Friday, 16 December 2011

Persolaise Review: Patchouli Impérial from Christian Dior and Sharif from Profumo Italia (2011)

[Review of Patchouli Impérial based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Christian Dior in 2011; review of Sharif based on a sample provided by Profumo Italia in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]

Andy Tauer recently wrote on his blog about a distillation of patchouli oil which is particularly rich in patchoulol. The substance is, in his words, a “Fifth Avenue patchouli”, an elegant, refined material that seems to project sophistication with every moment of its development. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ingredient – or something very similar to it – is the star player in Dior’s new addition to the Collection Privée, Francois Demachy's Patchouli Impérial.

The first stages of this stuff are simply ravishing. The familiar chocolate-y earthiness of patchouli comes across straight away – as one would hope – but it’s set against a backdrop of 'couture' perfumery at its most enthralling: a subtle citrus note lifts the top; a sweet amber grounds the base; an orris-like facet introduces powderiness; and a spicy, cumin-edged accord provides a bridge between the more diffusive elements and the wearer’s skin. The whole is aristocratic and animalic, like Lady Chatterley on the prowl. It's the dead of night, she steps into her garden wearing nothing but a fur coat… and she’s not going to rest until she finds Mellors.

However, the juice displays a technical problem with longevity. Patchouli is an unpredictable material: on some people's skin, it retains its scent for more than half a day; on others' it vanishes with surprising rapidity. I gave PI several skin outings before writing this review (and I tried it on anyone willing to lend a wrist), purely to ensure that it was allowed more than a fair crack of the whip. I regret to say that there was only one occasion when it lasted longer than a couple of hours. So be warned: test it before you part with your pennies. And if you discover that it works with your chemistry, then consider yourself very fortunate indeed.

Longevity is certainly not an issue with the latest offering from Abdes Salaam Attar, which is rather interesting, to say the least, because the scent is all-natural, and we're always being told not to expect all-natural perfumes to last terribly long. But let's save the naturals vs synthetics debate for another time, eh? Quite unlike PI, Sharif does not reveal its most alluring aspects until around the third hour of its evaporation arc. At first, it appears unsure as to the direction in which it wishes to head: it channels '70s-hairy-chest-Brut' scents, Arabian orientals, and camphoraceous, herbal fragrances. But when these disparate elements settle, they reveal an impressive accomplishment. Floral notes rest effortlessly next to spices. A date-like, saffron-inflected sugariness coaxes a raunchy civet to make its presence felt every now and then. Dark resins and woods glint in the reflection of luminous powdery notes. Most importantly - and most admirably - these aspects have been blended with a skill which makes the seams between the ingredients almost impossible to discern. If Patchouli Impérial is for Lady C, Sharif is unquestionably for her lusty gamekeeper. Earthy and powerful, it's the smell she'd want to breathe in as she snuggles into his chest, and falls asleep in his arms.



  1. Too bad about the longevity of PI, I'll pay close attention when I get hold of a sample and keep my finger crossed.

    I'm still looking for my perfect patchouli perfume. I'm one of the very few people who doesn't click with Coromandel.

  2. How would you compare PI to Coromandel?
    The elegant patchouli aspect is very much there for me in Coromandel as well.
    What makes them different in your opinion?
    (I didn't try PI yet.)

  3. Tara, let me know what you think of it when you try it, and check out the response I'm about to type to Olfactoria re: Coromandel.

  4. Olfactoria, an excellent question.

    I think Coromandel is extremely beautiful, but its patchouli note is much more overt than PI's. Coromandel's presents the familiar dirtiness of patchouli (the smell which, for me, always evokes an image of digging my fingers into damp compost) whereas PI's takes only the 'clean' aspects of the material.

    The animalic side of PI comes from the amber base, which is much less pronounced in Coromandel. The chocolate note is also much stronger in the latter.

    A comparison of the two is actually quite interesting. Taken side by side, I'd say PI is more elegant... but then, elegance is in the eye of the beholder, right?

  5. Great review - as they all are.

  6. Kev, what a lovely thing to write, thanks very much indeed.


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