In The Search For The Perfect Mandarin

How often do you see print ads for a fruit? I’m talking not about store fliers, delivery service leaflets or motivational magazine collages about healthy eating, but actual ads that promote fruits. Not too often if you ask me. So, when I saw the ad in The New Yorker magazine, I registered it as something unusual.

Sumo Citrus

I’ve been seeing so-called Sumo Citruses/Mandarins for at least a couple of years, but it wasn’t until my vSO told me its story that I decided to try it (before seeing that ad). If you’re up to reading, here’s an article in the Los Angeles Times from a decade ago that gives a lot of details. But in short: it’s a Japanese hybrid citrus fruit known as Dekopon. Due to the high susceptibility to “exotic pests and diseases,” this fruit is prohibited from being imported into the US. It took a private grower many years to get trees grafted with legally imported branches cleaned off diseases, in quarantine, before those could be planted, legally but in secrecy, on 430 acres in California. So, now these are legally produced locally Dekopon fruit given in the US name Sumo (I really hope Japanese are secure enough not to claim “cultural appropriation”).

I like Sumo Citruses, but since they are two-three times more expensive than regular mandarins, I won’t eat them casually but will be buying them several times during the season (January – April).

What makes me even more fond of Sumo mandarin is that this hybrid is a “grand-child” of my most favorite mandarin – Satsuma. And my quest for the perfect mandarin perfume is based on it since I know it the best.

Of course, when the perfume pyramid mentions “mandarin,” it doesn’t usually clarify its variety or origin. So, I went just by the note in my database and selected a bunch of perfumes that I either remembered had that note as a prominent one or I thought they might.

* * *

I’ll start with samples.

Mandarin Perfumes Samples

From time to time, Antica Farmacista decides to step up from their usual ambiance scents ampluá and produce “Fragrance for Home & Body” or even “Le Parfum” version of their scents. These appear for a short period and then disappear, never to be seen again. I’m not sure whether they are different from Antica Farmacista’s Room Sprays. But if it says “body,” I feel better about spraying them on the skin. Vanilla Bourbon & Mandarin was one of such scents. I got it as a part of the sample set offer a couple of years ago, and I’m not sure if I tested it before, but now it seemed like a good occasion to finally get to it. Notes (according to the brand’s site): Crisp Satsuma Mandarin, Sweet Clementine, Orange Peel, Heliotrope, Bright Verbena, Spicy Bourbon, Warm Amber, Bourbon Vanilla, Labdanum Balsam. It’s a nice ambiance scent with juicy citrus in the opening and not overly sweet but boozy vanilla. I think it would be perfect in a diffuser, but there is no good reason to wear Vanilla Bourbon & Mandarin as perfume.

* * *

I’m not sure whether Atelier Cologne still produces Mandarine Glaciale: it’s “out of stock” everywhere I checked. But even if it has been discontinued, I won’t be upset since I’ve never warmed up to their Collection Azur, as a part of which Mandarine Glaciale was released. I don’t know if subconsciously I thought less of the collection because it appeared at Sephora first, or if it actually was less interesting than Atelier Cologne’s earlier lines. But whatever it was, I’m done with the sample. It is not mandarin I am looking for.

* * *

Pont Des Arts A ce soir was a “false positive” in my list: the promised “green mangarin” note was completely indiscernible. I’m mentioning it here only because it got into the “group photo” before I decided it wasn’t a part of this exercise.

