Bergamot : Perfume Note and Ingredient

The first time anyone smells fresh bergamot, they usually have one comment, “Earl Grey!” We associate its peppery scent so much with the flavored black tea that it’s hard to picture bergamot as anything else. In reality, it’s a small citrus of the Citrus bergamia variety, and its fragrant essence that ends up in our tea and perfume is cold-pressed from the peel of unripe fruit.  The best bergamot oil comes from the province of Reggio Calabria in Italy, and for this reason perfume companies gladly flaunt the provenance by mentioning “Calabrian bergamot” in the note descriptions. The growing conditions on the plantations along the Ionian Sea coast are so ideally suited to this unique citrus that the region generates 90% of the world’s production.

bergamot2

I call bergamot unique not because of an enthusiastic overstatement; it’s unlike other citrus used in perfumery. Bergamot is zesty and sparkling, but not pungently acidic. For the perfume geeks among you, the main constituents of its oil are the floral-crisp linalool and linalyl acetate (in contrast to lemon, orange or mandarin, which are dominated by the icy sharp limonene). Linalool also gives lavender and coriander seeds their distinctive note, so in some aspects bergamot has more in common with aromatic herbs than tart citrus. Then imagine a note reminiscent of freshly ground black pepper draped over the floral freshness, and you have bergamot.

Because of bergamot’s distinctive character, it’s one of the most common notes in the perfumer’s palette. You can find it in the lightest of colognes and the darkest of orientals. Bergamot adds an instant dose of shimmer to just about any composition but it can also be used in large amounts to create a radiant backdrop for the rich woods, spices and ambers. To experience bergamot in all of its glory, go straight to Guerlain Shalimar.

Shalimar goes down in the annals of perfume history as the classical oriental perfume, a type of fragrance rich in woods, vanilla and other heavy notes, but containing more than 30% bergamot oil, it can almost be a citrus cologne! It has delicious heft and luminosity. As perfumer Sophia Grojsman describes Shalimar, it’s dark but transparent, a difficult effect to achieve.

shalimar

Jacques Guerlain, the creator of Shalimar, also experimented with a generous dose of bergamot in Vol de Nuit and L’Heure Bleue. His grandson, Jean-Paul Guerlain, continued the tradition with Habit Rouge and Vétiver. Bergamot can make the richest notes palatable, and the bergamot trail can be found from Chanel Coco to Esteé Lauder Youth Dew, from Yves Saint Laurent Kouros to Aquolina Pink Sugar.

If you would rather go for something crisp and bright, then start with colognes. You’ll be sharing your love for bergamot with Napoleon, whose favorite perfumes and soaps were scented with its essence. Not of Napoleon’s vintage, but a great classic of the 20th century, Dior Eau Sauvage contains close to 40% bergamot oil and feels as modern today as it did when it was created in 1966. It blends the peppery freshness of basil, citrus and rosemary, with just enough woods and musk to give a lingering presence and unmistakable character.

Listing all of the colognes that feature bergamot would try your patience, but I can’t resist mentioning some of my other favorite modern examples.  Tocca Colette is a gin & tonic with a bergamot twist. Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien is an adult take on lemonade, while  The Different Company Divine Bergamot is a triple bergamot with a sliver of ginger.

goutal

You can make an oriental or even a cologne without bergamot, but the classical chypre family is impossible without this citrus note. Bergamot offsets the inky, bittersweet roughness of oakmoss and prevents you from smelling like a moss festooned tree. Guerlain Mitsouko, Christian Dior Miss Dior, Chanel Cristalle, and Aramis are the classical examples. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely may skip oakmoss, but it still retains the chypre’s bergamot flourish.

Finally, bergamot marries well with many floral notes, and if a perfumer wants to give a dose of spring-like freshness to a sketch of a flower, they might turn to citrus. For a bergamot flavored rose, try Annick Goutal Rose Absolue and Marni. Jasmine and bergamot are explored in Serge Lutens Sarrasins and Etat Libre d’Orange Jasmin et CigaretteFrédéric Malle Iris Poudre, Penhaligon’s Iris Prima, and Chanel 28 La Pausa illustrate that even something as perfect as iris can benefit from a dash of peppery citrus.

bergamot-calabria

Extra: Citrus : From Bergamot to Yuzu for descriptions of other citrus notes and a history of cologne.

Do you have any favorite perfumes that include bergamot?

Top and bottom images, Calabrian bergamots: photography by Bois de Jasmin

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135 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: This article is really outstanding, very instructive and also beautifully illustrated. Must have been time consuming! but we are grateful.
    Shalimar certainly is a big favourite of mine. December 16, 2013 at 7:26am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: And even more Mitsouko!
      I remember I once had a sample of Escale à Portofino–wasn’t that with bergamot? very nice. December 16, 2013 at 8:26am Reply

      • Victoria: I looked up Escale à Portofino in my notes, and yes, it has bergamot on it. I haven’t worn it in a while, but it’s a very elegant cologne. I might have to search for my decant. December 16, 2013 at 10:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I’m very glad that you liked it. A recent windfall of bergamots inspired me to write about this wonderful citrus fruit. December 16, 2013 at 10:46am Reply

  • Austenfan: Absolutely lovely V.! I really enjoyed reading this.

