Zing! Mandarin’s zestiness is instantly cheering: sweet, fruity, citrussy, with hints of neroli – and just what perfumers often look for to ‘lift’ the overture of a scent. (Though mandarin also blends beautifully with spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and clove in perfumery – rather as it does around Christmas-time, in cooking and in our homes…)
The whole orange family is invaluable to perfumers; mandarin peel has long been used in sachets and pot pourris to scent the home. The essential oil itself is produced from the fruit’s skin: you get a hint of how this happens when you tear into a mandarin, and the oil scents your hands. (Always hoping, of course, for a really sweet, juicy mandarin – rather than the occasional disappointment of something a little tart…) In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mandarin also has an important role: it’s used to regulate qi, or ‘life-force’ – and in China itself, the fruit’s still linked with good fortune and luck.
Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays shared her thoughts with us on mandarin: ‘It’s childhood Christmases for me. I’d use more of it except that citrus fruit essential oils are restricted these days, and I almost always want to get some grapefruit in there too. It has more character than sweet orange; it seems naughtier to me. It’s a special treat and it’s packed with sunshine. Oddly enough, I find that my customers describe certain synthetic fragrances as ‘fresh and natural’. Tangerine is one of the genuine natural fragrances that has the same effect. It’s light and flighty though, so it works as a top note then flits off, leaving an impression but not hanging around to be judged. Mandarin works nicely as long as you don’t mind its lack of commitment…’
Today, mandarins grow in many countries: across Italy, Sicily, Spain, Florida, Argentina, Brazil and more. The subtly different names for the fruit give a clue to their origins: Mandarin (from China), Tangerine (named after Tangier in Morocco, Clementine and Satsuma (Japan).
But by any name, this uplifting fruit is always pure joy to discover, in a scent…
Smell mandarin in: