Sunday, March 22, 2009

L'Occitane Neroli (original)





The original Neroli EDP by L'Occitane is among the handful of scents that ever got me compliments from complete strangers. The others are Musc Ravageur, L'Air du Desert Marocain, Shalimar Light and Panthere de Cartier (Strangely enough, no one has ever stopped me on the street demanding to know where and how they can get a bottle of Miel de Bois). Interestingly, Neroli is the biggest traffic stopper of this group, despite its humble pedigree.

Neroli (the raw material) is an essential oil distilled from orange flowers (not to be confused with the orange blossom absolute, which is extracted through the use of a solvent). This might lead one to expect a light, ethereal and feminine scent, which couldn't be further from the truth. L'Occitane Neroli in it's original 2003 version is strong and quite aggressive. It opens up like most straight forward neroli oils you'd find at your local Whole Foods market or other places that sell essential oils. It's uplifting and full of sunshine, and I used to spray it into the air and walk into this. Not so much to lighten it up as because I wanted to coat myself and absorb as much of the perfume as humanly possible.

(I was so infatuated that for about six months this was my most worn scent and I went through several bottles before going back to my perfume promiscuous ways)

But after the conventional part of the scent, things get hot, heavy and somewhat animalic. I could not find an official list of notes, but to my nose there's quite a bit of ceder in the heart-to-drydown phase, and it's a dry and dirty cedar with the infamous hamster cage effect. I love it, but anyone looking for a demure and clean orange scent in the normal L'Occitane way would have been horrified, which I suspect was exactly the cause of the perfume's untimely demise.

Eventually the hamster is gone and what's left is a slightly sweet, ambery neroli with more than a hint of musk and lots of sex appeal. While the sillage mostly disappears after the first 30 minutes or so, what's left on the skin is quite tenacious.

As far as I remember, Neroli was marketed as a feminine and was presented as part of the (original) L'Oranger product line- there was a weird body wash with little brown moisture beads that made a mess in the bath, and a too thin body milk. But trying to objectively assess the scent I'm pretty sure that was a mistake. Neroli feels quite unisex and many men would have found it appealing. Think of Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino, which is quite masculine, and I have to say I find L'Occitane Neroli to be rounder and better.

Sadly, the original Neroli was discontinued some time between 2006 and 2007 only to be replaced with a weak and wimpy scent under the same name. The new juice is considerably lighter in color (the original started orange but ages into an almost red liquid, which leads me to believe that there was a considerable amount of natural ingredients in it, even though they also added colors to the formula, as indicated on the box). The new version is inoffensive but boring and feels like a washed out relative of the beautiful Neroli.

I was hoarding what I had left in my last bottle until last summer. Occasionally I would see an eBay auction of a bottle, but the prices always were way too much than anything I'd be willing to pay. Fortunately, last year when shopping in Paris I spotted the familiar boxes at Printemps. They had a clearance sale of what looked like old L'Occitane stock. Let's just say I now have a lifetime supply.

Photos of the bottle and box by me with the help of Kosh and Giselle.

15 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your big score of a favorite scent! Hmm, I'm starting to think there might be a business in perfume storage, a la wine storage... ;)

    I actually find use for the Aqua Allegoria Neroli I was given in a perfume swap grab bag. The note is very much like the floral water...but hangs a bit better, as a cologne would.

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  2. Finding a beloved never-again-the-same frag in its previous state in a clearence bin must be akin to archeologists finding a Codex with all the previous ones achived in ready-made format ;-)
    Congrats! (love your cats)

    Isn't neroli a heavenly smell? Do try -the yet again discontinued, darn it!- Flora Nerolia. Mmmm.....

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  3. "Strangely enough, no one has ever stopped me on the street demanding to know where and how they can get a bottle of Miel de Bois."

    LOL! I'm surprised they didn't flee, screaming in horror.

    The L'Occitane Neroli sounds terrific. I have one fragrance with that hamster-cage cedar effect, Parfumerie Generale Haramens, but I love it anyway. It's spicy and gourmand and, once the hamster cage goes away, strikingly beautiful.

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  4. Ok I know this post is about the perfume...but that cat is the cutest ever!

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  5. Neroli was used by Persian courtesans long ago...it has a history of being known for being a scent that triggers attraction

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  6. ScentScelf, I think we all know quite a few people who would pay a pretty penny to have decent perfume storage. I'm in a desparate need here.

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  7. Helg, what are the chances that Flora Nerolia will be repackaged in some ultra expensive set in crystal bottles like they did to Winter Delice?

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  8. Nathan, I'll have to dig my sample of Haramens. I'm a fan of the hamster (and, obviously, of certain funky smells).

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  9. Anon, it makes a lot of sense. Neroli is definitely sexy and sensual.

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  10. I've been through this same experience. It can be disappointing when you connect with a scent and then can never find it again. Congrats on finding your lifetime supply.

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  11. Ive just bought a bottle of the original Neroli scent from a charity shop, i was wondering why i couldnt find it on l,occtaine page, didnt realise it was discontinued. stills smells fresh,
    look forward to the compliments ..

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  12. I just scored a bottle of the original (and only REAL) L'Occitane Neroli on shopgoodwill.com. I paid $10 for 4 bottles which also included the original (and only REAL Chloe) for $9.95.
    I LOVE this scent! It reminds me quite a lot of Dior Addict (which I also love).
    I have no use for the reformulation. It shouldn't even share the name of this divine aroma.

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  13. Congratulations. Beautiful review ... very beautiful photos. I love cats and Neroli is very good. XOXO. Elisabeth

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  14. I came onto the Neroli train a little late, I must say. When I got it, I think it was the wimpy scent, but I loved it to death. Like you, I got many compliments, and especially from men.

    Then I heard that it was going to be discontinued permanently. I went on Ebay and found it being sold, but in different boxes - red and gold with the words Voyage en Mediterranee. I got it and it's way stronger than what I remember of my first bottle. And, lol, like you said, it starts aggressive and then goes into a hamster scent but in a good way, and mellows down to what I remember of the softer version of this scent.

    Anyway, I just love it so much! I'm gonna try and get a lifetime supply. I think that it'll be back, though. One day, it will be a classic, and L'occitane will bring it back.

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