    I have a small bottle of bergamot oil that I often add to my washing machine to scent the laundry. My detergent generally don’t have a strong smell so I can detect the bergamot quite well when I take the washing out. It doesn’t last of course, but that is beside the point. It’s great to get those brief flashes of bliss while doing mundane things. December 16, 2013 at 7:37am Reply

    • Austenfan: You’ve named most of my favourite Bergamotes in your article. Divine Bergamote certainly helped in getting familiar with the note, and is a great perfume. Still one of my favourites from that line. December 16, 2013 at 7:38am Reply

      • Victoria: Mine too! I have enjoyed the others, but Divine Bergamote is the only one that truly stole my heart. December 16, 2013 at 10:48am Reply

    • Martha: What a great idea! I, too, have a bottle of bergamot oil that may find its way into my laundry room from now on. Thanks, Austenfan. December 16, 2013 at 8:19am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a terrific idea, and I will definitely try it next time I do laundry. I sometimes add a few drops of bergamot to a pan of boiling water to scent the room, and the aroma is so uplifting. December 16, 2013 at 10:47am Reply

  • James1051: Very informative piece.
    Doesn’t Eau de Guerlain start with bergamot also? That’s a dandy! December 16, 2013 at 8:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it has a big dose of bergamot, as do the other Guerlain colognes (but if I remember correctly, Eau de Guerlain is the most bergamot rich). December 16, 2013 at 10:49am Reply

  • rosarita: Another fascinating article, thank you! I apparently love bergamot, as you named several of my very favorite perfumes, particularly Shalimar and Coco. It is interesting to read about where ingredients come from. December 16, 2013 at 8:11am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure!
      The case of bergamot essence is very interesting, because the production is done locally, and it really does much to boost the standard of living in the area that’s traditionally quite poor (especially in comparison to the rest of Italy). December 16, 2013 at 10:50am Reply

  • Lucas: Very educative article Victoria! I learned a couple more things about bergamot than were told during one of the lectures about perfumes I had at university. It certainly is widely used but it can give many different effects to the fragrance.

    My favorite bergamot perfumes include Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien, Le Labo Bergamotte 22 or Dior Eau Sauvage. December 16, 2013 at 8:24am Reply

    • Victoria: I also should have mentioned that it’s essential in men’s fougere-type fragrances, but the article was already getting quite long. It’s such a great note. December 16, 2013 at 10:51am Reply

  • Martha: Thanks for this informative article. As I mentioned in my reply to Austenfan, I have a small bottle of bergamot oil that is stored in my refrigerator. Sometimes when I want a lift, I take it out and sniff deeply. Bergamot is a wonderful aroma though for some reason I’m not fond of Earl Grey tea, not sure why. December 16, 2013 at 8:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you cook with it or do you just keep it for its scent? In Italy I’ve tried many bergamot flavored desserts, but I’ve started to experiment myself only recently. December 16, 2013 at 10:52am Reply

      • Martha: I just keep it for its scent. Well, really because I thought I wanted to compose perfumes. I discovered that I’m not good at composition, but I am good at appreciating fragrance. December 16, 2013 at 7:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: Well, it means that you have an incentive to experiment with it, or just to inhale and enjoy. :) If I have a light headache, I find that bergamot essence or a bergamot cologne is a great way to cure it. December 17, 2013 at 11:31am Reply

  • BlinkyTheFish: Years ago (around 2000) The Body Shop did a really good Bergamot cologne – pretty straight Calabrian bergamot with no frills, but it was fantastically refreshing in the summer. I remember going through several bottles before they discontinued it. December 16, 2013 at 8:32am Reply

    • Victoria: A friend brought a small bottle of bergamot cologne from Calabria that she got from one of the local stores, and it was essentially the same thing–just bergamot. Not as long lasting or complex maybe as The Different Company’s Divine Bergamote, but very reasonably priced and delicious smelling. I haven’t tried The Body Shop’s version, but it sounds similar. December 16, 2013 at 10:54am Reply

  • Karen W: Great article! I love many perfumes you mentioned especially Shalimar and Vol de Nuit. December 16, 2013 at 8:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Shalimar is worth smelling just for the bergamot alone. It uses a very high-grade, and when in the early 200s LVMH cheapened the formula and used a different type of bergamot, the effect was very obvious. Luckily, now it smells much better. December 16, 2013 at 10:56am Reply

  • Eisengrim: Strange … i never associate Bergamot and Tea

    I am from Nancy, East of France

    When i was child the ultimate sweet was “Les bergamotes de Nancy”

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergamote_de_Nancy

    What it tastes like ? … by Retro Olfaction you obtain the Bergamot from the different company ^^ … and far less expensive than the Elenna

    Childhood “souvenir” … Divine Bergamot is in my top 10 perfumes for eternity unfortunately for my wallet. December 16, 2013 at 9:10am Reply

    • Austenfan: I love those sweets. I got some on my last trip to the Vosges from a local sweet factory. Wonderful. December 16, 2013 at 10:07am Reply

      • Eisengrim: I dont need to eat them …
        I just imagine them and have all the taste in head December 16, 2013 at 11:10am Reply

    • Victoria: I love les bergamotes de Nancy, and you’ve reminded me that I need to buy some more. They disappear rapidly in our house. :) December 16, 2013 at 10:59am Reply

      • Eisengrim: During my child i was sure Bergamot was local !

