There are items of clothing you wear over and over until they wear out because they go with everything. Think a great pair of straight-leg jeans or an oversized black blazer. The versatility of these pieces are why they remain staples in your closet for years, if not decades. In the perfume world, there are notes of a similar caliber. These aromas also have the uncanny ability to blend seamlessly into a juice, transforming it into an unforgettable scent. Orange blossom is a prime example of these notes. The fragrant tiny white flower, which grows on orange trees, is just at home in a sweet floral perfume as it is in a warm woodsy one. This is because it doesn’t just smell floral. The note also has touches of citrus, honey, and greenery. So naturally, perfumers often utilize it.
And that’s why you’ll find orange blossom listed in the scent profiles of so many fragrances. “Orange Blossom is a chameleon. It is the only raw material perfumers have at their disposal that can express, depending on how it's processed, all stages of life and all genders: the newborn, the bride, either a young man or a totally virile one,” says Daniela Andrier, a perfumer at Givaudan and one third of the noses behind Yves Saint Laurent’s MYSLF.
While it’s often a top or heart note in traditional floral scents, the use of orange blossom is expanding into men’s and unisex scents, too. Christophe Raynaud, senior perfumer at Givaudan and another nose behind MYSLF, chose the white flower to add fluidity to the masculine fragrance. “In MYSLF, even if it's [a] true masculine [scent], there's always a little ambiguity in the olfactory experience, that narcotic, slightly animal side of orange blossom,” he says. Andrier adds, “the tiny white flower with the oversized scent refuses to be typecast(....). As it is matched with sensual woods, it reveals just how versatile it can be, embracing all its facets as the star of a genre-defying masculine composition.”
Orange blossom’s ability to defy labels and fragrance categories comes down to how it’s extracted. In addition to the actual blooms, the entire plant can be extracted to create fragrances. “It is extracted into two different essences, which each provide a different facet of this beautiful and bewitching little flower,” says Judith Gross, VP Communication and Branding of Scent at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). “The essence is obtained by distillation (also called neroli essence) and the absolute is obtained through solvent extraction.” Gross points out that neroli essence is generally “fresh and citrusy”, whereas the absolute is “headier and more sensual”.
Ahead, a selection of cult-favorite and best-selling fragrances featuring the versatile floral note.