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  1. #1

    Default *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    L’Occitane *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    One of the great pleasures of my recent vacation in Australia was the time I had to visit various fragrances retailers and try a number of fragrances I wouldn’t otherwise, normally, get to try. One of the stand-out “finds” of this trip was L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP*. Here are some of my thoughts on it:

    L’Occitane *Neroli EDP* is the least L’Occitane of the L’Occitane fragrances, which are pleasant, competently-made, quality scents that use a high level of natural ingredients--nothing to set the world on fire. They’re well-crafted scents but definitely not what you’d call edgy. L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP*, however, is edgy; it’s very edgy. It begins with a very sensuous, decidedly floral, and feminine neroli note. What is the difference--you might well ask--between a feminine and masculine neroli note? I see the difference as follows: a masculine neroli note is one you find in the “barbershop” renditions of neroli such as Penhaligon’s *Castile*, or Czech & Speake’s *Neroli*. In these two fragrances, the neroli note has the freshness and lightness of orange flower water and a syrupy thick viscous “nosefeel”. It’s always a buoyant, happy, and clarion note, uplifting and refreshing. A feminine neroli note is decidedly more dense, without being syrupy and has an exotic, even otherworldly feel to it. It’s has a more piercing and more complex, even prickly, nose-feel than its masculine counterpart; it has a more ether-like, elevated floral component, which is dense and heady and which approximates the heavy, floral, ether-like, headache producing quality of some higher grades of ylang ylang essential oil.

    The neroli in L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP* is edgy in the sense that it pushes one’s olfactory responses to the edge with an oriental-like sharp, bitter exoticness which is accentuated by a very thin, dry, cedar/wood kind of note with which it is interlaced and which persists well into the drydown, as does the neroli note, which is clearly discernible in drydown when its edgy, ether-like qualities abate and are subsumed into a coumarin prominent, quieter, powdery, and dry tonka bean and cedar finish. It’s really beautiful and intoxicating in an impressively weighty, sensual way, like a true EDP should be, and it has incredible sillage and longevity. In this sense, it begins to approximate perfume. As I said earlier, it’s very un-L’Occitane like, and it’s quite spectacular. When you’ve reached this level of art, questions about whether it’s actually a women’s fragrance or a man’s fragrance fail to apply. It’s both. Like all true works of art, it’s universal.

    Has anyone tried this one? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

    Regards,

    scentemental


    P.S. Finally, I suspect that the difference between a feminine and a masculine neroli note is the difference between neroli absolute and neroli essential oil.
    Last edited by scentemental; 4th September 2007 at 11:24 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    You moved it. :-P

    I myself own the neroli absolute, but have also sniffed the neroli essential oil. To my nose, the absolute is neither feminine nor masculine. If I had to choose, I would say it's feminine, but I would say the same about the EO. To me, the difference between them lie not with gender.

    The difference between the absolute and the essential oil lie in the method of concentration. The EO uses steam distillation, wherease the absolute is produced using organic solvents. Now, the organic solvents of the absolute preserves more of the floral scent, but the essential oil is better for theraputic use, especially if taken internally! The absolute will smell stronger, and more vibrant. Perhaps this is what you're experiencing, but to me I don't see exactly the differences pointed out in that review. The absolute does smell denser, and more complex, but I mostly attribute this to the increase in strength. I don't think it smells thinner, nor do I think the EO smells thicker or fresher, although it does smell somewhat lighter.

    Now, occasionally, you will find an inferior neroli essential oil that is labled as neroli, but is actually a combination of the flowers of the orange tree and the leaves, otherwise known as petigrain. I suspect this may be where the masculine freshness and greeness of neroli seems to be coming from, and that this is the difference between the masculine and feminine. You will rarely find this in absolutes, in fact I doubt it ever really happens, but I feel as though it is sadly almost common in many EO's.

    ~Silk and Steel

  3. #3

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    Wow! These were both EXCELLENT posts - a pleasure to read!

    I own the L'Occitane Neroli EDP, and also had a number of other neroli and FdO scents from L'Occitane. The Neroli EDP stands out as a creamy, dark neroli scent, totally intoxicating...I absolutely love it and find it layers well with patchouli and sandalwood...what Lutens did for Datura, L'Occitane has done for Neroli...shame I ended up disliking Lutens FdO...I thought we had started well, but that cumin kept bothering me!

    Another favorite neroli, but at the opposite end of the spectrum is Czech and Speake's Neroli...it's what got me hooked on neroli while visiting Harrod's as a teenager...that light, almost powdery, round, bright aroma that is always reminiscent of my childhood among the orange groves of South Florida.

    marlen
    p.s. - ok, so I totally avoided the question....

