The orange is ubiquitous in perfumery. We easily get taken with oud, gardenia, frangipani, or other more flamboyant notes, but 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 challenge the creators to be innovative.
The spongy skin of orange contains cells filled with essential oil, and you only need to squeeze the colored part to see beads of essence. If you apply the liquid on a paper blotter, you can even study the way it progresses, from intense sweetness to acidic tang and to waxy heft. The latter is due to the aldehydes, naturally occurring aromatics that are used in fragrances like 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. The bright, saturated orange wrapped in warm musk is pop art made perfume. Equally vibrant is Cacharel’s Amor Amor, an orange balanced on a pyramid of sheer flowers and amber.
Both Orange Sanguine and Amor Amor are distant echoes of classical colognes, the most familiar context for an orange. In Hermès’s Eau d’Orange Verte and Roger & Gallet’s Bois d’Orange, 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. 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 quirky and elegant at once.
Few fragrances display orange’s glamorous side as well as Caron’s En Avion. The sweet citrus is folded into incense and dusky spices, and the tension between the fresh orange and moss festooned woods runs through the composition. En Avion has been somewhat changed over the years to bring it in line with new raw material regulations, but it still conveys the dark romance of the original inspired by the first pilot women like Helen 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.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin