I am a huge fan of refreshing orange colognes. So far I’ve tried, Orange Sanguine and Grand Neroli by Atelier Cologne, Eau d’Orange Verte and also the Concentré version by Hermès, Arancia di Capri by Acqua di Parma, and the famous 4711 cologne.
Arancia di Capri was a rushed early buy when I had some Christmas vouchers and got overexcited. They have a series of stunning Mediterranean blue bottles named after fruits from different regions of Italy. It’s good, zesty and sharp with a faint burnt caramel at the end, but not as interesting as other things by AdP. This was a lesson for me in sampling more before committing. I mostly wear it when I go out for a run, and keep it in the fridge: good for a crisp squirt on a hot day.
Atelier Cologne is a chic, pricy but not insanely so French brand launched in 2010. I got a bundle of 24 tester vials secondhand off eBay for 20 quid. Orange Sanguine jumped out for me, their most famous scent. This is a ‘photorealistic’ impression of a blood orange. Deeply juicy, it made me feel like I was in the kitchen slicing, zesting and juicing a pile of them ready to make a sticky polenta cake, with crème fraîche on the side and a cup of coffee. I liked it so much I got another bottle, and rattled through it quickly. The more I smelled it though, I got further from my initial excitement. I started to get a more sugary, one-note sherbety sweet feeling than the initial vibrant freshness I had enjoyed so much from it. Grand Neroli is woodier and more complex, much less fruity and sherbety, and is my preferred of the two.
I’ve got a bottle of the iconic 4711 cologne (“Echt Kölnisch Wasser” – Water of Cologne), also stashed in the fridge: this is such an affordable way is feel refreshed, crisp and fragrant in the summer. It is incredibly cheap and yet smells really distinctive. It is one of the oldest perfumes being produced in the world, having begun in 1799 in Cologne Germany. My parents are not into perfume but I am sure I remember seeing a big old battered bottle of it knocking around in the bathroom in the 1980s. This is for absolutely sousing yourself as a hot weather refreshment; it gives you a nice fresh slap round the face, but disappears almost immediately. (I’ve also enjoyed spraying it onto hot swollen tired feet). The first time I tried it, all I could think was “summer booze!” and pictured a huge sharp strong cold drink, with clanking ice cubes, beads of condensation down the side, citrus, aromatics – like a crisp gin and tonic with a wedge or lime, or vodka and tonic with lots of fresh basil.
Hermès Eau D’Orange Verte is the stand out of these orange colognes for me. I got a sample from a pre-Covid department store visit in January 2020. Eau D’Orange verte was created in 1979, “inspired by the smell of undergrowth moist with morning dew”. It has the freshness and juiciness of orange, but none of the sugary, there is an impression of wet green forests, shade and earth. It’s about leaves branches and dirt as well as fruit juice; it is chic and more mature. I love this and can imagine wearing it for years. I bought a bottle of the Concentre version from eBay, assuming it would be the same just stronger and longer lasting than the Eau. However it does smell quite different: there is a strong black liquorice at the start. It’s good, but does not as fresh and awake as the eau version.
Hermès has a whole gorgeous rainbow of colognes with daft little bowler hat caps, of which Orange Verte is just one. They make such a beautiful jewel box display with the underlighting. They are so tempting that I will list all the Eaux de colognes here (my mouth is watering):
- Dark blue: Citron Noir;
- Red: Rhubarbe Ecarlate;
- Orange (not pictured): Mandarine Ambree;
- Yellow: Neroli Dore;
- Pale green: Pamplemousse Verte;
- Dark green: Orange Verte;
- Dark teal: Narcisse Bleu;
- Grey blueish-green: Gentiane Blanche.
The blossoms of the bitter orange tree produce two different essential oils used in perfume. Neroli is extracted by steam distillation; orange blossom oil is extracted by enfleurage, or by cheaper solvent extraction. There is a scene in the movie Perfume where the difference is explained. enfleurage involves gently pressing blossoms into animal fat where they exhale their scent for 48 hours. The oil is then distilled from the fat. I am not yet able to distinguish the two notes from each other but understand neroli to be the sharper, more peppery and metallic of the two. Tunisia and Morocco are the biggest producers of neroli and orange blossom oil.
Neroli is known for its calming and meditative properties. Brian Eno, the less glamourous but more intellectual of the two Roxy Music Brians, has been banging out incredible ‘thinking music’ albums since the 1970s. I recommend them when working from home or when stressed and just want a nap. Maternity wards in hospitals started using his album Neroli as background music as it is so calming, and then Eno produced a longer version specifically for this purpose. How lovely is that.