Noir Patchouli from Histoires de Parfums is somewhat of an enigma. Sometimes it feels like a femme fatale of a perfume, all black velvet, dimmed lights and a skirt with a slit up to there. However, at times the very dry base gets the upper hand with its gender ambiguity and a brisk attitude. And that's perfectly fine, too.
Noir Patchouli is a dark scent from its spicy opening to the very complex base. It's a little loud at first but then develops a quiet assertiveness- it will be noticed without poking anyone in the eye. The initial sillage calms down very quickly and one is left with a very personal and sensual veil of smoky wood. The use of patchouli in every stage feels very modern. It showcases the note among almost-sweet spices, dry woody notes and blended with musk, vetiver and leather in a more traditional setting (I cannot smell the promised oakmoss to save my life, but considering the restriction on the use of this ingredient it's not really surprising). The end results settles beautifully on skin without a hint of neither cheap headshops nor the often-found dirt and chocolate.
It took me a few wearings to realize how easy it would actually be for a man to wear this Histoires de Parfums creation. At first I was too focused on Noir Patchouli's tactile qualities- the softness and the way it smells when I stick my nose inside my own sweater. Of course it's feminine- it smells like me. But the dry and woody aspect, not to mention the smoky vetiver with a hint of leather would appeal to most men. They just have to love patchouli.
Noir Patchouli ($185, 4oz EDP) and the rest of the Histoires de Parfum line can be found at Henri Bendel in NYC, Beauty Cafe and Mio Mia in Brooklyn (as well as online).
Art: Portrait of the Duchess of La Salle by Tamara de Lempicka, 1925.