Ingredient Spotlight: Neroli & Orange Blossom

Asking me to name my favorite aromatic essence is a little like asking a parent to name their favorite child. They are all equally beloved, though each — and there are hundreds of them — is special in its own way. Still, there are two essences I could not imagine life without: neroli and orange blossom.

Neroli and orange blossom are among the most important and widely used floral ingredients in perfumery. Both essences are extracted from the freshly picked blossoms of the bitter orange tree (citrus aurantium var. amara). The difference is in the way they are extracted. Neroli, an essential oil, is obtained through steam distillation, while orange blossom, an absolute, is obtained through solvent extraction.

Orange blossoms have for centuries been celebrated for their beauty and purity. In many cultures they hold a symbolic meaning, often representing fertility, new beginnings and good fortune. In Mediterranean countries, for example, brides can be seen wearing orange blossom crowns to symbolize happiness and fertility. And in Persian cultures, orange blossoms are often used in weddings as a symbol of purity and eternal love.

Revered by perfumers and perfume wearers worldwide for their sublime aromas, the aforementioned essences of orange blossom — neroli and orange blossom absolute — have interesting scent profile differences. 

Neroli essential oil is an ethereal, sweet white floral with a radiant and mesmerizing top note and slightly green, refreshing citrus back notes. Legend has it that the hauntingly beautiful essence was named after Anne Marie Orsini, the Princess of Nerola, Italy, who in the 17th century used it to scent her gloves and bathwater.

In perfumery, neroli provides a fresh yet seductive top-to-middle floral note. It's also quite helpful in aromatherapy blends, where its soothing, elevating effect aids in promoting relaxation and relieving stress. A truly hypnotic and uplifting scent, neroli is considered to be an aphrodisiac.

Orange blossom absolute, a middle note in perfumery, is an indispensable white floral that's similar in character to neroli but is warmer, headier, more full-bodied. Its intoxicating scent is lush and sultry but at the same time fresh and green, with a long-lasting radiance that helps round out heart notes in many perfumes. It's a beautiful note on its own as well, with a vibe that is at once light-hearted and seductive. Like neroli, it's considered an aphrodisiac.

Cultivated in France, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, bitter orange trees are prolific multi-taskers. In addition to being the source of neroli essential oil and orange blossom absolute, they produce three other essences.

The first is petitgrain absolute, which is solvent extracted from the leaves of the bitter orange tree. A fascinating middle note in perfumery, petitgrain absolute brings deep, fresh, green complexity to the heart of a fragrance.

Then there’s petitgrain essential oil (steam-distilled from the leaves and twigs) and bitter orange essential oil (expressed from the orange peel). These bright yet sophisticated citrus oils are used as top notes in perfumery, and in aromatherapy blends for their refreshing, uplifting qualities.

CUSANI perfumes that feature neroli and orange blossom as key notes are Neroli NoirLove Lavender, Sanctuary, Haute Bohème and No. 9. — Claudia

1 comment

I absolutely adore neroli and orange blossom notes in perfumes. Now I know something about where they come from, thank you for the illuminating info!

Maya January 19, 2024

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