Yuzu, one of Japan’s favorite fruit!
Native to central China, but mainly associated with Japan where it is used the most, Yuzu is a fruity-citrus note, currently very fashionable in niche fragrances.
Fruit of the fortuitous crossing of a lemon variety (Ichang papeda) and a wild mandarin (Satsuma), two Chinese citrus fruits belonging to the Rutaceae family of East Asia (Citrus ichangensis x C. reticulata var. austere), yuzu was first discovered along the Yangtze River on a slope at an altitude of 1200 meters.
Whether it’s for its particular aroma much appreciated in the kitchen or its unique scent, which has inspired many fine fragrances and even more niche ones in the past fifteen years, Yuzu is getting more and more trendy in the Western world!
As you can guess, the yuzu plant has been mainly cultivated on the Asian continent and most specifically East Asia, among which it is the most popular in Japan and Korea. Nevertheless it has more recently been introduced in France, Italy, Spain and Australia.
Derived from the Chinese word yòuzi spelled 柚子 (which now corresponds to the word for pomelo), yuzu now has its own Latin name Citrus junos, and is spelled 柚子 or ユズ in Japan. The word for yuzu in Korean is yuja, spelled 유자.
Most of us know yuzu as one of the most representative fruits of Japan, where it forms a huge part of Japanese people’s culture on a daily basis.
It was first brought to Japan alongside Korea, by the Chinese during the Tang dynasty (618-906 A.D.). Before so, it grew wild in central China and Tibet, and still does.
Its slow growing process requires ten years before the tree can fruit. One of its singularities is its resistance to cold and frost, allowing it to grow in regions where temperatures go as low as -9°C (15°F).
This trait is exceptional among citrus plants making it one of a kind! It is believed that its frost-hardy qualities were inherited from its ancestor Ichang papeda, very resistant to cold itself.
The yuzu fruit is an odd-looking little pal; it resembles a tiny grapefruit with uneven skin, green when unripe and yellow when ripe (sometimes even orange). The plant itself forms a little tree whose leaves and petioles are highly aromatic, just like its cousin the Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) and genitor Ichang papeda.
As mentioned earlier, yuzu’s origin lies within a crossing between two species. That being said it is no surprise yuzu itself has been crossed with a mandarin orange, giving birth to Sudachi (Citrus sudachi), from Tokushima prefecture. The two fruits slightly differ by taste.
Containing little flesh and many seeds, the yuzu fruit possesses a tart flavor reminiscent of a sour grapefruit and mandarin.
Within the Citrus junos specie there are different types of yuzu, which have each been developed for a precise function.
The most famous ones are the hana yuzu spelled 花柚子 meaning “flower yuzu” in Japanese, the yuko yuzu from southern Japan, and the shishi yuzu spelled 獅子柚子 meaning “lion yuzu” in Japanese. The first one is grown for its flowers and serves ornamental purposes, the second one is a sweet kind of yuzu, and the last one is known for its particularly bumpy skin.
Now let’s focus on yuzu in perfumery! The skin of the fruit is used to obtain its essence but unlike most citrus raw materials (lemon, grapefruit, bergamot…), the yuzu’s skin is distilled and not cold expressed. This procedure allows its essential oil to be coumarine free and therefore not photosensitizing unlike all other citrus essences.
When it comes to its scent, yuzu essence is both sweet and bitter. It has a fresh citrus start with a terpenic facet, and powdery heart notes with a delicate meringue nuance. Some find its fragrance between that of lime and green mandarin. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that the yuzu’s aroma is very subtle and unique.
In fine fragrances the yuzu essence is rarely used for top notes as it is often replaced by a yuzu accord, which is composed by perfumers who interpret the scent of yuzu in their own creative way! The yuzu accord is mainly composed with bergamot essence, yellow mandarin essence, and hedione, a widely used molecule for jasmine notes and fresh transparent floral notes.
Yuzu is a truly trendy ingredient among niche brands (Yuzu Fou by Parfum d’Empire ; Eau de Yuzu by Nicolaï Parfumeur Créateur ; Yuzu Ab Irato 09 by Pierre Guillaume; Note de Yuzu by James Heeley ; Yuzu EDP by Acqua di Parma).
In aromatherapy, yuzu possesses relaxing properties as it balances the central nervous system, due to two molecules found in its essential oil: linalol and limonene. To benefit properly from its properties, it can be diffused or ingested. Yuzu also helps with digestion thanks to its monoterpenes.
Each year Japan produces 27 thousand tons of yuzu (2016), mainly grown in the Kochi prefecture holding 52% of the national production.