  4. #4

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    [blue]SilkandSteel and to whomever ever else it may concern,

    In my original post I was going to add a caveat at the end of the post not to take my application of the gender divisions masculine and feminine too literally because I wasn’t really insisting that there really where two neroli oils: a boy neroli oil and a girl neroli oil. Besides what would it really mean for me to apply a cultural construct, masculine feminine, to perceived olfactory differences and insist on it as a fact of nature. It would make no sense. That’s not what I was intending. I was merely using a well-established set of binary oppositions for the purposes of contrasting and comparing in order to produce a subjective account of a particular fragrance (in this case L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP*). A review is not an easy thing to produce, and I was hoping for a little more understanding and indulgence for what I was trying to do. I wasn’t using the terms taxonomically, I was using them heuristically, or if you like for purely illustrative purposes. I was not developing a scientific taxonomy. It seems I should have gone with my initial instinct to include the caveat. I am sorry that I gave you the wrong impression. That was not my intention. I take responsibility for that.

    What I should have made more clear (and keep in mind that I write most of my posts, like this one, on the fly, which is my lame excuse for not making it more clear) was that I was contrasting a specific uses of neroli say, as I noted, in Czech & Speake *Neroli* and Penhaligon’s *Castile* with the use of neroli in L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP*. I should have been more careful, but I grabbed at the first set of oppositions that came to hand. In retrospect, there are as many women’s fragrances that use neroli in as similar manner as it is used in the two abovementioned men’s fragrance. Indeed, the term neroli, derives from a region in Italy, Nerola, in which the particular princess of that region, I believe it was in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, began wearing neroli oil as her personal signature scent and hence gave its prominence and name. Neroli essential oil is the primary constituent of Eau de Cologne and, as we all know, that has been a unisex fragrance for hundreds of years. In fact a quick search in the Basenotes Directory under specific type of note, namely neroli, will turn up a numerous fragrances with neroli in them which are mostly listed as unisex. Neroli has generally been considered as a unisex. I have know this all along. If one reads my review carefully, the final claim I make is that gender distinctions are actually irrelevant. Once I have used them to make my contrast, one will note that I jettison them immediately. Let me repeat I have no investment in maintaining that there is a feminine neroli absolute and a masculine neroli oil.

    One might well ask the question then: “Well scentemental, what on earth were you doing complicating the picture by such a loose use of gendered terms?” Well I’ll try to explain: my experience of L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP* was unlike any other use of neroli I had every know before. It reminded me more of the use of high-octane floral notes in women’s perfumes, particularly in oriental fragrances, and particularly in the use of ylang ylang in women’s fragrances.

    I did, as a result note that L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP* “has a more ether-like, elevated floral component, which is dense and heady and which approximates the heavy, floral, ether-like, headache producing quality of some higher grades of ylang ylang essential oil”. I also noted that it had “an oriental-like sharp, bitter exoticness”. What I really should have said was the use of neroli in L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP* is more characteristic of the use of heady floral notes in women’s orientals. But I didn’t. I can, however, forgive my self because my review was groping in words to articulate ideas that had to do with intangibles: sensation, the sense of smell, and memory.

    SilkandSteel, when you say you don’t see the differences pointed out in my review, you’re going on the basis of an absolute of neroli you have in your possessing and neroli oils or oils you have tried. Two question arise: is that a valid statement or even a valid comparison if you never sampled L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP*, and two, even though L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP* might use neroli absolute, why should it smell like the one you have. This assuming that every rendition of neroli absolute smells like the one you have. They don’t and even various renditions of neroli essential oils have different scent profiles as you correctly point out when you lament that many of them are doctored, perhaps with petitgrain, but that’s not the only reason they differ, as I explain below.

    Since you were kind enough to give us the benefit of your experience on the nature of essential oils, you will allow me to reply in kind.

    You supposition on a congruence between your neroli absolute and the absolute used in L’Occitane’s *Neroli EDP* leads me to point out that modern perfumery hardly ever uses absolutes or essential oils exclusively in their concoctions. That’s the provenance of aromatherapy. Most aroma compounds used in perfumery today are not directly taken from nature. A really good book, written by a pre-eminent chemist/nose for one of the seven largest fragrance/flavor producers in the world today makes this very clear. It’s literally the insider’s word on how modern day fragrances are made. The book is The Chemistry of Fragrances; the insider chemist/nose is Charles Sell, the company is Quest International. Yes, this is the same Charles Sell who is so unfavorably characterized as a secretive, untrusting, and uncooperative—somewhat unfairly I suspect after having read The Chemistry of Fragrances—in Chandler Burr’s The Emperor of Scent. But back to perfumery: The constituent parts of absolutes and essential oils are actually reproduced in the lab. What would that mean for the use of neroli. Well if neroli oil’s principal constituents are: if I remember correctly, about one third linalol, and anywhere from linayl acetate (6-17 per cent) approximately 15% limonene, and also a host of other constituents in much smaller proportions, reproducing various types of neroli scent profiles would mean, I guess, playing around with the linalol, linayl acecate and with the lesser constituents, which, by a cruel stroke of nature, are always harder and costlier to reproduce and are what always make the absolute/essential oil so truly unique or beautiful. This goes on all the time. In some rare cases, like Czech & Speake, a large percentage of true essential oils are used in fragrance blends, but in most cases of modern perfumery the constituent parts of the fragrance are chemically manufactured and modulated. Incidentally that’s why, if you’ve been looking for Czech & Speake fragrances lately, they’ve been hard to come by, because Czech & Speake has had trouble with distributors of their essential oils and has been unable to continue production. Modern perfumery would go broke if it relied on absolutes and essential oils rather than on their labs and aroma chemicals that are, to use the lingo, “nature-specific” or approximating nature specific natural essences. As far as I know, only two companies still use rose and jasmine absolutes and essential oils in any significant concentration and they are Chanel and Jean Patou, and I dare say that use is reserved for their classic fragrances. Chance by Chanel is a perfect example of the trend in the opposite direction.

    Back to the nature of absolutes and essential oils. SilkandSteel your comments about whether or not absolutes and essential oils actually differ in kind or in intensity seem contradictory. You note: “The difference between the absolute and the essential oil lies in the method of concentration.” But then you note: “Now, the organic solvents of the absolute preserves more of the floral scent, but the essential oil is better for therapeutic use, especially if taken internally! The absolute will smell stronger, and more vibrant. Perhaps this is what you're experiencing, but to me I don't see exactly the differences pointed out in that review. The absolute does smell denser, and more complex, but I mostly attribute this to the increase in strength.” “more of the floral scent”, “more vibrant”, “denser and more complex”, to me all these sound like difference of kind than just merely concentration. The reason this all seems so contradictory is because the differences between absolutes and essentials cannot be explained in terms of concentration. It is a matter of kind.

    Putting aside the question of concentration, for the moment, the truth of the matter is that even essential oils vary widely among themselves and not only because they have been doctored with other essential oils as you claim. In the discourse of essential oils, there is concept of “chemotypes”, which is the name given to the wide spectrum of differences experienced in essential oils scents and chemical profiles that derive from the same species. What accounts for the difference is soil, climatological conditions under which the plant grown (which can vary widely), and the varied nature of the plants themselves even when they are of the same species; they can differ greatly in the proportionality of their constituent ingredients. Hence the wide variation of linayl acetate (6-17 per cent) in neroli oil. In the case of neroli, it depends on the kind of orange trees, where they are planted, and in which conditions they are grown, even when and how the flowers are harvested. This can cause wide variations in nature of the essential oil. This reality also helps explains why there is such surety in chemically produced aroma-chemicals when compared to vagaries of plant types, climate, market conditions, and even political conditions which influence the production of natural essences.

    Clearly then an neroli absolute or essential oil can vary widely given what kind of flower you start with and its not always a matter of lesser quality. The best neroli oils come from Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, and France. They are all spectacular; they all smell like neroli, but all of them can vary significantly in the way the also smell somewhat differently. If you throw in the various processes required to produce either an absolute or an essential oil and then the follow up process of further refinement and resolution, then it’s a wonder we can ever talk about a particular absolute of neroli or an ideal type of neroli essential oil.

    I beg the reader’s indulgence a little more. While you correctly note SilkandSteel that “the absolute is produced using organic solvents”, it’s actually not the first step in the process. Absolute are always produced from concretes, which are the first part of the production process in which raw, organic vegetal matter (flowers, leaves, stems, branch, the heart wood itself as in the case of sandalwood) is processed by hydro-carbon solvents. What is left is the constituent elements of the essential oils along with an organic waxy residue that also has traces of the solvents used in the process. Concretes are then processed to produce the absolute in which the majority of the waxy residue and hydrocarbon solvent remnants are removed through repeated ethanol processing. Absolutes can then be further processed by a number of methods, one of which is molecular distillation. Given the focus, the extent, the nature, and the duration of these various process, one can end up with significantly different absolutes. The interesting thing about these absolutes is that they are, as you correctly pointed out, more concentrated than their essential oil counterparts, but they are also different in kind. They are truer to the nature of the plant materials they are derived from than their essential oil counterparts because the processing manages to retain and resolve more of the constituent parts, including many of the minor constituents of the plant compounds which give the plant its specific unique and usually beautiful scent profile. The essential oils are obtained either through expression--the mechanical application of pressure to the plant materials to express the oils--this is the way most citrus oil are produced, or through the use of steam, water, or dry distillation, which ultimately is not as efficient in the capturing of as wide a range of volatile constituents as is the hydrocarbon and ethanol production of concretes and absolutes. The essential oils can then be further redistilled or rectified according to what constituent is required or which one needs to be removed, but given the decidedly different nature of the physical chemical process, one’s never going to get the same kind of scent profile as the absolute. To repeat, absolute are always truer to nature than essential oils. It’s not just a matter of concentration; it’s a matter of physics and chemistry.

    Finally, I dug up some notes I had made about five years ago on neroli when I had embarked on a study of essential oils; they suggest that at least my instincts were correct in my review despite the confusion caused by my imprudent use of gender distinctions. The note on the uses of neroli reads as follows:

    “The absolute is used extensively in high-class perfumery work, especially oriental, floral and citrus blends; also as a fixative. The oil is used in eau de cologne and toilet waters, (traditionally with lavender, lemon, rosemary and bergamot).”

    Thanks for your indulgence, whoever got this far,

    Regards,

    scentemental[/blue]




  5. #5

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    Lol, scentemental it was never my intention to discount your review of the L'occitane's Neroli. In fact, I was quite intruigued by it and will probably buy a bottle or decant myself. Nor do I disagree with your classification of the "feminine" or "masculine" notes of neroli. Perceiving a note as "feminine" and "masculine" is decidely a matter of opinion, but in this case I happen to agree with you very much. As you said, just because the note is more feminine in nature does not mean it can't be used in a masculine perfume, and vice versa. Similarly, just because many scents are universal doesn't mean we can't use "feminine" and "masculine" to describe them or their individual notes.

    My reply was soley in response to the very end of your post, where you wonder if perhaps the difference between these feminine and masculine neroli's lie in the absolute vs the EO. While it's completely true that the one L'occitane uses, if it uses a natural neroli at all, is different from mine, I was simply responding to your question of whether this "feminine" and "masculine" difference is inherent in the difference between the absolute and the EO. Obviously, each batch is slightly different, and perhaps L'occitane is working with a neroli, be it absolute or EO, from a very delightful tunisian producer that has many of these "feminine" qualities. But I think it is not too much of a stretch for me to, through my experience of smelling three distinct neroli absolutes and two distinct neroli EO's, hazzard a conclusion as to whether this difference is INHERENT to the difference between absolute and EO, as you wondered.

    Now, as to my remarks that you found contradictory, I do not believe they are so. I said that they differ in the METHODS of concentration, not that they simply differed in concentration. I do believe they are different in more than just concentration, because of the nature of their different METHODS of concentration. I believe the absolute is deeper and more complex, like I said, and more vibrant. However, I just didn't think that they differed in the "masculine" and "feminine" ways you described, ie, I didn't think the that the EO was clearer, more uplifting, and refreshing, nor did I think the absolute was more exotic, ethereal, and heady. But I do believe there is a difference in kind, not just concentration.

    Hope this helps to clear up what you thought was contradictory. Once again, I hope I didn't offend you or anything with my first reply, but I think you'll see if you read more carefully that I definitely wasn't discounting your review at all. Indeed, I wasn't even responding to your review really, more like just your post script.

    ~Silk and Steel

  6. #6

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    Good lord...reading these posts makes me realize I know NOTHING about fragrance!!

  7. #7

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    Scentemental, this thread made me open up the sample of this scent and try it for the first time.

    WOW. WOW. WOW. Beautiful.

    You are right about L'Occitane frags; they are well made but nothing special and don't last that long...but this one is clearly a groundbreaking fragrance for this line.

    I can't say I knew what Neroli smelled like, but if this is it, I want more!

    Seriously, an intoxicating, special, "smell me now" scent.

    Please, Sir, may I have another??!! lol...sent you a PM.

  8. #8

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    This is one of the best threads I've read in a while. I almost bought L'Occitane's Neroli EDP for a fiver from ebay, but faltered as it would have been a blind purchase. I will endeavour to sample it directly from the store, then I can make some reasonable judgement on its sex.
    Let your nose be your pilot

  9. #9

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    Thank you for a careful review of a fragrance I have heard nothing about before. I certainly would like to check this EDP now.

    Masculine / feminine is a meaningful categorization in fragrances all over the world, no matter how one may think about that individually. Nobody should feel 'guilty' of using this and really no male individual should take offence, if someone characterizes any cologne, or a part of it, as fem, or even as 'too' fem. For girls this does not seem to be an issue by the way.

    Review comments on the same high level - great fun and mind opening; another thread that makes me feel at home!



    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  10. #10

    Default Re: *Neroli EDP*, Masculine or Feminine?: A Review

    I sampled L'Occitane Neroli EDP today, despite it being a well made fragrance, I deem it a tad too feminine for my liking. I'm so glad that I didn't buy thus fragrance blind. [smiley=cheesy.gif]
    Let your nose be your pilot

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