* * *

BDK Parfums Citrus Riviera has an impressive list of notes (from the brand’s site): Essence of Moroccan Neroli, Essence of Italian Mandarin, Essence of Italian Lemon, Fig Accord, Moroccan Orange Blossom Absolute, Jasmine, Strawberry Neo Jungle Essence, Eucalyptus Essence, Everlasting Flower Absolute, White Musk, Patchouli from Indonesia, Vetiver from Haiti and Tonka Bean Absolute. For my nose, it opens with a nice citrus accord – bright, juicy and happy. I don’t get any fig, which surprises me since usually it’s a note I easily recognize. Citrus Riviera settles down to a drier composition with recognizable vetiver, but it’s not too insistent, like, for example, it feels for me in Hermes’s Vetiver Tonka. All the announced florals are probably there but blended without any prominent outliers. I’m a little bit annoyed by the promise of the strawberry note: as much as I do not trust my nose, strawberry is one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable aromas, so why to even mention it if it’s not really noticeable? It’s not like they put in some natural and extremely rare/expensive strawberry enfleurage or strawberry butter and now want us to know that, right? All-in-all, I like this perfume but… I’ll explain it while talking about the next sample.

* * *

If it weren’t for the current situation, for this post I should have got a sample of Tom Ford’s Mandarino di Amalfi. But I don’t know when I get to the store next time, so I decided to go with Neroli Portofino, a sample of which I had at home: after all, it has a mandarin note listed. I like this perfume, same as many other Private Blend variations in “blue bottles.” But I always felt like all these aromatic, aquatic, etc. perfumes, while quite nice and not simple or linear, in my book were “lesser” perfumes than, let’s say, chypres, orientals or even florals. So, leaving aside the absolute price of each perfume (e.g., Citrus Riviera is much cheaper than Tom Ford’s offerings), I could never justify paying any luxury brand’s “standard” price for their citrus perfume. I know, it’s not rational, but this is how I feel.

* * *

For someone who proclaims herself not a citrus perfumes fan, I discovered that I had quite a few perfumes featuring mandarin in my collection.

Mandarin Perfums

I had a small bottle of Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien for the last 10 years, and I’m not done with it yet. I don’t think it has enough mandarin to be a contender in my search – it’s more lemony and rather astringent than sweet. But today when I smell it, I like it much more than I did back then. I blame the industry! Compared to hundreds of releases of similar genre perfumes in that period, this 40-years old creation seems like a masterpiece.

* * *

Jul et Mad Aqua Sextius was a wrong choice for this post since official notes on the brand’s site do not even claim mandarin, but that note got into this perfume description in my database from Fragrantica – and that’s how it ended up here. If you haven’t tried this perfume and are curious, read Lucas’s review. From me, I want to add that I find it a little bit on the masculine side (but not overly) and that I think it wears much better in warmer weather. And if you like the scent, the combination of its longevity with the available bottle formats (7 ml, 20 ml and 50 ml) makes the price almost tolerable.

* * *

Hermès Eau de Mandarine Ambrée is one of my most favorite Hermes perfumes. And it is a great mandarin. Recently I wore it “hajusuuri-style” – 8 sprays. It produces a pleasant burst of mandarin in the opening, and in a couple of hours, it’s just a sheer amber with a hint of the initial fruit. I do not mind: the cute bottle that I have can easily fit into the smallest purse for the re-application (in case I ever again need to go anywhere for longer than a couple of hours, that is).

Rusty and Hermes Mandarine Ambree

Prada Infusion Mandarine is probably my perfect mandarin perfume. It combines wonderfully juicy and very realistic mandarin with some recognizable aspects of the “Infusion” line, which makes it more interesting in the drydown than many other citrus-centric perfumes. I plan to finish this small (8 ml) bottle in the next couple of months and will probably buy a FB – luckily, it can be found for a very reasonable price online.

* * *

I previously published a post about Atelier Cologne Clementine California (When Life Gives You Clementines, Enjoy Them), but I want to mention it here again since, as I admitted then, I have no idea what fruit I smell – it can be either a mandarin, a clementine or both. But I enjoy it every time I wear it, and it’s one of those perfumes that I would consider repurchasing if I ever go through the bottle that I have. It is extremely juicy, bright and uplifting.

Mandarin Samples and Perfums

Have you tried Sumo citrus? Do you like mandarins? Do you have a favorite mandarin perfume?


