Citrus fruits are wonders of mid winter when you live in the Mediterranean. And citrus notes have the same uplifting effect in fragrances too. Citrus trees - orange, both sweet and bitter, and lemons - glow with zingy jewels as their fruit ripens.
My home islands of Malta have a special relationship with bitter oranges, as those were the first and for a long time the only oranges on the islands having been introduced by the Arabs in around 800 A.D. The Spanish Knights of the Order of St John brought the sweet orange centuries later.
As a child, our house would waft with bitter orange scent for a week or more in early January as my father cooked up pan after pan of marmalade. Citrus notes are the perfect antidote to winter blues
Yet, we tend to associate citrus with summer; those refreshing lemon barley waters and colognes to keep the stifling heat at bay. In fact, if you Google citrus fragrances, you'll find the results dominated by citrus scents linked to summer.
However, citrus is harvested in mid winter, with the best of the crop hitting shops in January so I felt it timely to seek out winter citrus scents to lift body and soul now. Why wait til spring into summer for some zing in our lives?
Citrus is a fleeting top note - but scintillating
Citrus is among the most common of all top notes, and rare is the scent that can capture those incredible, uplifting citrus notes and make them last beyond a mere half hour, if that. I decided to hunt down those that gives a huge blast of citrus - neroli, bergamot, grapefruit, sweet orange, lime and lemon - or weld them perfectly into dusky, deeper, muskier wintry middle notes without leaving us smelling like a Christmas pot-pourri. Cedrat is one citrus beloved of perfumers for using in colognes as it does last longer than most.
Choice Fragrances with Citrus Notes
I've not listed these in any particular order of preferences or A-Z. Just as the whim took me. The links take you to where to buy or the fragrance house website. Generally, UK stores or sellers.
Miller Harris: Le Petit Grain A traditional love affair with citrus can be found in Miller Harris's Le Petit Grain which is described as an homage to a Spanish orange grove. It's everyday wearable and the citrus lingers on in heart notes of Tunisian neroli and petit grain absolute.
Nishane: Ambra Calabria I admit a new love affair with almost any scent from Nishane, which I discovered only last autumn at Bloom Perfumery in Covent Garden. Nishane, meaning amulet in Turkish, has a panoply of scents to bring good luck and charm to any season. I've picked this Istanbul-based firm's 'Ambra Calabria' as my favourite of all winter citrus scents here. As Bloom say on their description, 'is it an Amber or a Citrus?'. Whichever you get a blast of more - bergamot, jasmine or vanilla, as it moves to drydown, it's a winner in my book to stave off winter blues. The perfect mix of yearning for spring and clinging on to warmth. Yes, it does get cold here in the Mediterranean too on winter nights. This scent is my go-to morning pick-me-up on mid winter days.
Andy Tauer: Orange Star Orange and ambergris; inspired! Tauer's citrus overdose was bound to add something unusual. A full-on scent as you'd expect from Tauer. My ideal winter citrus and one perhaps too loud for summer freshness. I think of my dad's marmalade putting and bubbling away accompanied by some Christmas pudding leftovers warming in the oven. My kinda citrus for January writ large. Needs a light hand as long-lasting sillage.
Jo Malone: Lime, Basil & Mandarine Cologne Jo Malone's fragrances usually do what the simple, plain Jane (Jo) names do on the tin. The brand specialises in citrus and colognes and this one tops my list for a heavenly combo that dries down to ambery, woody notes to 'fix' the effervescent, scintillating citrus blast you get up front. The shower gel, if you can bare parting with so much cash to lather on each day, is one for the citrus lover in your life.
Gabriella Chieffo: Aquasala If you can't wait for the first warmth of spring into summer, then Aquasala is one for you. As its name suggests it's a marine fragrance with tops notes including the warmest and deepest of citrus in neroli.
However, while it will take your mind to sunnier climes (somewhere like baroque Lecce, Southern Italy, which is where engineer cum mother and perfumer Gabriella Chieffo lives), Aquasala has enough aromatic winter notes to make it linger a tad more than the regular marine scent. Heart and base notes include incense and myrrh, musk, cashmeran and oakmoss along with patchouli. One of my favourite from the Chieffo stable.
Aveda's Chakra 4 Balancing Body Mist A body spray and spirit lifter, Chakra 4 is subtitled 'Harmony' and its uplifting mandarin coupled with soothing sandalwood echo my exact wishes for New Year; a peaceful, but more purposeful and calmer start to the year with a frisson of citrus to get me going on my resolutions.
Givenchy: Chypre Caresse A 2014 launch, this chypre starts with a very punchy lemon-lime-bergamot intensity that follows on with a warmer jasmine, patchouli woodiness. A classic in the making and classy too. One you feel you've known forever, but not come across for years. A definite on my shelf and a go-to for occasions when I want to perk myself up to go out but don't wish to steal the show as the sillage is light to medium. Apparently, it's very like Coco Mlle in dry down Chanel's comes in at a fairer price if less citrussy.
Paris Memo: Kedu Memo Paris started a new collection in 2014 inspired by 'grains' - seeds of legends. This fragrances recalls the Indonesian legend that you can purify your soul by throwing sesame seeds towards a volcano in Kedu, Indonesia. Before you enter the middle and basenotes of heady, heavy burnt sesame, you start with a lively introduction of grapefruit, mandarin and neroli which magically retain their depth over time. A marvelous wintry citrus at a vast price that the stuff of legends can demand.
Jean Patou: Eau de Patou Jean Patou has been relaunching archived fragrances and this one is big on citrus and an unusual one at that as it combines Sicilian citrus with amber, civet and oakmoss. I've always loved Patou, as it's a scent that reminds me of my childhood as my mother wore only Patou on special occasions. Eau de Patou, first created in 1976, is classy vintage at its best. Another classic that while clearly has been reformulated to comply with EU regs is still one to cherish.
Etat Libre d'Orange: Bijou Romantique Another fragrance that you may beg to differ from me on the citrus opening. But, on my skin, and I've had this scent since the heat of September last year, it does start with a nice zingy citrus in its bergamot and Italian lemon (though who knows what lemon!).
It is one that is warming and feminine but not cloying. I find it powdery and dry not sickly sweet thanks to the iris and sage in its heart notes. The vanilla drydown is quite distinct so not one for anti vanilla fiends among you. A lovely fragrance for winter that is easily wearable for most occasions but one I think I'd not take to in the heat or humidity for its citrus is too fleeting then. Notes include: bergamot, Italian lemon, pink pepper, ylang-ylang, sage, iris, coconut, vetiver, benzoin, and vanilla. Also, I must add, it's one of the least thought- and name-provoking fragrances from Libre d'Orange.
Robert Piguet: Baghari My perfect winter chypre and not only because it's a vintage from the 50s. I yearn for deeper orientals in winter but loath their heaviness in case I do end up as a festive pot pourri.
Baghari does citrus and oriental with passing, subtle touches and scores high on both counts. Bergamot and orange blossom followed smoothly by wintry warmth of nutmeg, vanilla, tonka and sandalwood for enough of the amber-spice scent redolent of mid winter. It's lemony aldehydes rather than floral (a.k.a Nr 5) and not a snip for even the 50ml phial (but it's not Nr 5 common either). A chypre of such exquisite composition that it should find a spot on your shelf of classic issues.