Why Neroli Is The Scent Of Summer

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The first time I smelled Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, I fell deeply in love. I was on a Top Shelf shoot in someone’s home and one whiff had me fumbling my words and trying to remember what exactly we had just been talking about. (We had been talking about perfume.) Something about the scent is surprising, even though it's been done so many times by so many brands—it’s crisp but not pungent, clean but not powdery.

To get technical, Neroli comes from orange blossoms, hence its very Sicilian summer vibes. I like to think of it as Gwen Stefani’s ‘Cool’ video, bottled. Sensual for sure, but I think that depends on the context. Tom Ford is all skin and sweat and sex, but I was surprised to find out that neroli is oft-used in baby perfumes as well! Gotta love a scent that's versatile, right?

The thing is, across the board, neroli is hard to get wrong. Which is why it's hard to for me to choose one to recommend. All my favorites are below, and they're all fantastic. Sometimes it's nice to know that you can't go wrong.

Tom Ford Neroli Portofino
This is the neroli that made me do something shameful: While on a trip to Texas, staying next door to Neiman Marcus, I would wake up every morning, shower, grab coffee, and run over to douse myself in free Tom Ford Neroli goodness. I tested them all out, the Acqua (a lighter, crisper take), the Forte (a more intense concentrated take) and the All Over Body Spray for when you just can’t get enough. The smell was that perfect; I had to do it. Important to note here are the ads for these, which, even in the midst of Tom Ford’s many headline-making ads are some of the best. They just sum up the smell—bright crisp teal backgrounds, crystal pool water and soaking wet, tan models, goofing around. No one takes high class porn and uses it to sell beauty products better than Tom Ford.

Regime Des Fleurs Nitesurf
The most oddball version of a Neroli I’ve laid nose on. It’s a twist—there’s something a little more herb-y about it, which makes it deeper and not so pure. Lovely though.

Le Labo Neroli 36
This one is distinctly the most feminine I found, smells much more floral and slightly muskier than the rest.

Hermes Eau De Néroli Doré
A classic. I think Hermes’ Eau d’Orange Vert is one of the best scents of all time so it would make sense they’ve got a strong neroli contender. This one reminds me of sugary aftershave. Sorry that’s weird, but it’s true!

Demeter Neroli
The cost-effective and available-at-your-local-Duane Reade neroli that really is quite lovely. This goes back to my main point which is that you can’t really mess neroli up—there's no need to spend $710 on that 500ml bottle of Tom Ford if you're not into that sort of thing.

Musti Eau de Soin
The children’s scent for the upper-class baby with a chic mom. I’m pretty sure you could use this as face mist—it's that light. (Kidding!) It smells like if you were running low on your more expensive neroli, so you added a little water to it to get it to last just a skidge longer.

Eau de Bonpoint
Another children’s scent! But really, it's quite perfect for anyone—Eva Alt wears it! Stronger than Musti but still with a light airy cleanness to it.

Then we have our bonuses: because why not have Neroli in every aspect of your life? Éminence makes an amazing milky colored face mist with fragrant and moisturizing Neroli and coconut oils. Amazing. Also, for those who get their fragrance via body cream or oil, Herbivore makes one called Citrine which has Neroli oil, but the scent is incredibly light and a bit more citrusy. For candles, the best would most certainly be Malin + Goetz’s. This is the freshest-smelling candle I own. Now I just need to find some Neroli-scented fabric softener to complete this Neroli filled life I’ve been living ever since the temperature went above 50 degrees.

—Tom Newton

Photographed by the author.

All of the scents: peep the very best in tobacco and rose fragrances.