LOVE STORY ~ Patchouli Imperial by Christian Dior


On the docks of Marseilles in the time of the last king Louis Philippe there was told the story of the scandalous woman known as Olympe.   Her father was the proprietor of a spice shop near the center of town and as a young woman of 15 she often went to the docks with her father to meet the ships arriving from the East. Spice ships laden with every imaginable wonder from the Orient by way of Silk Road and the Red Sea routes to India.  The ships were also full of sailors.

 The Port of Marseille

(Port of Marseilles)

   Olympe was not beautiful but she was tall and of a certain elegant carriage. She had little interest in boys let alone men at an age when her girlfriends were giddy with mere dreams of affairs of the heart. That all changed in an instant one August morning when a ship known as The Marie Thérèse docked at Marseilles. As her father was inspecting a shipment of coriander Olympe idly twirled her parasol made of Mysore sandal wood and Belgian lace and became fascinated by the play of light that threw dancing shadows across her face.  Something on deck flashed silver though the tiny holes in the lace parasol and she stopped twirling it. Slowly she tilted the parasol up to peek from under its brim. The silver braid on the epaulet of the right shoulder of the most beautiful captain’s uniform she had ever seen was twinkling in the morning sun. She looked up to the face above it. He was eating a mandarin orange from Sicily and as he bit into it the gold juice exploded in to his right eye. Olympe laughed too loud and the squinting captain turned with an angry grimace to see her. She covered her mouth with a gloved hand but could not stop laughing. That was when he smiled at her as he whipped his chin and tossed the now forgotten and ravaged orange overboard. The cedar gangway swayed as his impressive form sauntered down to the dock. He bowed and took her hand to kiss it. Olympe had just caught up with her girlfriends.  The Captain would teach her to surpass them on the road to scandal in ways she could never imagine.  She would remember always that that the first time he kissed her he smelled of a refined masculine Indonesian patchouli.


After he deserted her, and his bastard baby died there was no reason to stay in Marseilles. Her father wouldn’t have her in the house and tore here heart when he called her a whore. In Paris her luck changed. She went to work for a dress maker Prudence Duvernoy who as it turned out was in the business of turning out courtesans. Olympe had the kind of look that was popular with the aristocratic young men who haunted the Opera and in no time at all she was in demand. She was famous for her charm and dry wit. She was always laughing, never sad and very busy. For a brief time her only rival for business was a young courtesan by the name of Marguerite Gautier.


Only late at night when she was thankfully alone at last and no one could see her would she let down her guard. In the ritual of preparing for bed she would peel a mandarin orange form Sicily and eat it. Then sitting at her vanity with her hair tied up in a hundred cotton bows to tighten the curls she would dab on her wrist, behind her ears and on her décolletage the rarest Indonesian Patchouli bought at a very great and dear price. On occasion as she inhaled the alluring seductive fragrance one tear would slide though the powder on her cheek to her chin and twinkle in the candlelight for a moment before it fell.



From La Collection Privée by Dior comes the stunningly melancholy and hauntingly beautiful Patchouli Imperial. This elegant perfume was created by François Demachy who is the nose behind so many incredible perfumes, Colonia Intensa, Dior Homme, Fan di Fendi, The lion’s share of the Privée line to just scrape the tip top of his the perfume career.

This enticing elixir is captivatingly designed to work well on men and women and envelope the wearer in a vale of oriental splendor that shimmers and vibrates with only a few well chosen notes. It opens with the majesty of the great bell at Notre Dame deep and resonating Indonesian Patchouli leaf that dominates the perfume. Smaller simultaneous notes ring in of Sicilian mandarin orange, Calabrian bergamot, Sandalwood, coriander and cedar.  Blending together these wonderful notes play off of each other in the most complementary tones. It isn’t in any way symphonic and complicated like some great perfumes are but rather like chamber music for cathedral bells.

Patchouli Imperial wears so well and for a considerable time. I have had it on now for ten hours and it is yet to diminish in its blooming tendrils that like a tide move in and out and have been delighting me all day. It has a good projection too at about arms length for the first three to five hours and then moves in to be more personal at about ten inches.

Seductively inviting and not your grandparent’s patchouli of the 1960’s at all. There is so much more here in this refined and truly oriental patchouli than you would ever suspect if you only know the old hippie oils of the last century. There is a feeling I get when I wear it that it is as I mentioned, melancholy, not sad but more nostalgically romantic and filled with memories of first love before the world and fate stepped in to wake up the dreamer. 






