Douglas Little of Heretic Parfum on his latest fragrance, Dirty Patchouli.

Douglas Little of Heretic Parfum

We always love hearing from Heretic founder Douglas Little, a thoughtful perfumer, passionate about natural materials and provocative approaches to olfaction. Here's what he had to say about Dirty Patchouli and Heretic's next moves...

Q. What compels you about patchouli, one of perfumery's most polarizing materials?

A. Patchouli's polarizing effects are due to the fact that most people have never smelled good patchouli. The majority of people have only experienced patchouli oil in a head shop or natural food store and here you will find the most rancid iteration of this extraordinary material. 

A good example is wine making. You can have an incredible growing season with perfect weather conditions and a perfect harvest and even the most extraordinary grapes can be turned into swill if not in the hands of an experienced winemaker and distiller. The same holds true for these natural perfume materials — it is in the hands of the distillation process. 

A few years back I found a small producer making a CO2 distillation of patchouli that blew my mind. Yes, it was patchouli but the CO2 extraction process stripped out all of the camphoric/sulfuric aspects of the plant and left a deep, woody, primal scent that evoked mulch, petrichor, tree sap and crushed grass. 

For me, Patchouli is a litmus test — when someone opens a fragrance conversation with a proclamation of "I hate patchouli" I immediately know their experience with fragrance has been limited and when I show them this insane distillation without the nomenclature of "patchouli" they fall in love. As a Scorpio, it is my path to convert non-patchouli lovers into devotees.  

Q. What is uniquely "Heretic" about the olfactory approach you took in the creation of Dirty Patchouli?

A. The definition of Heretic is: a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted. I made this fragrance with really expensive natural ingredients blended in organic sugarcane alcohol and I disclose the ingredients. What's more Heretical than that? 

Drilling further into the Heretical olfactory aspects of this fragrance, its caramelized, boozy patchouli. It's alluring, seductive and deeply grounding. My secret ingredient in this blend is an obscene use of benzoin and just enough blond tobacco to make it raunchy.  

This fragrance was inspired by many Paris nights with my gal pal Betony Vernon. Many memorable evenings in her Paris flat, rolling cigarettes, drinking champagne, burning patchouli paste and cutting leather. 

Q. If you were to layer Dirty Patchouli with another Heretic fragrance, which would be your top choice?

A. This would all depend on what I wanted to achieve. Dirty Patchouli and Dirty Vanilla yield a gourmand fantasy while Dirty Patchouli and Dirty Suede are a far more subversive experience. Dirty Patchouli and Bergamusk dance in a wild tug-of-war of top notes and base chords and Dirty Patchouli and Scandalwood are only for the committed sensualists. 

Q. What are the differences between formulation for perfumes and formulation for candles? We've heard it's quite difficult to replicate a scent between the two mediums.

A. Wax is a clumsy, heavy, material that is difficult and next to impossible to achieve the delicate fragrance nuances that can be achieved in alcohol. Alcohol inherently provides lift and diffusion, whereas wax tends to weigh everything down. Especially when formulating with naturals — my gawd — it took me almost a year and half of tinkering with Smudge to get it to work and translate in wax.

Q. It's been a minute since we last checked in — how has Heretic evolved over the past year, and any upcoming news you'd like to share with us?

A. It has been a minute — and I have missed the the Ministry of Scent community! It's been an interesting few years. We have explored some opportunities that brought the fragrance to a more mass audience and have decided to return to a more niche, artisan approach and distribution. I am excited to announce that we will be launching bath and body in fall of 2023 with some incredible products and formulations. 

Thanks, Douglas!

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