Winter’s cold temperatures tend to bring out my appreciation for cozy scents. It is perhaps my second favorite category in general, after Orientals, but even more so in the dark gloom of December and January. There is something instinctive and biological about the tendency to hibernate that emerges in the cold, winter months, but I have a yearlong habit of curling up with simple, cozy scents at night. After a long day, there is nothing I love more than to toss on some comfortable clothing after a hot shower, put on perfume, and chill in front of the television. At those times, I reach for something that I will enjoy on an instinctive level, a scent that doesn’t require focus on all its details, but something simple, warm, soothing, and luxuriously deep.
I think Gothic I definitely qualifies. It is an eau de parfum from the jewellery designer, Loree Rodkin, and I spent more than a few nights last month and in the recent freezing days enjoying its rich warmth. It’s all thanks to one of my readers, “CC,” who wrote to me during my patchouli series to inquire if I had ever tried Gothic I (as in the number “1”), and who generously insisted on sending me a small decant. She thought I might be interested because Gothic I (which I’ll just simply call “Gothic“) has two kinds of patchouli in it, though it also has vanilla.
It turns out that, on my skin, Gothic is almost entirely a vanilla scent, but it’s a lovely one! Vanilla is not a category of fragrances that I generally seek out, and I most definitely avoid gourmands for my own, personal use. Yet, deep down, but I have a huge appreciation for a certain kind of vanilla: the rich, Madagascar, Bourbon extract type that feels simultaneously deep, heavy, dark, and somewhat dry. That’s essentially the broad profile of Gothic, which also has the benefit of strongly resembling Profumum Roma‘s much more expensive Dulcis in Fundo, but with a touch of patchouli.
Gothic was released in 2013 as the eau de parfum version of Ms. Rodkin’s earlier oils, and is considered the signature fragrance of her line. Its notes are as simple as the fragrance itself, which Luckyscent describes (with an inexplicable touch of the romance novel, in my opinion) as follows:
A moody vanilla shrouded in a mist of light woods and patchouli. Sensuous and unrepentant. We picture long hair whipping in the wind, a search by candlelight and a man driven half mad by love. Still, for all of its gorgeous drama, we could wear this everyday. It has the luxuriant skin-caressing softness of a vintage silk velvet cape. Worn over nothing. Voluptuous and mesmerizing.
Notes: Vanilla pod, Madagascar vanilla, spice accord, Tunisian patchouli and Indian patchouli.
Gothic is far from “moody,” in my opinion, and definitely doesn’t evoke any man driven half mad with love, but it’s definitely a voluptuous, luxurious scent. It opens on my skin with the richest, most buttery vanilla imaginable, as thick as if pots of butter and custard had been poured into it. Seconds later, it is infused by a momentary boozy sweetness, then a breath of warm patchouli. There is the merest hint of abstract spices dancing all around, perhaps a dash of cinnamon, with the tiniest pinch of nutmeg, and something woody. As a whole, though, Gothic is 3-parts Bourbon vanilla extract, and one-part patchouli. Perhaps a more accurate set of numbers would be 80% vanilla, and 20% patchouli, at least for the opening 30 minutes.
Gothic is extremely concentrated and dense in feel, but the sillage isn’t nuclear. It envelops you in a deep cloud about 3-4 inches above the skin at first. The smell is utterly delicious, but it is initially much drier and much less sweet than its very close relative, the Dulcis in Fundo. It lacks the waffle cones and caramelized sugar aspect of the Profumum fragrance, and somehow seems fractionally less gourmand in nature.
Ten minutes in, the perfume shifts a little. There is an odd, utterly unexpected touch of flour that creeps in. I have the strangest image of Gothic as a really rich, but dry, baked vanilla cake, dusted with patchouli, and with the faintest remnants of flour left in the buttered tin. Vanilla, patchouli, flour, and butter… none of it seems remotely “gothic” in nature, but the fragrance is also not as unctuous as those notes may suggest. There is nothing gooey or saccharine-like in the sweetness, nothing that makes me feel queasy by excess. One’s perceptions of “cloying” may depend on definition and on one’s personal yardstick, but, to me, Gothic isn’t cloying despite its richness because of the undercurrents of dry woodiness and spice created by the other elements. In any event, the flour, butter, patchouli and spice all retreat to the sidelines, less than 30 minutes into Gothic’s development.
