The Summer Of Patchouli Love, Part Three: The Teacher’s Pets – And A Prize Draw
Perfume-Smellin’ Things has been invited to participate in one of the biggest group blogging projects to date, and certainly the most complex one that I have ever been involved with. Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals and the Perfume Pharmer blog has coordinated a truly impressive array of natural perfumers, testers (“The Patch Test Bunnies”), judges including our own Marina who owns Perfume Smellin’ Things, and even celebrity participants, all centered on one concept: Thirteen natural perfumers were challenged to create a an alcohol-based fragrance in Eau de Parfum (at least 15% oils concentration) with at least 25% pure patchouli essential oil in the mix. In Part One of this series I explored the cooler and greener perfumes in the range, in Part Two, The Rebels, I wrote about the ones that did not work for me, the ones who defy authority and just won’t play nice. In this the final chapter, I am revealing my top three, the Teacher’s Pets, plus the closest runner-up, I guess you could call them the valedictorian and salutatorians. These were the entries that answered all the answers correctly, so to speak.
The fragrance that landed in fourth place was Number Eleven, which was later revealed to be a creation of one of my favorite perfumers, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes, and it has now been named Bodhi Sativa. It is a very serene, calming scent, minty “tea with milk” on me with a slightly sweetened gourmand aura to start, and later the tea subsides as the fragrance gets richer and warmer without becoming overly sweet or strong, and it’s as elegant as a polished stone. I enjoyed this fragrance very much and Dawn’s expert hand is apparent in the balanced execution. In fact it was this subtlety and smoothness that caused it to not quite make the cut since I felt that I wanted to choose a fragrance that had a strong patchouli character yet be something I could really like, and the project is all about patchouli. It’s a beautiful fragrance and I would definitely wear it, but for me it just did not have that standout patchouli zing I was looking for in the winning composition.
Number Two was my bronze medalist and it was also quite popular with the other testers. It is by perfumer Liz Zorn and is called River Walk. It’s a comforting old-school style patchouli perfume, easily recognizable but not in any way a crude “hippie oil” concoction. The patchouli itself is of particularly fine quality and I would love to smell it in anything; that’s saying a lot coming from me! It’s a full, rich scent, very wearable and cozy. The prominence of the patch might bother me in a fragrance of lesser quality, but this is Liz Zorn after all, so no worries there. It develops an enveloping, spicy warmth on skin as it develops. My paper test notes for River Walk said “rich, spicy, gourmand, complex, very good.” On skin it was even better and to me it was the most “edible” of the bunch, with frequent pressing of my nose to my arm to inhale its goodness, almost like gingerbread made with patchouli. Now there’s an idea!
My penultimate selection was Number Thirteen, which is Wild Child by Opus Oils. I think this might just be the most applauded one in the bunch for all the Patch Test Bunnies and the celebrity testers and judges alike, and for good reason. It’s easy to love and absolutely delicious with its buttery floral character and coconut-infused tropical tanning oil vibe. I get a lot of gardenia in this, so it’s a foregone conclusion that this White Floral Queen would fall for this hothouse flower of a perfume. It’s seductive in a classic “bombshell” way and all the better for it, but the patchouli, while evident as the fragrance develops on the skin, takes a back seat to the florals and gourmand notes. I think that may be the reason why I did not also select Wild Child as my winner as many others did– it is packed with so much else besides patchouli that even someone who really hates the stuff would like it. It was virtually a three way tie at the top, but I wanted to reward the one that was obviously a patchouli perfume to my nose.
My winning entry did not even make the podium for most of the other testers, but I thought it had the whole package: Number Four, now known as Haight & Ashbury by Jane Cate of A Wing & A Prayer Perfumes. It’s bold, it’s sensuous, it’s happily wearable, it’s unabashedly a patchouli-centric fragrance, and I still loved it. My notes for the paper strip testing said: “fruity, gourmand, lightly earthy, rounded, sexy, incense, love it!” All of these qualities were confirmed on skin, and more. It started out as deeply complex and well balanced incense and patchouli with a gentle fruitiness that I could not quite identify, and then it developed a wonderfully appealing muskiness that reminded me of Musc Ravageur, the genially outrageous sensation by Maurice Roucel for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. After all, this project is called the Summer of Patchouli Love, and this one really emphasizes the” love” part in the carnal sense. But don’t worry, it’s not hippie oil either, despite the name and even though the perfumer was directly inspired by the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco and a little shop on the corner that once sold patchouli perfume. No one will move away from you on the bus if you wear this, but they just might move closer. I can’t stop smiling and sniffing when I wear Haight & Ashbury and I really surprised myself by liking it so much. Congratulations to Jane Cate and all the other talented perfumers who made this patchouli skeptic into a believer.
The full list, revealed at last:
1) Alfredo Dupetit, Indiéne
2) Liz Zorn, River Walk
3) Shelley Waddington- Go Ask Alice
4) Jane Cate - Haight and Ashbury
5) April Aromatics - Bohemian Spice
6) Perfume by Nature - Happiness
7) Providence Perfume Company – Rose Boheme
8) Lyn Ayre - Patchouli Paisley
9) There is no # 9, to avoid any confusion with #6 for the testers
10) JoAnne Bassett - Tetu
11) DSH Perfumes – Bodhi Sativa
12) Amanda Feeley – Queen of Punk
13) Opus Oils – Wild Child
14) Theraputate – Royal Water
To see all the participants in this project, including previous blog posts leading up to the main event, which will run throughout the summer of 2011, please visit this page on Perfume Pharmer. Some of the writers will have their reviews published there as well while others will post on their own blogs, and all the links are on this page. You can also get a sneak peek of everyone’s top three favorites! We even have celebrities on board, including actress Kim Novak (!!!), singer Simone (daughter of Nina), musician Bruce Langhorne and actress Jodie Foster, and an international roster of perfumers who graciously agreed to lend their considerable talents to the challenge. Peace, Love and Patchouli – PLAP - to everyone!
And now for the prizes – we have two fragrances generously donated by the perfumers, a 5 ml silver toned purse spray of Number Two, River Walk by Liz Zorn, and ½ bottle of Number Four, Haight & Ashbury by Jane Cate. Please leave a comment if you would like to be entered, tell us what your own favorite patchouli perfume is, and specify which one you would like to win! (U.S. mailing addresses only, please.)
Image credits: Summer of Patchouli Love logo courtesy of Monica Miller and created by graphic artist Elizabeth Whelan
Photo of “Further,” one of the famous hippie school buses used by Ken Kesey & The Merry Pranksters, by photographer Joe Mabel from Wikimedia Commons.