Where would perfumery be, without orange…? The blossom of the bitter orange tree (a.k.a. neroli, when it’s extracted in a particular way) is one of the most precious scent ingredients of all. Bigarade, from the fruit of that tree, is another key ingredient in colognes, while its leaves give us petitgrain, another popular element in citrussy scents. And then there’s orange itself (sometimes referred to as sweet orange, to distinguish it from the bitter, ‘marmalade’ variety.)
Everyone knows what an orange smells like, of course: that burst of zest as you dig your fingers into the waxy skin to break into this juiciest of fruits. That ‘whoosh’ of uplifting zestiness is precisely why perfumers love to use it: as a sweet, refreshing, sadly fleeting top note, very often in colognes but also in Oriental and fruity-floral scents. Sweet orange oil itself is harvested by cold-pressing the fresh of this fruit – which turns out to be a hybrid between the mandarin and the pomelo, which only came into existence in Europe and China in the 11th Century. The key aroma compound in sweet orange oil, meanwhile, is something called d-limonene – and it’s also a sensitiser for some people, meaning it has to be listed (albeit in the teensiest writing) on labels.
Smell orange in: