There’s a hint of romanticism in the fact that orange flowers have been nicknamed as ‘neroli’ after Anne Marie Orsini – a princess of Nerola, Italy in 17th century popularized its use by scenting her gloves and bath with the essence of bitter orange tree blossoms. For me neroli was one of the first aroma materials I explored after discovering a wider world of perfumery. After all these years I still hold it dear and continue to enjoy smelling the fragrances that feature this essence. It’s usually quite cold, citrus-flowery with orange-green tinge. Newest addition to Van Cleef & Arpels high-end range of Collection Extraordinaire is a more romantic, graceful and subtle take on this white flower.
After applying Neroli Amara on the skin, it blooms slowly just like a flower that reveals its beauty gradually. First aroma that reaches my nose is a delicately zesty lemon. It’s quite subdued and not very juicy but more tart instead. After a couple of minutes bergamot joins the composition. When its tangy, bittery aroma marries with lemon zestiness the perfume starts to smell slightly different, reminiscent of Nimm 2 candy – there’s both sweet & sour flavors present at the tip of the tongue simultaneously. Once mandarin arrives at the scene it makes everything around softer.
The latter one reduces that light sharpness of lemon and bergamot – even though both are rather quiet on the skin it could be perceived when smelling Neroli Amara close to the skin surface. Mandarin makes the blend sweeter, slightly more juicy and there’s also a powdery backnote that smells a bit like albedo (the white part under the peel). Despite the fact that so far we’re only dealing with citrus fruit if I were to determine the color matching Neroli Amara I’d say pastel green. As the perfume develops a cypress accord is revealed and it starts to play on the green aspect.
Cypress in Van Cleef & Arpels Neroli Amara is a source of an aromatic wave that adds more color to the scent. When you smell it, it goes deep inside your nose and makes you want to make a big breath, as if you felt more relaxed and at ease. Thanks to it pleasant shade the green feels more saturated. Not a pastel green anymore but a darker shade. Then finally neroli appears, or to be more precise it’s finally becoming more crystallized. Earlier it was somewhere far in the background which made it not that easy to notice. Now it’s taking more central place in this perfume.
‘Surprise, surprise!’ neroli would say if it could speak… Where is its diffusiveness? Where is its airiness? Cold splash of freshness? No, none of these give shape to Neroli Amara. It smells more oily instead of diffusive and stays relatively close to the skin. Its white floral vibe reminds me more of a light jasmine accord with a delicate taste of pear. Could it be that it’s because it was an absolute of orange blossom that was used by a perfumer? Black and pink pepper add a sparkly fizziness that provides a little lift up. Spicy portion of warmth rests comfortably on a soft musky base.
New Neroli Amara from Van Cleef & Arpels makes me a little upset. I thought I’d love it and that a bottle of it would join the other 4 compositions that I have from this brand. Don’t get the wrong idea – this really is a wonderful perfume but not quite how I imagined it. I thought it would be more diffusive and lively while in fact it’s more quiet and shy. It’s also relatively simple but that’s not an issue for me. Perfumer Quentin Bisch didn’t make me fall in love with it but he still did a good job. The sillage is low and after 2-3 hours I stop noticing it (but others do!) I’ll happily use my decant anyway.
[note] photo is a courtesy of W. Rennebaum on Parfumo; all rights reserved