Nicolai Patchouli Sublime (2017) {Perfume Review & Musings}


Patchouli Sublime by Nicolaï is the newest iteration of the house's patchouli pillar, which we reviewed yesterday.

Contrary to what you might expect with a name such as "Patchouli Sublime," which evokes incremental doses of opulent patchouli, this more sublime version accentuates the fresh aspect of the original composition...

Where Patchouli Intense plays with relative moderation with an after-shave facet based on lavender and pelargonium (geranium), Patchouli Sublime amps up the barber-shop vibe to the point of making the fragrance smell like a masculine cologne of the contemporary classical ilk. In other words, if you are a patchouli lover hoping to bathe in the stuff made of your dreams and get high on smoldering, cured leaves of patchouli, you're in for a feeling of discrepancy.

First, you will need to slap yourself in the face with mint and coriander seeds, with lavender and pelargonium remaining. It's a macho opening even for a unisex scent. Then, the patchouli enters on its own smelling reasonably earthy and a tad chocolatey. The patch' is less gourmand and loamier than in the Patchouli Intense version; but it is not a very potent note initially. Its presence feels rather medium.

The tobacco note is quite perceptible, almost cherry-like and liquorishy. It contributes to the cured-leaf aspect of patchouli. There is ambergris, with fish-market overtones.

What takes place, in the best-case scenario, is that the titular ingredient awakens on your skin slowly but surely. This key note blending the essence and absolute of patchouli is very pleasant, harmonious and with a nice heft to it. At last, you've reached the land of patchouli across the river. It's sweetened with tonka, which actually adds that popular modern masculine cologne touch to the scent, à la 1 Million by Paco Rabanne. There's a hint of crisp fougère soap too. But it is also not incredibly lasting. When the drydown phase kicks in, it is really and literally about a fading away of the scent rather than about a new development in the base notes.


The price range of 325 EUR for 35 ml and 485 EUR for 90 ml seems dictated more by luxury codes than by exceptional sourcing and concentration of materials.

Like Patchouli Intense, Patchouli Sublime is about a sentimental palette of notes bespeaking of preferences, but with more universality found in the treatment of the main patchouli note this time. The issue with sentimentality is that it does not necessarily serve the purpose of creating an ideal or sublime note of anything. The scent becomes less about the perfumery material, its own spectrum of olfactory nuances, which you have to respect and enhance, and more about your personal, accidental, anecdotal, lifestyle olfactory choices.

You then remember that perfumer Paul Parquet composed a fragrance called Le Parfum Idéal for Houbigant in 1896. In the art of perfumery resides this most difficult of equation to solve: to create a perfume which is at once ideal for your skin, personality, life, and ideal from the point of view of serving the raw material best. That second part is actually the first necessary step to master and this is why there are so many different perfumes. It is so because the phase of adequation with you(s) cannot be truly anticipated in spite of market studies. It is a matter of luck.

Fragrance notes: mint, coriander / tobacco absolute, tonka, patchouli essence & absolute / incense, leather, vanilla, musk, amber.

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