Two winters ago I bought a bunch of Henri Bendel candles on sale at Bath and Body Works. My dark horse favorite turned out to be their Vanilla Bean, a vanilla/patchouli blend that was a dark horse because I was, at the time, fond of neither vanilla nor patchouli scents in general. The candle was a revelation, though: dark and creamy and a little spooky, like something a girl assassin might burn on her day off. The patchouli mixed in with the vanilla smells like you imagine the specks of vanilla bean should taste when you’re a kid eating Breyer’s ice cream. I burned these particular candles down to the nothing and have missed them ever since. I don’t know if they’re discontinued or what, but I can’t find them in the Bath and Body Works stores anymore so I assume that they are.
In the throes of an intense midsummer patchouli kick sparked off by Jovan’s Fresh Patchouli, I started craving the harder stuff, the pure shit, the bitter draught favored by unwashed anarchists and middle-aged artiste-type dudes with gray ponytails and a taste for underage pussy. But, you know, a light version. A patchouli that retained all of its funky up-to-no-good qualities without crossing the line into something that might get me arrested. This proved to be a tricky task, kind of like trying to get health insurance to cover your medicinal marijuana expenses. In the end, the best I could come up with was Kiss My Face’s Peaceful Patchouli body lotion. This is like a controllable version of the hard shit. It smells just as raw and rude as the essential oil, but you can control how much you put on a bit more easily.
I like this stuff because when I wear it, people can actually smell me. I don’t know that they like it, per se. But the lotion is definitely strong to cause a loamy, pungent waft of the dark side to emanate from my person for the entire day. Truth be told, it’s a bit much even for me, and I love the way patchouli smells these days. So I’ve been layering it with things. Some minor successes include Kuumba Made Amber Paste, Chanel No. 19, and Gucci Rush for Men.
But never have I had a Peaceful Patchouli success as pronounced and exciting as the one I discovered tonight. See, when I went to the drugstore earlier tonight to pick up shaving cream and under-eye concealer, I saw a small display teetering precariously on top of the deodorant shelf. It was a Coty buy-three-for-ten-dollars joint. They had little body powders that I couldn’t resist, so I got three of them: White Musk, Emeraude, and, oh yes, good old narsty middle-school-smellin’ Vanilla Fields. When I got home, I put the Vanilla Fields powder on my arm, just to see if it was really as horrible as I’d remembered. Oh man, was it ever: cheap and dirty, cloying and heady, floral and foody at the same time, and even the body powder, half an hour later, refused to settle into an innocuous skin scent decent for layering with anything I own. Except maybe…
That’s right. I put the Vanilla Fields body powder on over a thin layer of Peaceful Patchouli lotion and the earth moved. I may still be a little dizzy from the ensuing aftershocks. Most surprisingly, I discovered that my two cheapest, grossest, strong-as-fuckest scents alchemized into a dead ringer for the scent of my long-lost Henri Bendel Vanilla Bean candles. It was (and still is) making me extremely happy, especially now that it’s Fall and we’re going to be all cuddly and mischievous in our army jackets with pentagrams embroidered on the pockets.
I realized after my sinister fragrant experiment that the vanilla/patch combination is hardly anything new in the world of perfumery. First of all there’s Thierry Mugler’s Angel, a satanically potent fume straight out of Beelzebub’s belly if ever I have smelled one (I won’t wear it, but I kinda admire it). Then there’s La Maison de la Vanille’s Vanille Givree des Antilles, a kind of Angel Light that comes in an aluminum can and costs like eighteen bucks or something at Anthropologie. It’s a less complex vanilla/patch that somehow manages to fade into thin air moments after application despite its powerhouse ingredients. I’d enjoyed trying that one on, but not enough to spend even eighteen bucks on it. I’m sure there are others that I have not yet been introduced to, but see, now I don’t need to be.
I brewed my own up devil concoction tonight, and I’m going to torture everyone I know with it for at least the rest of the week.
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