        When i was interested in perfume … i discover that i was completly wrong during all these time.

        And now reading Wikipedia article i discover that the sweet was creating from an industrial who had a tip from a … perfumer

        I think this is my Karma Wheel … perhaps all my interest in perfume came from that sweet December 16, 2013 at 11:13am Reply

        • Victoria: The early childhood memories are the strongest ones. For me there are also some scents and tastes I can recall precisely. It’s so fascinating. December 16, 2013 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Alexandra: I loved the bergamot note in Byredo Palermo. And bergamot zest is delicious in sponge cakes! I always keep some zest in the freezer for future use. In Greece we also make bergamot spoon sweets that save our afternoons along with Greek coffee! December 16, 2013 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Yum! Greek spoon sweets are some of the most wonderful preserves, and the range of flavors is so impressive. In Ukraine, we also make our jams in the similar style–whole fruit pieces suspended in thick syrup. I love the Greek tradition of serving them with a glass of water. December 16, 2013 at 11:02am Reply

  • ChristinaTB: I love bergamot in perfumes!
    My favorites are Shalimar and Dior Escale a Portofino December 16, 2013 at 9:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I also can’t get enough of bergamot, and unlike some other citrus notes, it has a nice drydown, so even simple bergamot colognes can seem much more complex than they really are. December 16, 2013 at 11:03am Reply

  • Jillie: One of our supermarkets is offering fresh bergamots, and I am going to buy one this week for Christmas. Expensive (like your beloved yuzu), but hopefully it will be worth it and will go nicely in a celebratory gin and tonic. December 16, 2013 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Ours are too, hence all of these bergamots. I was so happy to find them that I bought a kilo at once, and now our apartment smells like a bergamot grove. Here, they’re more expensive than lemons (around 6 euros a kg), but still affordable, unlike yuzu. December 16, 2013 at 11:05am Reply

  • Terry: As always, beautifully written, V…Although bergamot is a common additive, it is uncommonly lovely as a fragrance. My top three favorite perfumes include bergamot and I love Earl Grey tea. Bergamot is such a pleasure in my life. December 16, 2013 at 9:33am Reply

    • Victoria: In Calabria they say that once the bergamot processing starts, everyone is walking around with smiles on their faces, because the smell of bergamot is such a sunny and happy one. I can just imagine how wonderful it smells during the harvest. I get a rush of pleasure just opening the tin of Earl Grey tea. December 16, 2013 at 11:14am Reply

  • Flora: What a pleasure to read this article! I have an Earl Grey scented candle which, while not strong enough, has that raspy edge aromatic herbs such as lavender and rosemary have. They smell cleansing rather than crisp and clean like citrus. Bergamot always seems to me both sharp and full-bodied. My husband loves both bergamot and ginger so I’ll have to check out Divine Bergamote. I love Cristalle, although I lament the original. I haven’t smelled Shalimar in years; unfortunately a deep breath of it– impossible to wear lightly, at least for me– makes my throat itch. Perhaps a few of PdN’s fragrances use bergamot? December 16, 2013 at 9:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Parfums de Nicolai’s Cologne Sologne contains a lot of bergamot. I’m sure many other perfumes from their collection do too, but this is the first one that comes to mind. It’s an excellent cologne. December 16, 2013 at 11:15am Reply

    • Terry: Flora, who makes the, “Earl Grey” scented candle? December 17, 2013 at 9:33pm Reply

  • Rachel: I really liked this. You make me want to drink some Earl Grey and wear Eau d’Hadrien, one of my bergamot-y favorites. Eau du Sud also has bergamot, according to the notes. December 16, 2013 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I might have to make Earl Grey tea once I get home after all of this talk of bergamot and tea. :) December 16, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

  • Mariane: I’m addicted to Earl Grey tea. The smell alone makes me happy. Thank you for this beautiful post. This is my first comment but I’m your reader since 3 years and I look forward to your new articles. December 16, 2013 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Mariane. I’m very happy to meet you, and I hope to see you around more. December 16, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

  • DDJ: What a fine post; with both breadth and depth.

    I’m new, or newly returned, to the world of fragrance and have been putting together a “Sniff List” for a few weeks now (based largely on my loving Kouros much earlier in my life).

    I was struck by how many of the juices you mentioned had made it to my list : ) and with your mention have now floated up to the top.

    I haven’t looked yet, but I’m hoping that when I search your site, I’ll find that you’ve written similar posts for each/ many/ some …. of the other primary notes. …Very informative, educational and helpful.

    Thank you and Best Regards December 16, 2013 at 10:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much! I would love to hear what you end up trying from your list. Of course, it’s easier to mention perfumes that don’t contain bergamot rather than the ones that do, since it’s such a popular note, but some fragrances showcase it particular well.

      The whole collection of essays on perfume materials can be found here:
      http://boisdejasmin.com/perfume-notes-index
      I’m adding others little by little. December 16, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

      • DDJ: Thank you so much for the link, Victoria — if I may.

        I can see that I’m going to be lying on your couch reading for quite sometime tonight. …Please let me know if the stereo’s too loud.

        My list is thirteen pages long. Not all single-spaced entires but none-the-less it does contain three hundred or so candidates for my “Holy Grail”.

        I’ve read that sampling can be much more informative if done by notes. And so I’m taking your post this morning as a nudge in that direction and Bergamot will be the first note that I use.

        There are other notes I’ve recognized as prominent in some of my other candidates and think now that I’ll persue those in your articles by way of a first-time-through selection…. So I am indebted to you for moving me along in my search. December 16, 2013 at 1:53pm Reply

        • Victoria: Please keep us updated on your search then! Yes, it definitely helps if you sample by a theme, but it also helps to take your time. Basically, live with a small selection of perfumes (2-3 would be enough) for a month and smell them every day. This way you really sharpen your nose and figure out what you like/dislike. December 16, 2013 at 2:40pm Reply

  • mridula: You write with such clarity. I really enjoyed reading this article. And I love the Bergamot note. Love even the word Bergamot. December 16, 2013 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Very glad that you liked the post. I’m a big fan of bergamot in all forms, so it was a fun topic for me to cover. December 16, 2013 at 2:06pm Reply

  • Aisha: You’ll probably laugh but I had no idea that bergamot was a fruit, much less a citrus fruit. I’m not sure what I thought it was, but I don’t associate it with fruit, as much as with an herb or spice of some sort. Learn something new each day. ;-)

    I love the smell of bergamot in Earl Grey tea. And you named many fragrances that I do enjoy too, like Cristalle. I also enjoy Coco, but can only handle a tiny drop at a time or I’ll get a massive headache. :-/

    Thanks again for this very informative post! December 16, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: There are so many of these unexplained materials in the press releases. I was recently reading something that mentioned “a beautiful smell of labdanum,” without even trying to identify what it might be.

      I’m with you on Coco, and it’s the most frustrating thing. I adore this fragrance, but it gives me a headache time to time. As a result, I don’t wear it often. But Sacre Bleu by Nicolai satisfies the same cravings for me. Strangely enough, it doesn’t bother me, even though it’s sweeter than Coco. December 16, 2013 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Gigi: I really had to laugh when I read this post…because it is exactly what I was thinking! I had heard of bergamot before, and Earl Grey tea is a favorite of mine, but up until this year I really had no idea what it was! I thought in some hazy indistinct way that it was an oil or spice or something.

      Thanks for demystifying this for me, Victoria, I’ve learned so much from you. December 17, 2013 at 12:26am Reply

      • Victoria: I know, it’s far from obvious based on the name alone. I’m glad that the post was helpful! :) December 17, 2013 at 11:37am Reply

  • Alicia: Thank you for this beautiful article on wonderful bergamot. Somewhere I read that it is among the substances now restricted by the European regulations, and remember asking myself if the fate of chypres was now sealed with this restriction added to the fatal one of oakmoss. Reading your article I realized that I love practically everything bergamot. In the summer Eau Sauvage becomes somehow indispensable. And Chanel Cristalle… December 16, 2013 at 11:32am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, some components in bergamot essences are photo-sensitizing. But the processing is done in such a way as to remove these components. It’s definitely true that the essence smells different as a result of the extra processing, but it still smells very good. December 16, 2013 at 2:22pm Reply

      • Alicia: Thank you for your answer, Victoria. There is an Hermes fragrance that I also wear during the summer, which I think has bergamot. If I am not mistaken it is a Jean Claude Ellena, Eau d’orange verte. My admiration for JCE is immense, although lately, in some of the Jardins he seems to be recycling some of his own notes. December 16, 2013 at 5:50pm Reply

        • Victoria: Eau d’orange verte was originally created by Francoise Caron, but the current version might be reworked by Ellena. I agree with you that lately it feels like he has been going through the same idea, in different permutations. But the new appointment of Christine Nagel as another perfumer at Hermes might change things. December 17, 2013 at 11:26am Reply

  • maja: Bergamotto craving now, too, and going instantly to prepare some Earl Grey. :)

    I love citrus in general and now I am so curious about what Divine Bergamote is actually.

    P.s. a lot of Guerlains for me are mouth-watering literally. Could it be the bergamot note? December 16, 2013 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: They also have lots of tasty elements like tonka bean, vanilla, vanilla scented balsams. Maybe, you’re getting them too? Vanilla and bergamot is a delicious combination. December 16, 2013 at 2:23pm Reply

  • Patricia: Any perfume with a big bergamot opening immediately gets my attention. My favorite tea is Earl Grey, my favorite bergamot perfume is Divine Bergamote. It’s the combination of bergamot and ginger that is so refreshing on a hot summer’s day. My only complaint is that it doesn’t last long enough! December 16, 2013 at 12:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: So many bergamot fans here! :)
      I often like to spray Divine Bergamote into my lotion (something lightly scented or unscented) to give it more boost, and it works well. December 16, 2013 at 2:28pm Reply

      • Patricia: Thanks, V., I’ll try that! December 17, 2013 at 9:36am Reply

  • Andrea Marie: It made me smile to notice that the 2 perfumes you mentioned but had not reviewed (or at least there was no link) are Pink Sugar and Aramis. I think they have been so overdone that no review is needed! I really love Colette and Eau d’Hadrian, but had no idea that they shared this ingredient. It’s funny; I have never cared for Earl Grey tea, even as a child, as it always seemed like drinking perfume. Now I know why! December 16, 2013 at 2:02pm Reply

    • Annette Reynolds: Andrea Marie: You hit the nail on the head. I love bergamot in perfumes but can’t stand Earl Grey tea! To me, also, it is EXACTLY like drinking perfume. December 16, 2013 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: And here I was thinking that I should review them at some point, because both are such interesting perfumes. Pink Sugar redefined the gourmands, and Aramis is the classical, old-school chypre.

