Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Learning to Love Orange Part 1 - Eau de Fleurs d’Oranger du Roi by DSH : Perfume Review

When discussing the best notes to look for in our summer perfumes in June’s Perfume for the Occasion article, orange blossom stood proudly on the list, yet no fragrance making prominent use of its sultry aroma was featured. It’s not easy for me to love orange blossom fragrances – my standards are very high. I grew up you see, in a house overlooking an amazing garden. A garden not as magnificent as the dream-like paradise that was my maternal grandmother’s playground, but still, a sight to behold. A fence covered in ferociously productive lilac bordered the left side; There was a grapevine pergola that come September was always heavy with fruit and a mulberry tree that would stain the white marble tiles mauve; Dahlias, violets, peonies, and an extravaganza of different rose varieties drenched the eyes with saturated color; Pansies were planted each year. But most salient in my memory, are the orange and lemon trees growing right under our balcony. When our beautiful trees would blossom like innocent brides, the world would become a truly magical place, for their scent was so utterly beautiful as to seem unreal. (I’ll also share a little secret with you: the lemon tree always won... Nothing could surpass the beauty of its blossoms’ fragrance) So I guess you could say that I’ve been spoiled by these fragrant memories; no bottled essence has ever managed to approximate the delirious beauty of the real thing. Worse yet, most fragrances that put the focus on orange blossom tend to leave me at best indifferent, like Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom that to me smells more like tuberose anyway, or at worse nauseous, like the well-loved Fleurs d’Oranger by Serge Lutens, which to me smells plastic. Oh, I’ve no doubt that it is a masterpiece – so many devoted fans the world over can’t be that wrong after all. But to me, even that fact just compounded my disappointment and strengthened my belief that I’d never find one to make mine. Some months ago however, a change occurred: I actually found an orange blossom fragrance I loved and from then on, seemingly like through a change of karma, more followed. That very first one, discovered on a night still too cool for it to bloom properly, was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Eau de Fleurs d’Oranger du Roi, a perfume belonging to the incredibly thoughtful “Perfumed Court Collection”.

From the Perfumer’s website:

On the Collection Itself:
“A collection of ten historical perfumes designed especially for DSH's "eau de toilette" lecture given at the Denver Art Museum (to coincide with their exhibit ARTISANS and KINGS: Selections from the Louvre). Based on months of research and development, this collection of perfumes has been created to illustrate 17th and 18th Century styles of fragrance with some re-creations of perfumes that would have been worn by the luminaries of Versailles at the Courts of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI.”

On the Fragrance Itself:
Eau de Fleurs d'Oranger du Roi (The Perfumed Court) "Orange blossom water of the King". Orange blossom was one of the most sought after essences of the 18th Century and in the Court of Louis XV (called "Le Cour Parfumée - The Perfumed Court) it was the epitomy of grace and lightness. Eau de Fleurs d'Oranger was synonymous with Louis XV, so much so that it was renamed "Eau de Fleurs d'Oranger du Roi", posthumously.*

The tenderly rendered nuances of Eau de Fleurs d’Oranger follow a quiet, light and flowing development, going from one stage to the next without once urgently nudging the nose to take note. The result is, in a word, cohesive. The opening is citrusy fresh and cooling, revitalizing the senses with the traditional smell of lemony cologne. Slowly, the lovely scent of cologne bigarade emerges, courtesy of the bitter orange. And just when you think that this is so brisk it can never veer too far away from the realm of traditional cologne, the intensity starts to fade, making room for the exquisite, slightly green aroma of neroli bathed in orange blossom. As time goes by, the fragrance changes again, slowly flooding me with memories of a sun-flooded Greek kitchen, where deserts and syrups are being prepared, as it fully blossoms into the characteristic smell of “anthonero”, the orange blossom water so commonly used by my mother during my youth. Its scent is light and airy, a pastel watercolor image of orange blossom with a heart of bitter almond essence. This tiny nutty heart is met expertly by the slightly nutty, gently woody citrus smell of petitgrain at the base, and lifted by ambergris.

Although this gorgeous perfume that managed the Herculean task of kindling my affection for orange blossom fragrances doesn’t last awfully long on my skin unless I apply liberally, it lasts for days on end on fabric and I have taken to spraying everything, from gauzy scarves to the lined interiors of my bags because its scent is simply swoon-worthy. So far nothing has stained.

