Patchouli seems to be a topic on which people commonly disagree. The debate is lengthy and complex, and in the end, it all boils down to personal preference. While some people love the natural and woody undertones, others think patchouli smells like the scent that hippies used to conceal the stench of marijuana in the early 1960s.


Whether you love it or not, saying a perfumer doesn’t like patchouli is like saying a painter doesn’t like yellow and green.

The history of patchouli

Because the history of this note is as convoluted as the smell itself, it’s difficult to determine the true origins. Patchouli can be grown all over the world, and it’s actually rather easy to grow (if the conditions are right), but the highest possible quality comes from Southeast Asia, where it grew wild.

It is a plant that grows on a bush and comes from the same family as mint and melissa – Lamiaceae. Patchouli is not edible, but nothing would happen to you even if you tasted it. It consists of stems, leaves, and flowers of white or pale pink color. What is unusual about it is that the flowers themselves do not have any odor. The scent is extracted from the leaves and twigs during the steam distillation process, commonly used for obtaining scented oils from herbs and flowers.

It’s interesting to know that Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun loved this oil so much that he had gallons of it buried with him. Patchouli is known for its earthy undertones, which can help relieve stress in some people.

guerlain patchouli ardent

The use in medicine

Patchouli was once a common ingredient in a medicine before it became popular in the perfume industry. It helps with headaches, disinfection (due to its antibacterial properties), and the stench of fungal infections. It was also used as a moth repellent on clothing. Cashmere and silk scarves were packed with this herb during transit from India and therefore acquired its scent. It was very popular among French women who wore these scarves in the 19th century.

A favorite of European monarchs

Patchouli’s popularity at the time was bolstered by the French Empress Eugenia, who was head over heels in love with the scent, but she wasn’t the only one. This plant, whose smell marked the Victorian era as a fragrance of the highest prestige, was also a favorite of Queen Victoria.

However, the sixties arrived, and the demographics of those who use this fragrance shifted. Patchouli was linked with hippies at the time because it was a natural complement to the scent of sweaty and lustful bodies, and it participated in the liberating spirit of the time.


It was the best part of the perfume, it was the worst; it was a trademark of the grande cocotte, worn by the femme du monde. It was the heaviest smell, it was the lightest. It was the worst taste, it was the pinnacle of fashion. He drove people crazy, tamed the beasts of the jungle. It was an aphrodisiac, it was an emetic. He smelled of freshly sharpened pencils; Victorian boudoirs. He kept the fur from moths; it was something to eat. It smelled divine. – This is how patchouli was described in Vogue’s article, published in 1967.

No one could agree on anything because everyone had different viewpoints. It was a brave move to include a patchouli note in the perfume. It was worn by the daring and brave who stood up to the anti-patchouli movement. Although there were exceptions, it was mostly men because this ingredient was mostly used in men’s perfumes. Jackie Kennedy, the former first lady of the United States, was one of those patchouli-obsessed people. Kriegler’s Lovely Patchouli 55 perfume was her signature scent, which she received as a gift from her first husband.

The smell of patchouli

Patchouli’s aroma is one of the most potent essences extracted from plants. It starts with a rich, aromatic top note that transitions to a dry, woody, spicy finish. It’s an aphrodisiac that gives a fragrance its personality, naturalness, and sensual feel. Madonna wanted her album “Like a Prayer” to exude these features, so her first cassettes, vinyl, and discs were sprayed with this fragrance at the time.


Patchouli fits well into gourmand compositions. Gourmand fragrance is a perfume that primarily consists of synthetic aromas such as chocolate, honey, candy and gives the almost “edible”, “eat me!” appeal. A perfect example of this combination would be Mugler’s Angel, a perfume whose dominant notes are sugar wool and caramel praline complemented by a base note of patchouli. In addition to these, it goes well with notes of lavender, sandalwood, angelica, cedar, cloves, and nutmeg.

If you want to push the boundaries and continue to stand out from the crowd, maybe it’s time to opt for a perfume with a fragrant note of patchouli: