What Does Bergamot Smell Like? Getting to Know the Popular Citrus Fragrance

What Does Bergamot Smell Like Getting to Know the Popular Citrus Fragrance

You’ve probably never eaten a bergamot orange, given their extremely acidic taste. What’s more, you might not have even seen one growing, unless perhaps you’ve visited the southern region of Italy where they’re mostly produced. However, you definitely have smelled bergamot before, as it’s one of the most common citrus scents that is featured in both candles and perfume. Read on to learn what bergamot is, what bergamot smells like and where this unusual citrus fruit comes from. We wrap up by highlighting some of our favorite candle scents that incorporate bergamot into the fragrance.

What is bergamot?

Bergamot is a plant that belongs to the citrus family. It’s technically an orange, but it has a green-to-yellow peel and yellow flesh, which distinguishes it from other common oranges, such as navels, mandarins and clementines. Unlike most other oranges, the pear-shaped bergamots are almost completely inedible due to their acidic, bitter flesh. Instead, they are mostly grown for their peels, which are used in teas, fragrance and so on. (More about the uses of bergamot below.)

peeled bergamot in basket

The name “bergamot” comes from the French bergamote, which came from the Italian bergamotta, which is named for the town Bergamo. However, the word is ultimately Turkish in origin, coming from the word bey armudu or bey armut, which means “lord’s pear” or “prince’s pear.” It’s not known if the name refers to the fruit’s pear-like shape, or if another citrus fruit such as a lemon was crossed with a pear tree at some point back in history.

The bergamot orange should not be confused with the bergamot herb, which is a perennial native to North America. The herb bergamot produces tubular, leafy stalks that are topped by brightly colored flower clusters in purple, pink and red. The herb bergamot belongs to the mint family and encompasses several varieties, including lemon bergamot (lemon mint), wild bergamot (purple bee balm) and orange mint (something confusingly referred to as simply “bergamot”).

If you see bergamot referenced on a label, check to see if the plant in question is the bergamot orange or the herb bergamot. Sometimes, bergamot citrus oils are adulterated with the oils from bergamot mint or other plants such as rosewood. In Italy, the primary producer of bergamot, the production of the essential oil is regulated to ensure the highest quality product.

what does bergamot smell like

What does bergamot smell like?

Like other fragrances from the citrus family, bergamot does have that classic sweet-yet-tart smell. However, bergamot also brings its own floral, spicy edge to the acidically appealing scent. It’s highly fragrant and, in fact, bergamot is what gives Earl Grey tea its notable scent. Bergamot is a very versatile scent and pairs well with many other fragrances, including jasmine, rosemary, sandalwood, vetiver and ylang ylang. Bergamot may also be used alongside other citrus scents, including orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit, to further enhance the citrus fragrance and add a different dimension to the fragrance profile.

Where does bergamot originate from?

While the bergamot orange plant originally comes from Southeast Asia, it is now primarily grown in the southern regions of Italy. Confusingly, the Italian town that the plant is named after–Bergamo–is located in the north, where the citrus plants do not grow. Instead, the bergamot orange is primarily grown around the Ionian Sea coast of Calabria in Southern Italy. 

In fact, the crop is so important to the region that the fruit is the symbol of the city Reggio di Calabria. Reggio di Calabria has a special agency of the chamber of commerce, Stazione Sperimentale per le Industrie delle Essenze e dei Derivati dagli Agrumi (SSEA) (Experimental Station for the Industry of the Essential Oils and Citrus Products), to regulate the production of oil.

The fruit is also produced in Argentina, Brazil, Algeria, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Southeast Asia. Italy, however, is still the primary producer of bergamot oranges and oil. During World War II, when Italy wasn’t able to export to the Allied Powers, some replacements did come on the market from Brazil and Mexico. These imitation products were made from other citrus fruits, such as sweet lime, as opposed to the genuine bergamot orange.

How else is bergamot used?

dropper with bergamot essential oils

While you might not have heard of bergamot oranges, the scent has many applications. It’s one of the most common fragrances in perfumes and candles thanks to its strong, complex, unique scent profile. The rind is also a critical ingredient used in Earl Grey tea, contributing to both the scent and taste. Anything that is “Earl Grey” flavored or scented is likely to include bergamot orange. Bergamot also comes in essential oil form, which has many different applications. Some people like to add a few drops to beauty products, apply it topically on their skin or hair or ingest a few drops in their beverage.

Applying undiluted essential oils can be a bit harsh for your skin, so you may want to dilute the bergamot oil with a gentle carrier oil, such as almond oil, before applying topically. As with all essential oils, keep bergamot away from your eyes in case of irritation. If you do apply it topically, keep in mind that citrus essential oils, including bergamot, make the skin more sensitive to UV rays put out by the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps. Don’t apply the oil before exposure to UV rays.

What are the benefits of bergamot?

