What does patchouli smell like?

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Patchouli is a very polarizing scent; many individuals either like it or despise it.


It has an earthy, spicy, and somewhat sweet aroma that is similar to the fragrance of health food stores. Some people find it rich and exotic, while others find it musty or vegetal.

When blended appropriately, patchouli produces a lovely foundation note for refined scents like those found in our famed Ellington and Speakeasy premium candles.

If you’re unfamiliar with patchouli or want to learn more about its history, you’ve come to the right place. In this piece, we’ll discuss what patchouli smells like and where it comes from.

What exactly is patchouli?

Patchouli is a flowering shrub native to Southeast Asian tropical countries. Pogostemon cablin is its scientific name, although most people refer to it as “patchouli” or “patch” for short.

This beautiful plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and has big, hairy leaves and beautiful purple-white flowers that grow on thick, woolly spikes.

Patchouli belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae), which is strange considering that it does not smell like mint — we’ll go over how patchouli smells in more depth below.

Patchouli’s history began with the Tamils of South India, who were the first to discover medicinal, culinary, and insect repellant uses for the plant.

Its fragrant leaves came into the Middle East through silk trade routes, wrapped in trunks of silks, carpets, and other costly objects to ward off moths and other insects. Centuries later, Napoleon is said to be the first to bring patchouli to Europe, where it quickly became famous for its rich, exotic perfume.

Patchouli is arguably best known as a distinctive perfume of the 1960s and 1970s American counterculture movement. Its earthy, calming aroma was popular among free-spirited hippies.

But don’t let patchouli fool you into thinking it’s just a “hippie” scent. Patchouli is used in some of the most expensive and classy perfumes on the market right now.

What does patchouli smell like?

Patchouli is most typically associated with the woody scent family because of its strong, earthy perfume, but it is also used to create lovely ambery, fougère, and chypre scents.

According to most people, patchouli smells earthy and musky on its own. Those who like it do so because of the delicate spicy, sweet, and woody ingredients that add refinement and character to this one-of-a-kind scent.

Those who loathe patchouli find its earthiness unappealing, comparing it to the smell of a cold basement, a wet dog, or an unbathed hippie. To be sure, they usually smell like cheap or low-quality patchouli.

The fragrance of Patchouli may be objectively characterized as:

  • Earthy to the core
  • Musky
  • Sweet Spicy Woodsy
  • Herbaceous
  • Medicinal in nature,

A good patchouli essential oil smells like walking barefoot through a verdant forest after heavy rain. The moist earth underneath you has a pungent odor, followed by a sweet and herbal freshness from the bright woods and flora around you.

Patchouli is a versatile foundation note that pairs well with citrusy notes like bergamot, floral notes like lavender and geranium, and woodsy notes like sandalwood and vetiver.

When used judiciously, it adds elegance, refinement, and depth to many mixtures (less is more). Popular patchouli fragrances include:

Tom Ford’s Gentleman Patchouli

Givenchy Eau de Parfum Dior Chance Monsieur by Frederic MalleChanel Givenchy Eau de Parfum

Where Does the Patchouli Scent Come From?

Patchouli’s characteristic perfume is mostly generated by its large, fuzzy leaves and stems, which are gathered and dried many times each year. Patchouli essential oil is extracted from these leaves using steam distillation.

The compounds patchoulol, norpatchoulenol, and germacrene-B are found in patchouli essential oil.

Patchouli’s distinct earthy, sweet, and camphoraceous scent is mostly due to patchoulol. Norpatchoulenol is also a component, but we couldn’t find any information on how it smells.

Finally, Germacrene-B is a sesquiterpene with a woody scent that lends patchouli insect repellent properties.

Patchouli Aromatherapy Benefits

Patchouli aromatherapy may help to calm your emotions, improve your mood, and reduce anxiety.

Some describe it as a grounding and emotionally balanced scent that promotes both mind and body relaxation. It boosts the synthesis of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which aid in the treatment of anxiety, stress, and depression.

The scent is closely associated with love and desire. Patchouli has been used as an aphrodisiac for hundreds of years. It works by increasing estrogen and testosterone, which makes both men and women more sexually interested. 

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