  1. Mmmmmmmmmmmm….sounds glorious Lanier. I think I’ll have to take another trip to Paris just to try this!! The entire private collection from Dior is simply marvellous. Maybe I can find another Francois Demachy fragrance here in Australia…can’t wait to begin my research. A bientot, Robyn

    • Bonjour Robyn! Yes the privée line is indeed a wonderful collection. Not a single one in there is a stinker! Now that is pretty impressive. Francois Demachy has done tons of perfumes so I am sure you will find something down there by him. If not come to San Francisco and hit the Dior boutique at Neiman Marcus.

    • Robyn, if you are Sydney based you can now find the collection of Dior’s Couturier Collection in their new store on the corner of King and Castlereagh Street. It used to be the old Louis Vuitton store. Dior have transformed it and it looks amazing! It looks and feels like a beautiful Parisian apartment.

  2. Thank you for the bells on a quiet Sunday morning!

  3. That sounds like a wonderful fragrance. I will make it a point to sniff that one. Here is something that has always made me swoony: when an interesting man walks past trailing patchouli sillage behind him. It makes me stop in my tracks and want to follow with my nose in the air, eyes closed, floating on little clouds like Pepe le Pew. 😉

    • Be careful with interesting men who smell of patchouli…look what happened to poor Olympe. It is a wonderful perfume indeed.

      • No danger here, lol! I’m old…and therefore safe…and free. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Author S.K. Epperson.

  5. You had me at “ravaged orange” hah!

    • You are so very kind! And thank you S.K. for the reblog I am very flattered.

  6. What a sad and yet at once exciting tale told as ever with that characteristic Lanier elan.
    Tell me Mr L, is any or all of this based on fact – my knowledge of French courtesans is I’m afraid somewhat limited!?!
    On the perfume, you are, as ever, spot on this is a truly majesterial patchouli, quite unlike the sweet oils of yesteryear.
    Perhaps if the Dandy were to turn courtesan he could persuade a benefactor to buy him the whole Collection Privee…. then again.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Is it a true story? A hint… Google Marguerite Gautier, Olympe’s one rival and here in lies the answer to your question.

  7. My God, my GOD, what a review!! You have really outdone yourself, cheri, and that says something! What a story! What an utterly spectacular review!

    I’ve always had a huge weakness for the classic courtesans but, for that era in particular, and your tale. Well, I really have no words. Nothing will do it justice.

    On a side note, I’ve been really, really interested in this particular perfume. (You know how I love my patchouli). I’m thrilled that this will be one of the samples I will get in my order of Mitzah. When you order any of the Dior Privée line from the Las Vegas boutique, you get:
    1- No tax;
    2- Free shipping;
    3- a free 5 ml travel bottle of your choice; and
    4- around 2-3 or 3-4 little sample dab vials (1 ml) of your choice.

    All this, thanks to Undina, who told me about the Dior Beauty Stylist she bought from there. My point is, or any of your US readers, are tempted to buy a full bottle of this, then you should go that route. The lady was so sweet that when I told her that I was a perfume blogger and had raved about Mitzh (which is all thanks to you), she offered to send me samples of the entire Privée line!

    Based on your review, I can tell that Patchouli Imperiale will be another addiction for me, as well. You and the Diors, Lanier…. you’re a lethal combination for the wallet! 😉 xoxoxo

    • Thank you so very much dear heart!! How kind you are. I know that I am in love with the entire line and having samples of them all I am on a mission to review each one. I am so happy that the story pleased you so much.

  8. Lanier.

    Breathtakingly beautiful story and will make me really like this overpowering fragrance and see it in a brand new way!

    You really have found your calling, my dear.


    • Dear H,
      To know that you liked my review and that it gave you a new perspective on Patchouli Imperial just made my day. Dior had Mitzah as his Muse…you are mine.
      Much love

  9. What a beautiful and beautifully written story, Lanier! Thank you so much for the great review of a great fragrance too.

    • BB you are so welcome… I always love it when you drop by.

  10. What a beautiful post. Yes, I remember my Aunt’s patchouli and it’s a hard scent to um, get out of your brain. I would love to smell this because it being Dior and all it must be nothing like my Aunt but probably her exact opposite. It is for women?

    • It is marketed for men but I think a woman would smell heavenly in this perfume. It sure ain’t your aunt’s old patchouli oil that is for sure.

  11. It’s a beautiful story for a very nice perfume. It’s not my favorite from the line but I think it fits the line perfectly.

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