The orange is a popular fruit in perfumery, but while we easily fall for oud, gardenia, frangipani or other more flamboyant notes, for the most part orange doesn’t inspire romantic fantasies. On the other hand, the most interesting ingredients in the perfumer’s palette are the most common ones, because not only do they allow a wide range of effects, they also challenge the creators to be innovative.
The spongy skin of oranges contains cells filled with essential oil, and you only need to look at it to see beads of essence. If you apply the liquid to a paper blotter, you can even study the way it progresses, from intense sweetness to acidic tang and on to waxy heft. The latter is due to the aldehydes, naturally occurring aromatics that are used in fragrances such as Chanel No 5 and Guerlain Chamade to give their flowers a halo of shimmer. In orange oil, however, all facets are in balance and it smells of a juicy, sweet fruit.
The fragrance that comes closest to the impression of freshly squeezed orange juice is Atelier Cologne’s Orange Sanguine (£90 for 100ml EDP). The bright, saturated orange wrapped in warm musk is pop art made into perfume. Equally vibrant is Cacharel’s Amor Amor (£20 for 50ml EDT), an orange balanced on a sheer pyramid of flowers and amber.
Both Orange Sanguine and Amor Amor are distant echoes of classical colognes, the most familiar context for an orange. In Hermès’ Eau d’Orange Verte (£66 for 100ml EDC) and Roger & Gallet’s Bois d’Orange (£32 for 100ml EDC), it’s paired with bitter citrus and dry woods for a more austere and brisk character. Orange gives a touch of sweetness without clashing with the sharply tailored style of these colognes.
A classical subject with a modern twist is Diptyque’s Oyédo (£55 for 50ml EDT). The name is a play on Edo, the ancient capital of Japan known as Tokyo today. The theme of Diptyque’s perfume is yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that smells like tangerine and purple grapes. Dressed up as yuzu, orange plays its part perfectly, and the perfume is at once quirky and elegant.
Few fragrances display orange’s glamorous side as well as Caron’s En Avion (£167.50 for 100ml EDP). The sweet citrus is folded into incense and dusky spices, and the tension between fresh orange and the scent of moss-festooned woods runs through the composition. En Avion has been somewhat changed over the years to bring it into line with new raw material regulations, but the current formulation still conveys the dark romance of the original, inspired by early female pilots like Hélène Boucher and Amelia Earhart. En Avion has the peculiar hard chic of 1930s fashions, but, even as an echo from the distant past, it still speaks to the present.