Profumum Patchouly & Santalum

Simplicity done in the richest, most concentrated way possible seems to be the signature of Profumum Roma. It is an Italian niche perfume house founded in 1996, and commonly called Profumum by most. (The name is also sometimes written as “Profvmvm,” but, making matters more complicated, the company puts it as “Pro Fvmvm” on their website, skipping the “Roma” part entirely). As regular readers will know, I’ve become utterly obsessed with Profumum’s fragrances, after trying their two great, incredibly rich ambers, Fiore d’Ambra and Ambra Aurea. I ended up falling hard for the latter with its gorgeous, rare, salty, expensive ambergris. In my opinion, it is the best, richest, and most luxurious amber fragrance around.

I think Profumum is a shamefully under-appreciated house, so I’ve become determined to go through their line and draw some attention to their fragrances. Last time, it was the turn of Acqua di Sale. Today, it’s time for Patchouly and Santalum, fragrances which focus, respectively, on patchouli and on sandalwood. One of them is absolutely lovely. The other, alas, was not, and is my first big disappointment from the line.

PATCHOULY:

Patchouli is one of my favorite notes when it is dark, chewy, and somewhat dirty. These days, however, the patchouli used in perfumery is usually the purple, fruited sort. I’m not a fan, to put it mildly, so it was with some trepidation that I approached Profumum’s soliflore. What I found was a callback to the past, an utterly glorious, hardcore, seriously dark patchouli that felt as rich as a thick, six-inch brownie infused with resins, caramel and nuttiness. A long time ago, when I was 14, my signature scent was a fragrance from the French jewellery house, Ylang Ylang. The eponymous fragrance was a visual feast of black, gold, and brown, redolent of black patchouli and incense, golden amber, and spicy brown sandalwood. For decades now, I’ve been searching for a scent to replicate that old favorite, only to fail again and again. Profumum’s Patchouly is not it, either, but the opening twenty minutes came so close, I could have cried.

Profumum PatchoulyPatchouly is an eau de parfum that was released in 2004. Profumum‘s website describes the fragrance and its notes very simply:

Remote regions of my unconscious are in turmoil.
I hardly hold the emotions that overcome me,
like memories of antique pleasures.

Patchouli, Amber, Sandal, Incense.

The description from Luckyscent also references memories and antiques and, in my opinion, is generally quite on point in its characterisation of the scent:

A devastatingly rich and earthy take on patchouli that fully exploits its profound and powerful nature. Amber helps bring out its irresistible, chewy sweetness that is just this side of narcotic, sandalwood accentuates its warm heart and incense wraps it all in a veil of intrigue. This is like opening a forgotten trunk found in the attic of an old manor, and discovering a bewitching mix of memories and treasures. The scent of warm, dry wood envelops you as a honeyed swirl of memories flit about like smoke. Deep and evocative.

"Fading Flower" by Hani Amir via Fotopedia.com

“Fading Flower” by Hani Amir via Fotopedia.com

Patchouly opens on my skin with a blast of blackness. Dark, chewy, dirty, smoky patchouli with a bite of black incense. It’s followed by ambergris, an expensive, rare element that seems to be the signature base of so many of Profumum’s Orientals, and whose unique, special characteristics differ so widely from that of the usual “ambers” on the market. Here, the ambergris has a musky, salty, earthy, slightly mushy, and faintly sweaty aroma with a caramel undertone. It adds to the rich, resinous, chewiness of the patchouli.

The two notes create an earthy funk but, to me, it never smells of 1970s hippies and “head shops.” Actually, to be totally honest, I’ve never been quite sure what exactly the term entails. It’s often used to describe a certain kind of dark patchouli, but I’m too young or too square to know about the whole ’70s drug culture. Though I’ve been in modern, Bohemian, hippie, counter-culture shops that had patchouli, crystals, incense, tie-dye garments, and other things, this is not the same sort of smell that wafted about there. The patchouli here is dark, yes, but it’s far too infused with ambergris’ sweet and salty goldenness to be a true ’70s, dirty, skunky funk.

