These citrus scents are like sunshine in a bottle


Call it the Amalfi effect, the notion that a fragrance inspired by Amalfi’s succulent lemons can transport you to the azure-blue waters of the famous Italian seaside. Perhaps it’s this idea that attracts us to citrus-based fragrances in summer. While many of us may not find ourselves gazing across the coastline, spangled with super yachts and stylish jetsetters, the sparkle of a citrus parfum can fill that holiday void.

Citrus scents feel utterly at home on salty, sun-soaked skin, and there’s an exquisite tartness and seductive crispness to this season’s best ones—as if the fragrance you’re wearing is as freshly bottled as the fruit that once bore its juices. There is also a delightful fizz and brightness associated with citrus scents that align them so perfectly with the balmy heat of a summer’s day or night.

There is an art to capturing the essence of citrus to ensure it never verges on a synthetic caricature of the fruit itself. A fragrance house that has taken a literal approach to the Amalfi effect, without trivialising it, is D.S. & Durga as evidenced by its Italian Citrus eau de parfum, which launches next month. Bitter citrus chinotto, blood orange, lemon and green mandarin mingle to evoke the aromas of the romantic Italian hotspot, while notes of ambrette seed and clean musk keep the fragrance grounded in reality.

Similarly literal in intent is Maison Margiela’s aptly titled Beach Walk. It wraps bracing citrus notes, including bergamot and lemon, around a milky coconut heart that adds a creaminess and sensuality to typical interpretations. Less salty than expected, it nonetheless conjures memories of ocean spray, sandy limbs and budding romance.

Bergamot, the sweet-sour orange native to southern Italy, is pivotal to many of the most intoxicating perfumes of the season. It possesses subtle spicy qualities that everyday lemons and blood oranges, while beautiful, simply can’t deliver on their own. Byredo’s Sunday Cologne plays up that delicate bergamot spice by placing it beside cardamom and star anise, while enhancing it with the slightly smokey aromas of vetiver and incense. Meanwhile, Le Labo’s Bergamote 22 winningly pairs the singular citrus with animalic amber and musk, woody cedar and the slightest drop of sweet vanilla.

Bitter orange, the hot, tart cousin of bergamot, replicates the summer sizzle of a day spent poolside. The ingredient shines in Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentree, a fragrance beloved by citrus aficionados. Its zesty bitter orange opening is complemented by a pure rose heart and a fresh, green dry down composed of cedar, grass and hay. It’s uplifting, arresting and complex. In contrast, Diptyque’s Neroli gives off a distinctive sweetness. It plays up the captivating scent of neroli essential oil, which is extracted from fragrant citrus blossoms of the bitter orange tree.

If you prefer your citrus nestled within a bouquet of fresh flowers, the brand’s Eau De Magnolia pairs bergamot, lemon and grapefruit with the heady scent of the magnolia. A sweeter, more honeyed alternative to bitter orange is mandarin, which delivers a slightly juicier scent. In Altaia Yu Son, mandarin is flanked by white floral and green notes to elicit memories of sea breezes, orange groves and golden skin. Altaia’s founders, Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena, describe it as an ode to their first meeting by the Mediterranean. Petit Matin by Maison Francis Kurkdjian is another ethereal mix of citrus and floral notes. It’s light, lemony and lovely, and makes the ideal start to a day.

Yuzu, the lemon-like fruit cultivated in China, Japan and Korea, delivers a point of difference for citrus fans. As a singular note, it falls somewhere between a lemon and a lime, bitter like grapefruit but sweet too. In Diptyque’s Oyedo, yuzu is married with a cluster of lemon, lime and mandarin notes, its energising character balanced with woody accords and thyme. It’s a scent that proudly announces its wearer’s devotion to citrus, though this one may transport you to a candy store in Tokyo.

Words by Gemma Watts
January 2019


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