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Neroli, man. What’s up with that?

orangesliceAt some point in the last five years I decided I didn’t really care for neroli. I think I had smelled too many soapy orange flowers and neroli was one of those ingredients I learned to steer clear of. I have no problem with white flowers (though I am careful with tuberose); it just wasn’t… awesome.

This year I fell in love with Roja Dove’s Neroli. Roja Dove perfumes became available at Bergdorf Goodman (and thus in the United States) for the first time in 2013, and I went on a sniffing spree. For some reason the Neroli soliflore extrait just grabbed me by the throat and would not let go. I’ve been carrying around a tiny 1 ml sample vial of this for most of the year, and dabbing it on when I wanted comfort, or calm, or just some pretty.

Like all of Roja Dove’s scents his neroli extrait is technically majestic, as clockwork perfect as a Cary Grant comedy. It has depth and glows, even though it is just, by name, neroli extrait. Where a typical neroli, the supposed distilled oil of the orange, has a bitterness to it (as it should, from the pith, presumably), Roja Dove’s neroli has instead a third dimension.

It is not actually a soliflore. But it doesn’t matter to me whatever notes are listed anywhere you see a description of this stuff. What it is, is neroli, but neroli that has been tumbled like a beautiful river rock, a smooth cool beautiful presence of a neroli. The other ingredients that have been added give it not so much development – because I find it to be very linear – but depth and space, as though you can imagine the orange not only being held in your hand, but surrounding you.

I’ve loved this Neroli so much that it’s caused me to branch out and try other nerolis. Nancy Knows just wrote a nice piece on Ca Fleure Bon about getting out of your perfume rut, and I feel like I did this year with the nerolis, especially since so much of the rest of my time was spent exploring ambers and patchoulis – rather the opposite side of the color wheel, if I may say so myself.

On the other end of the price spectrum from Roja Dove’s masterpiece, I got a bottle of Laura Mercier’s Neroli for $20 off eBay. It is a lovely indulgence of a neroli, light enough to spritz everywhere and feminine without being girly. It has very much the same flavor to the neroli as Roja Dove’s version, in that there is no bitterness to it; it feels a bit more like you can see the other white flowers and perhaps a bit of musk peeking through its construction, like the chicken wire details on a Rose Bowl parade float if you get too close. It is a tremendous value, and I wonder why it’s so widely available at clearance prices. I’m very interested in what seems to me a trend toward richer, deeper perfumes in the American market. I would have thought Laura Mercier Neroli would have killed in this market, but it’s not baby-fresh clean CK One and it’s not plush-and-rich Coco either.

If you want to try getting out of your rut this year with some neroli, I would recommend picking up one or the other – or both.


Image is “Orange Shine” by Gabriel Hess, via Flickr; used under Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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