Golden Mandarins of Winter

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. In my recent FT column, Mandarin Scents, I describe why I enjoy this ingredient, what makes it different from other citruses and which perfumes one should try.

Take, for example, Prada Infusion Mandarine. 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. To continue reading, please click here.

If you have favorite citrus perfumes for winter, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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52 Comments

  • Anne: I like Atelier Cologne Mandarine Basilic. January 11, 2019 at 8:47am Reply

    • Anne: Oops, I meant Aqua Allegoria Guerlain! January 11, 2019 at 8:48am Reply

    • Victoria: I like it too, especially layered with Herba Fresca. January 11, 2019 at 10:14am Reply

  • Hayley: My favorites are Nicolai Cap Neroli and Diptyque Eau des Sens, though for a fun pulpy note that brightens the winter gloom Arielle Shoshanna (passionfruit!) is great! January 11, 2019 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m testing Eau des Sens right now! January 11, 2019 at 10:13am Reply

      • CC: I wear that a lot, would love to hear your thoughts. Not smelling like any particular memory I have, it’s still one of those scents that feels like coming home. January 13, 2019 at 2:14pm Reply

        • CC: I just remembered Yuzu-themed Oyedo, another crisp delight. To me citrus fragrances in winter feel like licking snowflakes. January 13, 2019 at 2:21pm Reply

          • Victoria: Citrus fragrances in winter feel like licking snowflakes.–> what a beautiful way of putting it! January 14, 2019 at 4:43am Reply

        • Victoria: I like it very much. The combination of dry, spicy notes with orange blossom and musk is so appealing. It might make my list of winter citruses. January 14, 2019 at 4:46am Reply

  • Muriel: Hello, all I wanted for the winter was also a citrus perfume, but not the same as a summer citrus and in the end I found Bois Iridescent from Mizensir (Alberto Morillas) which is also based on Mandarin and bergamot, which is very pleasant on dark mornings! it is also very soft and all I need to cuddle up, but now that I’ve worn it for some time (winter never ends in Belgium, does it?), I think the mandarin could have been a little more zesty or bitter… January 11, 2019 at 9:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Bois Iridescent is beautiful!

      It seems that winter never comes to Belgium anymore! It’s so warm here and there is no snow. And summers are becoming hotter and hotter. But still, I love citrus perfumes all year round. January 11, 2019 at 10:13am Reply

  • StellaDiverFlynn: I usually prefer citrus combined with fluffy musk or vanilla for colder months, such as Tauer L’Eau and Eau de Shalimar, but Providence Lemon Liada is one pure citrus that I’d happily use even in winter. January 11, 2019 at 11:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, the combination with vanilla is a great one. January 14, 2019 at 4:32am Reply

  • Austenfan: I was practically salivating reading this. Love the smell of mandarins and haven’t tried any of these. You make all of them sound great but the Artisan sounds particularly enticing. Quentin Bisch is quite a young perfumer I think? I love immortelle and have never smelled paired with citrus, I think. January 11, 2019 at 11:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Not to such a strong extent. Quentin Bisch has been working for a number of years, but his most interesting work is for the small brands. He never fails to surprise. January 14, 2019 at 4:33am Reply

      • Austenfan: It’s all in the eye of the beholder I suppose 😉

        L’Artisan are doing quite good work at the moment, aren’t they? January 14, 2019 at 8:47am Reply

  • Klaas Backx: Hello Victoria, citrus is a cure for (almost) everything anyway! My favorite citruses are Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat (Guerlain), Cedrat Intense (de Nicolai), Neroli Dore (Hermes) and the classic Chanel pour Monsieur. Whip from Le Galion is like sprinkling a sgroppino on your skin, there’s nothing like it to release that ‘inner summer’ 😉

    And thank you for your description of immortelle. The maple syrup reference is spot on! It is very clear in Pozzo di Borgo’s 19 Mai, very salty caramelly indeed! January 11, 2019 at 11:37am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you know a spice called fenugreek? It also makes me think of immortelle. January 14, 2019 at 4:34am Reply

  • AndreaR: I’ll second Cap Neroli and add Atelier Cologne’s Pomelo Paradis. January 11, 2019 at 11:37am Reply

  • Noemi: There’s a mandarin tree in the backyard of my Parents house in Spain. Mandarins are the scent of happy Winter vacation for me. Thank you for this story. January 11, 2019 at 1:05pm Reply

    • Melissa: Do you live in Spain, too? January 11, 2019 at 10:05pm Reply

    • Gabriela: I live in Barcelona and the smell of mandarin is indeed the smell of winter…. January 12, 2019 at 7:17am Reply

    • Victoria: What a nice association! January 14, 2019 at 4:34am Reply

  • Tami: Citrus is my absolute favorite fragrance. My go-to is the all-too-ephemeral Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat by Guerlain. This winter I picked up Jo Malone Orange Bitters and Lancome Oranges Bigarades. Both feel very wintery and cozy to me, and neither are pure “citrus,” but they are citrus “enough” for me, at times.

    I also love Jo Malone Orange Blossom, but that’s less citrusy and more floral, to me at least.

