Thursday, September 13, 2018

Orange Blossom and Neroli

Synonymous with sunshine and the Mediterranean, also weddings, orange blossom is a popular note in perfumery, either in the background as part of a floral perfume bouquet, or as a soliflore.

In absolute it's slightly animalic, milky and sweet, but often in perfumery it's accompanied by other parts of the orange tree; leaves, twigs and bark (petitgrain) lending a more astringent green scent, also orange itself (from the peel, though aroma-chemicals may be added for a transparent effect to mimic orange juice).

Orange blossom is also referred to as Neroli, and it's true that both orange blossom absolute and neroli are both from the flower petals of the tree. The difference is in extraction method; neroli is from steam distillation, orange blossom absolute from enfleurage which involves steeping the petals in odorless fat.

Neroli is somewhat sharper, more green, though still floral. As mentioned orange blossom absolute is milkier, sweeter and more animalic (i.e. it has similar qualities to jasmine and contains indoles which lend what's known as a fecal aspect which can be enhanced or decreased according to the perfumer's aims). The effect in perfume is a creamy yet tangy floral.

It seems to me that neroli is so often accompanied by orange blossom, or vice versa that it's best to include both together in this post, though I'll highlight the true soliflores where they show up. Neroli has more top note aspects, also it's a stronger scent in many ways - or more noticeable, whereas orange blossom absolute is more a middle or base note - longer lasting and rounder in tone.

There's also a cross-over into the eau de cologne style of perfume - the classic European refreshing toilet water that's popular in hot weather - eau de cologne tends to utilise the orange oil and petitgrain aspects of the orange tree alongside lemon and herbs - more bitter/citric than floral, so I won't include those here.

Nonetheless, many orange blossom or neroli perfumes have an eau de cologne-like tone. So I'll list some noteable orange blossom/neroli perfumes below, ranging from sharper and more citric or fresh, to the more floral sensual perfumes ...

Fresh and uplifting

Aqua Allegoria Nerolia Bianca, by Guerlain
A unisex cologne-like yet floral perfume, this includes fresh bitter aspects of petitgrain and bitter orange alongside neroli and orange blossom. The fact it doesn't contain the classic herbal notes of eau de cologne differentiates it as more of a fresh floral. While it's not particularly unique or unusual, it's very light, with a bittersweet quality that makes it an ideal choice for hot weather.

Knot, by Bottega Veneta
Again this has similar aspects to eau de cologne (lime, lavender and orange)  but peony, rose, tonka and musk round it out to a far more full or complete perfume. Very elegant, and again though it's reminiscent of other orange blossom/neroli perfumes, it holds its own thanks to beautiful balance from top notes to dry-down. This would be ideal in work scenarios, yet it's pretty enough to be an elegant choice for evening too. 

Neroli Portofino, by Tom Ford
This is the first in a range of eau de cologne-like perfumes created by Tom Ford, this is the most classic. To my nose it's a sweeter, stronger version of eau de cologne, combining a floral bouquet of jasmine and orange blossom with herbs and citrics. I tend to perceive Tom Ford perfumes as party-time perfumes - glamorous and amped up - ideal for evening.


Since neroli is often included in soaps for its fresh uplifting qualities, the association with neroli in perfume can often be soapy - clean and fresh from the shower, in effect.

Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger, by Prada
Not very imaginative in style maybe, but nonetheless very easy to wear in its way - Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger veers clearly away from eau de cologne with the addition of a subtle tuberose, but remains quite fresh. It's a soapy white floral, but unlike most classic white floral perfumes it has a clean edge - very fresh-showered in mood. When I've worn this friends have described it as soapy, and assumed that it was actually the smell of soap I'd used. So if you seek an all-day shower-fresh scent, during hots days at work or travelling for example, this will suit

Eau de Néroli Doré, by Hermès  
This has a nice neroli opening, followed by old fashioned soap scent, similar to Savon de Marseilles, with saffron maybe giving it a medicinal touch. It reminds me of the scent of a linen-suited older gentleman you'd encounter somewhere cultural in mainland Europe,  it's pleasant, low key and elegant, if old school in style.

Castile, by Penhaligon's 
Very soapy indeed!

Full blooms

Orange Blossom, by Jo Malone
A very pretty orange blossom that's almost a soliflore but freshened and given tang with citrus, its floral aspects heightened with lotus (an aroma chemical that lends a dewy/watery note, alongside fresh juicy clementine). It's day-time in mood, uplifting and nicely balanced though simple in style.

Seville a l'Aube, by L'Artisan
Possibly the most distinct of all the orange blossom perfumes, Seville a l'Aube combines a blast of dewy, heady orange blossom and jasmine alongside honey, tobacco and the fresher aspects of lavender and petitgrain. It feels predominantly floral and sunny but the underlying notes retain freshness, and a waxy note thanks to honey and beeswax. (The perfumer who designed this, Bertrand Duchaufour, followed the instruction of his client who wanted a perfume to remind her of her love affair during a religious festival in Spain during the orange blossom season). I find it uplifting and unusual, it blossoms particularly well in hot weather when its warmer aspects come to the fore.

APOM, by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
APOM stands for 'a piece of me' and was inspired by Kurkdjian's family connections in the Lebanon. It's very floral and uplifting (florals generally tend to be uplifting in mood, due to associations, hence their description as 'euphorics' in aromatherapy)

It's also quite powerful silage-wise, and although it does have an aspect of the middle east in its uplifting ylang and Lebanese cedar alongside orange blossom, it would also be absolutely at home at a posh lunch or wedding. Polished, impactful, pretty and uplifting.

Kurkdjian created the more mainstream Le Parfum for Elie Saab which also contains similarly large and fluffy orange blossoms - it's less woody though, more obviously bright and floral. I personally prefer Le Parfum Intense version which is rounded out with a beeswaxy honey.
Fleurs d'Oranger, by Serge Lutens
A powerful orange blossom with its floral aspects heightened by fleshy tuberose. The animalic properties of orange blossom absolute are enhanced with a touch of spicy/sweaty cumin. How much you enjoy this will depend on your enjoyment of big white florals and sweaty notes! I find that the cumin lends this interest - making it less a mainstream style of perfume - perhaps less easy to wear for some, it is very pretty, but the spices (including the fresh woody note of nutmeg) make it either slightly more unisex, or more interesting depending on your perspective.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Bulgari Black, Bulgari

Yes, another review of Bulgari's Black to add to many more out there!

I refer to this perfume throughout this blog yet haven't dedicated a sole review to it, though it's been a favourite of mine since 2002 or thereabouts. It was launched back in 1997 but the style hasn't aged in my opinion, since smoky or leather perfumes are as popular as ever. Unisex perfumes even more so.

It's rightly perceived as a modern classic, though it's also true to say it's a bit marmite-like in that some folks hate it and others adore it.

 I fall into the latter group since I love the scent of anything 'phenolic' - the term used in perfumery to describe smoky or bitter/tarry notes - such as woodsmoke, creosote on fences, coal-tar soap or bitumen and the like. I do actually breathe in deep when a road's being re-surfaced - who knows why each of us enjoy such odd aromas! Worryingly I even like the paraffin scent of firelighters, and stopped using them not only because they're not kind to the environment, but because it's a mildly addictive substance that's really not healthy to inhale!

Returning to the more normal or healthy realms of smoky scents though, Lapsang Souchong tea is what lends Bulgari Black its smoky note (it's the idea of the tea - an aroma chemical - rather than a natural note no doubt in this perfume). Bergamot is also present, so in short this adds up to my favourite loose-tea blend; Two spoons of Earl Grey (bergamot scented) and a quarter teaspoon of Lapsang Souchong = tea bliss.

As fellow appreciators of Lapsang Souchong know, its scent is almost like burnt rubber, and that's no doubt what inspired the car-tyre black rubber of the perfume bottle, also the association with male perfumes (Black is regarded as unisex).

It does have distinct vanilla in drydown though, so depending on how the perfume behaves on skin, it can feel too sweet for some men if they prefer something more traditional, or, the smoky notes can put of women who prefer prettier scents.

This perfume is far from simple though - it's not just the unusual combo of play-dough-like vanilla (distinct to Bulgari perfumes I think) and smoke that makes this perfume stand out; The perfumer or 'nose' who designed it - Annick Mennardo - has balanced it in ways that only the geniuses of the perfume world achieve! She's added a green floral aspect with rich rose and jasmine, into drydown the softness of sandalwood is a subtle presence, adding warmth, oakmoss lends a musky haze alongside a more conventional white musk skin-scent quality.

The effect is contemporary, yet reminiscent of classic perfumery in its balance and abstract French style (though Mennardo is obviously Italian as is the house of Bulgari).

Drydown is soft smoky and salty vanilla - a light musky haze like clean cat fur, and perhaps a distant waft of  driftwood fire.

It's a perfume that nearly always attracts compliments, particularly from men, interestingly. Maybe its the smoky tyres and vanilla, conjuring up birthday cake and new car!

Season - Autumn/Winter
Suited to- evening/informal
Mood/style - soft/skin-scent/intimate/intriguing/unusual

Iris Silver Mist, Serge Lutens

One of the most notoriously 'irisy' of the iris perfumes! (read my post on iris in perfumery Here if the subject interests you).

I find Iris Silver Mist highlights the rooty, carroty aspects or iris (it's the root or rhizome of the plant that's used). It's slightly woody, though 'nutty' describes it better, a sort of savoury hazelnut aroma. The vetiver and sandalwood are adding a velvety softness too.

It's pretty too in some of its facets -  the make-up vintage cosmetics note that iris always seems to have - a slight violet flower smell. There's also a touch of sweet, slightly undercooked bread dough. And it's quite moist/green in feel - something like wet grass..

I don't find it funereal or sad, as other reviews have described, it must be something to do with associations -  to me it's gentle

But I'd say it doesn't have quite the elegant mystique of, say, 28 La Pausa by Chanel (a far more cool and elegant perfume). With just a little more violet this would remind me of James Heeley's lovely Iris de Nuit. Iris Silver Mist is less fey and fairy-tale like than Iris de Nuit though. (Click link to iris perfumery above to read more about iris perfumes mentioned here)

The only thing I'd say is that the longevity isn't amazing. 28 La Pausa would win the sillage battle, though it's not heavy.

Very nice though, far more comfortable to wear than I was led to believe, light for the price perhaps?

Season - Autumn/year round
Suited to- any occasion depending on how much you like the perfume
Mood/style - unusual, elegant, refined

Collection Extraordinaire Bois d'Iris, Van Cleef & Arpels

I love woody perfumes and orris/iris, so I was bound to enjoy this.

I also liked Traversee du Bosphore (iris/rose/amber/sweet) which this reminds me of slightly, except that Bois d'Iris is less sweet, far more woody, though soft and floaty like TdB.

This is natural, with a soft yet definite presence. It opens with a very distinct high quality iris/orris note that reminds me of Iris Silver Mist by Lutens, but then becomes more woody, very cedary, also sweet - a bit nutty, like nougat and rice paper.

The general impression is soft and gently elegant. It's one I'd wear if I didn't want to wear something too 'perfumey', for example on holiday in the country it would work beautifully, enhancing the natural smells around you yet lending a very pleasant aura.

If it was a colour it would be soft green or mauve, yet it's also quite sunny and uplifting unlike the more melancholy iris-based perfumes (I love those too, but I think Bois d'Iris is warmer thanks to the sweet, soft woody aspects)

I could imagine an author or composer wearing this while musing in a sunlit library. Lovely stuff!

Season - Autumn/year round
Suited to- daytime/low-key events/relaxation
Mood/style - relaxed, elegant, gentle, casual

Felanilla, Pierre Guillaume

I can't think of anything more suited to Autumn now it's getting chillier.

I'm immediately reminded of Shalimar, and Musc Ravageur, though this is softer than Shalimar and less animalic than Musc Ravageur. If you've tried those you'll know that this means there's a slightly vintage air to this perfume.

The saffron and hay bring it into more contemporary realms though, the iris adds to these smooth, dusty dry background effects. I also notice cinnamon, possibly clove though they're not listed here.

The drydown is a lovely toasty vanilla/amber and I also notice the banana leaf more in dry down, subtle though it is, which makes it all slightly gourmand, perfect for eating out on an Autumn or Winter evening I think. Lovely on skin or emanating from a cosy wool scarf.

What I most like about this perfume is that it has a warmth and tingly presence without being too heavy or obvious - no loud spiciness as in Opium or Coco, no patchouli/fudge.

It's inspired, easy to wear, quite 'come hither' in its cosy warmth - full bottle worthy as the perfumistas say!

Season - Autumn/Winter
Suited to- Evening
Mood/style -warm, spicy, sensual, dark, unusual, vintage

Camellia, Aroma M

A gracious, pretty, refined floral scent.

The touch of incense is powdery, like Japanese incense. The florals feel absolutely natural (the rose reminds me of Un Rose by Frederic Malle) but there's a lovely bouquet of florals in Camellia. It does remind me slightly of high quality soap, but the incense makes it softer, more lingering, and it really smells lovely on skin as other reviews have noted.

Porcelain china springs to mind - delicate and luminous. The geranium is subtle, soothing, and the drydown seems to bring out the jasmine and incense.

Sillage quite soft, longevity a few hours, fades to floral, very mildly animalic (jasmine grandiflora maybe?) As with all Aroma M perfumes, this is predominantly composed from natural absolutes (though some aroma chemicals are used to 'open up' the perfume).

Probably my favourite from the Aroma M perfumes so far, though all are distinct and high quality. You can read my interview with Aroma M founder Maria McElroy Here 

Also reviews of more perfumes in her collection Here  and Here 

Season - Spring/summer/year round
Suited to- daytime/evening events if worn more heavily/any ocassion
Mood/style - elegant, refined, feminine

Hermessence Poivre Samarcande, Hermès

This to me has something in common with Diorama, which also contains caraway, but this is drier, less floral of course. I'd also say it leans a bit towards masculine.

The opening notes are quite sweaty and animalic but pepper is there too giving a nice edge.

It becomes altogether softer after half an hour, less animalic,then the oakmoss starts to do its thing and exudes a lovely hazy dry, sophisticated elegant musk. (in another review ISO E musk was mentioned, I'm not sure I recognise that but this does have a muskiness that's not altogether natural so that must be it, it's not harsh to my nose, but it depends how sensitive you are to synthetic musks)

The oakmoss is definitely what gives this perfume its classic style, but it feels contemporary too - not too complex. Also the woody notes are lovely - the nutty scent and pencil shavings effect of cedar and the dryness of oak, but there's something soft and milky there - what perfumers describe as 'lactonic' I suppose.

All in all, a perfect unisex perfume for those who enjoy woodiness with a bit of complexity. I'm pleased to have discovered this some time after it was released because I love woody perfumes but so many are too harsh, too simple, or not natural.

This is quite lovely, it has a subtle complexity thanks to oakmoss, the caraway is subtle, not too spicy (to my nose anyway) the woods natural.

It seems fairly light, but don't underestimate the carrying effect of oakmoss (or ISO E etc).

Season - Autumn/Winter
Suited to- daytime/low-key events/
Mood/style - relaxed, elegant, casual