      Your comment reminded me how I tried taking a sip of cologne once a la Scarlett O’Hara, and that was one of my worst perfume experiences to date. :) December 16, 2013 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Douglas: Excellent piece Victoria. Especially during the colder months, I cannot get enough of the little ‘prince’s pear.’ A very important component in the construction of Christopher Street, but also a scent that will forever remind me of my grandma and her obsession with Earl Grey tea. Something about its smell always makes me smile. December 16, 2013 at 2:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Doug!
      Speaking of pear, in Russia, bergamot refers to a type of pear. It doesn’t smell of bergamots, but it’s one of the most perfumed pears I’ve tried. December 16, 2013 at 2:48pm Reply

      • Alicia: That is interesting,Victoria. I suspect that Russians took the idea of pears-bergamot from the Turkish for bergamot: beg-armudi “prince’s pear”. December 16, 2013 at 6:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: The bergamot-pears look very much like bergamots in terms of their shape! December 17, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

  • MaryAnn: Thank you so VERY much for this wonderful article. I have always loved bergamot. In fact, I NEED it. And now that I know that it is in two of my favourite scents: Eau Sauvage and Miss Dior, I feel soooo much more educated, ahem. What surprised me was that you’ve informed me of what it was in Shalimar that made me love it too! A french cousin brought me a bottle in 1988 and even though I could only wear it when I wanted to feel sultry (when not teaching in my grade four classroom!), I really loved it too. SO complex and …darling. Sadly, that bottle is gone…used up on on evenings under the moon and stars. Now I’m compelled to try it again. I must say: Discovering your Blog has been one of the best things that has happened for me! I’ve always been fascinated with scents of many kinds and your wonderful explanations enrich my world.

    I’m recalling a scent that I still love, but have little access to any more: the scent of fresh lanolin in sheep’s wool. It was MY job to bundle the fresh fleeces while the Basque men sheared my flock. My boots and forearms would soak up the lanolin and the smell was heady. I still love it and recently when I made a new friend who kept a small flock for her own needs, I asked her to bring me some fresh wool the next time she sheared. I keep it in my studio and just enjoy it’s fragrance. I don’t think this is an unusual enjoyment, but not everyone would agree. :) You should ask your following to submit “unusual” pleasures in scent. I would bet that everyone of them would lead to some ingredient in a famous fragrance ! December 16, 2013 at 2:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your nice words, MaryAnn. I’m so happy that we can share these stories, and I must say that yours would top all of mine. But I know what you mean about the smell, because I use natural sheep’s wool in my pointe shoes for ballet, and when I warm it up in my hands to stuff inside the hard shoe, there is always this faint smell of lanolin.

      By the way, whenever I have been among sheep, which admittedly hasn’t been often, I liked their smell very much. I remember it as sweet, grassy, a little sour. December 16, 2013 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Ann: I love the idea of filling the house with bowls of bergamot. Goodness, I never considered that I might be able to buy the fruit myself. Your pictures are so inviting!

    A neighbor passed on a sample of Le Labo’s Bergamote 22, which when I sprayed it the first time instantly transported me back to stepping into warm, bright department stores in NYC on dark winter days–that blast of heated cologne, herbs and fragrant wood. The fragrance quickly goes orange-blossomy, which is pretty, but not terribly interesting. But if you want to sniff a totally un-chypre, un-oriental bergamot, that is more unisex than masculine, Le Labo’s version might do it. December 16, 2013 at 2:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll have to revisit Bergamote 22, if only for your tempting description!

      Bergamot zest mixed into yogurt + some honey drizzled on top turned out to be a delicious experiment this morning. I’m now tempted to use bergamot in everything. :) December 16, 2013 at 2:54pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: Wow, great article. I did not realize that bergamot was a special type of citrus. Somehow I thought it was a type of grass or leaves- don’t know how I got that idea! Can you eat them or make bergamotade out of them? I love anything citrus. I really love the Sicilian arancia- so delicious. December 16, 2013 at 2:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: :) Yes, you can make jams, syrups, candied, etc. with bergamot. Ripe bergamot is delicious peeled and tossed with seafood and parsley for a refreshing salad. Actually, you can use it the same way you would use lemons, as I’m discovering. December 16, 2013 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Ann: Eau de Tommi Sooni II also starts off with bergamot. A beautiful green Oriental.