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Though Patchouly is essentially a simple soliflore — a fragrance focusing on one primary element — there is more going on under the surface. A spicy undercurrent lurks about in those opening minutes, almost as if cloves, black pepper, and perhaps chili were added to the notes. I’ve found that Profumum’s notes are not always complete, so it’s quite possible there are spices tossed into the mix as well. Further down below in the base is a subtle touch of leatheriness, though it feels more like a subset of one of the resins than any actual leather. The whole thing adds up to a mix that is smoky, spicy, sweet, salty, earthy, and chewy, all at once.

The glorious, dark funk of the patchouli doesn’t last long. Unfortunately for me, ten minutes into the Patchouly’s development, the hardcore nature of the note is soon weakened and diffused by the increasingly prominent ambergris. It softens the beautiful chewiness of that black patchouli, infusing it with a salty, nutty, caramel, satiny richness.The smokiness of the incense recedes to the edges, as does much of the momentary spiciness of the opening. Thirty minutes in, the primary, dominant note in Patchouly is the salty, musky, caramel-sweet ambergris. The fragrance feels a lot like Profumum’s Ambra Aurea, only mixed with patchouli and a hint of incense. 

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Source: wallpaperswa.com

As time passes, the ambergris takes over completely. It’s a disappointment, but perhaps understandable. Patchouli doesn’t have the best reputation as a note, given that whole “head shop” thing of the past. Consequently, keeping it within the warm embrace of an amber cocoon prevents it from being too overwhelming for people, the majority of whom do not like a dark, dirty version of the note. Still, I personally would have preferred that both the patchouli and the incense not weaken quite so fast. I’m sure everyone else, however, will be thrilled by that.

At the 1.25 hour mark, Patchouly turns, soft, gauzy, and blurry around the edges. It is still extremely potent up close, but the fragrance is more diffused in weight and feel. It floats about like a golden-black veil about 3-4 inches above the skin, wafting a chewy, musky, caramel amber with streaks of patchouli. It’s still dense and earthy, but not quite in the same way or for the same reasons. And it’s far too golden, sweet and nutty to feel truly dark. By the start of the fourth hour, Patchouly is primarily an amber and musk fragrance, only lightly tinged with its eponymous note. The fragrance smells like sweet, warmed flesh that is a tiny bit musky from time in the sun or from exertion. Patchouly has essentially melted to create a “my skin but better” bouquet of musk atop a base of rich, satiny, caramel ambergris. It remains that way until the very end, almost 11.75 hours from the perfume’s start.

I think Patchouly is a beautiful fragrance, especially for those who are leery of true, hardcore patchouli scents and who prefer something softer or tamer. It is an incredibly rich, luxurious, long-lasting fragrance that I think is extremely sexy. However, the extremely close similarities to Ambra Aurea may make Patchouly feel a little redundant for anyone who owns the other Profumum fragrance. I happen to have a large decant of Ambra Aurea, and that is the only thing stopping me from yearning for an immediate bottle of Patchouly.

There aren’t a ton of blog reviews for Patchouly out there. Perfume-Smellin’ Things has a short paragraph on the scent which Marina also liked a lot:

An expansive, full-bodied patchouli scent with generous helpings of sweet amber, velvety sandalwood and a dry, dark incense note that, from the middle stage on, seems to overwhelm the aforementioned amber and wood and to rule the blend alongside patchouli. I liked this one a lot. I am not sure I will be buying a bottle, I am not that big a fan of patchouli and will never be able to finish a 100ml jug…I must also add that it layers wonderfully well with Fiori d’Ambra and Acqua e Zucchero, adding to them the depth and the va va voom that both are missing.

People seem to detect different notes underlying that patchouli. On Fragrantica, the note had a chocolate nuance on some people’s skin. Others talk about the ambergris, or note some vanilla in the base. For one blogger, Nathan Branch, the fragrance had a medicinal opening, though he thought the Profumum scent was the best of a number of patchouli fragrances that he tested:

Profumum Patchouly: leaps out of the gate as a no-nonsense, take no prisoners medicinal patchouli. Your average sweet and floral perfume lover will be startled by the high-pitched mint & mothball breath of Profumum Patchouly and flee to seek comfort and solace elsewhere. True patchouli aficionados, however, will be thrilled. Includes amber, sandalwood and incense ingredients (the incense is especially nice), but these are added sparingly and only show up much later in the game. […] In summation: Profumum Patchouly is the most genuinely patchouli-ish of the bunch, graced with a nice incense afterburn

If you’re tempted by the fragrance, but have lingering trauma from the ’70s, perhaps this Fragrantica review from “MsLeslie” will reassure you:

Ever since 1967, when I was a run-away teenager in the Haight Ashbury trying [and failing] to be a flower child, I have loathed the nasty, oily, musty smell of patchouly exuding from the bodies around me. And I have avidly avoided patchouly ever since.