    I’d love to wear a fragrance reminiscent of everything you smell when you unpeel and eat a Satsuma! I do like the Atelier Cologne you mention. Excited to check out the others! January 11, 2019 at 1:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your description of Orange Blossom is spot on. I also like it very much. January 14, 2019 at 4:35am Reply

  • John: My wife gifted me a 1.7 OZ bottle of the wonderful Concentre d’Orange Verte by Hermès this winter for our anniversary, which reminds me of oranges (and basil!) but also tangerines or clementines or mandarins, the latter because there is a sort of creamy-smooth coolness along with the tart (pith & peel) and green aspects of the scent. I’ve only worn it to bed a few times, as I’m traveling someplace warm in the spring and want to connect the memory to the fragrance in a very deliberate way, but I can see how it would give someone a lot of pleasure to wear such a naturalistic, calming scent in the cold. To me, this is on the naturalism-as-lyricism side of something like Eau Sauvage or Atelier’s Trefle Pur, but also in its own way as a sort of soliflore composition (solifructus?) or should I say meditation, is self-contained and perfect. January 11, 2019 at 3:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: A perfect gift for you, it seems. It’s one of the best colognes in its style, dry, bracing, elegant. January 14, 2019 at 4:36am Reply

  • Amber: Have you tried Mandarine EDC by Roger & Gallet? Would love your opinion on that one! January 11, 2019 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: It smells more like sweet orange than mandarin to me, but it’s very good. And it lasts well. January 14, 2019 at 4:37am Reply

  • Toni Kennington: What a small world. This morning I went looking for a citrus scent.
    I love Aerin Love for 3 Oranges. January 11, 2019 at 5:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Perfect timing. 🙂 January 14, 2019 at 4:37am Reply

  • Tiffanie: Lovely! I am a kindred spirit in winter. I wear Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat often in this season. It cheers me and lifts my spirits like little else can. Thank you for sharing your fragranct life and insights with us. My perfume love is revived. 😀 January 11, 2019 at 6:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear this. 🙂 January 14, 2019 at 4:37am Reply

  • Gordon: Lacoste Challenge has a nice bright mandarin opening. January 12, 2019 at 6:55am Reply

    • Victoria: It does have a great top note. January 14, 2019 at 4:39am Reply

  • Aurora: I couldn’t agree more cologne is one of the joys of winter and you make me discover new ones: Infusion de Mandarine and Mandarina Corsica sound especially appealing. I keep a bottle of basic Eau de Cologne in the bathroom: Mont St Michel, Bien-Etre, vintage 4711 (heavy on neroli) are favorites from my childhood, and on my perfume shelves at the moment: CD Eau Fraiche – deceptively simple but nothing smells quite like it, I acquired a vintage bottle in the depth of winter, a real bargain, and opened it at once – Lancome O de l’Orangerie – a flanker I love even better than the original, it starts bitter and evolves to sweet and that twist keeps me interested. Another one I’ve discovered is Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger Neroli Blanc EDC, I don’t own it because I went for the EDP in the end which is my favorite Neroli/Orange Blossom but I have kept it in mind for a future purchase. January 12, 2019 at 9:27am Reply

    • Klaas: Christian Dior Eau Fraiche is a gem!! My mum used to wear it back in the deep 80’s and I stole some many a time. You’re right, it smells deceptively simple but the quality is just extraordinary! Trust Roudniska…..it has that gorgeous pre-restrictions base with lots of oakmoss and rosewood. So nice……did your vintage keep its citrussy sparkle all right? January 12, 2019 at 11:18am Reply

      • Aurora: Hello Klaas: Yes, the citrus smells intact, and it smelled just as I remembered. I went for vintage as it was so affordable but Christian Dior has kept Eau Fraiche in Les Creations de Monsieur Dior Collection, it would be interesting to compare one day. January 14, 2019 at 3:19am Reply

    • Victoria: So many choices to add to the list. Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger Neroli Blanc is very good. A perfect uplifting citrus. January 14, 2019 at 4:40am Reply

    • Victoria: And Eau Fraiche is a true find! January 14, 2019 at 4:40am Reply

  • Silvermoon: Citrusy colognes certainly are great for lifting ones mood in winter, awakening that inner summer. So, I enjoy wearing them in the winter months. However, I tend to prefer them in the later months of winter – partly as an incantation luring spring to us and partly as a refreshing switch from the warm and spicier notes of the early winter and festive season.

    I have never tried the AC Mandarine Glaciale, but will check next time I am in London (the people at the Covent Garden shop are really helpful and friendly). However, three other AC come to mind: Grand Neroli, Trefle Pur and Orange Sanguine. All would cheer up a cold winter morning.

    I am also going to try some of the others suggested above. January 12, 2019 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: All three, Grand Neroli, Trefle Pur and Orange Sanguine, are excellent. I like the way Atelier Cologne does citrus, never quite classical and with a twist. Not am easy thing to do, since it’s such a common note. January 14, 2019 at 4:42am Reply

  • Wendy Jean Knospe: Essence Rare has a wonderful mandarin infusion! January 12, 2019 at 6:32pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: I am most attracted to the scent of mandarine, not sure why though. Probably because it’s the pudding of citrus scents? I own Eau de mandarine ambrée by Hermès (however, not so enamoured), and Caron’s Nocturne (vintage), which has a subtle mandarine scent.
    I’d love to get a whiff of Lutens’ Mandarine Mandarin—but it is most reclusive. Then again I read it smells more of celery than mandarine… January 13, 2019 at 3:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Eau de mandarine ambrée is not quite strong enough on mandarin for me. Other notes dominate it more. The same goes for Mandarine Mandarin. January 14, 2019 at 4:43am Reply

  • Inma: We live in Spain and we eat mandarinas every day during these months. Never focused on them for a perfume though. So curious now.
    I do love Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien during cold days. It was unexpected for me feeling so comfortable with a fresh smell during cold days. January 14, 2019 at 4:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I do too. It was one of the first citrus perfumes I fell in love with. I also enjoy Eau du Sud from Goutal, but some people find the cumin note in it too much. January 14, 2019 at 7:19am Reply

  • Matty: \another vote for Eau d’hadrien January 14, 2019 at 4:41am Reply

    • Victoria: A classic from Goutal. January 14, 2019 at 7:18am Reply

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