Rose and patchouli go together like cheese and crackers. They are perfumery’s one true pairing – the industry’s timeless love story where the regal flower falls for the earthy rapscallion. It’s an age old epic that has been told many times – one could even say that it has been done to death, but perfumery always has the ability to surprise and just when one thinks that there are no new tricks to be had, no more beautiful rose and patchouli tales to be told, something new and exciting comes along.
I feel as if Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection Extraordinaire is one of perfumery’s best kept secrets and with their latest fragrance, the wonderfully named ‘Moonlight Patchouli’ they prove that they really have an interesting point of view. In the past they’ve brought us the smell of jasmine on a Californian breeze (see California Reverie) and the most delicious amber known to man (see Ambre Imperial) but this time round they’re bringing us something entirely more dramatic – an ode to the moon seen through theatrical makeup. Does that capture your interest?
Top: Patchouli, Cocoa and Woods
Heart: Bulgarian Rose and Iris
Base: Suede, Leather and Fruit
How Does it Smell?
The first thing one notices when unleashing a generous spray of Moonlight Patchouli is not, in fact, patchouli. No, the premier note of this fragrance is a luminous dose of rose that shimmers and fizzes with a lovely citrus undertone. I have a major rose bias, which means that I am quite discerning in my tastes and thankfully, Moonlight Patchouli offers up a beautifully pungent rose, all sweet and turkish-delight-esque, complete with the sharp tang of lemon. I wouldn’t say it was gourmand at all, in fact the impression is entirely more cosmetic!
Quickly, another surprising note raises its head above the parapet: the introverted and grey note of iris. In Moonlight Patchouli, the iris serves two purposes; firstly, it extends that cosmetic nuance, underpinning the lipstick rose with a violet-like dose of face powder; and secondly, the iris gives the impression of white dust, like footprints on the surface of the moon. Its use is subtle, but the iris really adds a definite sense of depth and texture to the composition, making the whole thing feel as if it’s a soft lunar cloud of rose and earth.
I know what you’re thinking though, we’ve got the moonlight, but what about the patchouli? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that Mr. Patch is present and correct. He lurks just behind the rose and the iris, suavely standing in a pool of ink and leather. Rose and patchouli work together because they contrast each other. The patchouli pulls out the darker, more earthy aspects of the rose, which in turn accentuates the fruitier and fizzier facets of its counterpart. Together, these two materials rub together to create a luminous yet brooding chypre that is as beautiful as a bold red lip.
Moonlight Patchouli is an utter delight with a beautiful name. It’s a softly spoken fragrance that whispers in delicate trails of rose and patchouli – materials that are usually so loud and bold, but are perfectly in balance here. I’d call it a lipstick scent, because it has that cosmetic feel to it, although it is far from tacky or sweet. Whilst it may be understated and quiet at times, there’s a brightness of colour to it that seems in direct opposition to its subtlety. In fact, it’s the contrasts in this fragrance that make it so interesting and it’s further proof that Van Cleef & Arpels are quietly doing some really beautiful things. Do check it out.