Robert Pattinson’s signature fragrance, J Dior, was unveiled this summer, and the modelo del perfume sure fits the British actor’s good looks. Launched in 2016, the bottle depicts a beautiful woman wearing sunnies and a floral print dress. She is flanked by a fern and a blackbird, symbolising grace, vitality and charm.

But the design of the bottle is not the only thing that makes this fragrance stand out. Its composition is also particularly unique, incorporating notes of orange blossom, lemon, black currant, fig, damascena flower and patchouli.

An Orange Blossom-Lemon Appeal

While orange blossom and lemon are common notes in perfumes, they’re not often found together in one fragrance. This is especially surprising given that lemons are a natural complement to oranges. But in J Dior, the combination of these two elements is a marriage made in perfume heaven.

According to Dr Anna Puri, consultant pharmacist and senior lecturer at City University London, this is partly because oranges are more common in Mediterranean countries, while lemons are featured more in tropical regions. So if you’ve smelled orange blossoms and lemon trees, it’s likely you’ve smelled citrus fruit. However, the fragrances of these plants can be remarkably different, even when distilled and combined.

“If you have an orange blossom perfume, it usually has a mellow, sweet sensuality about it, while a lemon fragrance can be more tart, sharp and lemony,” explains Dr Puri. “When they’re mixed, the resulting fragrance will be a unique combination of both.”

A Rich Earthiness From The Damascena

Flax seeds, carmine and dried plum are among the many rich, deep fruits that are prominent in J Dior. Most notably, its damascena flower is a key player in its composition, providing a deep, earthy note that is as surprising as it is lovely.

A flowering plant native to the Mediterranean, the damascena was long regarded as the “queen of the night-time scents”. Its small white flowers are most prominent when the sun begins to set and the air is turning cooler. The rich, round fruit that follows is a deep reddish-brown colour when ripe, and is best picked when fully ripe.

According to perfumers, the floral compound linalool is most closely associated with damascena. This compound gives the flower and fruit a “labdanum-like” scent, although it is certainly an aromatic amyris rather than a labdanum. This suggests that the damascena fruit may have been used in past perfumery, although it hasn’t been widely used in modern scents.

A Distinct Patchouli Appeal

Native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, patchouli provides a base note that is, at once, dark and woodsy. This is unusual for a fragrance, and the fact that it hasn’t been reproduced in a modern scent is, likely, due to its ubiquity in cheaper, mass-marketed aromatics. The best-quality patchouli is extremely expensive and highly refined. It is often used in incense and in traditional, “mature” scents.

According to perfumers, patchouli has been used in perfumery since at least the 13th century. Its presence in perfumes is not a modern invention, and, in fact, it has been used in combination with citrus fruit and spices since medieval times. Like many other essential oils, patchouli can be both expensive and hard to source. Thankfully, modern perfumers have created a fragrance that accurately represents this beautiful oil: Joop!

J Dior is a wonderful celebration of these luxurious fruits and their unique combination of sweet and tart flavours. Its unique composition is down, in part, to its inclusion of fruit (especially patches of orange and lemon), spice (particularly black pepper) and flower (especially jasmine).

Orange And Lemon: The Classic Mix

While we’ve established that the combination of lemon and orange is relatively common in smells, these fruits’ flavours are also found together in nature. From the common sour orange to C+L damasks, this union of citrus and citrus fruit is, therefore, both natural and traditional.

Lemon juice is traditionally used to make a sour orange perfume. Indeed, the similarity of these fruits’ sourness is remarkable, and it’s this that leads some perfumers to believe that the two are, in fact, two variations on the same theme.

To bring this theory to light, we must turn to the 18th century, when citrus fruit were first cultivated around Europe. It was during this time that people began to mix the fruit’s flavours together. At first, these combinations were created for culinary purposes, as a way of using up seasonal, under-ripe fruit. Naturally, the combinations became popularised as people sought to replicate the taste of these mysterious, far-flung fruits.

This tendency towards experimentation can be seen in traditional Chinese medicine, where the flavour of the ginger plant is widely used. This is, in part, because of the plant’s association with both fire and water, as well as its “warming” nature. When combined with the fruit’s citrussy nature, this makes the ginger plant a valuable “tonic” in cold weather. The fruit’s faint bitterness is also an ingredient in many traditional, Asian dishes.

While it’s certainly true that the combination of citrus fruit and spice is a “classic” one, it’s certainly not a fixed one. Over the years, perfumers have played with these ingredients, using them in unique and creative ways.