What Does Bergamot Smell Like?

The Scent of a Sultry Italian Summer

Slice of bergamot fruit
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Bergamot essential oil is one of the most widely-used ingredients in modern perfumery. So what does it even smell like, and why is it so beloved?

The Backstory on Bergamot

The tree that bears the bergamot orange originated in Southeast Asia, but today, it's mainly grown in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. More than 80 percent of all the world's bergamot oranges are found here, but the fruit is also cultivated in the South of France and on the Ivory Coast. Fun fact: Bergamot is named after the city of Bergamo in Lombardy, Italy, where the oil was first sold.

Bergamot essential oil is cold-pressed from the peel of the bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia), a small, round citrus fruit. When ripe, the fruit is yellow and is said to taste like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit.

What Bergamot Smells Like

With a citrus-like fragrance and a distinctive spicy-floral quality, bergamot essential oil has quite a unique smell. Imagine wandering through a golden-lit citrus grove in southern Italy; perhaps that gives a sense of what makes bergamot such an evocative scent. But here's a more explicit example: Ever drink a cup of Earl Grey tea? Then you've inhaled the sweet scent of bergamot before; the oil is infused into black tea to create this sophisticated drink. 

Bergamot Fragrances

The dynamic, complex aroma of bergamot makes the essential oil a prized ingredient in perfumery. It combines beautifully with many fragrance notes but is particularly pleasing with jasmine, orange, rosemary, sandalwood, sage, frankincense, ylang ylang, and vetiver.

There are many luxury women's perfumes that feature the alluring scent of bergamot:

Bergamot is also a star in some popular high-end men's fragrances:

Bergamot Aromatherapy

Aside from being used in perfume, bergamot essential oil is also valuable in aromatherapy applications. Compounds like limonene and linalool give it potent healing properties when inhaled. Here are some of the purported benefits:

  • Soothes digestive upset
  • Relieves feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Lifts mood
  • Energizes

(Note: Always dilute essential oils. You may want to consult your physician before using any essential oil, especially if you're pregnant or nursing.)

Bergamot is a dreamy scent, for sure. Whether you dab a drop of the essential oil onto your wrist or spritz on a bergamot-infused perfume, the fragrance is luxurious, fresh, and sweet all at once. Not to mention, it might transport you to Southern Italy, no plane ticket needed.