They continue to impart a slight, indirect touch on the fragrance which is now almost entirely rich vanilla. And, there, Gothic remains until its very end. To my surprise, at the end of the 2nd hour, hints of caramelization and waffle cones creep in. They turn the perfume into a virtual clone of Dulcis in Fundo, only Gothic has that muted, muffled whisper of patchouli floating in the background. The incredibly smooth, rich, dense vanilla lies right on the skin, though it’s very strong when smelled up close. Once in a while, a delicious trail of richness in the air would catch me by surprise, and I’d realise it was a tendril of Gothic that had followed me. Generally, Gothic turns into a true skin scent somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 hours, depending on the quantity you apply. With 3 medium-to-good sized sprays from the little atomizer, the perfume lasted almost 15 hours on my perfume consuming skin. With a lesser amount, it lasted around 12.5 hours.
Nothing about Gothic’s scent is complicated, but sometimes simplicity has its own charms. I think that’s especially true if you’re looking for a comfort scent to curl up with on a cold winter day. The only complication that tripped me up in terms of the perfume was figuring out the bottles, prices, and various options. I was used to seeing the square bottle offered by Luckyscent for $140, and the first time I looked at Loree Rodkin’s site back in December, that was also what was shown. This week, however, the perfume appears on her website in a tall, narrow bottle shape which threw me off because Ms. Rodkin confusingly offers an identical looking thing that is labelled as a “room spray.” The perfume I tested was the 50 ml Eau de Parfum, but the “Ambiance” room spray is an large 4 oz bottle described as Eau de Cologne (for the room??) and priced significantly lower at $75. (It’s $25 less on Amazon, via Loree Rodkin herself.) Either way, the Eau de Parfum seems to have changed in its bottle shape to look extremely close to that of the “Room Spray,” so if you’re looking into the fragrance make sure you get the right version.
Then, there was the question of price. Gothic I is priced at $140 on Luckyscent, but numerous comments there talk about $250 a bottle. Obviously, the prices have dropped substantially, which is pretty unusual in the perfume world where things only go up and up. The pricing makes me even more intrigued by the Ambiance room spray. It can hardly be air freshener, and I assume that it is mere eau de cologne in strength, but $49.99 on Amazon for a huge 120 ml/4 oz (versus $150 for a 50 ml bottle of eau de parfum) seems like an excellent deal, even if one is getting the anorexic, Diet version.
Still, the best part of Gothic really is its enormous richness and depth. There is a great description of it on Fragrantica:
when I got my nose on this patchouli / vanilla bomb (sample from Luckyscent) I felt the earth move.
The vanilla here is not sickly, rather it is dark and seductive. The patchouli has been stripped of its crusty afghan coat and been given a good scrub up. It’s a delicious combination that purrs gently on the skin, but projects like a monster and lasts all day. It borders on gourmand but thankfully (I sold my Musc Ravageur as I didn’t want to smell like a cinnamon bun) stays out of the kitchen. If you find Serge Luten’s Un Bois Vanilla and its ilk just too sweet, this might be the one for you.
That review is from a man, and the only other review comes from a woman who had a very different experience:
I wish I could wax rhapsodic about this one, but its medicinal pungency overwhelms any vanilla tendencies. While retaining its earthiness, this is a less dank and more fresh and minty patchouli. The spices add to the medicinal quality that reminds me of old, plastic-y Band-Aid strips. I think this one might be too bright and sweet for those lovers of dark, brooding fragrances, but too earthy for those looking to graduate from cupcake vanilla scents.
I’m rather amazed by what skin chemistry can do. Clearly, she’s experiencing real, hardcore, genuine patchouli to a huge (and very green) degree, and she’s obviously not a fan. I am, but I experienced almost none of it in Gothic. It may have started at 20%, at best, but it quickly became a mere 5% on my skin, if even that.
I actually have to wonder if the commentator did not leave her review in the wrong place, because it sounds to me as though she’s really describing Gothic II. It is a scent which I’m now dying to try, and which seeks to really showcase the element in a strong, fierce way with notes that include:
cloves, incense, sandalwood, frangipani, indian patchouli, Tunisian patchouli, and madagascar vanilla.
