On a hot summer day, it is easy to appreciate the allure of a classical cologne, a citrus rich composition accented with green, herbal and orange flower notes. The effervescence of citrus—be it the bracing sharpness of lime, the peppery shimmer of bergamot, the intense verdancy of petitgrain (bitter orange leaves and buds) or the playful sweetness of mandarin—has a refreshing, exhilarating effect. It instantly cools, evoking the delicious sensation of an ice cube melting on hot skin. It creates a light, unobtrusive veil of scent. There is also a very strong logic behind using colognes in warm climates– neroli and petitgrain oils share the same pungent component as perspiration and allow it to become masked by the bright, green freshness of orange flower.
I’m not sure whether my perfume tastes are in flux, or whether I’m being influenced by the fact that our air conditioning broke down in the middle of a heat wave, but lately I have been relishing citrus colognes and exploring this genre in all of its permutations. Below are my ten choices for some of the best colognes I discovered during my quest. Some of them are venerable classics; others are interesting newcomers. While they are perfect on a hot June afternoon, my other criterion for selecting these fragrances is that I would want to wear them year round, mercury level notwithstanding.
The list is in alphabetical order. All of these fragrances are equally suitable for both men and women.
Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien – Sicilian Lemons
Eau d’Hadrien, Eau du Sud and Ninféo Mio are among Annick Goutal’s best citrus themes. Eau d’Hadrien, a fragrance which can rightly be considered a classic, is delightfully fresh and sparkling. A Mediterranean fantasy of tall swaying cypress trees, lemon groves and endless blue skies in a bottle.
P.S. In the winter, I also love Eau d’Hadrien in a candle form.
Chanel Cristalle EDT – Champagne Fizz
While I adore the EDP with its more opulent floral theme, the mossy orange and jasmine blossoms of the EDT are what I crave in the heat. A splash of Cristalle is both refreshing and slightly heady, just like a sip of champagne.
Chanel Eau de Cologne – Elegance
I would never have guessed that out of all Chanel Les Exclusifs, I would be wearing Eau de Cologne the most. Yet, it is splendid and remarkably complex. Instead of using the woods and bracing aromatic notes, perfumer Jacques Polge chose to pair the brightness of citrus (lemon, bergamot, neroli) with the soft richness of musk. The result feels like velvet on the skin, with a wonderful fullness that one does not often encounter in colognes. While some colognes can sometimes feel pleasantly rustic (Eau d’Hadrien, Goutal Eau du Sud, Guerlain Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat,) Chanel is all about polish and elegance.
Christian Dior Eau Sauvage – Black Tie Cologne
Eau Sauvage is another strikingly elegant cologne concept. The aromatic basil notes embroider a polished body of citrus and soft woods, while vetiver and amber give it richness and complexity. Yet, Eau Sauvage is more than the sum of its parts, and for this reason, it is one of the fragrance legends. It is luminous and bright, with a gorgeous sillage that gets noticed.
Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade – Bitter Orange Leaves
For those who love green citrus notes, Cologne Bigarade might be a great discovery. The first 15 minutes of it is a completely exhilarating experience—it evokes the green resinous aroma of lime in Mojito. This magic does not last long, but Cologne Bigarade settles in an interesting salty skin and wet petals form.
Guerlain Eau de Guerlain — Gin & Tonic
Guerlain has several excellent colognes which are worth seeking out: Eau Cologne Impériale (bitter orange leaves and lemon), Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat (lemon, neroli and verbena), Eau de Cologne du Coq (bergamot, rosemary and sandalwood.) Eau de Guerlain with its bright verbena notes is one of the best colognes one can find today. Everything about it is excellent—the progression from citrus to moss, the discrete Guerlain touch of tonka bean, the tenacity, the sillage, the exhilarating character.
Hermès Eau d’Hermès – Sensual Cologne
The prelude of citrus and herbes de Provence is pleasant, even if masterfully rendered, but wait a moment and the layer of cumin and civet appears in a surprising twist. Those who love animalic notes simply must sample Eau d’Hermès. I admit that it is not the easiest cologne for me to wear, but I find it fascinating given its strong character and memorable signature.
Hermès Eau d’Orange Vert – Mossy Citrus
Eau de Cologne Verte/Eau d’Orange Verte is a cologne for the lovers of mossy (chypre) fragrances. Initially, it has a wonderful citrusy effervescence, while the drydown of patchouli and moss gives it a pleasant earthy dampness. The newest version makes a stronger accent on the mineral notes, which gives the composition an interesting dimension.
Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin – Mojito with Basil
Similar to Hermès Eau d’Orange Vert, but with a stronger floral accent. Absolutely delightful and one of the best from Jo Malone’s cologne collection.
Thierry Mugler Cologne – Unconventional Cologne
Thierry Mugler does not generally play by conventional rules, and his Cologne is likewise unusual. Instead of the common citrus and herbal structure, it plays with the metallic notes of aldehydes and green sap. After the fluorescent burst, it settles into a polished drydown of musk. Very different from all of the other selections in this list.
Extra: Atelier Cologne Bois Blonds – Fresh Incense
As a bonus, I have decided to include Atelier Cologne Bois Blonds, a fresh incense composition, which shows the versatility of frankincense oil. Paired with neroli and bergamot, incense takes on a bright, sparkling character, which is explored nicely in Bois Blonds. It is certainly more of a woody-incense blend, rather than a classical citrus, but on skin, it performs similarly to a cologne. It is refreshing and rejuvenating on a hot summer day.
What are your favorite colognes or citrus dominated fragrances?
Photography © Bois de Jasmin, Cape Cod seashore.