Most of what we think of as modern fragrances can, in part, be traced back to Germany at the beginning of the 18th century when the Italian-born perfumer Johann Maria Farina created the world’s first eau de cologne – naming it after his adopted home city. The fragrance he created was dominated by a mixture of citrus oils along with some additional herbal oils such as lavender and rosemary.
Today these same citrus oils still dominate the world of scent but it isn’t just a simple case of oranges and lemons. There is, in fact, a range of different ingredients derived from the humble orange – fruit, flowers, leaf and all – including bergamot, petitgrain and neroli.
Of these, neroli is perhaps the finest and is steam-distilled from the blossom of the bitter orange (or chinotto). This fruit, which is not edible, is a native of Vietnam and was introduced to Europe by the crusaders in the 11th century and was named in honour of Anne Marie Orsini, the 17th century Princess of Nerola, a small town near Rome, who used it to scent her gloves.
The fragrance itself is sweet, honeyed with a slight metallic tang and blends well with any other citrus oil, making it a natural in unisex colognes. Other than in the perfume industry it is used a flavouring in the Italian soft drink Chinotto, in bitter Campari and is rumoured to be one of the secret ingredients in the recipe for Coca-Cola.
Here’s a selection of some of the very best neroli fragrances for men available right now.