The Beauty of Simple Things : Orange

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

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27 Comments

  • Robin Gibbs: Orange is my favorite smell in the world. If only, they could create an orange perfume that lasted more than a few minutes. It is the ultimate “happy place” for me. I am alright with adding some grapefruit to it also. May 21, 2021 at 9:58am Reply

    • Victoria: I also like a combination of orange and grapefruit for a bittersweet effect. May 30, 2021 at 8:48am Reply

  • Marsi: Yesterday I re-read your March 20, 2020, post called “Asya’s Secret,” and it brought me so much relief from chronic anxiety that I printed it for repeated readings. Thank you, belatedly, for sharing this story about your wise great-grandmother, Victoria.

    It helped me realize that I read the news not to become better informed or enlightened, but rather because I’m in endless search of clues that we will be all right. (I’m live in the U.S.) This has been my daily habit, if not addictive impulse, for decades now and very few times have I found that reassurance from the headlines. And yet I have persisted with the impulse. What madness!

    The history Asya endured is remarkable. She knew her limitations and worked within them and sought beauty and small daily pleasures. She is my inspiration. May 21, 2021 at 10:02am Reply

    • Iana CraneWing: I would like to read the post you reference from March 2020 but cannot see how they o find it. Can you share the link please?
      Thank you! May 23, 2021 at 11:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Marsi. It’s gratifying to read your comment. I wrote that article thinking of this very issue. It gave me hope to recall Asya and her philosophy, and I wished to share this sentiment with others. May 30, 2021 at 8:49am Reply

  • Akshada Deo: At my previous office I would always have some fruit at the end of every lunch. Everytime I had one or a couple of oranges my colleague would always say what perfume do you use, and at the time I hadn’t started my perfume journey yet.

    Peeling of the fruit perfumed me for the rest of the day. May 21, 2021 at 10:54am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree! That fresh burst of scent is addictive. May 30, 2021 at 8:50am Reply

  • Lari: I am in the unfortunate position of being quite allergic to oranges-largely eating them. If someone is nearby in the room eating an orange, I have to step away. That said, I rather like the smell and when i was a child (allergic then as well but not in the same way), i liked oranges.
    I enjoy Chanel Christalle, edp, mandarin notes. Dosesn’t bother me. I like aldehydes and so many are orange as top note Some bother me and others do and I never know what its going to be. I am curious if an orange allergy would extend to orange blossom because I like that as well. May 21, 2021 at 11:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh no! And it’s such a common note too.
      I don’t think that orange blossom should an issue. It doesn’t come from the same plant. May 30, 2021 at 8:51am Reply

  • kat: Atelier Cologne has wonderful Advent Calendars with many of their orange inspired scents as samples. I treated myself four years ago and it was great fun.
    Last Christmas I received an orange-scented shower gel/body lotion gift set. I finally gave it a try and it’s heavenly. I love orange notes whenever I feel a bit tired of florals and leather’s are too much. They are so up-lifting.
    And I always have a jar of frozen orange zests in the freezer (since non-treated oranges are not available all year). I love adding them – a little goes a long way – to blancmange, chocolate flans or shortbread. May 21, 2021 at 11:31am Reply

    • Margot: I love Odeyo even though I have never experienced Yuzu.. It’s different not too strong but with good lasting power at least on me. May 22, 2021 at 1:33pm Reply

      • Victoria: Oyedo captures the idea of yuzu really well! May 30, 2021 at 8:51am Reply

    • Victoria: I do too. I usually keep bitter orange peels, frozen, dried or candied, for this same reason. May 30, 2021 at 8:51am Reply

  • Old Herbaceous: I like orange notes in fragrance; one of my favorites is the blood orange top note in Atelier des Ors’ Choeur Des Anges. Really lovely! May 21, 2021 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Klaas: I cut orange chunks into my breakfast cereal every morning. It is THE cure for winter depression. From the cutting to the eating, it’s all a delight!

    Eau d’Hermes is basically an orange perfume in its current formulation. Happily paired with soft leather and a hint of musk. It’s very nice! Azemour is another favorite orange pefume. Though nothing beats the real thing……. May 22, 2021 at 7:07am Reply

    • Victoria: When my lime tree was in bloom, it was just sublime. The scent is not like that of bitter orange blossoms, though, and it’s much thinner. Still, such a treat. May 30, 2021 at 8:53am Reply

  • Brigitte: Atelier cologne Orange Sanguine is my favorite orange fragrance. May 22, 2021 at 4:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s really well-done! May 30, 2021 at 8:53am Reply

  • Aurora: Your list is wonderful,Amor Amor and Hermes Eau d’Orange Verte (especially the cream) are favorites of mine too. I hadn’t thought of En Avion in this context so I’m going to pay attention to the orange when I wear it next. I also enjoy Prada Infusion de Mandarine so much. May 23, 2021 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: Prada did the whole collection of Infusions really well. It captured the idea of natural essences, even if the result is abstract. May 30, 2021 at 8:54am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: Ah, En Avion, that unicorn of perfumes! Never seen it anywhere on sale, never smelled it! The glowing reviews of the vintage edition makes one truly wonder why Caron axed it many years ago? May 24, 2021 at 1:37am Reply

    • Victoria: It makes no sense to me either. I was told that it didn’t sell well and that they needed to trim down the collection. May 30, 2021 at 8:55am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: My favorite perfume with orange notes is Heeley’s Oranges and Lemons and I also like Tauer’s Orange Star and Eau de Orange Verte by Hermes. May 24, 2021 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Notturno7: I’m catching up on my emails today and finding these lovely posts of yours. I really enjoyed your video on the recent post about classic perfumes and I almost mentioned there how I love En Avion vintage extrait I found on ebay and now I see you mentioned it here, Victoria.
    To my less experienced nose, it stands close to Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko classics.
    I love the moss and dark orange peel and the whole brooding drama it brings with itself. I’m a very sunny and optimistic person so I gives me some balance perhaps. Just kidding. 🙃
    I really enjoy your writing, the wonderful knowledge, and the kindness and tactfulness you show on this blog.
    I’d love to improve my foreign languages and I’ll happily use your tips and websites from your other post. I hope I find someone I can practice French, Italian or German in exchange for English or Croatian. Can’t wait to try. Thank you, Victoria. June 6, 2021 at 8:12pm Reply

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