Fragonard’s Patchouli

Having grown up through the 70’s, this deep earthen smell evokes the wild sex and drug orgies seen through round blue glasses of that decade. My mother would not have approved my penchant for this fragrance. However if we go a bit further back in time to the 1700’s, while the rest of Europe affectioned lavender, the British, off on their own, used patchouli extensively to protect clothes and belongings from insects and came to consider this scent as a sign of cleanliness and pureness [for once, the Brits and I are in agreement]. Pushing the clock even further back, earlier cultures extracted and used patchouli essential oil for its healing power to the skin as well as its appeasing and aphrodesiac effects on the mind. These last two qualities may explain patchouli’s predominance in the 70’s…

I like unique perfumes with a recognizable character. So I love patchouli. Unknowingly I’ve used a number of colognes in the past of which patchouli was an ingredient: Shiseido’s regretted Basala [originally ‘Basara’], Givenchy’s dry, sophisticated Gentleman, Clinique’s Aromatic Elixir and Clarins’ Eau Energisante. Each of these use to a lesser degree patchouli and remain careful not to ‘overdo it’ avoiding any association with those cool, funky, hippy years.
[I think I could have enjoyed being a hippy].

I discovered some time back Fragonard’s patchouli. I’d visited their perfume museum in Paris, for the twenty-third time or so, and went to the shop to buy the shower gel of Rêve Indien [unfortunately discontinued today]. I sprayed a bit of patchouli on a tester, sniffed, thought “right, that’s patcouli” and stuck it in my back pocket, forgetting about it. Three days later was laundry day for jeans, and as I emptied the pockets, my nose picked up on something suave and deep that had evolved from an olfactory point of view into a masterpiece which was that little squirt of patchouli on a paper strip.

As portrayed in the feature image, Fragonard offers patchouli in eau de toilette 200ml spray, a large 600ml cannister, a 200ml shower gel leaving the skin already well perfumed and a small gold bottle…

The magic begins with the small gold bottle full of the pure Frangonard patchouli essence that may only be purchased, in Paris, at the Fragonard boutique rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Though it is a spray bottle, the wise user will unscrew the top and gently place, with the pipette, barely a drop of this essence on the inside of the wrist. Progressively warmed by the skin, the essence exhudes an ever stronger patchouli – the ultimate moment to appreciate Fragonard’s creation. The braver user can spray -only- a very small amount of the eau de toilette over the essence, and suddenly a mutli-faceted patchouli begins to radiate will evolve for hours.

The French use the term “sillage” to describe the scent left behind by a wearer after s/he is no longer in the room or has walked by. English offers limiting terms: ‘wake’, ‘trail’, ‘aftermath’. None of these fulfill the beauty of “dans le sillage du patchouli de Fragonard.”

I’ve added Fragonard’s patchouli into my most used scents: Mouchoir de Monsieur, Habanita, Muscs Koublai Kahn, Knize Ten, and Jaïpur pour Homme.

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