What Does Patchouli Smell Like? 4 Uses of This Scent

Patchouli is a unique and intriguing scent that has been used in perfumery, aromatherapy, and traditional medicine for centuries.

Its earthy, musky aroma is both distinctive and memorable, making it a popular choice for those who seek a fragrance that stands out from the crowd. But what exactly is patchouli, and what does it smell like?

In this article, we will explore the patchouli scent in detail, examining its aromatic profile, origins, and uses.

Whether you’re a fragrance enthusiast or simply curious about this distinctive aroma, join us on a journey to discover the fascinating world of patchouli scent.

What is Patchouli?

Patchouli is a fragrant plant that belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is native to tropical regions of Asia, particularly India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

The plant, which can grow up to three feet in height, has fuzzy leaves and produces small, pinkish-white flowers that are very pretty to look at. The essential oil is obtained from the leaves of the plant through steam distillation, and its scent is earthy, woody, and musky with hints of spice and sweetness.

Patchouli has a long history of use in traditional medicine and perfumery, and its distinctive aroma is used in a wide range of products, including perfumes, soaps, candles, and incense.

It is known for its ability to promote relaxation and relieve stress and is often used in aromatherapy to help create a calming atmosphere.

patchouli flower
patchouli flower

What Does Patchouli Smell Like?

The scent and smell of Patchouli is complex and multi-layered, with a rich and earthy aroma that is both distinctive and alluring. Its main aromatic notes include musk, earth, wood, and spice, with subtle hints of sweetness and fruitiness.

The scent is often described as warm, deep, and sensual, with a velvety smoothness that gives it a luxurious feel. Due to this, it’s often used in many perfumes and for aromatherapy.

Patchouli Scent Intensity

Patchouli has a medium to strong intensity, and its character can vary depending on the variety and quality of the oil used.

High-quality patchouli oil has a more refined and sophisticated character, with a smoother and more well-rounded scent profile, while lower-quality oils can have a harsher, more pungent aroma.

Uses of Patchouli

The Patchouli scent is used in a wide variety of products. Here are some of the most popular use cases for Patchouli:


As mentioned earlier, Patchouli is a very popular ingredient in perfumes, particularly in oriental and chypre fragrances.

It is often used as a base note in perfumes, where it helps to anchor the fragrance and give it depth and longevity.

As a base note, patchouli adds a rich and earthy quality to the perfume, making it an excellent complement to other warm and spicy fragrances like sandalwood, vanilla, and amber. Its long-lasting and distinctive aroma helps to give the fragrance staying power, and its complex scent profile makes it a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of fragrances.

Patchouli is also known for its blending capabilities with other fragrances, and it can be used to create a variety of different scent profiles. For example, it can be blended with floral fragrances like rose or jasmine to create a warm and sensual floral scent, or with citrus fragrances like bergamot or lemon to add a touch of warmth and depth.

Some examples of perfumes that use patchouli as a base note include Chanel No. 5, Tom Ford’s White Patchouli, and Guerlain’s Shalimar. In these fragrances, patchouli helps to add depth and complexity to the scent, making it more interesting and nuanced.


Due to its musky and earthy aroma, Patchouli is often used in aromatherapy for its relaxing qualities. Patchouli has been known to ground and calm those around its scent, making it a popular choice for creating an atmosphere that is peaceful.


Yay candles! Patchouli is a common ingredient in candles for the same therapeutic properties as the previous point.

Soaps and Skincare

Patchouli can also be used in skincare products for its antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Its earthy and musky aroma is also popular in men’s grooming products.

What is Patchouli Essential Oil?

Patchouli essential oil is a highly concentrated aromatic oil that is extracted from the leaves of the patchouli plant through steam distillation. It has a strong, earthy, and musky fragrance that is often used in aromatherapy, perfumery, and other personal care products.

Some popular brands include:

  1. Aura Cacia
  2. ArtNaturals
  3. Edens Garden
patchouli essential oil on a table
patchouli essential oil on a table

Patchouli Fragrance Family

Patchouli belongs to the woody fragrance family, which includes fragrances that have a warm, earthy, and slightly spicy aroma. Other fragrances in this family include cedarwood, sandalwood, and vetiver.

