Suzanne's Perfume Journal

What I smell is storybook wood smoke, as dense and leathery-smelling and cozily sweet as gingerbread.

What I smell is patchouli masquerading as Bert and having a really jolly ’oliday with Mary. (Off camera, of course).  A coupling not exactly animalic and sexy, but weirdly cozy. If I haven’t offended your sense of propriety regarding Disney movies and (perhaps) one of your all-time favorite childhood heroines, then please do entertain the thought of Bert, with the accumulation of a day’s worth of chimney soot and tar, brushing up against Mary Poppins after she has finished magically baking a vanilla pound cake that they will eat afterwards. (In mid-air, on the ceiling, where the scents of wood smoke and vanilla tend to accumulate, you know. Where my head might very well be bobbing along right now, and from where, if I were a wiser woman, I might try and fetch it down.)

Patchouli does make an appearance in this scent, but for me, I don’t detect it until the cake-eating scene (or what you might call the drydown of this scent). To quote from the Le Labo website, “Even though it is vital to the olfactory shock this perfume generates, Patchouli is not easy to detect in this formula. The smoky, leathery character of birch takes over in the first few seconds, making this signature absolutely unique and difficult to situate.”

(Well, ’ello, Uncle Albert. You don’t say?)

Actually, that’s probably why I quite enjoyed this scent and wouldn’t mind owning a decant of it (though I don’t think I’d wear it enough to warrant a full bottle). I prefer patchouli as a dark, earthy accent within a complex composition, and that’s more or less what we have here. Le Labo Patchouli 24 is not head-shop patchouli, but a perfume that goes far enough out on the imaginary limb that wearing it is a bit of a head-trip.

Weirdly Wonderful Le Labo Patchouli 24

It’s funny how this memory came flooding back to me this week while I was sampling Le Labo Patchouli 24, eau de parfum. Had I not already read Denyse Beaulieu’s accurate and arresting review of this scent at her blog, Grain de Musc, before sampling this one—and had I not then gone over to the Le Labo website to read their description of the scent—I might now be shaking my head and staring at the remaining kernels in my popcorn box, wondering what happened to the main event. Did I miss it, the patchouli?

Because the scent I smell is like something out of Mary Poppins (another rather trippy Walt Disney film…maybe not as trippy as Fantasia, but with this weirdly wonderful sense of magical realism and not a whole lot in the way of a storyline).
 
What I smell is the scent of grimy, sooty chimney sweeps whirling lovely Mary Poppins about on the rooftops of London.

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Le Labo Patchouli 24 features notes of patchouli, birch tar, styrax and vanilla, and can be purchased from the Le Labo website or from LuckyScent.com, which is where I got my sample. $130 for 50 ml.

Images: (top) dancing chimney sweeps from the Disney film, Mary Poppins; movie poster from the 1969 rerelease of Disney's Fantasia is from an auction on Ebay.com; photo of Le Labo Patchouli 24 bottle is from LuckyScent.com.

Sometime in the late sixties, when I was around the age of seven, my mother and her best friend Nancy thought it would be a treat to take the kids to see the re-released Disney film Fantasia, which neither my mom nor her friend had seen, and which now was being reintroduced “in full stereophonic sound!”  All five of us kids were giddy with excitement—going to the movies wasn’t common for us, as we lived a good distance from town—and even our mothers seemed rather keen on seeing this Disney masterpiece. However, by the time we were halfway through our boxes of junior mints, jujubes, and popcorn—when normally all eyes would be glued to the screen—a far less ebullient mood had taken hold. A movie with no story and no dialogue, just a series of animation set to classical music, wasn’t what anyone was expecting. Despite Fantasia’s endless chorus line of flying ponies, dancing hippos, spinning mushrooms that looked like Chinese men, and leaping radishes that looked like Russian soldiers in fur hats, we were less than captivated. If our mothers hadn’t spent a wad of cash on the outing, mostly on the full outlay of overpriced candy, popcorn and soft drinks, I think they would have acquiesced to our pleas of, “Can we go home now?  Pleease!  This is boring.”  But since they had, we endured it.

When the curtain finally closed on the movie screen, the younger kids were fast asleep and Mom and Nancy looked, too, as if they’d emerged dazed and confused from a dream—but in a disgruntled sort of way. Perhaps if they’d been like the majority of the audience in the theater in our university-town—which is to say, college students, rather than married women in their late twenties—they might have enjoyed Fantasia, emerging from it unencumbered by sleepy children and under a different kind of daze. But I don’t think either of them had a clue, at the time, of what the Disney Company was obviously hip to when they re-released the film in 1969 and promoted it with a psychedelic poster on which Mickey Mouse or Tinkerbell was nowhere to be seen—only that promise of full stereophonic sound.

May 8, 2009: