On Patchouli: Velvet Haze by Byredo and Brutus by Orto Parisi

It has been too long since I’ve smelled an interesting patchouli fragrance – something that goes beyond the typical archetypes that consist of oud, rose, amber, chocolate, and any mixed variation of that set.

Byredo has left me pleasantly surprised, producing a patchouli of pronounced clarity and definition. Velvet Haze does not dispense of the archetypes, for they work and they are admired. Rather, patchouli is given a stylistic turn, minimised without condensing its fullness and given the luxury of space.

The result is a resounding success (for the most part). A well-sketched fragrance that reads as contemporary and inspired, insofar that on my nose it is able to transcend the cliches of mass-market and fast-niche perfumery. Velvet Haze smells luxurious and understated. The patchouli is worked at and tactically thinned, then injected with a light grey transparency. The focus shifts onto the radiant and lifted hues of coconut water, which gives flexibility and mobility to the work, a welcome departure from the usual fixation of amber.

Coconut water to my nose, in contrast to other fragrant ideas of coconut, has a pallid, alkaline, metallic-sweet floralcy which is covert above all else, and is able to render itself amongst the dusty smooth of cocoa, the fruity and ripe ozonic musk of ambrette seed, and an innate idea of glowing suntan lotion with an impression of ylang ylang, which is all contained in Velvet Haze. I like this application of coconut water. First and foremost, it works, and it adequately smells like the concept. It merges throughout the skeleton of Velvet Haze, giving soft undulations end to end of the composition. It has achieved an effect that ought to be admired.

Photo by Byredo

Velvet Haze is indeed textural, but perhaps not as full or as plush and velvet as I expect from the name alone. A quick Google search reveals Velvet Haze is a strain of marijuana, perhaps this is irrelevant, but regardless, the connection is immediately drawn. My mind leaps over to Nasomatto / Orto Parisi offerings: Hindu Grass, Seminalis, Absinth, Pardon, and Brutus. Of earthly dust and troublesome silkiness. Velvet Haze is relaxed and mellow, quite assertive in composition but could never be considered as serious or stern. Look considerably closer, much deeper, and find the connection: aerial tones of rose and the faintest suggestion of rubberiness, gourmand overtones of warm dulce de leche, pale almonds, and the sifted ambery qualities of slinky velvety white musks.

The construction and arrangement of Velvet Haze are rather meticulous and well-balanced, especially given Byredo’s pedigree. There’s a lot more to Velvet Haze than one expects at first sniff, and that made it intriguing to me – totally unexpected from the lineup but in another way so effortlessly vapid in a Byredo style; done up trashiness. And in a way, Nasomatto is equally vapid in that it promises to explicate (through perfume) upon grandiose topics of morality, filth, sacred and profane distinctions, …etc, but produces nothing other than cheap shock value. Alas, like much of Byredo’s works, Velvet Haze suffers the linearity affliction. It is not at all problematic, however, and its linearity parallels the lax and liberated mood of the fragrance.

Photo from Essenza Nobile

This invites a brief discussion of Brutus, a Patchouli offering from Orto Parisi, which is lifted with an aerial tone of softly sunny mandarine. Brutus is deliciously fresh at the top, turning patchouli and letting it roast softly under the sun. It’s particularly decent, except for the fact that it contains masses of the Gualtieri signature: some waxy fragrant illusion of zen and bliss by the way of a dense core of overdosed synthetics, equally matched with some conceptual nonsense of abstruse vagaries on the topics of morality and scepticism, to the extent that it becomes so unbearable to smell that even an objective-gaze seems impossible. In other words, it’s hard to admire the work when you can’t separate it from everything that surrounds it. Brutus, despite my conceptual criticisms, is a ready to wear patchouli that places the note front and centre. The mandarine does (rather surprisingly) quite a lot for Brutus, adding an edge reminiscent of classic masculinity through measured sprinklings of carefully placed woody-earthy eau de cologne.

These works constitute the new wave of patchouli fragrances, and they’re both solid efforts.

Velvet Haze
Sheer Patchouli
Subjective rating: 4/5
Objective rating: 4/5

Lifted Patchouli

Subjective rating: 3.5/5
Objective rating: 3.5/5

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