40 Days and 40 Nights of Fragrance Notes: Orange Blossom and Neroli
Orange Blossom Special
By Jessica M
There are so many flowers associated with springtime, but one of my favorites is the bloom of the orange tree. Orange blossoms are tiny, white, and star-shaped. They are highly fragrant, and they were traditionally worn and carried by brides. (Very appropriately, the orange blossom is also the Florida state flower!)
Natural perfumer Mandy Aftel has described the bitter orange tree as a “veritable cottage industry for the perfumer,” because its parts can be used in so many different ways. The peels of the oranges yield orange oil; the tree’s twigs and leaves give us petitgrain; and the blossoms are processed to create both neroli absolute and orange flower absolute.
Neroli absolute is produced when orange flowers are distilled with water. It was reportedly named in honor of a princess of Nerola, Italy, who set a trend in the seventeenth century by using this essence to scent her gloves, her bathwater, and so on. Neroli has a slightly citrus-fruity scent, but more than anything, it’s like liquid sunshine. If it were a color, it would certainly be golden.
Orange flower absolute is extracted by processing the blossoms with solvents rather than distilling them with water or steam. Even though it comes from the same plant, orange flower essence ends up smelling noticeably different from neroli. It’s still fresh and bright, but definitely more flowery. Sometimes it has a faint hint of creaminess. It’s just a little bit sensual, but in an upbeat, approachable way; it’s never overwhelming in the way that other white florals (like tuberose or even jasmine) can be.
Neroli and orange flower both blend well with other floral and fruity notes, as well as spice and woods, so they show up frequently in fragrance (sometimes as natural essences, sometimes as synthetic recreations). Perfumers also tend to combine neroli and orange blossom in the same scent; where you smell one, you might very well smell the other. Keeping that in mind, let’s name a few neroli and/or orange blossom fragrances to enjoy...
Annick Goutal Neroli
Atelier Cologne Grand Neroli
Diptyque L’Eau de Neroli
Pacifica Nerola Orange Blossom
Tom Ford Neroli Portofino
Ayala Moriel Zohar
Bourbon French Parfums Orange Blossom
Jo Malone Orange Blossom Cologne
Lush (Gorilla Perfumes) Orange Blossom
Penhaligon’s Orange Blossom (Anthology collection)
Disclosure: The perfumes mentioned in this post were purchased (or sampled in stores) by the reviewer.
Reviewer: Jessica M
Quotation: Mandy Aftel, “Essence and Alchemy,” page 114.
Photo Credits: Mockingbird and Orange Blossoms, via Art.com. Orange blossom and oranges, via Wikimedia Commons.
Graphic Credit: Melanie Parker