Long before patchouli was adopted as the signature scent of hippies everywhere, the flowering herb, with its warm, woody, musky smell, was a symbol of opulence and prestige – rumour has it that King Tut was buried with gallons of patchouli oil. 

serge lutens boreno 1883 perfume in black bottle against grey background
Borneo 1834 eau de parfum by Serge Lutens.

Centuries later, Madonna put her own spin on the scent by infusing it into pressings of her 1989 album Like A Prayer, while in 2005, perfumer extraordinaire Serge Lutens launched iconic scent Borneo 1834, which blended patchouli with white fowers, cardamom, cacao and labdanum. 

Some highly glamorous new fragrances feature this intoxicating plant as their star ingredient. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux’s latest creation for Dolce & Gabbana, Velvet Black Patchouli, blends its principle ingredient with notes of Sicilian blood orange, Venezuelan tonka beans and davana oil for a scent that is earthy with an edge of sweetness.

Dolce & Gabbana velvet black patchouli perfume in black bottle against black background
Velvet Black Patchouli eau de parfum by Dolce & Gabbana.

To create the perfume, Flores-Roux looked back to patchouli’s past as a highly valuable fragrance that was traded between Asia and Europe. ‘Patchouli really symbolises that rich exchange of cultures,’ he says, ‘because it references a time when precious goods arrived from the East to the shores of Italy, cloaked in its mysterious scent.’

Meanwhile, Bulgari’s new Splendida Patchouli Tentation combines a trio of patchouli with white peach and velvety musk for a more powdery interpretation of its top note. §