I am a big eater of oranges in all their varieties, particularly the Japanese ones that are easier to get into quickly; mikan (mandarins/tangerines), ponkan, and especially iyokan, which are the sharpest, most eye-scrunchingly delicious winter oranges I have ever experienced and which are perfume in their own right – opening the thick, rich peel that tears away easily from the flesh, the large pores of their thick, oily skin spurt pure oil that can fill up an entire room with sharp, piquant lusciousness : the very air becomes vitamin C.
Orange essential oils are notoriously difficult to ‘fix’ (ie. prevent from evaporating very quickly in perfume blends), and in comparison with the ubiquitous lemon/bergamot cologne type, epitomised by Guerlain Eau De Fleurs De Cedrat and Eau Du Coq and the like, there are relatively few orange perfumes available. Yet mandarins, oranges and clementines are instant sense-pleasers; sunshine in a bottle. There is an intrinsic optimism in the smell of the orange: uncomplicated and cheering (and probably why children usually take to them before they do to other citrus fruit, and why the flavour tastes so delicious in combination with chocolate, another of my obsessions – have you ever tried Lindt’s amazing Orange Intense, all dark chocolate, lip-smacking orange, and tiny chopped almonds? It is amazing).
The following orange, clementine and mandarin scents are a good choice on days when you just want something easy and light; to boost your mood; either to accentuate the sunlight outside, or to compensate for its absence.
MANDARINE TOUT SIMPLEMENT / L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR (2006)
For a few minutes, L’Artisan’s Mandarine Tout Simplement smells delectable; like unpeeling a tart winter orange and letting its juice dribble your tongue: fresh, zesty, and mood-enhancing. Within minutes though, as natural citrus should, these tangy exclamations have faded – to nothing more than a light note of cedar. At the high price, this lack of longevity might be problematic if you are searching for your signature perfume. As an extravagant pick-me-up though, L’Artisan’s creation is worth every penny, and comes in a huge 250ml bottle with a big old-fashioned squeezy atomiseur.
OYEDO / DIPTYQUE (2000)
The blurb for this scent spoke of hillside Mediterranean orange groves, and if the first place that comes to mind is Seville, you are not mistaken. But Oyédo is not the eye-munching tang of fresh bitter orange peel you might expect, rather its candied alter-ego: thick-cut, condensed, Seville orange marmalade . Oyédo, a scent I have considered buying on a number of occasions, but never quite committed to, is a very smiling and enjoyable scent, appealingly blended (with lime, some woody notes and an unusual pinch of thyme), but it is also sweet: as sugared and palate-touching as a boiled sweet.
On the subject of which, if you really do like the idea of an orange candy perfume, one that tastes exactly like orange Jelly Babies, there is also Pacifica’s delightful Tuscan Blood Orange.
ORANGE CHOCOLAT / GALIMARD (2009)
At Christmas, as kids my sister and I would gorge like pigs on the chocolates stuffed in the bottom of our stockings, once culminating in a fight involving three boxes of Ferrero Rocher, some stolen sparkly wine, and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. This gorgeous oddity by Galimard smells exactly like the latter, at precisely the moment the wrapping comes off and the orange is tapped. You may squeal with delight (and if you are anything like me, buy a bottle on the spot if you ever come across one). Like grubby chocolate fingers though, once the juicy top notes fade and the smudged stickiness comes in, you might feel the urgent need for some hand wipes.
EAU DE MANDARINE AMBREE by HERMES (20I3)
Another wintery orange/mandarin scent that works well as a snug, indoor blanket is Eau De Mandarine Ambrée, a dense, and richly textured orange-amber from the Hermès cologne collection that appealed to me immediately ( I tend to prefer Jean Claude Ellena’s more sensual creations rather than those taken from the minimalist, ‘watercolour’ approach; I don’t like watercolours in art, and I don’t like wishy-washiness in ‘real life’ much either, give me COLOUR), and here the Hermès in-house perfumer lets down his guard for a moment; leaves the intellectualism on the shelf, and just creates a nice and easy perfume (with an intriguing pinch of passion fruit contrasted with the more vanillic base notes) that I find warm, inviting and sensual, yet familial.
EAU D’ORANGE VERTE / HERMES (1979)
There is a copse of bitter orange trees near the top of the hill where we live in Kamakura, and if you crush their dark green leaves in your hand, which I often do, this is the beginning of Eau d’Orange Verte. Essentially, with this classic citrus, Hermès put the snob in the orange: it is a refined cologne that captures the tang of green orange leaves and peel, and an intimation of the tree’s bark in the zing of petitgrain. The tart greenness of citrus is underscored with an unusual note of papaya and mango, whose potential sweetness is offset with a subtle finish of vetiver and patchouli. The result is a supremely sober, understated cologne that on certain occasions is just what the doctor ordered.
MANDARINE BASILIC by GUERLAIN (2007)
Some of the fruity Guerlain Acqua Allegorias have been disastrous – sticky, synthetic messes like Tutti Kiwi and the red-currant themed Grossellina that for me just didn’t work (and were promptly discontinued). It is interesting that two of the perfumes from this line that have endured, however, are classic citruses; the pungent, patchouli grapefruit that is the iconic Pamplelune, and Mandarine Basilic, still available, still lovely. This scent has that easeful simplicity and freshness I like in citrus scents; not overloaded with detail, just uplifting, with a contradictory soft-freshness evoked with the gentle mandarin/clementine top accord, underlaced with a diaphanous amber accord in the base, but given levity with green overtones of green tea, ivy and basil. This is one that I sometimes send my sister as a present as it often garners compliments.
ORANGE SANGUINE by ATELIER COLOGNE
Although at first I wasn’t sure if I liked the synthetic white musk note in the base of this popular (and deservedly award-winning) perfume, I have come round to it a little now and do think that the top notes of this clever mood booster are genius: just the loveliest, smoothest, smilingest oranges from the first spray (bitter oranges, blood oranges with a tinge of jasmine and geranium): clean, urban, optimistic, a scent that for many people just proves naturally irresistible.
MANDARINO D’AMALFI by TOM FORD
Another very fresh and sense-grabbing modern orange citrus, Mandarino D’Amalfi is an almost mindlessly cheerful, sunglassed and chipper scent that you can read about here in my review (I almost bought a bottle for Miami): like most orange or mandarin-based perfumes, it has that sense of possibility; of a new day or fresh start, when you feel like looking forward to hitting the pavement outside.
Sometimes, on certain days, you just need to look up at the sky, cut clean through all your musks and wilting, delicate flowers; your ambers and oudhs, your shimmering aldehydes; the iris, the poetry and the melancholia, and just spritz.