I would like to say that I liked yuzu before it started exploding in popularity in the United States, but I can’t remember when I first encountered it. In recent years, in sync with its ubiquity, I have enjoyed yuzu soda, yuzu lager, yuzu sake (which tastes more like a fruit juice drink), yuzu ramen, and yuzu pasta sauce (the latter two rely on shoyu, a Japanese-style soy sauce, as the main seasoning ingredient). Possibly yuzu gummy candy and other foods that I can’t recall right now.
I also have bitter yuzu absolute (which smells sweet) and sweet yuzu essential oil (which smells bitter), which I use sparingly for my perfume experiments. However, I never had a commercially available yuzu perfume—until my recent visit to Montréal when I bought a bottle of Heeley Note de Yuzu.
As I mentioned before, the initial blast of crisp, bitter yuzu really drew me in. I later realized it was a fizzy aldehyde effect, although I don’t know whether yuzu aldehyde was used. Note de Yuzu, which was created for Maison Kitsuné to evoke the atmosphere of yuzu baths taken at the winter solstice in Japan, smells salty from the beginning—this is definitely a sugar-free adventure. The idea of the whole yuzu fruit is captured very well, as the overall scent sparkles with juice bursting from the vesicles of the flesh and the more pungent oils from the peel at the same time, softening into freshly squeezed yuzu juice.
It quickly transitions into a grapefruit phase, which feels more familiar as a citrus note in perfumery, so about 5 minutes in, it seems to turn warmer and rounder. If you have sprinkled salt on grapefruit to bring out its natural sweetness, you might imagine a similar effect here.
Orange starts to join in around this point, especially on fabric. (The official note is mandarin.) However, the predominant citrus remains always and truly: yuzu.
After about half an hour, the citrus fruits have been eaten, dripping mouths wiped clean, and only the peel lingers. In a cooler environment, such as an air-conditioned room, it develops into an orange peel for a couple of hours before fading into a salty skin scent. This is the part where it beams off the skin in hotter temperatures, providing, perhaps, an olfactory illusion of a private salt bath. With added humidity, I can almost imagine that I’m submerged in water up to the neck, surrounded by citrus, which in this fragrance contributes to the watery ambience as well.
I’ve worn Note de Yuzu every other day faithfully for a week, taking advantage of the hot days we’ve been having in New England. It has reasonable staying power for a citrus fragrance, but I tend to reapply it at least once in the afternoon. It’s certainly not a winter fantasy for me; rather, it’s a refreshing summer companion.