Thank heavens for bergamot: the 'instant sunshine' ingredient to brighten even the drabbest summer's day

In the latest issue of our online magazine The Scented Letter, Jasmine Award-winning writer Suzy Nightingale has got right under the skin of one of perfumery’s most widely-used – and most-loved – ingredients, the bergamot fruit.
And this summer (sorry, did someone say ‘summer…’?) it couldn’t be more welcome. As perfumer Thierry Wasser told Suzy: ‘[Bergamot] represents something joyful, happy, sparkling, fresh. What does it bring to the fragrance? Lightness, a bursting side to the head notes, a smile to the face…’
To illustrate its brightening effect: Guerlain actually use an overdose of bergamot in Shalimar – which most of us might think of as a rich Ambrée, but which relies on bergamot to counterbalance those deep, dark notes. (Legendary perfumer Sophia Grojsman describes Shalimar as ‘dark but transparent, a difficult effect to achieve.’) As Suzy puts it, bergamot is ‘perhaps the closest raw ingredient we have to an alchemical mysticism…’
Appearances are certainly deceptive; you don’t get much of a get a clue to bergamot’s beauty from its knobbly looks. As perfumer Pierre Gueros (who recently worked on some of the exclusive Carolina Herrera Confidential fragrances) explains, ‘It’s rather an ugly fruit, but delivers the most floral, complex and sophisticated extract of the citrus family.’
Continues Pierre: ‘Perfumers use most of the citrus notes (lemon, orange, grapefruit) for their energy, fruitiness, freshness and impact in the top. But bergamot’s actually used for its floralcy, and a complex smell of tea and lavender, in both feminine and masculine fragrances. There’s no sharpness to it but rather a soft, classical, sparkle. When I was working in the Middle East, I found that I used bergamot a lot, as there it was considered the only acceptable citrus note not associated with cleaning products!’
Our VIP Subscribers can enjoy the in-depth read about bergamot in The Scented Letter – which many tell us is their favourite ‘subscriber benefit’ from being part of what we do.
But if we can’t tempt you to sign up – and read all about this liquid sunshine ingredient and more, more, more – you might (while waiting for the sun to peep out from behind August clouds) enjoy this poem, entitled ‘The Bergamot’…
‘We had no other gift to give
But just one withering flower;
We had no other lives to live,
But just that sweet half-hour —
So small, so sweet, its freight of musk
Made fragrant all life’s after-dusk.
For this the summers toiled and spun,
With fairy fingers silken shot,
Till moonlight’s milky thread were run,
In the scented, creamy bergamot,
That gave one dear, remembered hour,
The fragrance of the orange-flower.
Through love and parting, this remains,
A memory, like its faint perfume,
More dear than all life’s loss and gains
About a withering orange-bloom,
Whose fading leaves of dusky green
Do show how sweet life might have been.’
William Wallace Harney (1831–1912)
Written by Jo Fairley

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