Bergamot Perfume Ingredient: What is It? What Does It Smell Like?

Bergamot has a fresh, zesty, citrus scent most similar to orange or lemon. 

In fact, bergamot is deemed a member of the citrus family. It has the Latin name Citrus bergamia which translates to “bergamot orange.”

What is Bergamot?

Unlike other citrus fruits, you won’t have come across bergamot in your local supermarket as it’s commonly considered inedible.

A cross between bitter lemon and orange, yet more resembling a pear in shape, the bergamot fruit is about the size of an orange, has irregular, bumpy peel, and is either green or yellow in color—depending on how ripe it is. If you were to brave a taste, you would discover that bergamot isn’t as sour as a lemon but is more bitter than a grapefruit.

The bergamot plant can grow up to 1 meter in height and produces a distinctive flower. Often pink or purple, the flower head erupts with petals and tubes, taking on the appearance of a firework.

Bergamot orange gains its name from the city of Bergamo in southern Italy where it’s predominantly grown, although you’ll find that it’s largely cultivated on the Ivory Coast and in the South of France as well.

It’s also grown in small quantities in Mauritius where bergamot juice and bergamot tea are enjoyed by the locals.

What Does Bergamot Smell Like?

Bergamot has a distinctive tart, bitter scent. It’s an extremely strong fragrance and is used sparingly.

You might have experienced the spicy, aromatic notes of bergamot if you’ve had the pleasure of drinking Earl Grey Tea. It is bergamot that gives this black tea its floral, acidic edge—the Chinese tea leaves being combined with bergamot oil to create a drink awash with citrus scents.

Bergamot smells sweet and tangy at the same time, and the sweet-yet-tart nature of this citrus fruit makes it a popular choice for cocktails, baking, and marmalade.

What Scent Family is Bergamot?

Bergamot finds its home in the Lamiaceae family, genus Monarda. Scent-wise, it’s part of the Citrus scent family and is considered a spring or summer fragrance.

The essential oil which is used in creating fragrance is extracted using steam distillation of the peel. It takes 100 bergamot oranges to extract just 85g of essential oil.

Machines called peelers draw out an emulsion from the rind of the fruit which is then diverted to centrifuges, which then separate the oil from the water. This technique is known as cold-pressing.

What are the Benefits of Bergamot?

The USP Food Chemicals Codex describes bergamot oil as a flavoring and it’s considered safe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration.

Similar to grapefruit oil, bergamot oil is antiseptic (preventing the growth of disease-causing microorganisms), analgesic (pain-relieving), and antispasmodic (suppresses muscle spasms). There’s also some evidence that it can be applied topically to help with some skin conditions, but must be mixed first with coconut oil or other carrier oil. 

Bergamot’s fragrant, citrus notes also make it a popular choice in cosmetics and deodorants. A few drops on your pillow at night are said to relieve stress and aid proper digestion.

This perennial plant is also often grown as an ornamental addition to gardens as it attracts bees and hummingbirds.

A word of warning: it isn’t advised to use tanning beds after applying a product that contains bergamot fragrance as the UV rays can cause serious skin inflammation. The stress relief isn’t worth it in this case!

Obviously, the most popular use of bergamot essential oil is in the creation of bergamot perfumes. Bergamot was first used in perfumery in 1714 at the Farina Archive in Cologne where it was used as an ingredient in eau de cologne.

The highly fragrant bitter orange musk quickly established bergamot as a popular essential oil.

Is Bergamot Feminine or Masculine Scent?

Bergamot straddles the market and is considered a unisex perfume. Many consumers love bergamot due to the richness and depth that it adds to a scent.

Its spicy edge and unique floral scent mean it’s usually used as a top note in perfume compositions and has become a favorite fragrance of many.

If you usually opt for perfumes with top notes of jasmine, Sicilian lemon, mandarin orange, or other citrus scents, bergamot fragrances will appeal to you. Bergamot also adds a certain appeal to sandalwood and white musk fragrances, particularly if used as part of the heart notes or the base notes.

Best Perfumes with Bergamot Notes

1. Acqua Di Parma, Colonia Quercia

This is a rich scent with bergamot and petitgrain featuring as top notes. Its heart notes are comprised of cardamom, cedarwood, and geranium with base notes of tonka bean and oak moss.

Overall, this perfume leans slightly towards the masculine as far as unisex fragrances with an overall woody musk go.

2. Vetiver Fatal Cologne Absolue

Here’s a unisex perfume that expertly blends citrus top notes of vetiver and bergamot with more feminine mid notes of orange blossom and black currant.

3. Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li Eau de Toilette

This is another unisex fragrance that combines bergamot with other fragrance notes to create one of the favorite fragrances for both men and women. Base notes of jasmine, plum, and bamboo are expertly blended to create a rich, exotic perfume.

Still intrigued? Look out for bergamot mixes containing ylang ylang, almond oil, pink pepper, or sandalwood which also pair well with this distinctive musk.

The Bottom Line

So, what does bergamot smell like? Bergamot smells citrusy and rich.

Bergamot oil creates a spicy, exotic musk that is popular in both male and female fragrances. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the world of Bergamot scent, brew a cup of fragrant Earl Grey, shut your eyes and allow the citrus steam to transport you to the Ionian Sea Coast.