Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have used litres of cologne, even when on his military campaigns. While my ambitions don’t reach as far as world domination, fragrances suffused with citrus nevertheless feature prominently in my perfume wardrobe. Few aromas are more uplifting and rejuvenating, and their versatility makes colognes an easy fragrance type to adapt to various moods and occasions.
Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte (£69 for 100ml EDC) is as classical as a beige trench coat and crisp white shirt – a blend of lemon, orange and oakmoss. A bracing, slightly austere fragrance, it instantly energises; the bitterness of the orange zest is softened by musk and cedarwood shavings, while a subtle touch of spice brightens the composition further.
Pairing well with Eau d’Orange Verte is Roger & Gallet’s Bois d’Orange soap (£10). Roger & Gallet has several excellent colognes in its line, including Jean-Marie Farina Extra Vieille (£32 for 100ml EDC), purportedly the same potion favoured by Monsieur Bonaparte. My preference, however, is Bois d’Orange, a vignette of woods and peppery citrus. The Bois d’Orange soap is one of those scented marvels that demonstrates the perfumer’s art even in the most quotidian context. Its creamy foam smells of zest and green leaves, with hints of amber and basil that linger on the skin well after the morning shower.
The most popular orange used in colognes is the bitter, or Seville, variety, but many modern compositions rely on sweet orange for a juicy, radiant effect. Acqua di Parma Arancia di Capri (£64 for 75ml EDT) adds a whisper of vanilla to its orange cocktail for a teasing gourmand sensation. Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine ($195 for 200ml Cologne Absolue), on the other hand, explores the natural sweetness of the fruit and amplifies it with musk to create a long-lasting presence. Both fragrances are reminiscent of crushed citrus peel and freshly squeezed juice – an aroma that feels upbeat and exhilarating.
Another part of the orange tree that finds its way into colognes is the flowers. Bitter orange blossoms are especially rich in essential oils, which can be extracted either with volatile solvents, resulting in orange blossom absolute, or steam-distilled to make neroli essence. The former is warm, jasmine-like, with a sweet grape note, while neroli is green and spicy. Zagara (£90 for 100ml EDC) from Santa Maria Novella, one of the oldest Italian pharmacies, uses the two essences for a complex effect, while Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier (€175 for 75ml EDP) counts on the green verve of neroli to make its musky woods radiant. The orange flowers form the main structure of these perfumes and offer a suave complement to the sharp citrus notes.
Those who are not convinced by colognes might like to explore Parfums de Nicolaï Eau d’Eté (€111 for 100ml EDT). Its blend of orange, grapefruit and bergamot is as refreshing as a sip of iced lemonade, but a layer of cinnamon-dusted jasmine adds a sultry touch. From the citrus opening to the drydown of vanilla and musk, Eau d’Eté is elegant but quirky. Appropriately named Summer Water, it’s also an ideal winter companion.
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog http://boisdejasmin.comsince 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher. To read more of her columns, click here.