Reminiscence Patchouli N' Roses (2016) ≈ How to Reinvent the Obvious {Perfume Review & Musings}

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The latest opus by Reminiscence, Patchouli N' Roses, is about a slightly deconstructed take on the rose-patchouli harmony. For the brand, it is part of their continued attempt to renew our perception of its fetish ingredient since 1970, patchouli. It's been lightened, made more gourmand or benefited from top-grade sourcing over the years.

In 2016, it was about casting it alongside a key note of perfumery, the rose, which they also see quite retrospectively as a symbol of the 1970s flower power and the Woodstock way of life...

The rose-patchouli pairing sounds on paper and from a perfumery standpoint as safe as, say, the casting of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, yet again, for its latest version, in the rom-com La La Land. This could go in a very classic direction, even a formulaic one; or it could go in a more disorienting direction, in a good way.

Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has managed to inject an ingredient into his a priori safely paired composition which is not to be found anywhere in any of the hundreds of small glass bottles making up the perfumer's organ: creativity. Perhaps perfumers ought to keep one empty bottle clearly labeled as such to remind them that before them hangs a blank, transparent slate which it is up to them to fill out. Pellegrin has been on a roll lately and this composition is further evidence that you can count on him to come up with interesting ideas.

Patchouli N' Roses takes the harmony of rose and patchouli, which has become the implicit mark of a neo-chypre since Narciso Rodriguez for Her eau de toilette (2003) by Christine Nagel and Francis Kurkdjian - and the brutal advent of anti-allergen regulations - and succeeds in distorting our vision of it.

The perfumer has first of all kept a prominent patchouli note which remains true to the personality of the house by both cleaning it up (patchouli coeur) and re-injecting all the trappings of a loamy, earthy, dirty patchouli, which keeps all of its soil-like character despite having been streamlined and edited. This is a "white patchouli" with a twist. It's like shaving a hirsute beard and letting it regrow so that it artfully looks like a sophisticated yet wild beard.

Second, the composition distances itself from the mill-of-the-run patchouli-rose chypre of today by adding an interesting fruity nuance which is quite present, yet subtle and delicate. This riff smells apricot-y, making you think of the flower osmanthus, although the note is not listed. It could be the scent of an apricot-y rose, but it's a bit more accentuated than that; there is an underlying complexity to the accord which makes me think a bit of Chamade by Guerlain for this sweet ambery note, freshness and unusual fruitiness. But it's really very far off in the distance.

According to Reminiscence, a musk note has been inserted as a heart note rather than a base one - and this could explain the fruity-musky effect as well. There is a touch of the lipstick trace on a handkerchief too. It's very discreet - never a central motif - but contibutes to the building up of a feminine and emancipated rose note.

A listed cedar note is perceptible as part of this creative equation. It smells white, clean, fresh and perhaps creates the illusion of a delicate apricot fruit together with the roses used: Rosa Damascena and Rosa Centifolia. As it is, the composition obviously rests on the perfumer's personal research and olfactory findings rather than in a mirroring of popular accords. In a way, its point of departure could still be Narciso Rodriguez for Her, which also smells fruity especially in the edt version, but really, we are completely elsewhere.

The drying-down stage of the fragrance operates in a resorbing mode which tends to take all the ingredients of the perfume and simplify the finale which is quieter and on the minimalist side. It comes across as a modern signature rather than as a defect. It's more Scandinavian lines than Baroque ones. Having said that, the perfume is so appealing, it would have been great to see it sustain its plushness longer. The long drydown is also that point where the perfume smells more like others, resorbing at that point into a type. Mostly however, Patchouli N' Roses is inventive and while that aspect lasts, very enjoyable. It would be optimal if the composition rocked absolutely all along the way. We know it can be done as more full-fledged perfumes are seeing the light of day lately (cf. Moonlight Patchouli and My Burberry Black).

Fagrance notes: Rosa Damascena, Rosa Centifolia, Musk, White Patchouli, Cedarwood, Vanilla.

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