Patchouli Perfume Ingredient: What is It? What Does It Smell Like?

Patchouli is an intoxicating scent that gives off a slightly sweet, yet spicy aroma. Interestingly, the intense scent is often likened to the aroma of wet soil. 

What is Patchouli?

Patchouli is an evergreen perennial herb native to tropical Asian countries including China, Malaysia, India, and the Philippines. It commonly grows in Southeast Asia and is rumored to have made its way to Europe in Napoleonic times with the early European traders. 

Patchouli means “green leaf,” with its etymology traced to the ancient Indian language, Tamil, while the patchouli plant itself (Pogostemon cablin) forms part of the mint—or dead nettle—family. It can grow up to 75cm as a bushy herb with pale pink and white flowers.

What Does Patchouli Smell Like?

Patchouli, a member of the mint family, gives off a musky earthy aroma profile with undertones of floral notes. The smell of pure patchouli oil produces an intense aroma, so must be diluted before use.

Patchouli oil is extracted from the lightly fragrant leaves and the stem of the plant. The fragrant leaves and stem hold the secret to the sweet scents of patchouli’s signature scent accord. 

Patchouli oil is extracted via steam distillation which requires the cell walls to burst, thus releasing the chemical component, patchouli. 

What Scent Family is Patchouli?

Patchouli belongs to the mint family, or Lamiaceae. The strength of the fragrance is dependent on the intensity of the essential oil. 

The patchouli oil varies in strength depending on when the leaf is picked and how close the harvested leaves are from the top of the plant. The higher the leaves, the higher quality of the distilled essential oil will be.

Young patchouli oil emits a lighter fragrance and is amber and opaque in color. Much like good wine, the longer the essential oil matures, the better it becomes. 

Mature patchouli darkens into a richer amber color and becomes even more intoxicating over time. This is why perfumers are thoughtful when mixing patchouli with other essential oils in their fragrance, considering whether young or aged patchouli will produce the desired effect.  

What are the Benefits of Patchouli?

Patchouli is a fragrance that has been cultivated and used for thousands of years. However, it was during the counterculture movement (or hippie movement) of the 1960s and 1970s when it gained mass popularity. 

Patchouli has been known to be mixed with many other essential oils to reduce the feeling of nausea and vomiting, as well as to treat conditions including dandruff and hair loss. It’s also inhaled to provide relief from headaches, stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Patchouli oil mixes are also used as treatment for diarrhea and stomach pain or as part of a wider solution to controlling appetite. For instance, as patchouli smells woody and intense, it can overcome your senses, reducing the craving for food.

More recently, certain food and beverages use diluted oil as a flavoring agent. Insecticides and antifungal agents which protect clothes such as wool and silk have also incorporated this diverse ingredient. 

It’s worth noting that despite its many uses, it’s always worth speaking to a trusted doctor to provide medical advice before deciding to use the oil. Without correct use or the appropriate dilution, it could easily cause skin irritation. 

It’s also not advised for people with asthma and bronchitis. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should be similarly cautious and seek further medical advice before using this essence.

Is Patchouli a Feminine or Masculine Scent?

Patchouli makes for several unisex scents. The distinctive patchouli smell—which entwines woody top notes with a deeper, richer, earthier base note—has understandably spawned popularity among both genders. 

Best Perfumes with Patchouli Notes

1. Thierry Mugler’s Angel Perfume

Created in 1992, Thierry Mugler combines patchouli and vetiver to create a mouth-watering and potent product. While some find patchouli overwhelming, when combined with other scents such as honey, raspberry, violet-marked flowers, and sweet delights, this fragrance becomes feminine and indulgent.

2. The Essence Vault, Patchouli and Sandalwood EDP

With fragrances of amber, leather, and bergamot mingling expertly with middle and top notes of patchouli and sandalwood, The Essence Vault has created a distinctly masculine elixir that smells rich and warm. 

3. Byredo Velvet Haze

Patchouli and musk perfumes form the base of this scent. The surprising addition of cocoa and coconut fragrances elevates this aroma above other perfumes.

While marketed as a masculine smell, unlike other fragrances, the nutty, sweet smells lend it a unique and versatile unisex charm.

4. Le Labo Tonka 25

Aptly comprising 25 ingredients, the tonka bean is merged with orange blossom, cedar atlas, and patchouli for a cozy, syrupy mix.

5. Rook Perfume Undergrowth

With a strong base note of mint, the hints of bergamot, mandarin, orris, and vetiver set this one apart from other fragrances. 

But, what does it smell like? 

According to its creator: fresh mint pulled from the earth. A unisex fragrance that does patchouli justice!

The Bottom Line

So, what does patchouli smell like as a scent? 

Patchouli is an intense, woody, earthy mix. It’s rich, seductive, and adds depth to many fragrance mixes.