Friday, October 12, 2007

The Quest for the Great Dry Citrus

Perfumeshrine receives lots of mail from readers. Some with kind words of admiration, some with suggestions (which are much appreciated), some with questions on various matters. The latter usually make me ponder and try to come up with thoughtful answers, which I am not always sure make the grade and help along, except when people do follow up and thank me. But it's worth the effort every time, I think.

This is one such email I got recently:

"Dear all,

I am a man fascinated with fragrances.

Ever since my brother, working at our small town perfume shop dressing up windows, brought home little bottles (called testers I found out much later) of fragrances. It was in the early 80s and I still remember that I was impressed with Cacharel's Yatagan {correction of editor: this comes from Caron} and Dior's Eau Savage {sic} .

My love affair with fragrances continued in a distance, until in the late 80s early 90s when I desired to have a bottle of CK's Obsession. We got it from Canada from a relative of my first love. I used it for some time; sometimes intoxicated by its power sometimes disturbed. Next there came the CK One again from Canada (!). That was a big bottle and we happily shared it with my second bigger love. I was happy with CK's freshness and cleanliness.

Then something powdery came in the market and it was a bit nostalgic of childhood smells around loveable old aunts... I bought my first fragrance... a set of Le Male. This must have been in 1994 or 1995. Years passed by with some Sander's Simple, some Kouros, even some Lanvin to discover 6 years ago, due to a new big love, the fragrance collection of Comme des Garcons. I chose my first CDG after asking their Paris flagstore to post me scented papers of Odeur 53 and 71. By that time I was already far away from my hometown. I chose 71 and accompanied it with Dry Clean by CDG. These were my fragrances for three years. Then there came 53. Now I am in my 2nd bottle of 53. Meanwhile this last summer I wore Eau de Lalique which I found to be quite impressive for an eau and look forward for a bottle more. I have been researching for the great dry citrus fragrance for a few months and that is how I came across Eau de Lalique. It took me 10 days to decide on it and I was happy I found it. In the meantime I tried CDG's Play on paper and my skin. It was disappointing. I received also a sample booklet of luxuriously put together perfumes by Serge Lutens; not my cup of tea I must admit as I am rather picky with my teas nowadays. I haven't tried the Guerlen' s {sic} Eau, with citrus. I am afraid that, that too is going to be too sweet.

My kindest regards.

A devoted fragrance lover.


A couple of comments, first:
I gather this was sent to more than one person, there are a couple of mistakes that might be attributed to a newcomer to fragrance lingo or not and there is no direct question. Also I am a little perplexed that the writer was not able to find Clavin Klein fragrances where he is, considering they were available in department stores, as far as I recall.
But I reckon the question is the quest for the great dry citrus. Which is valid enough. Therefore dry citrus recs should follow.

Dear Michail,
thank you for choosing Perfume Shrine to ask this question.
I think you have dabbled in a cornucopia of perfumes that are not strictly confined to citrusy smells, so your tastes are really more varied than you might think.
Congrats on the daring appreciation of Yatagan too; a scent that not many would brave. I really did laugh out on the Lutens comment, as those are very much revered and somehow your outlook on them came as a surprising and I might say unaffected, refreshing change. And yes, they are rather sweet perfumes to begin with, per general consensus, so it's all right.

Considering that citrus scents are so popular and varied, sourcing their top notes from various fruits that invariably have a different odour profile and therefore different sweetness level, I would venture to recommend a few that to my nose seem like what you are looking for. Orange and mandarin render sweeter notes than lemon or lime (such as in CKOne) and begamot is a more classic bittersweet note. Neroli has a more floral tonality as it is distilled from flowers, while petitgrain is another ingredient that might remind you of citrusy and lightly green notes. Therefore reading what the notes for each fragrance are might help you in your quest.

The Eau Imperiale de Guerlain you are referring to is not too sweet, if you are hesitant to try it. It is however very fleeting and that might disappoint you if you are accustomed to such tenacious and potent fragrances as those you mention.
A good choice for a dry lemon with the background of cypress wood is the now classic Eau d'Hadrien by Annick Goutal. A smaller brand that you can however find where you are.

A tenacious and easier to procure citrus is O by Lancome, a scent that is marketed to women, but which has been borrowed by men since it launched in the late 1960s. The crushed lemon leaves of the beginning get anchored down by a little sandalwood, which lends a sensual touch to the more acerbic opening.

In that vein I would also recommend Eau Dynamissante from Clarins, a skincake brand that has produced this as their first aromatic foray, claiming aromatheurapeutic benefits from its use as well. It's bracing, cool and quite dry and would satisfy your summer needs admirably.

For a grapefuit fix may I suggest Citrus Paradisi by Czech and Speake. It's a clean and realistic smell with a little smokiness in the background. Also Vie de Chateau by Patricia de Nicolai is another bracing cologne, technically not just citrusy, but more green and woody, that you might enjoy nevertheless. Originally conceived for a prince (prince Sigalas) by de Nicolai who is related to the family Guerlain it is a classy composition that encompasses many acerbic notes allied to herbs and aromatic grasses that lend a distinguished dryness.
Another unisex easily got scent is Un Jardin sur le Nil by Hermes, opening on what they say is green mango, yet I perceive as tart grapefruit. It segues to woody notes and a little whiff of incense. It might be a little less dry than Vie de Chateau though.

Another confident De Nicolai scent is New York which combines bergamot and Sicilain lemon with spice and some amber to produce a scent that is trully mellow and polished.
Douro(formerly Lords) by Penhaligon's is a more powdery, sharp and soapy rendition of citrus notes on a woody, aromatic base and you might find it to your liking.

For the more obscure fragrances, please refer to this excellent and most reliable site (to which I am not affiliated, by the way): Aus Liebe Zum Duft/ First in Fragrance.

I hope you do get to find what you are looking for.

Perfume Shrine

Dear readers, if you have any more recommendations, please mention them in the comments section. Thanks!

Next week we review chypre fragrances of the enchanted kind!...
Pics come from Luckyscent and


  1. While not strictly a citrus I have one that does contain dry citrus and who's other notes contribute to this effect. Miller Harris Figue Amere. Sea salted air, dry citrus, dry woods, unripe green figs. The figs being not milky or sappy or sweet at all really adds to the dryness. I think the salt also dries out the citrus.

  2. Thank you dear J and hope Michail is reading.

    I did like that one too!! Captures the sea air well.
    In the salty citrus domain, might I repeat that Coney Island by Bond is also very good, although maybe a bit more feminine (had reviews it in spring).

  3. Pat de Nicolai's New York is lost on me entirely. I just don't get it. OTOH, Eau d'Hadrien is hands-down one of my all-time faves. It is pure, fresh, clean and classy. Eau Imperiale is wonderful for sheets and hot weather needs, but a little too pricey for what it is. Nice posting.

  4. Eau d'Hadrien seems to be a favorite, but it doesn't work on me. The cypress is too sharp on my chemistry. My favorite citrus is The Different Company Divine Bergamote. It is minimalist, dry and clean.

  5. Dear C,

    excellent point about price vs use! Always something to take into consideration.

  6. Iris, dear, thank you for reminding me of Divine Bergamote. Of course! *smacks forehead*
    One of the best!


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