Patchouli Perfume (Maroma)

"Patchouli" is as much a concept in perfumery as it is a note. Translated from Tamil, it means "green leaf," and has a rich cross-cultural heritage. It found its way to Europe via the eighteenth-century "silk road," wherein it was commonly employed as a bug repellant that protected pricy silks and other textiles from hungry little mouths. When aristocratic European women received their extravagant linens, they noticed the beautiful smell, and asked for more. Patchouli was adopted as an olfactory luxury for those who were fortunate enough to have its beautiful earthy aroma baked into their pantaloons. 

Maroma's take on patchouli is interesting. First, the frag price-point: 10 milliliters of perfume concentration fragrance costs fifteen dollars. That means a 3.4 ounce bottle would run about $145. I think a bottle that size would last me thirty years, because this stuff is pretty potent, in a good way. The box states three notes, a simple pyramid of patchouli, Himalayan cedar, and amyris (usually elemi), but I smell only patchouli and cedar. The duo is slightly unbalanced by a more dominant cedar note, but the patchouli is always there, adding a camphoraceous sweetness. I find the quality of ingredients to be very high here, with a distinct evolution to the star note, starting as a chocolate mustiness that rapidly segues into a more expansive musky wood, from which the cedar emerges. It's quite legible, and radiant beyond belief; a mere dab of Maroma Patchouli will announce your presence from twenty feet away and last for days.

With that said, the company is a bit of a mystery. It appears to be an Indian concern, until you visit its website, which partially explains Maroma's legacy. The brand was created sometime in the seventies by Paul Pinthon, a Frenchman, and his American partner, Laura Reddy. Pinthon was "trained in the field of pharmacy," while Reddy had "training in aromatherapy in France." The site suggests the perfumes are all-natural, which I find a bit dubious, but it's not impossible. Their patchouli is simple, but it holds two crystalline notes in a steady timbre, the sort of thing only the best materials can achieve.