    As always, an excellent synopsis of bergamot! December 16, 2013 at 4:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Ann. I need to try more of this line, because I really don’t know it well. December 17, 2013 at 11:00am Reply

  • Bert: Nice write-up on bergamot. I’m not only fond of Earl Grey tea (or as the French say: thé au bergamote) but I love it in perfumes too. I adore Eau Sauvage because of its lovely bergamot note. Fresh, crisp, sparkling and bitter. For me Eau Sauvage is my holy grail, that’s why I have quite a lot of it. BTW don’t forget its flankers: ES 100% Glacon, ES Fraicheur Cuir and ES Parfum. Each has its special properties but all share a nice bergamot note. ES Extreme however doesn’t appeal to me.

    And now it’s time for a nice cup of Earl Grey tea… December 16, 2013 at 4:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also liked Eau Sauvage Parfum. It has a different character from the original, but it’s also very good. And lots of bergamot there too! December 17, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

  • solanace: It’s always a pleasure reading your insightful articles, Victoria! As it turns out, you mentioned most of my perfume loves, from Shalimar to Eau d’Hadrien, and bergamot seems to be the element connecting them. And I even have a tree – great for seasoning chicken! December 16, 2013 at 5:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: How lucky! Have you tried doing something with the leaves? I’m not sure if they are edible, but they also smell amazing. December 17, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

      • solanace: I treat all my citrus leaves as kaffir lime ones, now that you raised the issue… but nah, they gotta be edible! We have lemon, lime, bergamot and orange trees, and now I’m on the hunt for a yuzu, after reading a post from you. Love hunting for exotic plants! (Even my garden is a hoarder garden!) December 17, 2013 at 11:26am Reply

        • Victoria: Sounds like paradise! My garden is a plant box our landlord left behind. It sprouted chives and a mini oak tree this summer, none of which I planted. But I made use of the chives. :) December 17, 2013 at 11:42am Reply

          • Solanace: I have great memories of my tiny balcony in Paris. :) Here I have 500 m2 to hoard my native and citrus fruit trees, but no Guerlain in sight, hélas… December 17, 2013 at 4:38pm Reply

            • Victoria: I have no Guerlain in the vicinity either. :) December 18, 2013 at 7:53am Reply

  • Alessandra: Such an interesting read. I’d say that, Guerlain-wise, bergamot is far more evident in L’Heure Bleue than it is in Shalimar but perhaps the most intriguing effect is in Shalimar, exactly cos of that! December 16, 2013 at 5:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Perhaps, it stands out to you more against the velvety sweetness of L’Heure Bleue. Either way, such a great way to use this note. December 17, 2013 at 11:21am Reply

      • Alessandra: Yes, I guess it’s cos of that! And yes, most intriguing ways, those ones… very non-obvious end results! :) December 17, 2013 at 11:29am Reply

  • Ariadne: Lovely post! To me bergamot is indeed a captivating scent. Ingesting it or applying the oil to the skin ay cause increased photo-sensitivity especially in combo w/certain medications. This is mentioned above by a reader.
    Some gardening zones are too harsh to grow bergamot but a wonderful substitute is monarda or ‘Bee Balm’. Same smell, different plant entirely. Hummingbirds love the perennial monarda and it makes a lovely cut flower. Steeping a few bee balm leaves when preparing iced tea is wonderful tonic! It also has antiseptic properties like chamomile.
    In perfume I think there is little that would not marry well with bergamot and it is welcoming in any temperature or season. December 16, 2013 at 5:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: As I was mentioning in one of the replies, the bergamot oil today is produced without the photo-sensitizing elements. The current regulations are very strict about it, and some of the complaints about the reformulations have to do a lot with the “fixed” bergamot oil. It has a somewhat different scent, which is obvious in fragrances that use a lot of it.

      I’m definitely going to look for some monarda. I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds like a very interesting plant and it might even grow in our climate. December 17, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

      • Ariadne: Apologies, I missed your post about the new production method for the oil! I have recently found a ‘Lady Grey’ tea by Twining’s that is lighter and different than the ‘Earl’ version and to my added delight now see your new post on teas!! December 18, 2013 at 9:06am Reply

        • Victoria: That’s an important concern, and your comment added some other information. Thank you, no need to apologize!

          I tried Lady Grey tea that had little bits of cornflowers mixed it, and it was very pretty. The taste, as you say, is much milder. December 18, 2013 at 1:12pm Reply

  • Sandra: Thanks Victoria, I don’t have the original shalimar but the ODVanille version and the initial but maybe I should smell the original to smell the bergamot , or is there some in these ones I have? I am not sure heat I am suppose to be smelling :-)
    Stay warm ! December 16, 2013 at 6:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: There is plenty of bergamot in Ode a la Vanille (but less than in Shalimar), and I love it. I’ve been wearing it even more than the original Shalimar lately, because it feels softer. December 17, 2013 at 11:28am Reply

      • Alessandra: Are they issuing ode à la vanille as a limited edition this year, too? I missed my turn, last year… nowhere to be found here :( December 17, 2013 at 11:31am Reply

        • Victoria: I’m not sure, but they might be. It’s one of their best selling editions, and I hope that they will just make it permanent. December 17, 2013 at 11:41am Reply

