Thursday, June 27, 2013

Luxe Patchouli EDT: Comme des Garcons

Several years ago, traveling back from a film festival in Greece, a good third of a full bottle of Luxe Patchouli leaked out into my carry-on, much to the displeasure of the man whose seat adjoined mine. He liked me even less when some of it - or a lot of it, if we go by him - got on my hands. I'd loved Luxe Patchouli from moment one, and finally splurged on a bottle. It was my first international festival and my first film and these seemed like suitable justifications, in case my guilt had plans to put me on trial. I knew Luxe was strong, that it might not be to everyone's taste, but it wasn't until that seemingly endless plane trip that I realized just exactly how...singular the fragrance is.

I have a soft spot for the curry-steeped-in-maple-syrup qualities of fenugreek, which makes Luxe Patchouli a real bonanza for me. Patchouli haters will assure you it is aptly named, but I consider it more of a fenugreek scent than a patchouli proper. Add some pepper, woods, and a little vanilla, and you have something somewhere between edible and earthy. This is a polarizing scent, and consider this: Some of them still should be. I find it extraordinarily nice, but others might recoil. While I'm not arguing for more recoil in modern perfumery, I don't think strong, passionate feelings for or against should be as much a thing of the past as they seem to be threatening to become.

Unfamiliar with fenugreek? Here's author Steffen Arctander's take on it, quoted from Glass Petal Smoke:

"The characteristic odor of fenugreek extract is a celery-like spiciness, a coumarinic-balsamic sweetness, and an intense, almost sickeningly strong, lovage-like or opopanax-note of extreme tenacity. The diffusive power of the odor of this material is usually underestimated by far."

That gives you an idea why the guy next to me was crying.

This description would scare off many, even though wearing Luxe Patchouli doesn't require spilling it all over yourself and can be used just as wonderfully in small doses as large. The price didn't help the scent's reputation, either, and it has gone practically unremarked. The eau de parfum version is (still) pricey at over 200 dollars for 45 ounces, so I've worn mine sparingly, which is to say rarely. In perfume years, the fragrance came out close to a century ago, way back in 2007.

Now, six years later, Comme des Garcons, who have been on an upswing creatively of late, have released both Luxe Patchouli and its companion fragrance, Luxe Champaca, in eau de toilette versions. At over 100 bucks for 100 ml, the fragrances are still arguably cost prohibitive, but compared to the originals they seem practically free.

I was worried that the EDT version of Luxe Patchouli would be - I don't know - 'effervescent'? Tastes since 2007 have nudged then shoved patchouli away from its dread grunge origins, making it ever cleaner, smoother, creamier, and otherwise unrecognizable and unremarkable. I think I've actually yawned once or twice smelling some of these contemporary interpretations. Comme des Garcon hasn't always followed trends, and isn't afraid of a fragrance that frightens the horses, but in the recent past they've veered toward tepid if not exactly tame. It's all been a little airy for me. Was there a "modernization" effort involved in the edt? A re-orchestration?

I'm more relieved than someone probably should be over something like this to say that the edt version of Luxe Patchouli is a.) practically identical in smell to the edp, b.) in other words not at all light, and c.) money well spent. It lasts as long, as far as I can tell, if not quite as long, and would have gotten me as much grumpiness on a flight from Greece as I've grown accustomed to. If I notice one difference - if I'm splitting hairs - it's that the fenugreek and patchouli give way in the far dry down to a marked hint of vetiver I don't remember from the EDP. But that's if I squint, and the trade-off is that the opening is lightened just enough that everything I've always loved about the scent rings out more clearly. Let's hope this and Black are signs of things to come from Comme des Garcons, rather than momentary aberrations.

All that said, a note about packaging. Really, Comme des Garcons? Two boxes of the same size, joined at the hip, one empty, one full?


Mimi G said...

Patchouli and I are not best friends but I * loved * Luxe Patchouli as much as I loved Luxe Champaca . I realise it is because I love immortelle . Love Sables etc and dying to buy Eau Noire. I am very pleased to see CdG bring out a less costly version of both these scents.
I can imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to a grumpy someone on a flight after a leakage of Luxe Patchouli !!
Good read Brian !

Brian said...

Hey Mimi G. Thanks. I'm an immortelle fan myself. Another good one is Parfum d'Empire's Fougere Bengale. Don't know whether you've tried that one. And Multiple Rouge seems to have a significant immortelle vibe, though saturated in berries. Eau Noire is one of my all time favorites.

Mimi G said...

Oh thanks Brian - I will try both those. I know Chypre Rouge by Uncle Serge has no immortelle listed but it has a similar vibe. I loved that one too . Eau Noire- calling my name for a looong time now....
Have a great weekend . :)

Brian said...

Yes! Another good one. I think Chypre Rouge has to have immortelle. I wish I could think of others off hand. Even the little touch or suggestion of it in Herrera for men wins me over. I'm totally helpless when it comes to immortelle.

Anonymous said...

Luxe Patchouli is a vice I think, one I am glad we share. I get the fenugreek and I also get a phase of smoked fish. But in the end what I smell is exactly the same patchouli used in Borneo 1834: dark chocolate and bread crust. The comparison is not mine but I fully support it.

In fact I think Serge Lutens uses a lot of immortelle in a very subtle way. Chene is full of it also.

I hope you have fond memories of Greece, my home

Brian said...

Gosh. I hadn't thought about Chene, another favorite. I didn't realize it was in there.

I really enjoyed Greece. I was only in Thessaloniki. Was fully preoccupied by the festival and unable to leave - not that I wanted to: the festival hosts were wonderful, especially around meal time, which was a much more extended gathering than in the US. I would like to have seen Athens but was really happy being where I was. And there was a decent perfume shop, which helped.

dissed said...

I'm not fond of immortelle, but PATCHOULI. I don't want to wear it, I just want to smell it, all the time. Deep green bitter leaves and sap and dirt.

Now I'm curious about Luxe Champaca.

Brian said...

I like Luxe Champaca, and I smelled the EDT version. I can't tell: Either I don't like the fragrance as much as I thought I did, or the concentration made it a little lighter than I'd prefer.

Kris said...

Yeah, I'm all for creative packaging, but two bottles with one being empty? Reeks of trying to hard. Now the scent? Definitely the opposite of reeking.

Brian said...

Agreed. The box is a real head-scratcher. The scent, heaven.

Susan said...

Fenugreek and I just don't get along. I think I'm inclined not to like it anyway, but then I had to force myself to drink fenugreek tea while I was breastfeeding my daughter a few times (Fenugreek helps increase milk supply.) UGH, the stuff was so horrible. I had to put tons of honey in it to make it remotely palatable. I think the whole mental association of stressing out about milk supply, combined with perhaps a tendency not to like fenugreek that much to begin with, turned me into a complete fenugreek-phobe.

When thinking about having a second child, I have actually thought to myself, FUCK, that means I'll have to drink more of that shit.

(I'll have the kid anyway, God willing, don't worry!)

Brian said...

You know, in researching fenugreek, I saw that it has that application. And I thought, hmmm, really? And now I know: yes, really.

I think I might develop an aversion too under those circumstances. I had to drink a special tea prepared by a Chinese herbalist for a month, morning and night, to help heal an eye problem. It was like drinking tar - both in taste and consistency - and had everything apparently from the natural world thrown in, including beetle carcasses.

It sort of turned me off tea entirely.