The lovely burnt sugar tones of bittersweet neroli are produced by solvent extraction, while using the more delicate process of steam distillation produces the more jasmine-like orange flower water. Petitgrain comes from distillation of the twigs and leaves and citrus oil from the expression of the peel. The versatility of the source is matched by the compatibility of the various oils and waters with so many other fragrance notes. Neroli is more green, soapy and bitter in tone, lending a marmalade intensity to perfumes. It is very expensive to produce, needing over a 1000lbs of blossom to produce 1lb of precious oil. Orange blossom extract is more carnal in tone, indolic and sensual. It is often used to add romance and glamour to white floral scents. As a soliflore note it is powerful and intensely romantic. Petitgrain adds piquancy and verdancy, a touch of peppery green that can liven up compositions.
The original Penhaligon’s Orange Blossomwas released in 1976 as part of a collection called The Language of Flowers, which also contained Gardenia, Primrose, and Night Scented Stock. The Anthology version of Orange Blossom was released in 2010 and re-orchestrated by master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. It is very much a new take on the original formulation, lush, luminous and quite stunning. The floral tone has been enriched with the addition of peach flower, jasmine, tuberose, rose and a fabulous orchid note. An orange absolute note has been dripped though the heart notes, boosting the orange blossom with sunshine. There are some lovely little touches of notes such as pink pepper, lemon-cedrat, violet leaf and vanilla. Weaving these elements around the central floral-citrus theme has produced a wondrous honeyed eau de toilette oozing with creamy sun-kissed beauty.
If Orange Blossom was a movie star, it would be Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, incandescent, shockingly beautiful, unaware that her life was on the cusp of monumental change. Her life as one of the worlds’ most famous movie stars was about to come to end and she would marry into the Monagasque Royal dynasty and become Princess Grace, wife of Rainier, mother to Albert, Caroline and Stephanie. She was at the peak of her radiance when she filmed To Catch a Thief (1955) with debonair Cary Grant for Hitchcock. The film is drenched in Riviera sunshine and Kelly has a rich golden tan through the film. The film is romantic and frivolous, but has tremendous charm and sensuous interplay between the two leads. I imagine Grace Kelly wearing Orange Blossom as she whizzes around the Riviera roads in her open-top sports car, headscarves, sunglasses and classic glamour. The trick to Orange Blossomis Bertrand’s clever use of salicylates, an compound that occurs naturally in white florals and can be amplified, allowing the fragrance to exude a holiday, suntan lotion aroma.
The jasmine characteristics of orange blossom lend fragrances an erotic, skin tonality that makes it so desirable in heavy florals and oriental scents. But there is a clarity and powdery radiance to the note that has made it traditionally associated with brides. The blossoms were woven into bridal headpieces and wedding bouquets. In floriography, the popular Victorian flower language, orange blossom means eternal love, hence the use for weddings. Shelia Pickles who took over the reins of Penhaligon’s in 1976, published a series of scented books: anthologies of poetry on themes such as Christmas, Flower Language, Forest and of course marriage. There was a volume called Bridal Bouquet: Penhaligon’s Scented Treasury of Verse and Prose and the end papers were scented with Orange Blossom.
Date: 1976 (part of The Language of Flowers)
Head Notes: Neroli, Violet leaf, Bergamot, Lemon-cedrat, Cardamom absolute, Pink berries
Heart Notes: Orange absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, Tuberose absolute, Rose essence, Peach flower, Orchid
Base Notes: Sandalwood, Virginian cedar, White musk, Vanilla