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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Summer of Patchouli Love, Part Two: The Rebels

By Donna

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, and in this chapter, still sticking with the high school theme, I am featuring the more “difficult” characters in the group, the Rebels, the ones who defy authority and just won’t play nice. (Note: most of the other bloggers are revealing the names and perfumers to match now, but I am sticking with numbers only until the Big Reveal in Part Three. If you can’t wait to find out, just click the link to Perfume Pharmer.)

Number One is not bad at all, but I found it to be a little odd. It has more than hint of mint, which comes off a little bit like chewing gum to start – not unpleasant, but not “perfumey” to me. I found it to be quite medicinal on paper, although it improved on my skin up to a point. I would almost call it “bracing” because of the mint’s presence, even though it is well integrated into the composition, it is always there. To me, Number 3 is like one of those things that you dab under your nose to avoid something else that smells unpleasant or to clear your sinuses, like a chest rub, Of course it’s not that strong, but you get the idea. It is certainly something that made me wake up and take notice, but I just can’t love it. I will say that the patchouli note in this one was very mellow and pleasant, however, and I would like to smell it paired with different partners. With that minty vibe I would have thought it would be refreshing, but it persists as more menthol than green leafy mint.

I found it interesting that Number 3 left two such very different impressions on paper versus skin, and I still have not gotten it figured out. When I first tested it on the strip, I got cool, churchy incense and I thought it might work for me since I really like incense in perfume, either as an accent or the whole show. However, it went wrong on me and morphed into something else entirely. Anyone who chose Number 3 as their favorite must really love patchouli, because it’s hugely dominant and pretty rough too, the kind of powerhouse that makes people dislike it in the first place. I can recognize that it is of good quality, but does not like me very much. On paper the patchouli and incense were nicely balanced, but on skin it lurched heavily over to the patchouli side. The patch never quite seems to mesh with the other notes; it sits off by itself glowering sullenly like the kid in the back of the classroom who won’t talk to anybody, alienated and distant.

Number 8 was a little bit scary -This is one big, bad boy! Earthy, rough, take-no-prisoners classic hippie-dippy patch, no frills, just wham, bam, thank you ma’am. My notes for the paper strip test say, “strong, earthy, mushroom, clay, rough.” Wait, what? Clay you say? Yes, instead of the loamy garden/forest floor goodness one usually thinks of when something is called “earthy’ it smelled like wet clay to me, the kind you slap on a potter’s wheel. Apropos of the patchouli image I guess but not the most inviting aroma on the world. It is less off-putting on skin but there is still something inaccessible about it because it stayed somewhat cold on me, unresponsive and not warming up or meshing with my skin chemistry at all. I think it would be a fine basic go-to patch perfume for people who like this style of scent, however.

At the bottom of the patchouli distilling barrel was Number 10 - Eau Neaux! This was the big deal-breaker of the group for me, starting with the paper testing where I judged it to be raw, strong and very musky. That was only the beginning of the story, because when this dark-colored behemoth came in contact with my skin, all my patchouli phobia came back with a vengeance. It smelled like a mélange of different things once it got going, none of which I associate with perfume; boiled hot dogs (the cheap kind), bongs, moldy hay and stale vase water. In addition, it’s so dark that it stained my skin iodine orange. This juice is seriously loaded with a very intense grade of patchouli and subtlety is not its strong suit. I tried to find something I liked about it but in truth it was the only one that I found to be a real scrubber and I couldn’t wait to get it off my skin after toughing it for a couple of wearings to confirm that it was a no go. I did find smelling it on the paper strip to be weirdly interesting, and it’s the only other one that I downgraded after the skin testing along with Number 3, since the others either improved or maintained their ranking on skin after the paper phase. This is only my personal experience of course, because several of the testers had Number 10 in their top three favorites; many other people are patchouli fanatics and I am not, so that factor must be considered. If you are one of them, this juice is probably your dream perfume.

In my third and final Summer of Patchouli Love post I will reveal my top favorites and there will be a prize draw, so please check back for chance to win!

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!

Image credits: Summer of Patchouli Love logo courtesy of Monica Miller and created by graphic artist Elizabeth Whelan.

Photo of Jimi Hendrix and his blazing guitar (literally) at the 1967 Monterey Pop festival from, original source unknown.



Anonymous Monica said...

Great descriptions Donna! Certainly not the most flattering but thats what the discussion is about :) Peace and LOVE!

12:37 AM EDT  
Anonymous Mademoiselle said...

I hope I do not miss the third one. I am looking for the perfect patchouli fragrance for a while.

Also, you may aware of this, I just realised that L'artisan Perfumerie was on sale.

5:05 AM EDT  
Blogger indieperfumes said...

It's always good to have forthright honest reviews because it gives credibility to the positive ones, so I commend you for saying exactly why you were not taken by this selection, to say the least. Tho I disagree vehemently on some of these descriptions, it only goes to show how individual our tastes all are. Also goes to show why we need to have so many perfumers, to fit the range of taste out there.

7:56 AM EDT  
Anonymous dleep said...

That was so much fun to read! Can't wait for more of the patchouli posts!

12:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Ambrosia said...

wow, that was couragous! Nice to see honest reviews, and I really appreciate the way you made it abundantly clear that your experience was entirely personal and that other reviewers loved the very ones you hated!
I too had the experience that many of the perfumes were astoundingly different on paper to on my skin!
Your descriptions were also very good and painted a wonderfully clear picture...I found similar notes in number one, though for me they work very nicely on my skin, grin!
This perfume project has certainly been the most interesting and educational one I have taken part in and I am now a huge fan of the double blind concept! I have learnt so much from all the reviews, and for once feel that I am getting really clear feedback on my own perfume! (And I'm also profoundly relieved and happy that you like my number 6, grin!)

9:42 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Monica, I promised myself - and you - when this whole thing started that I would give my honest opinion! :-)

9:46 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Mademoiselle, thanks for visiting. One of these 13 perfumes is sure to hit the spot!

Thanks for the L"Artisan info - pardon me if I don't buy a bottle of Patchouli Patch. ;-)

9:47 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Lucy - my feelings for this whole group of fragrances ran the gamut from love to aversion, but I must say that I really liked more of them than I expected to.

9:49 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

dleep, I hope you are enjoying the ones from the other reviewers too. I have one more to go!

9:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Ambrosia, thank you! It was a challenge for me too, and I liked the double blind concept too. My own nose and powers of description have been tested rigorously and it has been a valuable experience for me. It makes me have even more respect for the people who do this every day and also the perfumers who put so much into their creations.

9:53 PM EDT  
Anonymous Sturdine said...

Compose a perfume with TWENTY FIVE PERCENT pure patchouli??? Whatever possessed her??!!!

9:30 AM EDT  
Blogger janelc said...

Flora/Donna, brave review and kudos on the plain truth in the descriptions. Good for you. As the Bard said "This above all, to thine own self be true".

12:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Sturdine, you would be surprised how some of them turned out! Some of them were quite well-behaved.

12:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

janelc, thank you very much. This was a daunting assignment for me and I did my best to be fair and objective.

12:48 AM EDT  
Blogger Ali said...

I am first time visit at this site...... i like to see this site. This perfume project has certainly been the most interesting his site.......

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4:51 AM EDT  

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