Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The ABCs of Essential Oils: Patchouli

Pogostemon cablin

Patchouli is one of those things you probably love or hate. And while I've met those who adore patchouli, it feels like the general public is wary of the scent. If you want to make perfumes, trying to find a way to use the oils you don't like is invaluable.

Patchouli has a reputation as a "dirty hippy" scent, and with its earthy odor, that might feel apt the first time you sniff it. It does have a strong scent, and if your first reaction is to wrinkle your nose up, try diluting it. A lot of essential oils are too strong in their pure state, so diluting it will help you appreciate it better. If you're still thinking "ew" after diluting it, don't give up hope.

Like other oils, you can find patchouli as an essential oil, CO2 extract, and absolute. I am a huge fan of CO2s and absolutes, which often have odor profiles quite different than the essential oil. While I haven't sniffed patchouli absolute (at least not too recently), the CO2 has a fresher scent that you might find more appealing than the essential oils. For the essential oils, you can seek out different distillation methods. I've seen double distilled, which removes parts of the essential oil, such as iron. "Light" patchouli, which is distilled in stainless steel, has not only a lighter color than dark patchouli, but a lighter scent as well. And then you can also explore aged patchoulis, with their richer, deeper scents.

Still not feeling the patchouli love? Time to move on to blending it. Add a small amount to a different single oil, like rose, and evaluate what it does to the rose scent. Split a blend in half, add a drop or two of patchouli to one of them, and leave the other aside. Go back a day later and sniff out the differences.

Arctander says, "Patchouli oil is used so extensively that it is hardly possible to specify its field of application," and goes on to list as "an important ingredient in Oriental bases, woody bases, fougeres, chypres, opoponax bases, powder-type perfumes, etc." As such, anyone who wants to work with fragrances beyond narrow subsets should learn go appreciate this oil. While you don't need to love it, rise above the hate, and expand your creative potential.

Orange Blossom
Ho Wood

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