Many floral fragrance notes used in perfumes are familiar, think rose, jasmine or orange blossom. However, an extremely popular floral is also relatively unknown: ylang-ylang. What is ylang-ylang, how does it smell, and why is it in so many perfumes?
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What is Ylang-Ylang?
The term ylang-ylang refers to both the tree and flower of Cananga odorata — a tree originating in the rainforests of Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia. For perfumers, the fragrant ylang-ylang flower is of primary interest.
The flower’s essential oil is extracted by steam distillation and is frequently used as a heart or middle note in many fragrances.
What Does Ylang-Ylang Smell Like?
Ylang-ylang is a heady, sweet, slightly exotic fragrance with a dry down that includes fruity and sometimes rubber notes. It’s perhaps most similar to jasmine which also has an intense and exotic scent.
Ylang-ylang is frequently used in perfumery to enhance citrus notes and sweeten or soften wood notes. Ylang-ylang works especially well with bergamot, geranium, grapefruit, lemon, sandalwood, and vetiver. Because of this, it is a common heart note in many popular perfumes including the classic Chanel No. 5.
Benefits of Ylang Ylang
There’s still a need for more research but in aromatherapy, ylang-ylang is commonly used for stress-relief and mood-elevation. The scent is said to promote relaxation and act as an aphrodisiac. Interestingly, it’s also used as a remedy for headlice.
5 Best Perfumes to Try Ylang-Ylang
Ylang-ylang is such a popular ingredient in fragrances, it’s hard to narrow the list. We looked for distinctive scents in which ylang-ylang is given a starring rather than a supportive role.
Our Top Ylang-Ylang Pick: Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum
Where better to start our top picks of ylang-ylang perfumes than the iconic Chanel No 5? The world’s most famous perfume, going strong since 1921. Chanel 5’s main notes are ylang-ylang, jasmine, and rose which combine to create a beautiful, elegant, and highly memorable fragrance. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re in for a treat.
Best Unisex Ylang-Ylang: Acqua di Parma Mandorlo di Sicilia Eau de Toilette
Acqua di Parma creates the quintessential balmy Mediterranean unisex fragrances and Mandorlo di Sicilia is no exception. Designed to evoke a sunny Sicilian garden, the ylang-ylang is paired with almond and vanilla in this sweet gourmand fragrance.
Best Ylang-Ylang for Summer: Dior J’adore Eau de Parfum
Another blockbuster perfume that skillfully uses ylang-ylang in its heart notes is Dior’s J’adore. A best-seller since its launch in 1999, J’adore is classy and feminine, with a touch of exotic and slightly fruity notes. A versatile fragrance perfect for daytime use during the warmer months, either casual or work.
Best Ylang-Ylang for Winter: Guerlain Samsara EDT
While ylang-ylang is often used in light floral perfumes, Guerlain’s Samsara takes ylang-ylang in a completely different direction. This is a warm, sensual woody classic fragrance perfect for cooler weather. Ylang-ylang is combined with sandalwood and jasmine to create a unique oriental blend.
Best Sexy Ylang-Ylang: Annick Goutal Songes Eau de Parfum
If you’re looking for a light, sunny ylang-ylang perfume, this is not it. Annick Goutal’s Songes is a rich, sensual, tropical floral scent with retro vibes. Even though it was launched in 2005, it’s reminiscent of a heady, classic fragrance. Songes was inspired by a night stroll along Bel Ombre beach on the island of Mauritius and is perfect for evening wear, date night or a sexy night at home.