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Patchouli 24 – smoky and leathery and a smooth patchouli – November 11, 2017


I was trolling around a few fragrance websites a while ago, and I found this article by blogger Claire Vukcevic called ‘The Top Ten Niche Fragrances Every Beginner Should Sample’. It’s a really well-written piece and she makes a lot of good points for why she made the choices she did.

As I read through the article, I realized that Kay and I have blogged about nearly all of them: Absolue Pour Le Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdijan, Incense: Avignon by Comme des Garcons, Black Aoud by Montale, Chergui by Serge Lutens, Knize Ten by Knize, L’Air du Desert Marocain by Tauer Perfumes and Timbuktu by L’Artisan Parfumeur. And now I’m adding another: Patchouli 24 by Le Labo.

Patchouli 24 was launched in 2006 by Le Labo, a New York based niche perfume house founded in the same year by Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Penot. Together these creative directors have worked with some of the best noses in perfumery – Michel Almairac (Ambrette 9), Daphne Bugey’s (Lys 41), Maurice Roucel (Jasmine 17 and Labdanum 18) and one of my faves, Annick Ménardo who signed Patchouli 24.

The name and number of all Le Labo fragrances refer to the ingredient with the highest concentration – in this case patchouli - which means that the name of the fragrance might bear little resemblance to what the fragrance smells like. The number refers to the number of ingredients in the fragrance, so Patchouli 24 has 24 ingredients.

“Le Labo” translates into English as "the laboratory" and that’s the esthetic of the brand. The stores are sparse – no frou-frou décor or flowery signs or labels with flowing script here. The sales people wear waxed canvas aprons and your juice of choice is mixed right in front of you, giving the impression of a custom-made fragrance. Then your name is printed on the utilitarian label and on the brown cardboard box. It’s all very lab-like and a tad perfunctory, if you ask me.

But the fragrances! There is nothing perfunctory about them. Each one is built around a dominant note with the number in the name referring to the number of raw ingredients used in the formula. And Roschi and Penot have worked with some of the best noses in perfumery – Michel Almairac (Ambrette 9), Daphne Bugey’s (Lys 41), Maurice Roucel (Jasmine 17 and Labdanum 18) to produce some real stunners, like Patchouli 24, signed by Annick Ménardo.

I have been rolled back on my heels by many a patchouli fragrance – the dirty yet refined Patchouli Impérial, the stylish and sophisticated Patchouli Intense, the resinous and deep Elixir Patchouli and that dirty, dirty Patchouli from Santa Maria Novella, but Patchouli 24 is like a lover that won’t be denied.

It opens with a heady floral accord that yields quickly to the smell of smoke from birch tar. That swirling smoke is captivating and evocative. It’s the smoke from smoldering embers – not a camp fire as in Lonestar Memories, and it lingers and lingers, the way smoke lingers on clothes for days. On me the patchouli is hanging back, but I feel it there, dark and a little sweet.  Then comes the irresistible smell of worn leather and I suddenly feel like I’m sitting in an old leather armchair by a fire in a library. Oh, baby, keep pulling me in! And it does when a whiff of balsam breaks through the smokiness. Then a note of creamy, custardy vanilla rises up from my skin and balances the smoke, the leather and the darkness.

The drydown on me has a little smokiness, but it really is about that vanilla/patchouli accord. The patchouli here is smooth and some of the characteristics that it’s known (and loved for) the dirtiness, the rootiness and the earthiness, don’t stand out here. This is patchouli reimagined by the master of smoke, Annick Ménardo.

As for the ‘The Top Ten Niche Fragrances Every Beginner Should Sample’, well, is it really a list for beginners? I think of it as a list of discovery, because every time I go back and wear the fragrances on it I have the pleasure of rediscovery.

Patchouli 24 is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.