* From the book "A Scented Palace"
Images: Flickr originally uploaded by Md. Ziaul Hoque and


PinstripedZebra said...

Dear Divina,

when i smelled Eau de Fleurs d’Oranger i was amazed! That is a very interesting and amazing fragrance. I presume it is made for females or would you say also males can use it?


Jenavira13 said...

This sounds so good Divina, but I have had no luck what so ever with DSH fragrances and I have tried a lot. By the way totally agree with you about lemon blossoms (although I do love orange blossoms too) and I still haven't found a good lemon blossoms scent, SL's Fleurs de Citronnier is too soapy on me. I almost had the perfect orange blossom scent, Ava Luxe's Orange Blossom, but the base had too much amber for my liking.

Suzanne said...

Divina, this does sound very nice, and I look forward to trying it. I find that orange blossom scents can be challenging because, with some of them, their heady sweetness never lets up--and that kind of high-pitched sweetness then becomes rather shrill. That's the way SL Fleurs d'Oranger is for me on some days, though not always.

I like your desciption of this as "light and airy, a pastel watercolor image of orange blossom." That sounds temptingly easy to wear! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Divina welcome back :o) I can totally believe it when you say you're back from your vacation with recharged batteries. You're in top form. Both articles since your return have been such delicious reads.

I am also back from my vacation by the way. We went to Tuscany and it was perfect, although one week is never really enough...


Linda said...

Dear Divina,
It's wonderful to read your posts again - and I quite agree that we should make the most of the summer still to come. It has been very hot here and I've been experimenting with new fragrances: I know that this is not quite the same, but a lovely orange fragrance (rather than the blossom) is L'Occitane's Feu d'Orange. So sunny!
The garden of your childhood sounds like paradise.

Divina said...

Hello my dearest Zebra :) As you see from the post, the scent of the orange blossom was originally preferred by a king, so men have been indeed favoring the beautiful aroma through the ages. Of course this alone doesn't say much for how things currently stand, for at the time men were also wearing considerably more make-up than is the norm nowadays. I do believe in freedom when choosing a personal scent and as you know have worn masculine scents myself in the past. The reverse is perfectably acceptable in my eyes and it greatly depends on the wearer and of course the scent itself. There are certain feminine scents I could never imagine on a man and vice-versa, but having said that, a great majority of the feminine scents really DO work on men. (Unfortunately the reverse is not true, since fashion has forced men's scents into a greatly uniform wave of ozonic-marine freshness and insipid fougere blandness for the most part) This particular scent would probably work well in small amounts with a casual linen outfit and sandals during a hot summer evening, but safer yet would be a scent combining the blossom with a little leather or a little lavender for example. My advice is to try and see! And do come back on Wednesday, since Part 3 of the learning to love orange series focuses on masculine orange blossom scents!


Divina said...

Hi Jen sweetie! I am with you - even though I prefer lemon blossom, I have not found a true lemon blossom scent yet. With orange blossom it was a case of not finding one I like, but with lemon blossom it is actually a case of not finding one at all! I love SL's Fleurs de Citronier, but it doesn't really smell like lemon blossom does it? Only a shy, slight whiff of it and then its all lemon cookies and vanilla to me. I still love it though :) If you manage to find a good one, I'd love to hear about it. I am hoping to take a little trip to the middle east later in the year (a friend brought me back the most FABULOUS essences some months ago - seriously jaw-drawping stuff) and I hope to find the perfect essence there either already diluted, or for diluting with some almond oil myself.

Divina said...

Suzanne, challenging is right and you described it excellently! It is precisely that headyness which refuses to let up which prevented me from enjoying orange blossom scents I had encountered in the past. That and the fact that none of them accurately approximate the real thing of course :(

Divina said...

Hi Christine :) Thank you so much for your so sweet comment! I was just re-reading a book in which the story is situated in Tuscany, although it could have been anywhere seeing as the text is not really peppered with information about the area. It was "Cooking with Fernet Branca", do you know it? It's hillarious! I'd love to visit Tuscany - from what I've seen it looks surrealy beautiful, but I am more likely to end up in Milan when visiting Italy since I am an incurable shop-aholic...

Divina said...

Oh Linda it was and so was the one at my grandmother's house, where I used to spend soooo much time. (in fact, my grandmother's garden was the true miracle, I hope to tell you about it one day..) As always you have great taste, Feu d'Orange is gorgeous, just the right amount of sweetness and still smelling deliciously candied!