Bergamot has become a popular essential oil in recent years due to its many different properties. While the evidence for many essential oils is largely anecdotal at this point, many people turn to bergamot to help with a variety of issues:

what are the benefits

  • Boosts energy and alertness: Like the rest of the citrus scents, bergamot is very energizing and helps perks you up. As a result, it’s a great candle to burn in the mornings, or you can incorporate the essential oil into your morning routine.
  • Relieves physical aches and tension: Some people find that when applied topically, bergamot oil helps relieve sore, tense muscles. Add a few drops to a carrier oil or lotion and massage it into your muscles. You can also massage it on your forehead if you have a headache, as long as the smell doesn’t make it worse.
  • Improves mood: Partly as a result of the other benefits on this list, bergamot orange can help improve your mood and soothe away nervous tension. If you need to relieve stress while still remaining alert, opt for bergamot over a more calming scent such as lavender, which might make you sleepy.
  • Promotes good physical health: There are some indications that ingesting bergamot orange, especially in the form of Earl Grey tea, can encourage better physical health in terms of lower cholesterol, proper digestion, weight loss and protection against diabetes and heart disease. More research is needed, but these are exciting possibilities.

Candles That Include Bergamot

Oranges often grow along warm coastlines, so it makes total sense that a beach cottage scented candle would include bergamot as part of the scent. A generous base note of sea air combines with tonka bean and amber for a salty, warm scent. Mid notes of marine, plumeria and musk add to the seaside appeal, while top notes of bergamot and sandalwood add citrusy, woody overtones to round out the fragrance profile.

homesick beach cottage candle

Florida is known for its citrus fruit, so of course we had to include it in our list of bergamot candles. This candle incorporates top notes of bergamot and mid notes of orange for a true citrus scent. Other fragrance notes like vanilla, amber, musk, mangrove wood, and Spanish moss add more complexity and nuance to the scent. This is much more than just an orange scented candle and really captures the scent of the state of Florida.

The City of Angels is one of the largest cities in the United States, so we had our work cut out for us when it came to capturing this populous, diverse city. We started with base notes of jasmine and musk for a subtle, floral scent. Then, we added in ylang ylang to add another dimension to the fragrance, as well as lemon to add some citrus to cut through the floral scent. To finish off the scent, we added in orange, bergamot and rose to further add to the citrus-floral combination.

This candle fragrance was inspired by drinking Earl Grey tea on a rainy Seattle afternoon, so you know that it contains bergamot. Mid notes of rhododendron and cedarwood are layered over base notes of amber, musk and vanilla to give off hints of a forest. We topped off the scent with not only bergamot but also patchouli and maple for a very soothing, warm fragrance that’s perfect for a damp fall afternoon.

homesick dallas candle

If you’re looking for a smoky leather candle, definitely check out our Dallas candle. Deep base notes of oakmoss and frankincense combine with mid notes of leather, nutmeg and cedarwood for a masculine, woody scent. Top notes of smoke, grapefruit and bergamot add a citrusy, smoky overtone that helps liven up the other deeper fragrances. Whether or not you’ve lived in Dallas, you’ll enjoy burning this candle.

This floral, citrus scent offers a subtle surprise in the form of top notes of chocolate. The base of raspberry and vanilla combines with honeysuckle and lavender for a floral fragrance with sweet, slightly fruity undertones. Bergamot forms the top notes, as does chocolate, which helps add a citrusy, savory overtone and keeps the floral notes from overwhelming the candle. If you’ve never thought about what Illinois smells like, you’re in for a real treat with this candle fragrance.

We know we already included Florida, but we couldn’t resist adding our Miami candle to this list of bergamot candles. If you wish you had a summer vacation in candle form, this is the product you’ve been looking for. Base notes of patchouli and musk combine with coconut to get that beachy scent, which we boosted even further with notes of suntan lotion as well as lavender. Top notes of bergamot, lemon and sea breeze complete the fragrance profile and ensure that you will be transported to the beach as soon as you light this beach candle.

homesick south carolina candle

If you want a candle that’s floral, citrusy and utterly unique, definitely check out our South Carolina candle. We started with a base of not just ylang ylang and vanilla, but also black tea to add a spicy yet sweet note. Then, we added in some magnolia, hibiscus and sugar to capture the scent of flowers blooming in summer. We finished off the fragrance with the citrus trinity of bergamot, grapefruit and lemon for some light, refreshing overtones.

This candle captures the memory of barrel-aged whiskey and honky tonk music late at night. To encapsulate the energy of Music City, we started with a base of sandalwood, tonka bean and musk for a subtle, heady scent. Then, we layered in patchouli, cedarwood and vanilla to add a hint of sweetness and further imbue the fragrance with the scent of whiskey barrels. Finally, we added in some maple and tobacco for that sweet smokiness, and finished it all off with a spritz of bergamot to balance out the scent with some citrus.

Bergamot is a fantastic scent that can be incorporated into many different scent profiles ranging from Earl Grey tea to citrus medleys. Next time you see “bergamot” listed on a scent label, you’ll not only know where it comes from but also what bergamot smells like.


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