How Do I Choose the Best Neroli Perfume?

Canaan Downs

The aroma of a genuine, high-quality neroli perfume is considered by some people to conjure up exotic landscapes like no other scent. Extracted from the delicate blossoms of the Citrus aurantium, or bitter orange tree, neroli essential oil should be the primary ingredient of the neroli perfume that you choose. There is a high cost of cultivating the flowers and extracting their essential oil, so inferior neroli scents or perfume oils made from industrial chemicals are commonly substituted for the more multifaceted natural product. Unlike the pure essential oil, these chemicals are more likely to produce headaches and other allergic reactions in users.

Neroli essential oil is extracted from the flowers of the bitter orange tree.
Neroli essential oil is extracted from the flowers of the bitter orange tree.

The chemicals most commonly used to approximate the essential oil in artificial neroli perfume are methyl-o-amidobenzoate and B-napthol methyl ester. Synthetic neroli scents made from these ingredients lack the citrus and floral complexity provided by the chemicals limone, geraniol and linalyl acetate found in neroli essential oil. When choosing a neroli perfume, make certain that neroli essential oil is the primary ingredient and that the method used to extract it is noted.

Like other essential oils, neroli oil is extracted using a process known as steam distillation.
Like other essential oils, neroli oil is extracted using a process known as steam distillation.

The cultivation and harvest of bitter orange blossoms is costly and labor-intensive, so many producers use whatever techniques they can to maximize their yields during the neroli essential oil extraction process. The use of chemical solvents is by far the most efficient way to extract neroli oil from the flowers, but it produces a final product of inferior quality. Solvent extraction invariably leaves some trace of the agents used in the final product, detectable in the scent by discriminating perfumers. These chemicals also can produce allergic reactions in some sensitive individuals. The use of solvents also affects the ratio of the aromatic constituents of the essential oil, resulting in a final product that differs considerably from that which is traditionally used in neroli perfume.

Traditionally, neroli perfume was made from neroli essential oil extracted via enfleurage, in which several changes of freshly picked blossoms were steeped in an odorless fat for a weeks or months and then separated and extracted in an alcohol wash. This labor-intensive method is extremely costly but is still insisted upon by some perfumers. Modern methods, however, have considerably improved upon this ancient essential oil extraction technology.

Neroli essential oil of equal or higher quality can be produced through the use of a technique known as supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction. Supercritical CO2 extracts contain no solvent residue, because the solvent used is a largely inert atmospheric gas under high pressure and extremely low temperature. Unlike other methods, the low temperatures of this method help to prevent the loss of some of the most ephemeral constituents of the essential oil, allowing for the production of an even more refined neroli perfume.

Neroli essential oil should be the primary ingredient in a high-quality neroli perfume.
Neroli essential oil should be the primary ingredient in a high-quality neroli perfume.

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