I guess this is patchouli week. Last night we talked about Chantecaille's Kalimantan (and Uncle Serge's Borneo 1834), which made me think of another modern favorite: Intrigant Patchouli from Pierre Guillaume's original lineup for Parfumerie Générale. It's another chocolate-free patchouli, supposedly inspired by the great chypres of yore. I must confess, though, that while I understand how the note pyramid is of that classic structure (something that Pierre Guillaume is very meticulous about in his work), the actual living creature on my skin is decidedly a modern patchouli and not a mossy leathery chypre.
I talked about balance in my Kalimantan review, and that seems to be the secret of a good patchouli. The complexity of a fiery opening that crackles and sparkles with spices before it unfolds as a mysterious ambery patchouli. There's a dirty element there that has bits of the forest floor as well as the beasts that inhabit its darkest corners. At the same time, a powdery and slightly sweet note transport us in time to somewhat old-fashioned rooms covered in floral wallpaper.
Intrigant Patchouli moves between two points: a smoldering and rather fierce earthy patchouli and a kind of Victorian sepia photograph, romantic and even melancholy. The connecting piece is an animalic note, musky-civety, that takes both the powdery chintz and the wild patchouli and brings them together into a coherent blend. Weird? Yes, I do think that Intrigant Patchouli is weird. It challenges the concept of vintage-like perfumes, modern patchoulis, and my own idea of a chypre. It emerges a winner.
Parfumerie Générale- Intrigant Patchouli ($85, 1 oz eau de parfum. Also comes in a 3.4oz) is available from Osswald NYC and Luckyscent (the latter stocks the 1.7 oz).
Photo: model Natalia Semanova for a Vogue Paris editorial.