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What does Patchouli smell like?

Patchouli is a very divisive smell; many people either adore it or despise it.

It has an earthy, spicy, and somewhat sweet perfume that has been linked to the smell of health food shops. Some find it delightfully rich and exotic, while others find it musty or herbaceous.

Patchouli, when properly combined, creates a beautiful foundation note for refined aromas such as those found in our famous Ellington and Speakeasy premium candles.

If you’re unfamiliar with patchouli or want to learn more about the history of this potent aroma, you’ve come to the perfect spot. We’ll explain what patchouli smells like and where it originates from in this post.


Patchouli is a bushy, blooming shrub native to Southeast Asian tropical nations. Pogostemon cablin is its formal name, although most people call it “patchouli” or “patch” for short.

This lovely plant may grow up to 3 feet tall, with huge, hairy leaves and exquisite purple-white blooms emerging from thick, woolly spikes.

Patchouli is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), which is odd given that it does not smell like mint — we’ll go over how patchouli smells in more detail below.

Patchouli’s history begins with the Tamil people of South India, who were the first to discover applications for the plant in medicine, food, and as an insect repellent.

Its aromatic leaves arrived in the Middle East through silk commerce routes, wrapped in trunks of silks, carpets, and other valuable items to keep moths and other insects at bay. Centuries later, Napoleon is supposed to have been the first to import patchouli to Europe, where it immediately became known for its deep, exotic aroma.

Patchouli is perhaps best remembered for being a distinguishing aroma of the 1960s and 1970s American counterculture movement. Its soothing, earthy perfume was very popular among free-spirited hippies.

But don’t let patchouli mislead you into thinking it’s merely a “hippie” aroma. Patchouli may now be found in some of the world’s most opulent and refined perfumes.


Patchouli is most often linked with the woody scent family because to its powerful, earthy quality, but it’s also used to produce beautiful ambery, fougère, and chypre aromas.

Patchouli smells earthy and musky on its own, according to most people. Those who like it typically like it because of the subtle spicy, sweet, and woody elements that provide refinement and character to this unique perfume.

Those who dislike patchouli find the earthiness unpleasantly overbearing, drawing analogies to the scent of a chilly cellar, damp dog, or an unbathed hippy. Granted, they’re generally smelling cheap or low-quality patchouli.

Patchouli’s scent may be described objectively as:

Extremely earthy
A little medicinal
A excellent patchouli essential oil smells like wandering through a lush forest barefoot after a big rain. The wet ground underneath you gives you a strong smell, followed by a sense of sweet and herbal freshness from the bright woods and foliage surrounding you.

Patchouli is a versatile foundation note that complements a wide range of smells, including citrusy notes like bergamot, floral notes like lavender and geranium, and woodsy notes like sandalwood and vetiver.

It provides elegance, refinement, and depth to many mixes when applied sparingly (less is more). Patchouli scents that are popular include:

Tom Ford Gentleman Patchouli Absolu
Givenchy Eau de Parfum La Collection Couturier Parfumeur Patchouli Imperial by Dior Chance Monsieur by Frederic Malle Eau de Parfum by Chanel

Where Does the Scent of Patchouli Come From?

Patchouli’s distinct aroma is derived mostly from its big, fuzzy leaves and stems, which are collected and dried multiple times each year. Steam distillation is then used to extract patchouli essential oil from these leaves.

Patchouli essential oil contains the chemicals patchoulol, norpatchoulenol, and germacrene-B.

Patchoulol is chiefly responsible for patchouli’s unique earthy, sweet, and camphoraceous aroma. Norpatchoulenol is also a component, however we couldn’t discover any information on how this compound smells.

Finally, Germacrene-B is a sesquiterpene that has a woody aroma and offers patchouli an insect-repelling action.


Patchouli aromatherapy may soothe your emotions, raise your mood, and ease anxiety.

Some describe it as a grounding and emotionally balanced aroma that aids in the relaxation of both the mind and the body. It increases the production of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which help to combat anxiety, stress, and depression.

The fragrance is very strongly connected with love and passion. Patchouli has been used for hundreds of years as an aphrodisiac, increasing estrogen and testosterone to deliver a libido boost for both sexes.

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