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

Ylang ylang is a tropical flower prized for its sweet, fruity, and aromatic scent. It’s used in some of the world’s best perfumes as a top note due to its floral, yet spicy aroma.

When people ask what does ylang ylang smell like, the answer depends on the distillation grading system. It can emit scents ranging from bitter orange to banana and spice.

This makes ylang ylang a versatile ingredient that complements other floral scents such as jasmine.

What is Ylang Ylang?

Cananga Odorata, or ylang ylang, is a tropical, star-shaped flower derived from the Cananga tree family. It’s often found in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Indian tropical rainforests and across Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

This climbing flower is renowned for the unique aroma emitted after the distillation process. Its fruity scent is used in some of the world’s most beloved fragrances.

Aside from being a fragrance ingredient, the yellow flowers can also be turned into essential oil or at-home health remedy.

Ylang ylang is informally known as the ‘poor man’s jasmine.’

Although jasmine ranks higher on the price scale, the sweet fragrance of ylang ylang mesmerized several ace perfumers and made its way to the classic Chanel No. 5. Jacques Polge, the perfume’s creator, simply couldn’t help but use it in his award-winning formula.

What Does Ylang Ylang Smell Like?

The ylang ylang scent is most commonly described as sweet, aromatic, and floral. Each yellow flower goes through a steam distillation process that influences its quality and scent strength.

This is the grading system used for the resulting Ylang Ylang essential oil:

  • Extra: the quickest extract resulting post-distillation. The resulting ylang ylang scent provides a rich, romantic aroma associated with custard. Due to its high intensity, extra ylang ylang is used in the most popular perfumes.
  • One to Three: As distillation continues, the resulting ylang ylang smell becomes more subtle. Its dense essential oil can emit a fruity fragrance similar to bitter orange, banana, or spice. The third distillation round provides the mildest scent.
  • Complete: This form of ylang ylang combines all distillation techniques. It’s used in most perfumes with a milder smell to create one distinct aroma with top notes of sweetness and romance.

What Scent Family is Ylang Ylang?

Both the ylang ylang vine and the climbing ylang ylang are woody plants. They’re part of the C. Adorata species, commonly known as the custard tree family.

This connection is why many people associate the rich fragrance note with custard.

What are the Benefits of Ylang Ylang?

Aside from its strong fragrance, ylang ylang can positively impact our stress levels, blood pressure, and mental health.

The top health benefits of ylang ylang are:

  • It reduces infections due to linalool, a key ingredient with antifungal properties. Using the ylang ylang essential oil in such cases can kill bacteria and it alleviates pain caused by local infections such as Candida albicans.
  • It improves our overall mood. Researchers confirmed that applying ylang ylang directly to the skin can reduce anxiety. Inhaling the sweet scent of ylang ylang essential oils is a great stress reliever as it decreases cortisol levels.
  • It can lower blood pressure from the very first whiff of its resulting essential oil. More research showed that ylang ylang acts as a mild sedative when inhaled, as its tropical flower increased calmness in study participants.
  • It increases sexual desires. Ylang ylang has been part of many Asian cultural traditions meant for stimulating sexual desires. The flower’s calming properties reduce anxiety while regulating heart rate, making it a powerful aphrodisiac.
  • It can reduce infections. Dried ylang ylang flowers are commonly used to treat Asian malaria.
  • Other health benefits: The paste made from the flower form of ylang ylang reduces asthma symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Aside from its wellness advantages, it’s great for soothing skin conditions and might even eliminate head lice when applied directly to the hair roots.

Is Ylang Ylang a Feminine or Masculine Scent?

The perfume form of ylang ylang is often described as a deep aroma with a fruity, floral middle note. Some people associate it with spices like cinnamon, which is often used in masculine perfumes.

However, the airy overture of this yellow flower has quickly made it a top choice for female fragrances. Much like lavender or neroli oil, ylang ylang smells delicious—an essential characteristic for most quality perfume creations.

The deep, exotic notes of ylang ylang perfumes can be found in both feminine and masculine fragrances. Still, it’s mostly used in feminine scents.

Best Perfumes with Ylang Ylang Notes

Ylang Ylang is nicknamed “the perfume tree” and its unique aroma is found in some of the most mesmerizing fragrances on Earth. Here are the best ones:

Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5 has been the most iconic perfume worldwide since 1921.

The top note of ylang ylang is perfectly complemented by fresh lemon. Its middle notes of jasmine and rose inspire romance, while the musk completes Coco Chanel’s vision.

Dior J’adore

This perfume encapsulates the Dior definition of feminity.

Here, ylang ylang puts a spotlight on its top notes of pear, peach, and orange. The middle notes of jasmine and orchid create a sweet scent complemented by sharp base tones of musk and amaranth.

Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps

The floral notes of Brazilian rosewood made this perfume a favorite since 1948.

It has one of the loveliest and highest floral combinations, including orchid and violet. Ylang ylang brings out the best of the other aromas included, such as amber.

Hermes 24 Faubourg

Hermes designed this fragrance as a “voyage to the sun.”

With such a high dose of ylang ylang and iris, the resulting scent is floral and exotic. Its base tones of wood and vanilla emphasize romance and delicacy.

Givenchy Amarige

Described as a light fragrance, this option is sweet, tropical, and exotic. The fresh mix of ylang ylang, neroli, and gardenia create a subtle, yet memorable smell.

Perfumers recommend this option for the summer season.

The Bottom Line

Ylang ylang is a top fragrance choice due to its sweet yet exotic aroma. The tropical plant is distilled to different degrees, emitting hints of citrus, spice, and banana.

The tropical flower is a top choice in creating unforgettable scents. As mentioned, it’s included in the world’s most acclaimed perfumes including Chanel No. 5. 

Many people who use ylang ylang are also taken aback by its health benefits. These include balancing mental health and reducing blood pressure.

It also boasts anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that help combat a variety of conditions. How’s that for a triple threat?