          • Alessandra: I’d like to try it once, at least, so I, too, hope they make it permanent, it seems such an exciting composition on the cards! No-one seems to know her in Florence (Italy), which is bizzarre… perhaps I should try and ask to the Guerlain shop in Paris when I come over, but that won’t be before the end of February… wonder if they’d still have some bottles. I should probably send them an email.. December 17, 2013 at 6:34pm Reply

            • Victoria: You should definitely contact them. If anything, worth checking whether they will have a new edition soon. December 18, 2013 at 8:00am Reply

  • Julie: This was a fascinating read!
    I often see bergamot as a top note of many fragrance compositions that I just assumed it was an inexpensive ingredient and easy to use. Now I know so much more.
    A fragrance I’ve recently been really enjoying is Bottega Veneta which feature bergamot, where else, in its top notes. December 16, 2013 at 6:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not one of the most expensive ingredients, but one still has to pay premium for good quality bergamot. But you’re right, it’s a very popular note, and besides everything else, it has a nice longevity unlike some other citruses. December 17, 2013 at 11:29am Reply

  • Amer: Actually I have always identified Bergamot as “that fragrance note” but it’s hard to imagine any type of modern fragrance without it. It is literally everywhere, even in places you’d least expect it. It blends well and like all the pillar-notes of perfumery, it has many aspects that a perfumer may choose to highlight. It can be juicy, powdery, green, aldehydic, floral, etc, depending on the context. Because of that, it can be a chameleon and sometimes difficult to identify in a composition.

    I am surprised that Eau Sauvage contains 40%!!! With that percentage I wouldn’t expect any lasting power at all! December 16, 2013 at 7:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s close to 40%, somewhere between 35 and 40%, but still, it’s a lot. Bergamot has a great drydown note, and if a perfumer knows how to extend it, you can have a very longlasting perfume. December 17, 2013 at 11:30am Reply

  • kaori: Thank you for a great photo and this is my first time to see Bergamots, they are good looking :) I love to eat and enjoy its taste! December 16, 2013 at 9:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: They’re quite pretty and very juicy. The taste of these green ones is sharp and tart, but they really do taste the way they smell. December 17, 2013 at 11:32am Reply

  • nozknoz: Thanks for this “Aha!” moment, Victoria! This post highlights so many of my favorite perfumes, and it’s fun to see so many other gentle commenters with the same reaction. It almost feels like the revelation of a secret society that was so secret, even the members didn’t even know about it!

    I was surprised to love 28 La Pausa and Coco when many other Chanels left me cold. Now I suspect the difference may be bergamot.

    I’d LOVE to find fresh ones – that has to be a revelation, too. December 16, 2013 at 11:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: I remember as a child asking my uncle what bergamot was, and he misheard me as “permanent,” a Russian word for perm. So, for some time I was very confused and decided that the bergamot oil in Earl Grey tea must have been used for hair curling. :)

      Once I spotted fresh bergamots at the farmer’s market in California, so it’s worth checking around this time. Of course, you might also find Meyer lemons right now (not available here), and they also have an amazing scent. December 17, 2013 at 11:36am Reply

  • Parfumista: Shalimar Initial L’Eau has a great bergamot-fizz IMO December 17, 2013 at 5:29am Reply

    • Victoria: It does, and I like the opening very much too. December 17, 2013 at 11:39am Reply

  • Ficus: Aaah Bergamot! For me, it has a slightly melancholic touch, compared to the other Hesperides… I really love the well balanced Eau de Cologne (Chanel Les Exclusives); the first 10 minutes are fantastic, before it disappears in a fine muscy-something. December 17, 2013 at 5:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m a bit on the fence about Chanel’s Eau de Cologne for this very reason. The drydown is just not that exciting. December 17, 2013 at 11:40am Reply

  • Gentiana: Thak you for giving again your time and energy for doing such a good, informative article.
    Bergamote iwas one of the first notes I learned to identify in perfume after the obvious and well-known floral smells. That’s because I liked so much the Earl Grey Tea. And I still do.
    I am happy you listed some of my favourite perfumes: Cristalle, Shalimar, Divine Bergamote. I owned Mitsouko and finished it with mixed feelings. I have Eau d’Hadrien and I hope it will grow on me. Maybe the vintage was better – without that linear, cheap chemist’s shop smell… Maybe it is me (my nose or my body chemistry) the problem.. I don’t know.
    Your blog gives me a lot of joy.
    I wish you a wonderful Christmas. December 17, 2013 at 8:41am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s true, it’s one of the easy notes to learn, because you can easily find some Earl Grey tea and sniff it for reference. The initial peppery-citrusy explosion is bergamot!

