Nicolai Patchouli Intense (2009) {Perfume Review & Musings}

Patchouli-Intense-Nicolai.jpg The patchouli note, which gives its name to the perfume Patchouli Intense by Nicolaï, offers the ideal molecular heft of rich cacao. If it were a chocolate bar, you would call its taste "rich". The earthy, autumnal facets of the South-East Asian plant, originally, are present but evoking more the scent of raked leaves in a park than a stroll in a misty, cold forest...

Another olfactory atmosphere appears next - and it smells none other than of the bestselling candle, bougie Cyprès by Rigaud. This confirms to me my initial impression of the scent. There is danger for this composition of "smelling good" in the sense of leaving a main impression of what the French call a "sent-bon." A "sent-bon" is a fragrance which tries too hard to smell pleasing. It has to be essentially superficial to reach that goal. It is, in this case, an addition of pleasant touches, around the core title note of patchouli.

Those who practice the house of Nicolaï will recognize some of perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï's favorite flourishes. It could be that you are detecting the signature base of a fragrance house, a Nicolaïade, echoing the Guerlinade. But this goes beyond that point of familiarity. What you are taking in is psychological comfort.

This is the scent of someone who likes to smell some of the same things, does not ask probing questions and goes by a book of favorite things. Pelargonium, a favorite note for instance, adds that brisk, slightly after-shavey thrust to the fragrance, together with lavender. It is what the in-house nose likes.

In a way, the perfumer is going back with this scent to the times when people counted perfumery as an art for the household and a small circle of friends. This is different from the concept of "niche" which targets, in principle, a small constituency of perfume connoisseurs, who are strangers, with a polarizing composition which should take risks and knows it won't please everyone.

The composition here is made of a sentimental palette of notes. Those who like to like and who like the Nicolaï perfumes will adopt it as their own possible or plausible patchouli, although you know they probably do not think in terms of "plausible perfumes," - an attempt at the form of a perfume, which you accept as legitimate if not wholly necessarily. Those who expect a more general paradigm, pertaining to society at large, be shifted even if a bit, will not find it. The nose had explained,

"This wood is a fabulous raw material. In a chord, its role is similar to that of a viola in an orchestra - the instrument that leads all the others'. The patchouli is surrounded by an oriental background trimmed with incense and spices. But it avoids lapsing into ordinariness, with its combination of lavender and pelargonium contrasting with the dark wood."

A bountiful note of patchouli was chosen. Patchouli leaves are considered to have a "woody" smell in perfumery, but they also can disclose a gustatory facet of cacao. It was selected in this instance for its gourmand, chocolatey facet reinforced with vanilla and cinnamon. Then it was encased in a circle of notes at once personal and sentimental. Patchouli Intense is not interested in the universal, in politics or society, or only in as much as it supports one's own views.

The best part of the composition is when all the different threads come together towards the drydown. In the final analysis, you could guess that perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï is technically inspired by the notion of sillage. All the efforts go in that direction: to smell good and offer a great sillage. Meanwhile, she is not really interested in telling a story with the scent along the way. There are no psychological twists or nuances. It is a form of perfumery which offers little more than what meets the nose.

Even the incense in it manages to smell grounded and good rather than mystical. A tour de force in a way since we are always ready to take flight to the heavens with it thanks to its soaring connotation. But no. Patchouli Intense is just about being an intense patchouli in the here and now - and not in a meditative, spiritual sense at all. We might be tempted to call it a "rich and solid patchouli."

Fragrance notes: lavender, supreme orange / pelargonium, rose, cinnamon, bay St-Thomas / patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla, cistus, incense, amber and musk.

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