In terms of its position in the olfactory pyramid, patchouli is a base note, which means that it has a long-lasting and persistent scent that serves as the foundation of the fragrance. Base notes are typically heavier and more complex than top and middle notes, and they provide depth and richness to the fragrance.

Patchouli is often paired with other woody or spicy base notes, such as cedarwood, sandalwood, or frankincense, to create fragrances that are warm and inviting. It can also be blended with floral or citrus notes to add depth and complexity to the fragrance.

Some popular fragrances that feature patchouli as a base note include:

  • Prada Amber Pour Homme: This fragrance features patchouli, vanilla, and tonka bean, creating a warm and comforting scent that is both masculine and sophisticated.
  • Narciso Rodriguez for Her: This fragrance features patchouli, musk, and rose, creating a sensual and feminine scent that is both sweet and spicy.
  • Thierry Mugler Angel: This fragrance features patchouli, vanilla, and caramel, creating a warm and indulgent scent that is both sweet and musky.

History of Patchouli

Patchouli has a long and varied history, with cultural and medicinal uses that date back centuries.

There are many examples in history where Patchouli can be seen, let’s look at a few:

Traditional Medicine

In traditional medicine, patchouli was used to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, headaches, digestive issues, and skin conditions. It was also used as a natural insect repellent and to help soothe and heal insect bites and stings.


In some cultures, patchouli was used in religious and spiritual ceremonies. In India, for example, it was burned as incense during meditation and prayer and was believed to help purify the air and promote calm and relaxation.

Fashion Statement

Patchouli was also popularized in the West during the 1960s and 1970s as a fashion accessory.

It was often worn by hippies and other counterculture figures, who believed that its strong, earthy scent helped to express their rejection of mainstream culture and embrace of natural living.

Myths About Patchouli

Being a fragrance that has been around for centuries, there have been some myths that have developed over the years. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Patchouli is for Hippies Only

A common myth is that Patchouli is only for hippies. While it is true that Patchouli was very popular among hippies in the 60s and 70s, it’s not just for hippies!

Patchouli is a Masculine Smell

Some believe Patchouli should only be used for males since it has a “masculine” scent but I disagree. Patchouli is very versatile and can be used as both fragrances for males and females.

For example, the Tom Ford White Patchuli is a popular fragrance for women.

Patchouli’s Rise in Pop Culture

Over the years, patchouli has become a mainstream fragrance and has been incorporated into various products, including perfumes, candles, soaps, and skincare products.

Today, patchouli is considered a versatile and sophisticated fragrance that is often used as a base note in perfumery.

Here are some examples of Patchouli being used or referenced in pop culture:


As I’ve mentioned, Patchouli has made its way into the spotlight with Designer Tom Ford using Patchouli in a number of his fragrances.

Movies and TV

Patchouli has also made its way into the big screen. In the movie Forrest Gump, during a scene where Jenny is a hippie, she can be seen wearing a Patchouli necklace:

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do hippies use patchouli oil?

The earthy, musky scent of patchouli was seen as a natural, unisex scent that could be used as an alternative to mainstream perfumes and colognes, which were often considered artificial and overly feminine or masculine.

What chakra is patchouli?

In aromatherapy and some forms of holistic healing, patchouli essential oil is often associated with the root or base chakra (also known as the Muladhara chakra).

Is patchouli psychoactive?

No, patchouli is not considered a psychoactive substance. Although patchouli has a distinct and powerful scent, it does not contain any psychoactive compounds and is not known to cause any psychoactive effects.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Patchouli scent is a rich and complex aroma that has captured the imagination of people across the world for centuries.

Its deep, earthy notes are known for their calming and grounding effects, and its versatile nature has made it a popular ingredient in perfumery, fashion, and traditional medicine.

Despite some misconceptions surrounding patchouli, it remains a beloved scent that has stood the test of time, transcending cultural boundaries and evolving with the times.