Or at least I did until I received this amazingly gorgeous Patchouly from Profumum Roma in a grab-bag of samples from the Perfumed Court a few months ago.

THIS patchouly is irresistable! It is rich, deep, intense, complex, with a strong redeeming sweetness that balances out the musty quality. 

This is a beautiful scent!

It really is! Absolutely lovely, and a must-sniff for anyone who loves real patchouli.

SANTALUM:

Profumum SantalumSandalwood is one of my favorite notes, so I was incredibly excited to try Profumum’s eau de parfum tribute called Santalum. Released in 2003, Profumum describes the scent as follows:

Scented votive fumes rise to the sky.
Flower garlands, statues and columns everywhere.
Carpets and drapes have been prepared.
The warm and humid air diffuses
the scent of the sacred forest.
The ceremony has started…

Sandalwood absolute, Myrrh, Spices

Santalum was a disappointment from the start. Those of you who are regular readers have christened me a “sandalwood snob,” and while it is absolutely true, it is not the reason for my enormous irritation with the scent. Well, not the main one, at least. The problem, for me, is that Santalum is a synthetic, ISO E Super hot mess. The fragrance opens on my skin with a medicinal, oud-like undertone, followed by incense, hints of powdery sweetness, and spices. The wood is rich and creamy, sweet and smoky. It’s lightly dusted by cinnamon and a hint of cloves. Within minutes, the powdery element overtakes the oud-like overtone, but also weakens some of the fragrance’s smokiness. There is a strong resemblance to Crabtree & Evelyn‘s now discontinued, vintage, 1973 fragrance, Sandalwood.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

Then, the ISO E Super kicks in. At first, the synthetic only faintly resembles ISO E Super, and is merely a dry, woody aroma. In exactly 9 minutes, however, the note shows its true colours, and starts to make my head throb. Something else lurks in the base, too, a synthetic approximation of sandalwood that isn’t even that terrible, ersatz, fake Australian version that so many fragrances have come to rely upon these days. Santalum turns more powdery, though it is still creamy, lightly smoked, and faintly imbued with a quiet spiciness. At the end of the first hour, the fragrance is a vague approximation of “sandalwood” with large amounts of synthetics and ISO E Super, light dashes of cinnamon, hints of incense, and powderiness — all atop a slightly ambered base.

Source: the3dstudio.com

Source: the3dstudio.com

Santalum remains that way until its very end. The levels of cinnamon, powder, and incense fluctuate, weakening over time, but the strongly synthetic undertones are a constant. The only real change to the fragrance is in its feel. It takes less than 90 minutes for Santalum to turn sheer, airy, and very light in weight. It’s a surprise for a Profumum scent, given their usual richness, concentrated, dense feel. Still, to be fair, there are occasions when the fragrance wafts by in the air around you, and it is quite pretty, but it’s something that is much better smelled from a distance. By the end of the fourth hour, however, Santalum is a faded, blurry, abstract haze of creamy woods with a light undertone of synthetics, powder and cinnamon atop an ambered base. It only vaguely smells like “sandalwood,” and I’m talking about the ersatz kind, not even the real Mysore one.  All in all, the fragrance lasted just over 8.75 hours, with generally soft sillage throughout.

By all accounts, Santalum has been reformulated from a dark, rich, woody, myrrh fragrance into something that is significantly lighter and more powdery. I have no idea if the fragrance was always such a synthetic bomb, but I do know that I’m not the only one who was disappointed with the existing version. On Fragrantica, the most recent review is from 2012 and states:

This is not the best use of sandalwood in perfume. I got a lot of camphor-like notes (oud?) in the opening and what I suspect is Austalian sandalwood, much different and greener than the wonderful Indian sandalwood,that is beautifully woody and resinous. then comes plastic, along with some powder. this smells similar to Crabtree and Evelyn’s sandalwood gift set, so if you like powder with your sandalwood, you may like this. Longevity was about 3 hours.

