It is one of those scents many people have heard about but the question in their mind remains: what does patchouli smell like?
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Why Is Patchouli Linked To Hippies?
Patchouli is associated with pot-smoking hippies as urban legend explains the scent masks the smell of marijuana (jury is still out on the accuracy of this statement). It’s also commonly used as a base note in perfumes, but many are still not aware of what it is and what it actually smells like.
What is Patchouli?
The patchouli scent is a strong and dark scent but actually is a cheerful little (2.5 ft) bushy herb that blooms with light purple, pink-white flowers in the fall. It thrives in warm, moist tropical and subtropical climates.
Patchouli originates from Southeast Asia and due to the popularity of its scent, is grown in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, China, and South America.
While Patchouli leaves are sometimes used as a cooking spice or tea, it’s most commonly used in incense and perfumery. After leaves are harvested, the essential oil is extracted from the leaves by steam or fermentation.
What Does Patchouli Smell Like?
Patchouli oil has an intense aroma, a combination of musk and earthiness, that’s also mildly sweet and minty. It smells a bit like wet soil or a cold, dark basement.
One of the best rules of thumb with patchouli scents is a little goes a long way. Patchouli oil can be worn alone as a single-note fragrance. In perfumery, it is often used combined with other popular base notes such as vetiver, sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh, or cedarwood.
Patchouli is also used as a fixative to extend the life of more volatile fragrances notes such as jasmine, rose, bergamot, and citrus.
Thierry Mugler’s Angel Perfume, for instance, combines patchouli with vanilla, caramel, and chocolate to form its much-imitated, signature scent accord.
Best Perfumes to Try Patchouli
Patchouli Pure: Etro Patchouly
If you love what patchouli smells like and want a pure scent experience that’s a step up from essential oils, try Etro Patchouly. A proper earthy and real patchouli that is given some freshness through notes of bergamot, and artemisia while cypress and amber give it elegance. None of this diminishes the strong timeless patchouli notes — perfect for real patchouli lovers.
Best Earthy Patchouli: Montale Patchouli Leaves
Montale Patchouli Leaves is a unisex scent with a slightly sweet rugged, earthy patchouli. Heavy, rich and luscious, this fragrance feels like a long walk in nature, slow, pensive, and deep. It’s potent and has great sillage and longevity so one spray should be enough to last you all day.
Best Sweet Patchouli: L’Artisan Patchouli Patch
L’Artisan’s Patchouli Patch is a unisex fragrance that opens with a heavy dose of patchouli. However, after the top notes wear off, the fragrance blossoms into a lighter, elegant reimagining of patchouli with light spices, soft florals, and creamy woods.
Best Floral Patchouli: Tom Ford White Patchouli
If you have positive answers to ‘what does patchouli smell like’ then this scent is for you. Deep patchouli mixes with white florals in Tom Ford’s White Patchouli. It’s a sophisticated blend that was designed as a women’s fragrance but wears like a unisex scent. Great sillage and projection. A versatile, elegant scent that works well for most occasions and is even wearable in summer.
Best Budget Patchouli: Tabu from Dana
Tabu from Dana was created in 1932 and was a favorite of many stars of the gold age including Ava Gardner and Dorothy Dandridge. Now it’s a classic fragrance you can get for a very affordable price. With bold notes of amber, spice, and cloves in addition to the patchouli, it’s not a meek fragrance — wear it only if you’re ready to channel your confident inner diva.