When I first sampled the Zegna's Esseze line, the standout was Indonesian Oud (with the perfect balance of medicinal Oud and deep rose, which was unique yet smells professional enough for work). However, it was undeniable that there was quality ingredients and perfumery mastery within the entire range.
I am glad I returned to smelling the range many times over and Javanese Patchouli finally revealed its magic. It's front and centre patchouli, yet it has been miraculously refined (unlike the more often found hippie quotient it exudes). Must try for even those who are not partial to Patchouli, as well as Patchouli lovers just to undestand how this wild note can be beautifully manipulated.
Javanese Patchouli opens with a dash of fine lemony bergamot citrus, with hints of the earthy patchouli sneaking up from the heart. As the composition enters its early heart the earthy woody patchouli takes over the starring role with the natural smelling lemony bergamot remaining as underlying support, coupling with a fine soft pink pepper to add perceived dirtiness to the mix and subtle tonka bean derived sweetness. As the composition makes its way through the heart the bergamot and pink pepper gradually recede, transitioning to cedarwood rising from the base to join the slightly sweetened focal patchouli. During the late dry-down the natural cedarwood takes over as star with the patchouli still detectable, now in support through the finish. Projection is average to above average, and longevity excellent at around 12 hours on skin.
During my recent vacation to Las Vegas, I excitedly went from store to store sampling as many compositions of potential interest I could find, new and old alike. As I made my way through the tens and tens of retailers seeking out winners I was beginning to despair that not many compositions impressed save ones I already owned. Towards the end of the day after many disappointments I entered the Zegna store at Crystals exhausted with very low expectations after my negative experience with Zegna's regular line in the past. It turns out I am very glad I did, as I had a chance to sniff the entire Essenze private line and what a revelation it was.
As this is a review of Javanese Patchouli, I will cut to the chase and say that while the line positively surprised on the whole, Javanese Patchouli was the definitive standout. When I initially sniffed the cap for an early read I detected initial traces of greatness, but once sprayed on skin after allowing the composition to develop it became clear it is something special. The amazing perfumer, Frank Voelkl (responsible for my favorite Le Labo compositions Ylang 49 and Iris 39 among others) has put together what amounts to a near-perfect concoction. His minimalist use of natural smelling lemon-like bergamot running through the patchouli to smooth out its earthy qualities is simplistic genius. The pink pepper took me a little while to warm to, but the way it folds into the lemon-spiked patchouli and woods has won me over in the end. Finally, it should be mentioned that the cedarwood driven base while simplistic is quite believable and sublime. All-in-all this composition is masterpiece reference caliber work that has captivated someone who tends to like patchouli as a supporting note and not as the star. The bottom line is the $195 per 125ml bottle Javanese Patchouli is reference caliber work from the extremely talented Frank Voelkl that should be on anyone's sniffing list whether they like patchouli focused compositions or not, earning a "masterpiece" rating of 5 stars out of 5 and a very strong recommendation to all. Oh yes, of course I bought a bottle.
13th September, 2014 (last edited: 05th October, 2014)
Dark, earthy, woody & musky
While I've never been to the island of Java, I imagine that this is what an Indonesian forest floor might smell like; dark, earthy, woody & musky. Zegna's Javanese Patchouli is a very distinctive, slightly sweet and solid representation of the core ingredient of patchouli. At first I detect the patchouli straight up, quickly followed by a sweetness that I'll asume is the pink pepper and tonka. Like Zegna's Indonesian Oud this is a fairly linear scent that doesn't develop too much from first spray to dry down. Right through its whole life (of about 8 - 10 hours) I can clearly detect the patchouli.
Although Zegna's marketing would have you believe that each of the Essenze collection is built on or contains Calabrian bergamot (from Zegna's own plantation would you believe!), I cannot detect any citrus whatsoever in this composition. Not that it detracts from the wonderful smell; it's just my observation. In contrast, all the other Essenze line (which i have now extensively tested) do contain some citrus notes; including Indonesian Oud which does have a very fleeting representation in the top notes.
I don't have a great deal of patchouli heavy fragrances in my collection, but if I was asked to liken this to anything else, it would have to be Luten's and Sheldrake's Borneo 1834. Like 'Borneo' the presence of patchouli is is front and centre, however Borneo has a sort of camphorous quality that I don't detect here. Of course Borneo also has cacao, which Zegna's latest does not.
The only other fragrances I am familiar with by Frank Voelkl are his RSVP & Signature scents for Kenneth Cole. As much as I like those two quite a bit, this is a definite step up as far as quality goes.
Overall, while this is not as perfect a 5 star a fragrance as I find Indonesian Oud to be (mainly due to its lack of versatility), this Javanese Patchouli is a very solid and delightfully earthy addition to Zegna's new Essenze line up. 4 and half stars.
Pros: High quality, relatively long lasting, distinctive