Other reviews from 2012 also reference the powderiness of Santalum, along with yet another comment about a “medicinal” nuance to the scent. As a whole, the comments reflect either qualified, hesitant “liking,” or actual disappointment. Older reviews, in contrast, are much more positive and talk extensively about the fragrance’s myrrh, incense, and amber. On Luckyscent, one commentator wrote:

I bought Santalum about a year ago and really enjoy the richness and warmth of its scent. I bought another bottle this year and was disappointed in the re-engineering done to the product. It’s dark ambery appearance has been replaced with a slightly off-color yellow. The product’s scent is lighter now and much of the richness of its former rendition is no longer present to my nose.

Clearly, something has changed — and not for the better. One doesn’t have to be a sandalwood snob to find the fragrance disappointing, but, even if you like powdery “sandalwood,” I think there are probably better versions out there for the price. In my opinion, the current version of Santalum isn’t worth it.

 

DETAILS:
PATCHOULY Cost & Availability: Patchouly is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Patchouly is available at Luckyscent, and OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Patchouly at Switzerland’s Osswald, Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), France’s Le Parfum et Le Chic (which sells it for €185), the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Patchouly starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.
SANTALUM Cost & Availability: Santalum is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Santalum is available at Luckyscent, and OsswaldNYCOutside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Santalum at Switzerland’s Osswald, Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), Le Parfum et Le Chic (which sells it for €185), the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). For all other locations from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy, you can use the Profumum Store Locator to find a vendor near you. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t carry Santalum, but you can order from Luckyscent at the link listed above.
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26 thoughts on “Profumum Patchouly & Santalum

  1. Great opening scene with Patchouly. I could smell all that through the web Mr! And I hope that in the future that all your Sandalwood Dreams come true. Mind you, Trayee is a dream come true. Which is where the second part of this review send me running.

    • Trayee definitely helps feed my (Mysore) sandalwood needs, but it’s not solely about the sandalwood and I was hoping that Santalum would be my easy, simple, basic sandalwood soliflore. Alas, no. But the Patchouly one is lovely. 🙂

  2. Yay, Kafka writes Profvmvm and I write Profvmvm as well, what a lovely match in time. Since patchouli or sandalwood are tricky notes for me, in most cases being something that I can’t wear I probably won’t test them.
    Glad you liked the Patchouly, too bad the darkness disappeared so quickly. Sorry Santalum turned out to be fake

    • You wrote about Profumum this morning? What synchronicity! I love it! 😀 Of course, naturally, stupid WordPress has sent me no notification of your post (again), so I’ll go look it up shortly.

      • Yes I did! Well, actually I wrote it yesterday afternoon and scheduled for a next day morning publish.
        Love the synchronicity of us 🙂 We make a good perfume pairing!
        I don’t know what is going on with wordpress. They’ve been chaning the design of writers dashboard etc, maybe they’re doing something again. Or maybe it’s because google readers is not longer working? But what it has to do with WP not sending email notifications?

  3. I almost got a sample of Santalum. Glad I didn’t. It sounds like it would have been a disappointment. I’m not a sandalwood snob but I don’t want anything too chemical smelling and I can get powdery scents for a lot less money. I haven’t been bitten by the patchouli bug. I like it but it’s not a note I crave. Yet. I’m sure I’ll go through a patch phase at some point.

    • You nailed the problems with Santalum in a single sentence! As for Patchouly, you might like it, despite not being a huge patchouli fan. It’s the ambergris which makes it special. For the same reason, I suspect you’ll adore one of the two ambers, though the Fiore d’Ambra is regular amber and not ambergris.

  4. I like patchouli a lot, too. Though these days it seems not to be very en vogue, likely due to the hippie association. I would have assumed enough time had passed to kill that association, but apparently not! Anyway, it sounds like quite an enjoyable scent. What a disappointing contrast, then, to smell Santalum! Sounds disastrous. I still haven’t explored this house at all, but I am looking forward to doing so in the future.

    • I think you’d be very impressed with the concentrated richness of the line. None of them are complicated scents, by any means, but WOWZER, what an impact and depth! Except for the horrid, reformulated Santalum….. bah.

  5. I have a vintage sample of Santalum which is dark brown and very rich. Clearly a bad reformulation has taken place. I have not had the chance to sample Profumum’s patchouli, but I do like the note. Current favorites are Montale’s Patchouli Leaves, CdG Luxe Patchouli, SL Borneo and Bois 1920 Real Patchouly. As for Sandalwood, I love my vintage bottle of 10 Corso Como… it is so magical!

