What Does Patchouli Smell Like?

You may not know what patchouli is, but you’ve definitely smelled it before. This plant creates an oil that smells sweet, spicy and musky and can be used in a variety of scents and products. Below, we explain what patchouli is, what it smells like and what fragrances it pairs well with. Then, we highlight some of our most popular candles that incorporate patchouli as one of the scents.

What is patchouli?

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is an aromatic flowering plant that grows in a bush up to one meter (three feet) high. It belongs to the mint family and has large, fragrant leaves with irregular tooth-shaped edges. Both the stems and leaves are covered in fine hairs. When the plant blooms, it produces small flowers in white or pale purple shades. The plant originated in the tropical climes of South Asia, where it has been cultivated for centuries, thanks to its fragrant oil, which is produced by the leaves of the plant. Patchouli oil is extracted by drying the leaves of the plant and then distilling the oil via steaming.

What does patchouli smell like?

Patchouli has a strong, sweet scent that falls into the musky-earthy category. Because of its strong fragrance, it’s often used as a base scent in candles and perfumes. (The base scent is the fragrance you smell after the top and mid notes have melted away.) While it’s part of the mint family, patchouli doesn’t smell fresh and cool the way typical mint varieties in the grocery store do. Instead, it smells sweet, spicy and musky. This versatile scent is why patchouli can be found in so many different products, including candles, perfumes, cosmetics, detergents and more.

What scents does patchouli pair well with?

Patchouli doesn’t just go well in many different products. It also pairs well with many different scents, too. Some other fragrances that patchouli is often combined with include vetiver, sandalwood, frankincense, bergamot, cedarwood and myrrh. Patchouli may also be paired with lighter floral or citrus scents, such as rose, jasmine and orange. Finally, patchouli makes an excellent match for sweet scents such as vanilla.

patchouli flowers

What are some candles that use patchouli as a fragrance?

Because of patchouli’s versatility, we use it in many of our scented candles. Some of our favorite patchouli-scented candles are:

Tennessee Candle

This candle smells of tea, whiskey, magnolia, and bergamot, just like a lazy Sunday afternoon on the porch. Delicate oil guaiac wood combines with patchouli and sandalwood, and light notes of lemon and cloves round out the scent.

Maine Candle

To capture the Pine Tree State, we combine the scents of fall hayrides with fresh Maine blueberries and that state’s distinctive pine trees. Notes of moss trine together with floral accents of lavender and honeysuckle, while patchouli and cedarwood deepen the scent and add a woody fragrance.

South Dakota Candle

We combined patchouli, soft moss and sandalwood with the fragrance of the delicate prairie crocus flower–aka the South Dakota state flower. Notes of water, spruce, and firewood help balance out the hints of lavender and rosemary.

patchouli essential oil

Mississippi Candle

Of course, we had to include magnolias in our candle for the Magnolia State—and we didn’t stop there. Deeper notes of patchouli and cedar are lightened with touches of cotton and tonka bean, while hints of lime and waterfalls round out the scent.

Nevada Candle

Light this candle and you’ll be transported back to the desert air, cactus flowers, bright lemon and lime and selvage denim of Nevada. Patchouli, cedar, cotton, and tonka combine to form a sweet yet musky scent.

Washington Candle

If you’ve ever missed the rainy days of Washington State, this candle is for you. We added scents of cedar and patchouli to complement the notes of Earl Grey tea. Meanwhile, the floral fragrances of rhododendron flower and amber are balanced out by sweet notes maple and vanilla.

Montana Candle

Notes of lemon, peppermint and cinnamon combine with hints of clear winter air for a fragrance that will transport you right back to Big Sky Country. Hints of amber swirl around with fragrances of sandalwood, patchouli, and cedar.

Next time you see “patchouli” on a candle or perfume label, you’ll now know to expect. In fact, you might be surprised how many of the products you already own contain patchouli. It might be your new favorite scent, and you don’t even know it yet!