If I had to pick only one perfume to wear throughout winter, it would be neither a smoky incense nor a warm amber. I could even survive the cold days without sumptuous white florals or dark spices. I couldn’t, however, go through winter without a citrus cologne. More precisely, my ideal winter fragrance is based around the zesty, bright note of mandarin.
The reason I pick citrus for these months is that it feels uplifting and bright on days when nothing else does. In addition, mandarin is unique because it’s the only citrus essence with a pronounced floral facet. Mandarin shares aromatic compounds with orange blossom, tuberose and Concord grapes, which is why even the simplest mandarin compositions have an unusual complexity.
Take, for example, Prada Infusion Mandarine (£102.50 for 100ml EDP). Its philosophy is to keep mandarin simple, and that refined minimalism is rewarding. The top notes combine all of the best elements of a citrus cologne – the green vibrancy of mandarin leaves, the sweetness of mandarin zest and the warmth of orange flowers. You notice the delicious bitterness of the peel and then the sweetness of pulp, and the contrast remains vivid into the drydown. Perfumer Daniela Andrier is a master of playing with nuances, and her decision to ground mandarin to a velvety finish, hinting at incense and vanilla, makes for a fragrance that lingers for many hours.
The label specialising in modern colognes, Atelier Cologne, took a slightly more involved route to creating its perfect mandarin. Mandarin remains the star of Mandarine Glaciale (€110 for 100ml cologne absolue), but it’s accented with jasmine and moss. Jasmine enhances the floral elements of mandarin, while delicate, powdery mossy notes tone down the bitterness of citrus. In the drydown, sweet mandarin meets a layer of salty vetiver. If you know how addictive salted caramel can be, you’ll understand why I find Mandarine Glaciale irresistible.
To select the most baroque of mandarins, I need not look further than L’Artisan Parfumeur Mandarina Corsica (£115 for 100ml EDP). Perfumer Quentin Bisch took inspiration from the village of San-Giuliano in Corsica to pair mandarin with immortelle, the flower of the dunes. Immortelle has a sweet-savoury aroma, reminiscent of maple syrup and bitter herbal liqueurs. Though an intense material, it doesn’t hide the floral nuances of golden citrus fruit, but rather amplifies their sweetness. Mandarina Corsica seems so full of sunshine and languor that wearing it I want to repeat after Camus, “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer”.
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog boisdejasmin.com since 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.