Initially, I picked to review this perfume because it's in my "patchouli file". But after repeated applications, and especially after reviewing the other patchouli fragrances, I'm discovering it's on the very other end of the patchouli spectrum, where light, amber and sheer plastic flowers meet for a little public display of affection.
Prada opens a little more floral than expected. Not any particular floral, but more of the floral top notes that amber accords tends to have: the lilac-and-epoxy-glue symphony from liquidambar (aka styrax) and an overall sheer, crystalline effect. If there is any patchouli in there it's completely secondary. The resins are taking centre stage, and while they are sweet, they also have a certain transparency about them that is more woody than foody. It has a simple, flat personality from an overdoze of benzoin (a caramal-like resin that has an understated, powdery yet lasting effect), and peru balsam (which is a thinner and flatter vanilla, with hints of woods). The patchouli has only a balancing act: contributing dryness counterpoint like a throaty red wine with vanilla poached pear. It whispers, never shouts. It gives the vanilla way too much elbow room and as a result the perfume feels very flat - a flat amber accord with dry nuances from patchouli.
The vanilla intensifies over time and becomes a little syrupy only half an hour in. I really wish there was more dry presence to make it ever so slightly less ambery. Prada's other flankers might be more intriguing in that regard (especially the Ambre Pour Homme Intense), but still - it's very decidedly agreeable, which comes at the expense of intrigue or mischief. It smells extremely similar to Dior Addict's vinyl and pleather vanilla theme; and very much like Notorious, just less aquatic and without that dusting of cocoa.
There is no shortage of amber scents in the world in 2004, when Prada debuted, and although I can't pretend it's groundbreaking and I've never even managed to get through half of my 2ml sample - there was certainly refreshing to observe its commercial success despite the fact that it was neither a nondescript floral nor a foody fruity floral. And a lot of others followed with patchouli-centered fragrances, which quickly turned into the much dreaded (though still better than the previous) "fruitchoulis" - those faux "chypre" compositions that juxtapose the mass appeal of candy and fruit notes with an ever so slightly sophisticated scent of natural patchouli and perhaps a few other surprises that none of us would ever sign up for (watery notes, anyone?), such as Black Orchid (Tom Ford), Notorioius (Ralph Lauren) and more.
I find the abundance of flankers from this label confusing at best, but I shall try the Prada Intense to see if it's more patchouli-centered (and hopefully also more to my liking).