The smell of oranges is the smell of lazy summer days spent in the branches of orange trees near my home in South Florida as a boy. When done well there is almost no other smell which triggers as strong a scent memory as an orange focused fragrance. One of my five favorites is Diptyque L’Eau de Tarocco but I just included that in the recent Diptyque 101. I’ll give you five more of my favorite orange perfumes.
Probably the very first orange fragrance which triggered this atavistic memory was Hermes Eau D’Orange Verte. It wasn’t the perfume but the bath product which I was using at a luxury resort in the 1980’s. It had no label and I had to find out from the front desk the name. I bought a bottle upon my return home and it is still compelling nearly thirty years later. Perfumer Francoise Caron combines the full spectrum of orange notes on top of green muguet. It all produces an evocation of sitting among the leaves of the orange tree while peeling one open.
It would be twenty years until another orange fragrance would make a dent in my monogamous relationship with Eau D’Orange Vert. Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentree is arguably the simplest perfume in that collection. It succeeds in the same way an artist’s still life succeeds. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena paints in olfactory watercolors a still life of orange. It is given nuance by aldehydes, cardamom, and hay. It is the smell of a fresh ripe orange picked off the tree before cutting into it.
Roger & Gallet Bois D’Orange is one of my favorite bang for the buck orange fragrances as you can find 100mL bottles for less than $40. Perfumer Dominique Ropion was inspired by the gardens of Alhambra in Spain. M. Ropion takes that inspiration and provides an intense citrus accord led by the orange which is matched by an equally deep floral accord lead by jasmine and rose. There is also a prominent green underpinning to tie all of it together.
Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine was the first one I tried when Creative Director Sylvie Ganter introduced the line to me a little over five years ago. It is a brilliant orange cologne that has the bonus of lasting a long time on my skin because of the Cologne Absolue concentration. Perfumer Ralf Schwieger evokes that moment when I would bite into an orange and the juice would flow from my mouth over my chin. Using the green floralcy of geranium on top of a sandalwood base it is near perfect. Except the new Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale is now vying for my attention within the brand. The next time I do this list there might be a change here.
Thirdman Eau Nomade finishes my list and this one does not remind me of my youth. Perfumer Bruno Jovanovic uses a fabulous green cardamom in conjunction with blood orange as the nucleus of a cologne which is meant to remind one of a spice market. This is the one I keep in the refrigerator to wear on the most sweltering dog days of summer. It has become the olfactory equivalent of a cold glass of lemonade.
None of these suggestions will provide you with any vitamin C but they will all add some needed energy this summer. Give them a try if you haven’t already.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
When I speak with Michael Edwards on the beginning of niche perfumery he can accurately names L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1978 and Annick Goutal in 1980 as the first niche lines. When I think of when niche perfumery really managed to breakthrough I go back to 2000 when Frederic Malle released the first nine perfumes in his Editions de Parfums brand. These were the first perfumes to feature the name of the perfumer on the bottle. It really was the beginning of my starting to take a stronger interest in the people behind the perfume. Over the last fourteen years and 21 total releases I can say that this is one of the strongest collections of fragrances on the market. There is not a mediocre one in the whole group. A particular style might not be to your taste but the quality and creativity is always prominently displayed. This is one of the best places for anyone interested in niche perfume to start and here are the five I would suggest you begin with.
There are a plethora of citrus colognes but Jean-Claude Ellena’s Bigarade Concentree is one that stands way above the fray. There is fantastic bitter orange (bigarade) surrounded by the most gentle aldehydes. The heart is rose, cardamom, and a bit of textural pepper to coax the spiciness from the rose. It finishes with a golden hay note over cedar. This fragrance re-invigorated my interest in citrus fragrances all by itself.
Lys Mediterranee by Edouard Flechier is one of the most luminous perfumes I own. M. Flechier weaves three sources of lily raw materials to render a larger-than-life composite as the core of this fragrance. He adds orange blossom, angelica, and musk as the perfect complements to the uber-lily. If you want lily in your fragrance here is one of the best.
Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel has a bit of a rakish reputation as a lady-killer if you believe the stories told on the perfume forums. That has died down over time and now what remains is a fantastic ambery musk by one of the great perfumers working. Starting with a flare of tangerine and lavender which are spiced up wiith clove and cinnamon we reach the base notes which form the ambery musky accord. I was well married by the time I found this but it is one of the few fragrances I wear which generates unsolicited compliments, so maybe its reputation is deserved.
For so many years the baseline tuberose perfume was Robert Piguet’s Fracas and nothing came close until Dominique Ropion’s Carnal Flower. M. Ropion chooses an eclectic company of complementary and contrasting notes for the tuberose. He uses eucalyptus to accentuate the mentholated quality a the heart of the flower. He adds coconut to provide an oily sweet contrast. A few other white flowers join in to create the other great tuberose fragrance.
Pierre Bourdon showed that he was more than the perfumer who created Cool Water when he made French Lover (aka Bois D’Orage). When I smelled this when it was released in 2007 it felt like a more sophisticated version of my old staple Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. It doesn’t smell anything like it but it was the one fragrance I continually chose over it once it was in my perfume cabinet. M. Bourdon uses the rich spiciness of pimento to lead into a finely balanced heart of iris and galbanum. It is a greener floral because of the presence of the galbanum and it keeps the iris from getting powdery. A musk and vetiver base finish this off. If I was still prowling the night looking for a connection French Lover would be one of my choices.
As I mentioned above the entire Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle line is consistently excellent. So start here but do yourself a favor and keep on going through the whole line it is a magical ride.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.