Bergamot is a citrus fruit created from bitter orange and lemon hybrid. It cannot be grown from seed; it is only grown where a bitter orange rootstock grafts to a lemon branch. The fruit has a yellow-green peel with a zesty odour often described as sparkling, sweet, juicy, bitter, floral, peppery, and gauzy. It’s a smell that is so wonderfully refreshing and restorative, and I often think of it as one of the most pleasing smells there is, evocative of warm, sunny days. If I could describe the scent of bergamot in one word, I would say that it is “sunshine”. Olfactory sunshine doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
The fragrant oil is found within the skin of the bergamot, and there are several methods for extracting bergamot, including cold pressing and an ancient technique called ‘la spugnatura’, which involves pressing cut bergamot fruits onto sea sponges. People go to extreme lengths to attain bergamot oil, and smelling it, it’s not difficult to see why.
Bergamot is used extensively throughout perfumery – it’s almost the bread and butter of perfume, often utilised as a top note to bring freshness, sweetness, and juicy citrus vibes to many of the fragrances we enjoy. But freshness isn’t just what bergamot is about, and it can be used in warmer perfumes, as well as tea scents (evoking Earl Grey) and is even a key component in the fougere (fern) fragrance family. Essentially, I’m trying to say that perfumery wouldn’t be anything without bergamot; that’s the key message here!
Here is a selection of bergamot fragrances you absolutely must sniff (if you haven’t already tried them with July’s #EscentualScents box)!
Scent A: The Photorealistic Bergamot
Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotto di Calabria Eau de Toilette
If you have never smelled fresh bergamot, then the next best thing is Acqua di Parma’s Bergamotto di Calabria. Calabria in Italy is famed for its bergamot production, and this instalment in Acqua di Parma’s Blu Mediterraneo collection pays homage to the sparkling, juicy, sweet, bitter floral scent of the fruit for which the Calabria region is so well known. It’s sunshine in a bottle, recreated in the refreshing scent of perfumery’s most beautiful fruit.
Scent B: The Sparkling Bergamot
GUERLAIN Aqua Allegoria Bergamote Calabria Eau de Toilette
GUERLAIN’s Aqua Allegoria fragrances are simple olfactory ditties that focus on the beauty of nature. Their take on bergamot pays a visit to Calabria, but rather than evoking hard graft in the bergamot groves (a la Acqua di Parma), this one is more akin to sitting beside one of Italy’s great lakes sipping a bergamot cocktail. Bergamote Calabria is fresher, more sparkling, and aquatic than the Acqua di Parma, serving bergamot with a sea breeze and a twist of ginger. I’ll take a pitcher, please. Actually, make that two.
Scent C: The Earl Grey Bergamot
Miller Harris Tea Tonique Eau de Parfum
Earl Grey tea wouldn’t be Earl Grey without bergamot. Instead, it would just be tea. Miller Harris Tea Tonique shows exactly why tea and bergamot go so wonderfully together. Inspired by cool mists rolling over the green leaves of a tea plantation at the break of dawn, Tea Tonique feels like a hybrid of a bitter green tea, served hot, and an Earl Grey sweet tea served over ice. The dark, malted verdancy of tea leaves are brightened by a twist of juicy, sparkling bergamot. It’s easily the best tea fragrance you can buy – how’s that for an endorsement?
Scent D: The Bracing Bergamot
GUERLAIN Eau de Guerlain Eau de Cologne
Classic Eau de Colognes rely heavily on a blend of citrus notes to create a clean, juicy, and bracing vibe. Bergamot is often one of the many citrus jigsaw pieces that slot perfectly into the Eau de Cologne puzzle. Eau de Guerlain shows how it perfectly complements other citrus notes and aromatic notes, musks, and florals. Whilst it sits as part of a citrus harmony in Eau de Guerlain, bergamot can’t help but raise its head above the parapet and be noticed, reminding everyone who wears the fragrance that it is the most beautiful of all the citrus notes.
Scent E: The Green Bergamot
Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien Eau de Parfum
Even though we started this list with two fragrances aiming to showcase bergamot in all its natural beauty, these fragrances are few and far between. In reality, bergamot is very much an accent material and is used as a top note to bring a bright, brilliant opening to many different fragrance styles. Eau d’Hadrien uses bergamot in this manner, amplifying the material’s greener facets, contrasting them with the bitter bite of lemon (a contrast to bergamot’s natural sweetness) and the herbal tones of basil. Wearing Eau d’Hadrien is like walking through a forest right at the very start of a summer’s day – the smells of the greenery in the air make it feel like it is fizzing with life.
Scent F: The Floral Bergamot
Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Neroli Amara Eau de Parfum
Like many fragrances, Neroli Amara possesses a bergamot note simply as a small element of its olfactory story. As the name suggests, this perfume is all about neroli, but rather than zooming in on the material’s floral character, it is the citrus freshness that perfumer Quentin Bisch has chosen to amplify. Here’s where the bergamot comes in! With its zesty lustre, bergamot sharpens the citrus edge of neroli, turning it away from floral and shaping it into a bracing cologne. I’m starting to think that bergamot may be a little bit magic…..
Scent G: The Feel Good Bergamot
Clarins Eau des Jardins Natural Spray
Clarins fragrances always have a very natural feel, and they often blend essential oils with materials that have some form of skin benefit, creating perfumes that smell not only good but also feel good. Eau des Jardins feels like a spring garden in full bloom, where the scent of flowers and running water come together to refresh and brighten. Bergamot bridges the juicy citrus oils in the top and the leafy greenery in the heart, creating a sparkling path between the two. Eau des Jardins is sweet, sappy, and sunny.
Scent H: The Masculine Bergamot
BVLGARI Man Wood Neroli Eau de Parfum
BVLGARI is an underrated brand, and their perfumes, especially their offerings for men, are always beautifully composed and showcase natural materials in often natural ways. BVLGARI Man Wood Neroli may focus on the floral note of neroli, but it is bergamot that makes a real splash, especially in the opening. The first wave of citrus in this fragrance hits you, and bergamot is the material that gives it a blinding brilliance, making you feel as if you’ve stepped out from the darkness into the sunshine for the first time.