Patchouli

Not all of my readers will remember the days when patchouli was almost ubiquitous among young people. It was impossible to go to a rock concert without being overwhelmed by thick, dense wafts of the stuff.

Long after, I now know that patchouli is a common ingredient in perfumes. In fact, there is a whole family of perfumes based on it. In my favorite book, Perfumery: Practice and Principles, the authors—Jellinek and Calkin—examine the importance of patchouli in certain formulas and, in particular, how it forms an important accord with hedione.

Five patchouli-based perfumes are explained, and their ingredients elucidated (without the quantities) so I have something to go on in my experimentation. Famous scents like Diorella, Aromatics Elixir, Coriander, Knowing, and Paloma Picasso all revolve around certain common accords based on patchouli.

I went online to my source and bought a small vial of Diorella to guide me (I’m terribly ignorant about what classic perfumes smell like). Using my little vial of Diorella and my book’s guidance, I set out to make my first accord: a combination of patchouli and hedione. 

I started out with a 3:5 ratio of patchouli to hedione to form what seemed like a unique accord. Building on this, I added some of my jasmin complex (which contains 10% naturals) to give the accord floral complexity.

It seems that all in this family contain rose so I dutifully added a few drops of rose absolute, which rounded out and gave life to the accord.

Helional is used in most modern interpretations of this family. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it has a distinct marine quality, almost as though it smells like water. Here, Jellinek describes it as (in conjunction with eugenol) “carrying the essential character into the heart of the perfume…” 

Next, more work on the heart notes and construction of the top notes.

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