Images: my own


23 thoughts on “In The Search For The Perfect Mandarin

  1. Have you tried The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel? It’s a nice one! Some other orange smelling perfumes that I indulge in occasionally include PdE Azemour Les Orangers (kinda skanky but this one I can stand) and Atelier Orange Sanguine (although this smells like a regular orange).

    On room ambient smells – I quite enjoyed the Antica Farmacista Vanilla Bourbon and Mandarin, so much so that for almost 3 years, that was the scent of my powder room until I decided I needed a change. I now use Santorini, a nice salty Mediterranean scent, also from Antica Farmacista.


    • I liked most of AF’s ambient scents that I tried, but I don’t want to wear any of them as perfume – if not to count my favorite Daphne: I am still sad that I didn’t get it when they had Le parfum for that scent/ But I have the next best thing – “Fragrance for Home & Body.” I really enjoy Orange Sanguine, but you’re right, it’s an orange, not mandarin. As to the Body Shop, I’m not sure I’ve ever tried anything from that store: somehow this brand doesn’t appeal to me.


  2. I’m not really a fresh citrus person, so my personal mandarin scent is Serge Lutens Mandarine Mandarin, which smells more like a Chinese lacquered box filled with candied mandarins. But the California Clementine would be my choice if looking for something on the fresh side.

    As for the Sumo oranges, I saw them at the grocery store but they looked like shrivelled old bad oranges so I hurried past.


    • I was also passing those by until recently. Maybe you could try one next year when the new season starts – it is different enough to at least give it a try.

      Mandarine Mandarin is one of a few SL classic perfumes that I’ve never smelled. It’s not one of those that is getting a lot of love online, so I just never got to trying it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooooh, I would love to try those Sumos! I am quite obsessed with citrus fruit and eat clementines every single day. I haven’t found an ideal mandarin based fragrance but used to enjoy Jo Malone’s Lime Basil and Mandarin, which is perhaps not as zesty as I would like, but made me feel clean and fresh.

    Rusty is half mandarin coloured!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Rusty could hind among mandarins and oranges if he manages to tuck away his white spots :)

      Lime Basil and Mandarin is too dry and masculine for my liking. I do not mind it as a shower gel or body lotion but as perfume it doesn’t work for me – unless layers with something sweeter.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Funny, I don’t have any mandarin perfumes in my collection which doesn’t make sense since they’re usually perfect for the hot, hot weather. But I am in a mood for some shopping, so I am going to go check out where I could buy the Prada here in Mexico! But for now, I think I’ll go have myself a “halo.” They’re in season and a great way to start off the day…no mandarin, but close enough!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mandarin is my favourite citrus note. It makes me happy. I only have Eau de Mandarine Ambree but agree the mandarin doesn’t last long. I will definitely seek out the Prada when my partial bottle is finished.

    Oh and I wouldn’t pay luxury prices for a citrus perfume either.


    • Mandarin aroma does make me happy as well. I think it goes far back into my childhood since back then we had mandarins for a short period of time, in winter, usually around New Year celebration.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love Mandarines! I have neroli Portofino, and eau de Hadrien (my scent of today) but neither is my go to for citrus. I love Bond Little Italy, in a super cheerful bright orange bottle. It’s so beautiful, and lasts really well. I found mine at a discount store so paid, maybe $40 for it. It’s gorgeous and makes me happy. I loved all the different references to new orange scented things-wish I could have tried the Serge Lutens one, or the L’artisan one.

    I really struggled before paying for Neroli Portofino, because like Tara I really struggle for paying luxury prices for a fleeting scent. I bought both of mine at reduced rates. If you like the NP try the body products-better priced, and true to the original scent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I might pick up one of the more expensive scents if they get on sale somewhere. But full “private bland” price for a citrus cologne – even a nice one – just doesn’t sit well with me.

      I struggle with body products as well: I do not wear the same perfume often enough to use up a corresponding body product before it spoils. And I’m not sure I’ve ever had a body product for perfume I didn’t own… I can see how it might be a good idea… but still… I’ll think about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love mandarins and I eat a lot of them in the winter when they are available in the shop at a good price because it’s the season for them. Off season they are harder to find in grocery stores and the price is too high to reach for them.

