I’ve written before about my search for the perfect orange fragrance for summer (I already have 2 for cold weather: Fendi Theorema and i Profumi di Firenze Spezie de Medici). There are any number of contenders (L’Occitane Ruban d’Orange, L’Artisan Mandarine Tout Simplement, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Sanguine Muskissime, Guerlain Orange Magnifica, Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte, Calypso Tangerine, among others), but so far, nothing is exactly right for orange. I do like several on that list (and love the Hermès) but they aren’t quite the bright, juicy orange I’m looking for. I’d love it to stay juicy (and orange-y) for a few hours, but I know that isn’t likely, so my requirements are just that it be at least interesting and a bit orange-ish after an hour or so, and that it isn’t gone altogether by the end of two hours.
Today’s match pits Guerlain’s recent Aqua Allegoria Mandarine Basilic (shown, with orange blossom, white peony, green tea, ivy, Roman camomile, mandarin, basil, amber and sandalwood) against Orange Splash by Marc Jacobs (bergamot, mandarin, neroli, tamarind, water mint, freesia, white rose, moss, tonka bean amber, musk and blonde woods). And they’re off…
Just out of the gate: I gave each fragrance 3 sprays, Mandarine Basilic on my left arm, Orange Splash on my right. Mandarine Basilic opens very nearly perfect. It is juicy and bright, with lots of citrus (I’m smelling nearly as much grapefruit as orange). It is perhaps a wee bit sweeter than I’d like, but it isn’t candied. Orange Splash smells like orange without being exactly juicy — it is bit tart, almost fizzy, and rather high pitched but also extremely “fresh”. It has a more synthetic edge than the Guerlain, but isn’t unpleasant.
After 5 minutes: On the Guerlain side, the basil is really kicking in. The orange is still going strong as well. It smells sort of like an orange and basil salad with a bit of fruit syrup drizzled over the top. It has a nice sparkle to it, and the sweetness levels are now about perfect. Nice. The Marc Jacobs still retains a bit of orange, but it is already getting flatter, more woody-mossy. Next to the Guerlain, it smells rather dull.
After 15 minutes: The Mandarine Basilic is still rolling along, with orange and basil both strong. It has changed only minimally in the last 10 minutes, although now I’m catching some indistinct florals as well. The Marc Jacobs is fading rapidly. It is still very “fresh”, but if it wasn’t for the name, I’d never have guessed it was about orange.
After 30 minutes: Mandarine Basilic is now very herbal and green, and the tea notes are more obvious. The orange is still hanging on quite nicely, although it isn’t quite as juicy as it was in the opening. I’m not catching any citrus at all in the Orange Splash, nor has it been replaced with anything else worth talking about. Whatever personality it had at the start is very nearly gone. Perhaps 3 sprays wasn’t enough.
After 1 hour: Mandarine Basilic handily passes the 1 hour test. It smells like a lovely citrus basil tea with light florals and pale woody undertones. It is still bright and sparkling and summery. If you don’t love basil though, I’d guess it isn’t going to work for you. Orange Splash, on the other hand (arm?) is just sitting there dull and lifeless, with nothing to say for itself. It smells like the vague leftovers of some perfume you might have applied 8 hours ago.
After 2 hours: Mandarine Basilic has clearly won this match. There isn’t quite as much orange as there was earlier, but nor is the orange entirely gone, and overall, it still smells good. The Orange Splash is basically dead.
After 3 hours: I am very surprised at how well the Mandarine Basilic is holding up. It is fading, but it is far from gone, and I can still make out some orange. On a normal day, I’d probably be re-applying about now just to get the nice juicy orange burst of the opening again. I’m going to hold off and see how long it lasts.
After 6 hours: Guerlain Mandarine Basilic seems to have one of those woody musk bases that go on forever. My left arm still smells good, although the orange and basil have long since faded away.
Conclusions: It is too soon to say whether Mandarine Basilic will get holy grail status for a summer orange, but I like it very much and it is easily my favorite Aqua Allegoria since Anisia Bella. That means it will probably get discontinued, right? Anyway, I’d like a bottle but there simply isn’t any way I’d pay full price for an Aqua Allegoria ($50 for 75 ml) when I know I can get it at discount if I wait. So I’ll wait. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find it at TJ Maxx.
Orange Splash ($65 for 300 ml) did nothing for me at all. It is cheaper than the Aqua Allegoria, but even at a much smaller size and price it wouldn’t interest me.