White Patchouli (Tom Ford)

I tried White Patchouli with modest expectation of neither loving or hating it. This scent receives some tepid reviews, even from one of the best blogs on this subject. I have yet to review it here, but I'll prelude my thoughts on Black Orchid by stating that it did little to set the bar, and so White Patchouli was met with a level of stoicism usually reserved for things by Coty. It's a good thing I'm open-minded. People who know me personally know that I love movies; I have often stated publicly that I'll watch any film from any genre without discrimination. The same holds true for my approach to fragrance. With the exception of a few extremely cedar-intensive scents, I'll give anything a generous dab. To me, open-mindedness is the key to making interesting discoveries in this field. Without it, one is limited to, well, . . . their limitations.

As an ardent Creed fan, I approach other semi-designer/semi-niche brands with trepidation, mainly because the current trend is for masculine scents to be overbearing, either in sweetness, or in spice. I have yet to try Creed's Royal Oud, but from what I've read it doesn't look like it will be my favorite Creed. Seems they went a little heavy with the spices and woods in that one. Without referencing it too directly, I'll add that my test of Black Orchid was akin to being knocked over the head by a Zulu knobkerrie. If things get any headier out there, the world will start resembling the goth-punk fictional metropolis of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.

Fortunately, White Patchouli is a delight from beginning to end. It isn't heavy-handed in its treatment of woods, flowers, and spices. The patchouli is incredibly elegant, and rendered in a uniquely modern style. It has a two-tiered evolution: an opening of rich orange, amber resins, and spices, all flanking an opulently smooth and bitter patchouli, followed by a drydown of white flowers and musks, which halo a very sheer patchouli. The star note is dense and chewy in the beginning, and loses opacity with each passing hour, until it is little more than a suggestion of head shop. Yet the yin-yang of density and airiness exhibited in White Patchouli's movements is incredibly satisfying.

I particularly like how the dirtiness of patchouli is seamlessly melded with earthy spices and pungent orange notes, which elevate all sixties-hippie associations into a more spiritual, oriental realm. The notes bond thanks to the usage of raw incense, a briskly mysterious element that adds dimension and clove-like mentholation to an otherwise fuliginous composition. The incense bridges the gap between this dark opening, and its lighter resolution. Gradually notes of rose, peony, and jasmine emerge from behind the veil, opening White Patchouli's heart and base with a fluffy cloud of whiteness. The flowers are cool and semi-sweet, and never become overbearing or indolic. As the grittiness recedes, the patchouli lightens, and a classy skin-scent remains.

Laudable is Tom Ford's use of restraint here. It was a good idea to keep White Patchouli firmly in its unisex realm, and smart to keep things clean and modern. As such, this Ford scent actually feels very much like a Creed. Its notes are clear, easily decipherable, and never devolve into a nondescript muskiness. It seems some lament the use of musks in White Patchouli, and think they overtake the composition - I disagree. I sense a very sanguine white musk accord upholding the flowers and patchouli in the later drydown stage, but feel that it only adds a bright cleanness to the proceedings, and never goes full throttle. I appreciate realistically-rendered white flowers (as much as I hate badly rendered white flowers), and here the delicate greenness of the floral notes just begs for touches of silky animalism to uphold their elegance. White Patchouli is indeed made of obviously high quality ingredients, and is entirely worth the price of admission.