    From your list I have and enjoy Clementine California and Prada Infusion de Mandarine.

    What I can recommend as well is trying Ormaie Les Brumes, I’m in love with it and might finally decide to buy it after caving in to get L’Ivree Bleue for birthday.
    Diptyque Eau des Sens is also a very nice one although it’s more focused on orange.
    Ah, and let’s not forget about Azemour from Parfum d’Empire. It’s a wonderfully juicy chypre.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have several nice citrus perfumes that are not mandarin. The idea here was to find that specific not. Mandarin, orange and grapefruit (not even talking about yuzu :) ) are completely different scents.
      Ormaie Les Brumes sounds like something I might like… though tuberose isn’t my thing. But I’ll definitely give it a try when I have a chance.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I haven’t tried sumo oranges but have heard them advertised on Spotify. Love satsumas as well! Clementine California is probably my favorite from Atelier Cologne, although I haven’t bought it so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t have many citrus-based fragrances, although I quite like them; I just focus more on florals and greens. I have even fewer that I could call “mandarin” fragrances. But I do have a “bargain beauty” bottle of the discontinued Manuel Canovas Route Mandarine, and I like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never heard of either Manuel Canovas or Route Mandarine before, which isn’t surprising given how many brands are out there.

      If to compare the number of citrus perfumes to the number of florals that I have, I can say that I don’t have that many of the former as well ;)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Orangey citruses, yummmmm. I adore Sumo oranges. My husband discovered them at the grocery story 2 years ago and we enjoy them during Sumo season every year. Time to buy more as I’m just about to eat the last one today.

    My favorite citrus is satsuma. So divine, heavenly citruses. Many people here have satsuma trees in their yards. My favorite seller at the farmer’s market makes satsuma marmalade every year and I stock up. It’s the best, leaves regular orange marmalade in the dust! Clementines and traditional mandarins are delicious, too. And then there are the Texas red grapefruit….. I could live on fruit, but I would be missing some protein, so not a great idea.

    My favorite citrus fragrance is Meloe by Teo Cabanel, a ‘mellow’ soft citrus that is perfect for summer. I’m also ordering samples of JC Ellena’s Mandarino for Laboratorio Olfattivo. This is a brand I have not tried and many perfumistas seem to admire the fragrances from this house so it’s time to try it.


    • I love grapefruit, but in the recent 10 years it seems that oranges got bigger while grapefruits got smaller. Each year I hope that it just wasn’t the right year and the next time… But the next year comes, and those grapefruits are again tiny. I think it’s a conspiracy! First, they taught us to buy grapefruits by piece (vs. by lb for oranges), and then started producing smaller fruits to save on transportation and storage, but still sell them to us by piece :)

      I liked Meloe when I tried it. Not enough to buy a bottle, but it was pleasant.


  11. I had never seen or heard of those Sumo mandarins, and I must say they look uncommonly knobbly, as befits their rugged name. With the thicker peel of citrus fruit, I always imagine the flesh will be a bit dry and tasteless, but I am sure that is not the case here. Funnily enough, I had a tangerine today (my favourite word!), and it had so many pips it really was not worth the bother. And was also dry and tasteless. Oranges of all kinds can be a bit hit and miss or maybe I am just unlucky. I have the same bad luck with pears never ripening.

    My brother loves a mandarin scent by Miller Harris, though I am blowed if I can find it. I think that was the house. I am partial to Penhaligon’s Castile and Orange Blossom, and I agree that Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino, though nice, doesn’t justify its price tag.


    • My vSO has an eye for citruses, so he usually manages to pick out those that turn out to be juicy. I do not like the most of cultivars other than satsuma, but do it them from time to time. Oranges, when juicy, I like many different varieties. I just bought some pears… We’ll see how it goes :)


  12. Pingback: What I Wore Wednesday: Perfume Advent Calendar 2021, Week 2 – Undina's Looking Glass

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