From Neroli to Orange Blossom, what do the different orange notes smell like?

Have you ever been out and about, going about your day, and been hit by the fresh, tangy smell of oranges? Just for a moment, it made you stop and search for the source of that feel-good scent.

Orange scents are so recognizable and turn-around good that it’s no wonder people line up for orange-scented perfumes and citrus colognes. But what do the different orange notes smell like?

Know your Tangerines from your Clementines?

We’re sure it’s not a bullwhip to the backside to learn that there are a few different types of citrus fruits. Aside from oranges and lemons, there’re a whole wagonload of other varieties:

Tangerines are a type of mandarin orange. They’re small and sweet like a shot of honey whiskey, with thin, loose skin.

Clementines are the smallest, sweetest type of mandarin orange, and have a red-orange skin that’d blend right into the grand canyon. They’re easier to peel than tangerines, but not quite as easy as satsumas.

Satsumas are lighter than tangerines and clementines, as well as being sweet, juicy, and seedless. They’re the most tender and delicate, so treat them as you would a person who likes to be treated as such!

But those aren’t the types of orange scents used in colognes and perfumes, that’s a whole other bullpen!

What makes oranges smell so good?

All fruit smells good when it's ripe. The chances are that if someone held a perfect peach or strawberry under your nose, you’d be able to tell them what they’ve got. But what is it about oranges that let you smell them from across the room?

Oranges have essential oil in their peel that’s unique. When you break the peel, the essential oils come into contact with the air and immediately vaporize. Yup, like they’ve been hit by a ray gun. 

Most other fruits have scents, called ‘esters’ that don’t evaporate as quickly, which means their fragrances are hard to notice unless you’re a nose breadth away. No, these don’t smell like your aunt Esther, ‘esters’ you often find in fruits like apples and oranges give off that particular, fruity smell popular in mainstream fragrances.

Now, we know what they say about comparing apples to oranges, so you’re probably thinking there's got to be more to it. Well, you’re right. That amazing, citrus smell you get from an orange is the work of chemicals called limonene and linalool. These bright and uplifting natural chemicals are what make orange scents popular in perfumes and colognes. Also found in peach, mango, and bergamot fragrances, these energizing, orangy notes suit those looking for a fragrance full of vibrancy and activity (unlike our aunt Esther).

An Orange shade of History

Which came first, orange the color or orange the fruit? Well, fight over it all you want, history shows that the fruit came first. The first recorded use of the English word ‘orange’ dates back to the 1300s, but like many words, is the result of a long, cross-cultural game of Telephone. The word really comes from the Sanskrit word ‘nāranga’, which means ‘orange tree’, which might have come from a Dravidian word meaning, ‘fragrant’. In our opinion, it's a long-winded way of naming a fruit after the fact it smells good! 

The use of ‘orange’ to describe the color turned up in the 1500s, probably because the fruit began to crop up in markets. Before, people generally called the color ‘yellow-red’, which is accurate, if a little basic. Hey, it's not stupid if it works!

Oranges are originally from the tropical areas of Asia and were farmed by humans to create the most delicious citrus fruits possible. They must’ve succeeded, because the sweet citrus fruits then spread to India, to the east African coast, before hopping the seas to the eastern Mediterranean. The thought of Julius Caesar tearing into a juicy orange isn’t so impossible when you learn that the roman empire was responsible for spreading the fruit even further around the globe. By the time Columbus was taking to the seas, oranges were even being enjoyed in the Canary Islands - talk about jumping on the bandwagon!

Funnily enough, before the 1920s, oranges were mostly thought of as a dessert fruit. Orange juice was unheard of until the roaring 20s, and massively increased the popularity and consumption of the fruit. With all this juice came a lot of wasted plants, and the amount of peel alone could scent a wild west town. Taking this unwanted product, perfumers can make a lovely, fresh scent that could cure even the worst case of barrel fever!

How to get the orange scent from the oranges

After peeling an orange, the sweet smell lingers on our fingertips and chases us around for the rest of the day. This is because most of the esters in oranges are found in oils in the peel - and no, this isn’t snake oil! There are several ways perfumers get this energizing smell out of the orange and into our favorite perfumes, but some are more useful than others.

The fragrant oil in the orange peel can be squeezed out using the cold press method - which isn’t really cold at all. It simply means when the orange peels are heated up, the process isn’t too hot and fast, which would ruin the oil. Heating the peels in 100-110 degree Fahrenheit water is usually enough to get to the oils without breaking them down, and is similar to a nice day out on the ranch. The ‘Press’ part of the method is pretty self-explanatory and involves squishing the peels as much as possible (running over it with a wagon would do). But as you can imagine, this process is a whole lot of time and effort for a little bit of oil. It’s as fun as a kitchen science experiment but isn’t a great way to get cups of usable oil. 

