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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Perfume Review: Le Labo Patchouli 24

Patchouli 24 was created for Le Labo by the very talented Annick Menardo, the author of Lolita Lempicka, Bvlgari Black and Dior Bois d’Argent (NowSmellThis). The notes in Patchouli 24 include patchouli, birch, styrax, vanilla, and, according to Le Labo, “patchouli is not easy to detect in this formula”. Had I not liked this scent, I would have probably grumbled about how much more appropriate it would have been to call the scent Birch Tar, but I do like it, so I actually don’t really care about the fact that “Patchouli 24” is a misnomer. Patchouli does have a leathery undertone and perhaps that was the aspect Menardo decided to emphasize.

Patchouli 24 is certainly one of the most original scents in the Le Labo collection. Menardo’s use of birch tar is unexpected and the note itself is very attractive, smoky, dark and balsamic. The scent’s woody, spicy smokiness reminds me of Kolnisch Juchten; Menardo’s more refined creation is not as “meaty” and robust as the awesomely barbarian Kolnisch Juchten, but it is still only a small step away from being as savory-gourmand as that strange and appealing leather fragrance. Having said that, on my skin, Kolnisch Juchten has much more patchouli, especially in the drydown, than Patchouli 24; in turn, the hearty, thick birch tar note in Patchouli 24 lingers much longer than in Kolnisch Juchten (which is practically all-patchouli to me in its later stage) and is quite perceptible till the very end.

Another twist in the composition of Patchouli 24 is the presence and prominence of vanilla. The note appears in the second half of the scent’s development and at first its sweetness seems incongruous in this smoky and dry blend. On the second thought, one realizes that a) this conventional “comfort” note in the midst of smoky strangeness is Annick Menardo’s signature little eccentric touch (Bvlgari Black, anyone?) and that b) vanilla here does not take away the fragrance’s unique feel, does not tone it down to an extent of making it characterless, but its very presence, the contrast between the dark, leathery smokiness of birch tar and the fluffy softness of vanilla, makes the perfume all the more original.

Patchouli 24 is available at Le Labo boutique, $45.00-$180.00.

The image is from


Blogger lilybp said...

I like this a lot--and I completely agree with the comparison to KJ. In fact, when we were in the NY store, Qwendy called me over to Patchouli, saying something like, "Try this; it's similar to that weird smoky leather you like!" I like a number of their scents, but this is probably my favorite.

7:51 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Definitely like salt in cooking! I am intrugued by that Northern European cooking tradition you mention...intrigued and salivating :-)

2:01 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

LOL at "that weird smoky leather". That sums up KJ pretty perfectly, doesn't it. Patchouli 24 to me is like a (slightly) younger , (slightly) more refined, (very close) relative of KJ. Perhaps even a daughter or a sister :-)

2:02 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

There isn't much patchouli here, but lots of tar...My guess is you probably won't like it. But it is so interesting it is worth trying anyway.

2:03 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

The beginning is quite weird and smoky and just wicked :-) But it softens considerably and for maybe 15 minutes during the drydown it reminds me of ...Cuir Beluga! (must be the vanilla)

2:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Trina said...

Perfect description! Though I haven't sniffed the KJ, I pretty much agree with everything you said :~D Of my discovery set, I expected this one to be my least favorite and it turned out to be the hands-down winner! It layers very nicely with the Ciste too, just fyi.

5:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That sounds like a great combination! I must try it.

10:22 PM EDT  
Blogger cpk said...

I have the impression that the vanilla in this one comes actually from vanilin, the artificial vanilla substitute often used in cooking, which explains why it doesn't come on too strong or too sweet but instead feels peppery.

12:26 PM EDT  

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