Patchouli is one of those scents that has a lot of misconceptions—and, to some extent, stigma—associated with it. What was once thought of as just a sweet hippie scent to mask the smell of cannabis is actually a base of some of the world's loveliest perfumes.
Patchouli, as a plant, is actually a member of the mint family: Lamiaceae, to be specific. It best grows in tropical areas, having originated in Southeast Asia. Due to its widespread use as a scent, it's now cultivated all over the world. Of course, the perfume industry isn't the only one that's capitalizing on the scent; it's used in spiritual practice and as a bug repellent, as well as in various alternative medicinal practices.
Naturally, with the hippie connotation, it's known for smelling earthy. Not only does it have a stronger smell than the cannabis it's associated with, but its olfactory similarities to cannabis are what attracted users to the scent in the first place. It's musky, sweet, and dark.
We've rounded up different variations of the sweet, musky scent to please even the most patchouli-averse person.
Vilhelm Parfumerie Stockholm 1978 Eau de Parfum
Made with notes of lemon zest, almond, and patchouli, this sweet musk has a tangy citrus twist that will get you in that summer mood, even when it's too cold to feel your face.
Tom Ford White Patchouli
The heart of this scent is patchouli, but it's mixed with a rose absolute and incense to get a lovely warm, woody smell.
Byredo Bibliothèque Eau de Parfum
Initially released as a candle, fans of Byredo's Bibliothèque begged for it to be released as an Eau de Parfum. When it finally was, it received such a good reception it made its way from limited edition to a member of the permanent collection. The peach and plum top notes give it a robust, full-bodied scent, while leather and patchouli hold down the bottom end. The heart of violet and peony brings a contrast, adding sweetness and light.
Maison Margiela Music Festival
If everyone wore this to music festivals, we wouldn't mind having our personal space invaded by strangers. Playing into the hippie stereotype with its name, this scent is a surprisingly calming mix of patchouli, cedarwood, cypress, and tobacco that we just love.
Ex Nihilo Sweet Morphine Eau de Parfum
Ex Nihilo's Sweet Morphine is aptly named, seductive and surprising. It takes the breezy notes of lilac and bergamot, blends them with middle notes of iris and mimosa, and stirs them into the base notes of vetiver, patchouli, and vanilla. It's a wild sensory trip worth a spot on your top shelf.
Dior Patchouli Impérial
We love stealing scents from the boys. (TBH, we strongly believe any scent can be worn by anyone.) Warning: This is strong. If patchouli isn't your favorite scent to begin with, we'd steer clear of this fragrance. But if you're obsessed with the note, this potent scent is the ultimate earthy and woody smell.
Jo Malone London English Pear & Freesia
Sometimes fruity and floral can be too much of a combo for even the most dedicated sweet-scent lovers. Luckily for us, Jo Malone London always gets that balance just right. This fragrance mixes the smell of English pear and white freesias to emulate that crisp smell of walking through a garden, but it's warmed up by the patchouli in its base note.
Parfums de Marly Sedbury
We're true believers that a scent can transport you to another time or place. Named after the Sedbury Royal Mare, a legendary thoroughbred horse from the 18th century, Sedbury has an old-world feel. Don't get us wrong though, it's anything but boring. Centered around a tuberose heart note, the amber, jasmine, and mandarin in this fragrance will send you away to a lush English countryside, regardless of where you actually are.
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle
If the classic No. 5 isn't your jam, we say give this a try. It is made with orange for a tangy twist that's modern but still holds the warm blend of rose and patchouli at the heart of it.
Bella Freud 1970 Eau de Parfum
Apart from the really cool minimalistic aesthetic, this fragrance omits a great sweet floral scent that mixes patchouli with frankincense, myrrh, and benzoin.
Gucci Flora Gorgeous Gardenia
If you love summery, berry-filled scents, this Gucci perfume is for you. The gardenia and red berries are brought back to earth by the patchouli, making it the perfect scent for someone who wants a secret-garden type feel to their perfume.
Swamy MK, Sinniah UR. A comprehensive review on the phytochemical constituents and pharmacological activities of pogostemon cablin benth.: an aromatic medicinal plant of industrial importance. Molecules. 2015;20(5):8521-8547. doi:10.3390/molecules20058521