Oranges have a lot more oil to give, and most folks extract it using the steam distillation method. Like it sounds, it’s a lot more scientific but gives way more oil than the cold press method. Superheated steam is used to separate the oils from the leaves, stems, flower, and rind of the plant without overheating it, which gives much more product and side-steps having to deal with mushy orange peels!

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Types of Orange Scents

Now, chances are if asked what an orange smells like, any one of us could do a decent enough job, however, saying all orange scents smell the same is like comparing a bucking bronco to a paint pony. The difference between sweet and bitter orange essence is obvious, once you know what you’re looking for. When making perfumes and colognes, we normally use the bitter orange tree, because the essence from the sweet orange tree isn’t meant to be used on the skin. If its pure form meets skin and sunlight it can cause sunburn or nasty blisters, like an outbreak of scarlet fever, and no folks want that. If a fragrance needs a sweeter, lighter orange scent like sweet orange essential oil, any perfumer worth their salt will be diluting the essential oil or using synthetic scent blends. 

Using different parts of the bitter orange tree creates perfumes and colognes with hugely different scents, and we’ll challenge you to a walk-down if you say otherwise! 


Meaning ‘small grain’ in French, Petitgrain was traditionally harvested from immature bitter oranges but is now extracted from the twigs and leaves of the plant, which makes it unique from the classic smell of oranges. Petitgrain oil has a woody, bright, and green smell with orange accents, and is popular in colognes - It’s masculine and complex and adds an undeniable spark to its pistol-wieldin' wearers. 

Absolute Orange Blossom

Another distinctive scent from the bitter orange tree is Absolute Orange Blossom. Found in the tree’s flowers, orange blossom has a much more floral and soapy smell than pure orange essence. Orange blossom is a long, honeyed scent, like a hazy summer evening in Texas. It pairs well with other heady, floral scents, as well as oriental notes. 


Known for having a sweet, innocent scent, Neroli shows off the citrusy, light facets of orange scents. Like Petitgrain, Neroli has a greener scent than true orange essence and would be more than at home on a warm day in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s often used in cleaning products because of its clean, soapy scent, and has a bitter edge in comparison to its warmer ranch-mate, orange blossom. When pairing, Neroli goes with lemon, jasmine, and chamomile.

Orange EssenceThe fruit of the bitter orange tree is used to create bitter orange essence, which is a cross between the typical, sweet orange scent, and the fresh, bright smell of grapefruit. It’s a sweet oasis in the middle of a desert, being fresh, more summery, and much fruitier than that sweet orange while avoiding being overpoweringly sweet. It’s a scent that can be used in both perfumes and colognes to add welcoming energy, and can be paired with cinnamon, clove, and whiskey to give it a kick of spice! This sassy little combination is the backbone of Outlaw’s legendary Calamity Jane scent collection.

The Good News

If you’re searching for a stop-and-look new fragrance with orange notes, we’ve got you covered. The Calamity Jane range is for outlaws and in-laws who are sweet as cinnamon apple pie, but with twice the spice! Don't worry, it doesn’t smell like the actual Calamity Jane (who was rumored to have never set foot in the tub…). Slap on a generous squirt of Calamity Jane lotion after showing the real Jane how it’s done in the tub with our body wash. This perky, crisp, and spicy scent smells like orange, ginger, clove, cinnamon, and a shot of whiskey! 

Calamity Jane comes as a solid cologne for the wild folk who want to strike a bulls-eye with a long-lasting, feel-good scent. Who needs a bulky, liquid perfume when you could have a handy-dandy and eco-friendly tin to tuck away into your saddlebag? 

If you’re looking for a one-and-done application that you don’t have to think about, the Calamity Jane deodorant is for you. With all-natural, cruelty-free ingredients, it's a one-swipe deal with nothing to feel guilty about!

For cowboys and cowgirls, Calamity Jane comes in all the forms an outlaw could need to stay smelling far from an outhouse. Speaking of, you’d better be using Calamity Jane’s spicy, boozy handmade soap afterwards! And if you love it like we do, you can spread the feel-good smell with the Calamity Jane Gift Set for another soul of the wild west (or yourself, we won’t tell)!

Still unconvinced? Well, don’t listen to us, the reviews speak for themselves!

Become a Legend with Calamity Jane