrance that gently envelops you and is not intrusive. If you’re looking for a romantic perfume that smells honest, seductive and floral, this patchouli scent is your go to.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin orange, Orange, Orange blossom

Middle Notes: Jasmine, Mimosa, Rose, Ylang-ylang

Base Note: Opoponax, Patchouli, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Vetiver, White musk

6.4 Issey Miyake Fusion d'Issey Eau De Toilette

Issey Miyake Fusion d'Issey Eau De Toilette

Fusion d'Issey is a new aromatic fougere fragrance for men that was launched in 2020.

It gently opens with citrus, herbal and exotic notes. It's fresh, slightly aquatic and from the beginning the fragrance is charmingly aromatic.

Fig nectar and coconut milk add some subtle nuances here in an unexpected way. They remain during the development of the scent, when soft floral and woody notes appear merging with rosemary and cardamom, which continue to be present throughout the dry down.

In the final stage patchouli and sandalwood take center stage.

Fusion d'Issey can be worn all year round although it really is best suited to warm spring and summer days. The longevity is moderate, and the sillage quite strong.

This stylish scent is modern but fine, subtle and sophisticated.

Top Notes: Coconut milk, Fig nectar, Lemon

Middle Notes: Sandalwood, Rosemary, Geranium, Cardamom

Base Notes: Ambroxan, Woody notes, Patchouli

6.5 Reminiscence Patchouli Pour Homme Eau De Toilette

Reminiscence Patchouli Pour Homme Eau De Toilette

Reminiscence Patchouli is a woody spicy fragrance for men.

The opening is fresh, aromatic, well balanced and quite brief. The citrus notes are blended in such a way that they each stand out. The tonka bean provides a touch of sweetness.

The heart of the fragrance is woody and floral with hints of spices in a velvety, dry and clean patchouli background. Don't expect the bold, oily, hippy like kind of patchouli we all know. This is a gentleman's patchouli - well mannered, masculine and easy to wear. The base is warm, balmy and moderately sweet.

This beautifully warm, smooth and relaxing fragrance is best for cold fall and winter days and evenings. Reminiscence Patchouli is very long lasting. and the sillage is moderate to strong.

Top Notes: Mandarin orange, Lime

Middle Notes: Patchouli, Cedar, Geranium

Base Notes: Benzoin, Tonka bean, French labdanum, Tolu balsam, Musk

6.6 Tempo Eau De Parfum by Diptyque

Diptyque Tempo Eau de Parfum

Tempo is an aromatic spicy fragrance for women and men. It was launched in 2018.

This is a lovely earthy herbal patchouli, and not too sweet. Superbly balanced! The mate note is very present together with the clary sage. The pink pepper and bergamot in the opening give it a a sparkling feel. 

The patchouli and sage remain as the main notes in the dry down. The violet adds a bit of a powdery aspect that keeps the patchouli from being too earthy. Very smooth and relaxing.

You could wear this perfume anytime, any season, anywhere. An all occasion fragrance that will please everybody. Tempo seems to lean more towards a men's fragrance, but could definitely be pulled off by women. This fragrance is very long lasting, and the sillage is moderate.

Main Notes: Patchouli, Mate, Clary sage, Pink pepper, Violet leaf, Bergamot

6.7 Acqua Di Gio Absolu Eau de Parfum by Giorio Armani

Acqua Di Gio Absolu

Acqua Di Gio Absolu is a sensual and refined woody aromatic fragrance for men. It mixes fresh aquatics with warm woody vibes. 

The fragrance opens with a moderate projection of sweet, fruity, citrusy, spicy and woody notes. The opening is intense, fresh, and very pleasant. The sharp citrusy notes mix well with the pear and apple creating a bright fruity note. The sea notes add a slightly salty, airy quality. Rosemary adds a noticeable but delicate aromatic, slightly minty touch. 

Geranium and lavender provide a soft floral note in the background. As the fragrance commences to dry-down, the patchouli adds a sharp green note that seems to connect with the freshness initially opened by the citruses. The tonka bean is a base note but its sweetness is present throughout.

The woody and amberwood add a fresh wood and light resinous touch. The featured notes come up as soon as the fragrance is applied and they continue into the dry-down. 

Acqua Di Gio Absolu is extremely long lasting (more than 10 hours), and the sillage is moderate. You can wear this comforting and energizing fragrance all year round, but it is best suited to warm day-wear. 

Top Notes: Sea notes, Bergamot, Pear, Grapefruit, Apple, Lemon

Middle Notes: Lavender, Rosemary, Geranium

Base Notes: Woody notes, Tonka bean, Patchouli, Amberwood, Labdanum

6.8 Habit Rouge Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

Habit Rouge Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

Habit Rouge is an amber woody fragrance for men. This classic perfume was first launched in 1965. 

The fragrance opens with powdery soft notes, and then lots of citrus, mostly lemon. The powdery quality continues as the sandalwood comes to the fore. Then a beautiful suede tone comes through with just a hint of lemon - not as sharp as in the opening - just enough to make everything else pop.

The floral notes of carnation and rose, jasmine and aromatic patchouli make their appearance. The patchouli heart is a lovely green scent. But it blends very well with the benzoin, amber and labdanum. The spicy touches of cinnamon are very nice, as are the oakmoss and the hint of vanilla.

Habit Rouge smells somewhat mysterious and dark, yet it maintains a freshness and delicacy all at the same time.

This fragrance is very long lasting, and the sillage is moderate. Habit Rouge is easy to wear and could become your all season signature scent. 

Top Notes: Lemon, Brazilian redwood, Orange, Bergamot, Lime, Tangerine, Basil

Middle Notes: Rose, Carnation, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Cedar, Cinnamon, Jasmine

Base Notes: Vanilla, Leather, Benzoin, Amber, Oakmoss, Labdanum