Parfums Montale is oud. Or is it? Not quite…
One of my favourite Montale perfumes is Patchouli Leaves (aka Patchouli as I have recently noticed, remember my remarks about confusing alternate names for the same Montale Perfume?). This is a case study patchouli scent. Wear it and discover all facets of patchouli during its top and heart notes development (a good two hours).
First thing I notice when I spray PL is how dark the juice is: it’s greenish brown and I can see this on my skin. Second thing, I already know this from other Montale perfumes, how oily it is. When the alcohol goes I am left with a thick oily coating on my wrist. This is almost like an perfume oil with just enough alcohol to justify the eau de parfum label. The first impression nose-wise is that of a very herbal patchouli. This is bitter, fresh out of the bush leaves that I am smelling. The patchouli note I am experiencing at this point is so raw that it is like something I have never smelled before: I can feel the green juices from the crushed leaves. What comes next is dirt. Dry, crumbling earth, not the wet, fertile dirt of Route du Vetiver. The bitterness theme continues with the addition of this note. About twenty minutes into wearing this, patchouli takes a a strange milky sap turn, almost like crushed tulip stems. It takes about half an hour for the characteristic camphor note to become evident. Evident but not aggressive. The sum of notes has a wet tea leaves vibe. All this time PL feels so “natural” as much as I hate to use this adjective to describe a perfume. Not because I do not appreciate the use of natural ingredients in a perfume, on the contrary. Mostly because I feel I lack the knowledge to accurately give this attribute to a perfume. And another reason is because I believe there is magic in artificial as well. Comme des Garcons have already made this quite obvious. So I prefer to use the world “natural” to describe a vibe in a perfume rather than to declare superior quality.
Back to the Patchouli Leaves trail, it will take at least half an hour before this starts to smell like a perfume made by a perfumer mixing ingredients. Some wood and vanilla appear, the wood adding a velvety texture and the vanilla a comforting warmth. This doesn’t mean however that we are entering sweet, sticky territory. The herbal qualities of patchouli are still there keeping this clearly off gourmand. Slowly vanilla and dirt dominate the fragrance, leading the way to the base of the composition. And this is where magic happens. While we have been watching the amazing development of patchouli Pierre Montale was laying a beautiful amber carpet for us to lie. Thick, soft with warm colours and just the right dose of dust from the attic. The herbal qualities of patchouli coupled with the amber bring to mind the iconic Ambre Sultan.
The beauty of Patchouli Leaves is this incredibly well crafted duality. While it develops as a kaleidoscope of patchouli, it actually wears as a plush amber. You get the best of both worlds rolled into one magnificent warm fragrance.
Notes from Fragrantica: patchouli, vanilla, amber, musk, french labdanum
Notes from my nose: patchouli, dirt, green sap, camphor, tea leaves, vanilla, amber