There are a few things Oxford people seem to be obsessed with. Horses is certainly one of them. The second one is Oxford itself – people here are die-hard Oxford fans. They love the area and the community. Can’t disagree with that. But the third thing a lot of Oxford people seem to be interested in is smelling like old hippies.

Let me explain. Some time ago, I noticed in the Oxford Bulletin an ad from the local chemist saying a new shipment of Indian Love Oil had just arrived in. I was intrigued but promptly forgot to check out what this love oil was all about.

The other day though I dropped into the chemist for something and noticed these black and gold items sitting on the shelves full of cosmetics and skincare. Ever drawn to anything to do with makeup and skincare, I wandered over. There was a whole batch of products with the name Indian Love Oil – soap, shower gel, hand and body lotion, massage and body cream, perfume oil.

The chemist assistant came over and we embarked on a long chat about Oasis Organic skincare products (which seem to be huge here. The beautician in Oxford who I’ll be going to next week uses Oasis). I then asked about this Indian Love business and she said these products just fly off the shelf; people in Oxford can’t get enough.

How intriguing! I had to sniff the perfume oil. Yeegads! I entered some sort of 1960s psychedelic dream. The sort I’m sure Jim Morrison of The Doors used to experience or Janis Joplin. The sort you might have when you’re on the wacky tobacky. Why? Because that dreaded ingredient of the 1960s/1970s – patchouli – was front and centre, waving the flag, jumping up and down saying “yoohoo, remember me from the 1960s?“.

I backed off fast. The chemist lady was perplexed by my reaction until I told her that the product smelt like some moth-eaten old hippie who has forgotten that the 1960s was 40 years ago. She agreed but said the product was hugely popular in Oxford.

That night, all I could smell was this Indian Love Oil. It reminds me quite a bit of Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir – a 1970’s perfume I’ve had a love/hate relationship with over the years. But Aromatics Elixir is more sophisticated with its hints of lavender, vetiver, oakmoss and rose.

The Indian Love Oil has lashings of patchouli and then more lashings. I suspect this is mingled with jasmine and possibly sandalwood or ylang ylang. I woke up the next morning still smelling it. And like some seductive siren calling out to ancient sailors crossing the oceans, the Indian Love oil called me back to the chemist.

I ended up buying the massage and body cream because it’s a lot less potent. Here’s the thing: I HATE patchouli. I scurried out of the chemist fast with the product in a brown paper bag, hoping that no-one I know spotted me thinking “ah hah, she’s turning into an Oxfordian“.

In the secrecy of the home, I checked the product out. It’s one of a number of products from the Kama range (how fitting; I’m sure Karma will be very pleased). I Googled and found the website for “Kama. The Original Indian Love Oil”. It’s an NZ product and somehow I’m not surprised to learn that it was first released in 1971 (as was Aromatics Elixir). The Love Oil had a simple genesis – an NZ businessman was on a trip to Sydney when some dude asked him: “Have you heard of Patchouli oil?”.

And so the hippie-era is alive and kicking in Oxford, NZ. The hills are alive with the smell of patchouli and so am I.

PS: I’ve always been into perfumes and reviewing them. My grandmother used to own a perfumery in Sydney in the 1940s. If you’re interested in perfumes, go here, here and here.

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