There are times I get almost wholly inappropriate associations when I am trying a perfume. I don’t know if it is because New York Comic-Con is approaching but when I finally got around to trying the new Van Cleef & Arpels Moonlight Patchouli I had one. What kept springing into my mind was the question the comic book villain The Joker asks just before he guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents, “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” It has nothing to do with the perfume which is quietly beautiful; as far from being a super villain as it can get.
What got me thinking about The Joker is the difficulty many perfumers have with patchouli as a keynote. There are so many ways it can unbalance an architecture. Especially when it is used in high concentrations. One technique which is used less frequently is to dial it back making it less obstreperous. In Moonlight Patchouli perfumer Sonia Constant chooses to take this path. The patchouli here is made opaque then combined with some familiar partners which are also treated with similar opacity. It truly felt like Mme Constant took her patchouli out for a spin in the rose garden underneath the full moon.
Moonlight Patchouli presents its transparent version of the titular note with a flourish of bergamot. As the patchouli rises it begins to circle in a holding pattern before some of the more challenging facets become apparent. Instead there are hints but mostly it is an herbal quality which suffuses Moonlight Patchouli. Mme Constant brings in powdery orris and spicy Bulgarian rose. As she did with the patchouli Mme Constant treats these as veils instead of scarves. What this does is form an atypical iris rose patchouli accord notable for its softness. The final flare is an equally soft leather which wraps all of this up in a gentle embrace.
Moonlight Patchouli has 12-14 hour longevity but below average sillage.
There are many within my perfume circle who do not like patchouli for all of its characteristic earthiness. I am going to be interested to see how they react to Moonlight Patchouli. I believe like it is something which might attract them because it isn’t so aggressive. I appreciate it because of the feather-light touch Mme Constant applied throughout the construction. With a deft hand she was able to take patchouli out for a dance in the pale moonlight.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Van Cleef & Arpels.