THE PATCHOULI APPEAL
From haute to not and back again, Patchouli has played a colourful role in trade and lifestyle rituals. Extensively cultivated in tropical countries, the plant has a variety of uses ranging from perfumery and aromatherapy to cooking.
The plant first gained fame on the international stage when luxurious wares were exported from India and wrapped in patchouli leaves to preserve them. Over time, the smell of patchouli oil was irrevocably linked to genuine Oriental products. It is said that Napolean introduced patchouli oil-infused silk shawls to the discerning European clientele when he picked them up by way of Egypt. As a result, the scent would be transferred to skin and hair, thereby making it the scent of an age. However, as trends rise and wane, this too met its end and the same luxurious shawls made their way to prostitutes’ wardrobes and the aroma of patchouli oil was reviled.
The plant came into the spotlight centuries later when it was strongly associated with the Hippie Movement. Though used extensively for its scent and restorative powers, it did get a bit of notoriety by those who were not part of the culture.
Within perfumery, legend has it that the patchouli oil mixed with lemongrass and rose oil was first used by Indian nobility and the strong sweet yet musky scent was a marker of distinction between the wealthy and those less privileged.
Image by Mike Cohen via Flickr
Though there are synthetic variants available, Bombay Perfumery uses the real deal, sourced from Indonesia. For our Sulawesi perfume, patchouli is a base note, bringing depth and boosting the top and heart notes.