Even though the fruit isn’t consumed as a fruit itself (unlike oranges and other citrus fruits) its zest and juice are very popular ingredients used in many traditional Japanese dishes. One of them is the famous ponzu sauce, which is a widely used citrus-based condiment.
Yuzu is also used to produce yuzu vinegar, yuzu hachimitsu spelled 柚子蜂蜜, which is a type of syrup, and is essential to yuzu tea spelled 柚子茶. Drinks and desserts such as the yuzukomachi liquor spelled 柚子小町, yuzu wine, as well as sweets and cakes all enjoy the yuzu’s distinct aroma.
Yuja (yuzu) is a very common raw material in Korean gastronomy, where it is the star ingredient of yuja-cheong spelled 유자청, a tasty yuzu jam! Just like in Japan yuja-tea is traditionally consumed.
The 21st century brought yuzu to Western countries’ tables, where it’s considered quite a high end product.
Last but not least, on the Japanese winter solstice Tōji, an 18th century old custom consists in bathing in water with yuzu. To do so, the entire fruit or half the fruit (liberating the juice) stay afloat in hot water. This practice is called yuzu yu spelled 柚子湯 and is believed to prevent colds, and soothe oneself.
Yuzu in Still Life and Still Life in Rio:
In both these fragrances we encounter a sparkly top yuzu note that awakens our minds and stimulates our bodies.
Still Life or the most in movement of still lives!
The top of this perfume is adorned with a distinctive yuzu accord, clearly identifiable by its component notes (bergamot, mandarin, hedione), and whose freshness is increased tenfold by the four spicy/peppery notes: Black pepper (Piper nigrum), Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum ritum or bungeanum) extracted from the shell of the fruit of a tree belonging to the Rutaceae family (just like citrus ingredients), Pink berry (Schinus molle), and Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) which is the gum extracted by the incision of a tree trunk. These last ones bring an undeniable freshness to the fragrance while having each their own features: the first one confers an aromatic and woody facet, the second one is particularly floral, so is the third one which also gives a fruity aspect to the ensemble, as for the last one it is known for its incense facet and its terpenic side.
In the heart of the fragrance we perceive Galbanum (Ferula galbaniflua), this very powerful green note has a terpenic facet (scent often compared to paint due to terpenes), just like Elemi. We can smell its green vegetal facet, as well as a hint of Star anise (Illicium verum) with its distinctive anised and licorice facet.
Dark rum absolute (Saccharum officinarum) is a very expensive raw material resulting from the distillation of dark rum (also called amber rum), in order to retain only the fragrant compound by eliminating the alcohol. This ingredient brings a woody-vanilla note to the base of the fragrance, combined with the eternally dry-woody cedar wood, alongside ambrox, an ambery molecule that also possesses a woody-cedar facet. Ambrox, just like all ambery raw materials adds substantivity and depth to the perfume.
The start of Still life in Rio is extremely stimulating; it is a real sparkling explosion of juicy citrus fruits. Yuzu (Citrus junos), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) and Lemon (Citrus limon) are omnipresent; these three citrus bring vitality and an unmatched tangy freshness. The freshness is enhanced by a touch of Green mint (Menta spicata) with a spicy side. These ingredients complement the citrusy and spicy Ginger (Zingiber officinale), whose peppery side is enhanced by three cold spices: Black pepper (Piper nigrum), Pink berry (Schinus molle) and Jamaican hot peppers (Pimenta dioica). If the Black pepper brings a woody side noticeable from the heart of the fragrance, the Pink berry has a floral and lemony aspect, and the Jamaican hot peppers, with their cinnamic and woody facets, reminds us of cinnamon and nutmeg.
The heart of the fragrance offers a sweet and lactonic facet due to the coconut water accord that intensifies the exotic dimension. The head and heart are in harmony, and the link between the notes is fluid. The perfume awakens our taste buds by reminding us of slightly sweet sour candies, as we sense a fruity sweetness more than a gourmand one. The acidic facet persists over time satisfying our nostrils, and takes us for a long ride under Rio's everlasting sun.
The base of the perfume is gently revealed just after the heart, where a woody facet emerges from the Copaiba balsam (Copaifera officinalis) a raw material both resinous and cedary. The Dark rum (Saccharum officinarum) brings the most addictive vanilla base note, and spices up the White leather accord both woody and slightly smoky.
Still life in Rio is interesting by its olfactory diversity, and its explosion of facets!
Anna Grézaud-Tostain for Olfactive Studio