Welcome to the June installment of Notes on Notes, a collaboration with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies! Each month, we choose a fragrance note and each of us writes a blog post about it based on our personal experiences. This month, the note is citrus (encompassing any and all citrus notes), since it suits the summer months so well.
Most of the familiar citruses are “hesperidic” fruits. According to Wikipedia, “Carl Linnaeus gave the name Hesperideæ to an order containing the genus Citrus, in allusion to the golden apples of the Hesperides.” These include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, and (importantly for fragrance) bergamots. All offer essential oils from their bitter rinds which have been used often in the creation of fragrances, with synthetic versions available as substitutes.
In fragrance, the perfumer I most associate with brilliant use of citrus notes is Jean-Claude Ellena. He likes their bitterness; and a citrus has often been the featured opener for many of his fragrances, including the Jardin series he launched at Hermès. I’ve written before about my love for Un Jardin Sur Le Nil, which opens with a marvelous grapefruit accord. Miller Harris’ discontinued Tangerine Vert is another terrific citrus scent; in that post, I also covered another sadly discontinued fragrance, from Maison Martin Margiela, Replica Filter Glow. It was a dry oil fragrance meant to be directly layered with a complementary scent and said to prolong it. You could also wear it on its own, with its notes of neroli, grapefruit blossom, bergamot, and rose absolute. I think it would enhance any citrus-forward fragrance.
Much as I love the other citrus notes, in perfume my favorite may be bergamot. I was raised on Earl Grey tea, whose distinctive aroma and flavor come from the infusion of bergamot essential oil into the tea, so I associate happy memories of teatime with that scent. (Earl Grey tea brings back childhood memories so strongly that I always drink it with milk and sugar, unlike most of the other teas and coffees I enjoy). I love the fresh zing it brings to a fragrance’s opening, and its green astringency, which partners so well with the green scents I love, like Chanel’s Cristalle and No. 19. Bergamot seems to enhance galbanum, and vice versa.
My two newest citrus-based fragrances were both bought on recent vacation trips (perfume tourism strikes again!): Carthusia’s A’mmare, which I bought in Milan last summer, and Lili Bermuda’s Bermudiana, purchased just last month in Bermuda. Both open with a detectable burst of bergamot, combined with aromatic herbs. A’mmare pairs it with rosemary (and salt); Bermudiana with basil and aldehydes. The fragrances are separated by six decades — Bermudiana was launched in 1962, and A’mmare in 2021.
Bermudiana has a strong heart note of galbanum, one of my favorites. A’mmare‘s heart notes are an aquatic accord and mint. Both fragrances pair so well with bergamot; both are very summery without being too beachy (i.e., they don’t smell to me like sunscreen). I love their combination of bergamot with different green herbs. They feel like summer colognes but last much longer.
Do you have any favorite citrus notes? Are there any you really dislike? I actually can’t think of any I dislike …
Check out Portia’s Notes on Notes on Australian Perfume Junkies!