On-the-Street Poll: Patchouli

By and
Photo: Melissa Hom

The smell of patchouli brings many of us back to our college days: the smoking, guitar-strumming, unwashed roommates with propensities to play bongos. But recently, the familiar smell has had a revival, courtesy of several upscale beauty brands. Normally, a rich, deep scent that seems more suitable for the winter months, patchouli has appeared in many products for spring. To test the likability of patchouli — you either love it or hate it — we decided to conduct an unscientific poll of five new items on the market right now.

We took a candle, a men's aftershave, shower gel, a bar of soap, and perfume to the streets and asked random subjects to sniff and react. Would they use it? What did the smell remind them of? Did they like it? And, most important of all, would they date someone who used it? The results showed that our older testers were more nostalgic about the scent (Woodstock!), while many of the younger ones found it too strong or mature. Find out below what they thought of the heady scent.

1Santa Maria Novella Patchouli Soap$16 per piece or $64 for a box of four at LAFCO, 285 Lafayette St., nr. Houston St.; 212-925-0001Overall Rating: Liked it.“This makes me think of an empty sauna in Montana—woodsy and musty. ”2Patchouli Candle$60 at Diptyque, 377 Bleecker St., nr. Perry St.; 212-242-2333Overall Rating: Liked it.“Smells like Play-Doh, but I like it. I bet when you light it, this smells good— nice for when you get romantic.”3Tom Ford White Patchouli Atomizer$160 at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave., at 50th St.; 212-753-4000Overall Rating: I am Switzerland.“It's sweet and kind of soaplike. Too perfumey for me, but maybe good for a spunky, middle-aged woman in a Chanel suit”4Santa Maria Novella Aftershave$35 at Takashimaya, 693 Fifth Ave., nr. 54th St.; 212-350-0100Overall Rating: Didn't like it.“Smells like Scotch. Do I drink this or wear it? I could see a guy working at a shipping dock wearing this—he has a five o’clock shadow and catcalls the ladies.”5This Works Bath & Shower Gel$35 at Takashimaya, 693 Fifth Ave., nr. 54th St.; 212-350-0100Overall Rating: Didn't like it.“I wouldn’t feel clean showering with this.”