The more typical descriptions of Gothic (#1) talk about how the scent is dominated by vanilla. Consider this review on Australian Perfume Junkies, where the guest blogger, “Kymme CV,” writes:
Gothic I opens with an enormous sweet vanilla slap in the face, just like a vanilla custard-pie but more! This ‘vanilla’ is an exotic, deep, rich and velvety vanilla. But it’s really not that simple a fragrance. There’s a real depth to the Madagascan vanilla that comes alive once the spice starts to come through. Now we’ve got nutmeg on our vanilla pudding! The spice accords mixed with the vanilla give the fragrance a dramatic nuance.
When I first wore Gothic I hours passed before I started sensing the patchouli notes coming through. However, each time my body temperature rose a little the patchouli blend came storming through. At first I didn’t even realise it was me that I could smell! As soon as my body cooled again, back came the vanillas.
Skin chemistry is obviously responsible for how much patchouli you experience, and the posts on MakeupAlley seem to support that view. There, the assessments for Gothic are mixed, primarily because of the price of the Gothic oil, but also because of the degree of patchouli. Apparently, not everyone shares my love of actual, original true patchouli. I’m crushed…. Facetiousness and joking aside, here is a glimpse of the range of perspectives:
- I adore complex scents – especially woods, incense, spice, but sometimes I simply crave something sweet…like wanting a fudge brownie on occasion, but not daily. This is one of my fragrance equivalents to a fudge brownie. It’s an incredibly sultry, rich, sweet vanilla intensified with patchouli and woods. It layers gorgeously with other fragrances, softening all sharp edges. It’s in the same vein as Des Filles a la Vanille’s Vanille, but much longer lasting and deeper.
- I adore this fragrance. It’s the nicest patchouli fragrance I ever smelled. I am also a big fan of Les Nereides Patchouli Antique. I love Gothic I more.
- While this one is pretty expensive, it’s also a lovely, warm, rich, Oriental vanilla with incredible lasting power. A dab on the back of a wrist lasts me well past 7 hours and then some. Sometimes a strong patchouli gives me difficulty, but this one is blended beautifully and gives the fragrance just enough backbone without being over-powering. Mostly I smell a sweet vanilla with amber/patchouli undertones and a good dose of sweet wood and benzoin. Heavenly!
- A pleasant patchouli/vanilla oil that smells somewhat “chocolaty” and is unpleasantly overpriced and over-hyped about. Voleur de Roses smells patchy and gothic, this smells like a sweet girly girl with ponytails and a bar of chocolate candy in her hand –and NOT Gothic.
All those reviews date from 2005-2007, and the reference to an “oil” makes it clear that they are not talking about Gothic I Eau de Parfum at all, but the very expensive oil which predates it by about 8 years. For all I know, it may be quite different in smell, and with more patchouli essence.
I agree with them that the oil seems very over-priced at $110 for 7 ml, but the new 2013 eau de parfum might be worth it for those who love extremely rich vanillas with a dash of dry patchouli woodiness, and a microscopic sliver of spices. It’s $140 for 50 ml, and a little goes a long way. The Profumum may be cheaper per milliliter at $240 for 100 ml, but they’re both excellent fragrances. I personally like the Rodkin version more than the Profumum, because some patchouli is always preferable to none. Plus, Gothic is much less gourmand — relative as that may be for a fragrance devoted to the richest vanilla imaginable. It’s a dry, almost woody vanilla, not an unctuous, gooey one that drips sugar. And it’s fantastic on a cold winter’s night or as a bedtime scent.
I’ve always said that I have the best and kindest readers around, but “CC” went out of her way to seek me out with her generous offer. All because she knew of my passion for patchouli! Thanks to her, I’m definitely tempted to buy a bottle of Gothic, but the only thing stopping me is the possibility of a version that may have three times the patchouli, along with incense and spice. Unfortunately, Gothic II is not offered at Surrender to Chance, but I am on the hunt, and quite determined now. In the meantime, I shall treasure my little decant of Gothic I, and the sign of friendship that went along with it.
As for all of you, if you love rich, woody vanillas, and have some tolerance for real patchouli, do try Gothic I. Don’t expect a patchouli scent, or you’ll be sorely disappointed. In terms of vanilla fragrances, though, this is a lovely one.