    • I definitely want to try a number of the ones you’ve mentioned, but especially the CdG Luxe Patchouli. Borneo didn’t work well for me because of a weird sweaty undertone, so I’m still on the hunt for a super rich patchouli. Preferably with incense, amber and sandalwood that doesn’t smell too fake. As for 10 Corso Como, I hear the vintage version is/was absolutely stunning. You have some definite treasures there, Tara.

  6. Dearest Kafka
    Truly, you had The Dandy with his Banker’s Card at the ready with the first ten minutes of Patchouly… honestly, I adore this note when it feels as though it has lived a life and bears the scars and grime.
    For me patchouli is at its best when almost animal, almost decadent in the true (rather than ‘head shop’) sense of the word. I’m always sad when it’s mistreated with the olfactory equivalent of high fructose corn starch in all those ‘fruitchouli’ numbers that seem so popular these days.
    Amber though, especially of the quality you describe, I can more than bear, though I prefer mine with a decidedly salty note to offset the caramel (not being naturally sweet toothed).
    This is definitely one to hunt down.
    Sandalwood is a sad old smell for me… I’ve never found a scent it leads that I can love. Appreciate, admire, praise even, nut never lose my heart to.
    I can’t help thinking that the glory days may well be passed, or out of reach at least… though I’ve jotted down some of the recommendations above and will keep an eagle eye open for some vintage.
    Thank you as ever for such a precise set of perfume notes.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Oh, I’m so glad someone else shares my love for dirty patchouli. “Decadent” is the perfect way to describe it!! (And, really, what the hell does “head shop” really mean anyway?!) As for the revolting, horrid, purple fruity patchouli, the less said the better. One can’t seem to escape from it these days, between commercial fragrances and niches trying to compensate for the loss of oakmoss by using purple patchouli instead. Gah!

      BTW, regarding the amber being like caramel, don’t worry about it’s richness. It’s not cloying, gourmand or sweet. And because it’s actually ambergris, it has a definite salty characteristic! You really should try Ambra Aurea. I think it’s utterly glorious!

      As for the sandalwood, it hurt my heart just to read your comment about the glory days being gone. Sandalwood — the real stuff, the glorious Mysore wood that is Neela Vermeire’s signature — is my favorite note in all the world. I can’t bear the fake Australian “sandalwood” that they use, and don’t get me started on the even more synthetic versions out there. It hurts to think that what was once so abundant (and that we sadly took for granted) is generally finished, finito, caput for the majority of perfumery. The end of an era, just as much as it’s the end of the chypre century, as well. It saddens me enormously.

    • Borneo is a lovely scent, but the concentration, weight, heft and richness of the Profumum line is unique. With almost 43-46% concentrated perfume oils, it’s in a class by itself in terms of richness. So, in that way, it’s a totally different experience. As for the notes, Borneo is more complex (a Lutens through and through) with florals, chocolate and significant spices. Patchouly is simple, straightforward, and very different in scent. In short, I think there is a definite place for each! What I think you may really love is Ambra Aurea. Patchouly is very close at times, but AA is more hardcore, salty, musky, sweaty ambergris, through and through. A truly mindboggling amber!

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  8. Hello Kafka, On the basis of your post, I ordered a sample of Profumum Patchouly! It sounds like we may have to make more of the “I AM a sandalwood snob” T-shirts 🙂

    • ROFL! I demand one of those t-shirts from you as my Christmas present! 😉 😀 Joking aside, I’m glad I could tempt you into ordering a sample. Another one that I think you may want to look into, for your next order at least, is Grossmith’s Phul-Nana which I reviewed while you were gone and Andy Tauer’s Rose Chyprée! I really think one or both of them may intrigue you. 🙂

  9. Yes, I had very high hopes for Santalum too! Which sadly went south when it proved to be just kind of unmemorable. Oh, well . . . money saved . . . money saved for that bottle of Fiore d’Ambra I think we should split too 🙂

    • Oh, thank God it’s not just me! Go tell Hajusuuri that it has nothing to do with being a sandalwood snob or not. LOL. Santalum really just isn’t a particularly fantastic fragrance.

      As for where our saved money should go, my votes on Patchouly! lol

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