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I wish you happy holidays too! December 17, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

  • Gentiana: I forgot!
    Actually I like a lot Eau du Sud – Annick Goutal… Works for me better than Eau d’Hadrien.
    And Bulgari’s Eau Parfumee Au The Vert Extreme… Mmmmm…. December 17, 2013 at 8:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I should have included Eau Parfumee Au The Vert, because it’s one of my other favorites and it has lots of bergamot. Thank you for reminding me. December 17, 2013 at 11:49am Reply

      • Alessandra: oh i like that one, too. just took the sample out of the box, this morning, so i will probably wear it tomorrow morning December 17, 2013 at 6:46pm Reply

  • Alice: I also really like Le Labo Bergamot 22 – I have the pump body lotion next to my basin, its particularly enjoyable in this format. One day I may invest in the edp as well! December 17, 2013 at 11:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, the lotion sounds very nice. I usually just blend a few drops of bergamot essence (or some bergamot cologne) into an unscented lotion, and it’s an instant boost. December 17, 2013 at 11:44am Reply

  • Nancy A.: Only today being I had a sample of Oud and Bergamot saved for which was appropriate for this snowy day but the crispness of the air makes up for it what ultimately makes for a messy day in NY. I believe most classic and newer Guerlain fragrances for that matter include a note of bergamot, if I am not mistaken. Bergamot, chypre, oakmoss it’s all good! And these reviews give me better insight as to what I’ve come to appreciate. December 17, 2013 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’ve noticed it too, then. I feel that the big bergamot top is even more of a norm now than it used to be. Even Chanel No 5 has much more bergamot in the current formula, in contrast to the original. It makes the fragrance more instantly appealing and gives it more freshness. December 17, 2013 at 4:29pm Reply

  • johanob: You guys are probably gonna think I am reeeeeaaaallly stupid,but:I NEVER knew Bergamot was actually from a Citrus Fruit!!Lol!!
    I thought it was a herb or something like sage or rosemary!Ha!Thanks again Victoria for the enlightenment!And to think its one of my favorite perfume notes…And I love Earl Grey tea!Terre d’Hermes is my favorite,although some people find no Bergamot in it!This perfume-addict has a lot to still learn!:-)) December 17, 2013 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re not alone, and it’s hardly stupid. It’s not bergamot is a household name. :) Even Earl Grey tins don’t always explain what bergamot is, so not surprising that it’s confusing. When I was growing up, I thought that bergamot was a pear, because as I mentioned to Douglas, in Ukraine, there is a type of pear called bergamot. It looks round and squat, like a citrus fruit. December 18, 2013 at 7:56am Reply

  • Lora Wooten: Thanks for sharing your knowledge on perfume and the many notes that make up the elixirs that we love!
    I have found out that I too enjoy bergamot. I have many fragrances that include it. Like, Mitsouko and 31 Rue Cambon, Samsara, Shalimar and Eau de Shalimar. I also adore rich orientals like Coco and Lacquered Rose by X-Ray (I have requested Coco for Christmas and can hardly wait to receive it!)
    I’ve been snooping on Fragrantica for more fragrances that include bergamot since your article. You help to make my understanding grow, thanks! December 17, 2013 at 8:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a coincidence! I’ve been tested Lacquered Rose by X-Ray as well, and I agree, there is a hit of citrus in the top notes that’s delicious. December 18, 2013 at 8:02am Reply

  • Maren: I continue to learn so much from your great writing. I had no idea Shalimar or so many others that are mentioned have bergamot, so I’m excited to go back and experience these favorite perfumes and try to pick out the note. I’m actually wearing a heavy dose of 28 La Pausa tonight and trying to pick out the bergamot. I guess I better go pull out the Earl Grey tea to help me! December 17, 2013 at 10:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Maren, yes, in La Pausa, you will notice mostly in the top notes, but once the iris and musks take over, it becomes more muted. But the initial citrusy-peppery bit is the bergamot. December 18, 2013 at 8:03am Reply

  • Figuier: Thanks for this gorgeous article, it had me rushing to find my sample of Eau D’Hadrien and dab generously. Can’t imagine finding anything so exotic as bergamots in the shops here, but one can dream…would love to have a squeeze of bergamot in my Earl Grey tea for a doube bergamot hit :)

    Also love the idea of using bergamot oil to freshen a house; I just received a beautiful carved stone essential oil burner thing as a Christmas gift, so will have to try this out… December 18, 2013 at 3:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Earl Grey with fresh bergamot is a great idea. I liked bergamot instead of lemon in mayonnaise. It makes for such a surprising flavor. Bergamot season is unfortunately very short, so I have to devise new ways to experiment with them. December 18, 2013 at 8:09am Reply

  • george: Just reading this makes me long for a bottle of Pour Monsieur (which I assume has bergamot in it) but I haven’t owned a bottle of this since approx 1996, and I’m afraid that trying it will just make me mournful. I loved this article though, and bergamot is such a great ingredient- excellent for what I would describe as giving ‘cut’ to a fragrance. December 18, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a great way of putting it. It sort of like using lemon juice in a rich butter sauce; it immediately gives a cleaner, fresher taste. December 18, 2013 at 1:25pm Reply

  • Yulya: A beautiful article, beautifully illustrated, too! As always, a real pleasure to read. My long journey to Shalimar is not Yeats over, however I hope that I will be able to appreciate its beauty. One day. Among others that contain bergamot notes, 31 Rue Cambon is the one that comes to mind. Love it and wear it more and more often. December 18, 2013 at 7:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Yulya! 31 Rue Cambon is another one of those unusual modern chypre perfumes without oakmoss but with bergamot. For me, it’s the best from the newer Les Exclusifs. December 19, 2013 at 3:29am Reply

  • Cheryl: I love Jo Malone’s Earl Grey & Cucumber! January 4, 2014 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried it yet, but I like the description. January 4, 2014 at 2:14pm Reply

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