ELLE Loves: A Spicy Power Floral Fragrance That Gives Off Main Character Energy


The box holding Néroli Plein Sud—Guerlain’s latest fragrance—is a passport to adventure—the fragrance serving as the journey. The box resembles a sunset featuring a desert orange shade melding into the white and blue skyline. The artwork on the box holds a historical touch and is courtesy of author and adventurer Antoine de Saint Exupery, a good friend of Guerlain. The sketches depict a journey through Morocco, a tale told at a dinner between the two friends, and that voyage serves as the inspiration for the fragrance. On one side of the perfume box, a sketch of a single-engine plane sits next to an illustration of Morocco with an outlined journey from the North to the South—the same travels that de Saint Exupery shared with Guerlain.

danielle james and guerlain

Courtesy of Danielle James

Digital beauty director Danielle James attends a master class taught by Delphine Jelk, an in-house perfumer for Guerlain.

Néroli Plein Sud is a spicy floral with a citrusy brightness from the neroli and the orange blossom. Despite visiting the North African country frequently, Delphine Jelk, an in-house perfumer at Guerlain, never imagined creating a perfume inspired by Morocco. “Once I smelled this organic neroli from Khessimet, I really fell in love,” she says. Jelk went straight to the source, traveling to Khemisset, a city known for its fields of orange flowers, which are extracted to create the neroli scent. In a master class with Jelk, I get to smell the depth of neroli. I close my eyes and listen to Jelk talk about scent creation as the Agafay Desert breeze carries the orange blossom, its bitter leaves, and a surprising hint of honey across my nose.

Guerlain Néroli Plein Sud

Néroli Plein Sud

Guerlain Néroli Plein Sud

Credit: Guerlain

As I trudge across the Moroccan desert, I notice that the fragrance gets spicier when mixed with the extreme heat. I pick up the ginger and turmeric in a delicious way. When I return to New York City, I wear it on a cool February day and notice that the fragrance smells more fresh and green. No matter where I wear it, one thing remains true: This scent has an incredibly long-lasting trail. “The orange absolut,” Jelk says and smiles, reminding me of the ingredient from our master class, which gifts the perfume its trail. “What’s interesting with this fragrance is that it’s very fresh and, at the same time, very long-lasting, like a luxury cologne.” Jelk explains how cologne, a type of citrusy fragrance, was one of the first fragrances at Guerlain. Created in 1853, Eau de Cologne Impériale was made for Empress Eugénie, wife of Napolean III. Néroli Plein Sud is like a contemporary, more mischievous version of the historical fragrance. “It’s interesting this [eau de parfum] has this cologne feeling: a big freshness that makes you feel good and healthy and at the same time those warmer and richer notes that help the fragrance to last,” says Jelk. Unlike other fragrances where I need to reapply with a midday spritz, once I apply, this beautiful scent lasts me all day, making it worth its $345 price tag. I’ve had it for three months and wear this scent about 2 to 3 times a week, and I’m not even a quarter of the way through the bottle.

Jelk not only traveled to Morocco to create this fragrance, but she also kept a travel diary for the product. This furthers the intimacy of the fragrance, which was birthed from friendship and adventure. Terracotta, clay, and yellow color swatches as well as plucked orange blossom flowers are taped to the page and intertwined amongst Jelk’s personal notes and thoughts. In our master class, Jelk admits to being a visual individual, which is apparent as I look through her diary. “I do a lot of mood boards and I use a lot of colors and textures,” she says before admitting that she had once attended fashion design school. “I create fragrances exactly like I would create dresses. It’s really the same process. It’s creation! I build a story in my mind, which leads to an emotion, and that gives me inspiration,” Jelk explains. For Jelk, the story was held in the Guerlain archives and she was able to mix her deep love of Morocco into the creation of Néroli Plein Sud.

I call this fragrance a power floral because of the spice. Jelk shares that the spice gives the scent its “sensuality and brings out its masculine side.” The ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon transport her to the Moroccan spice markets, where she can get lost for hours. This is a genderless fragrance for an individual who wants to make a statement through scent. At first spritz, it wakes you up with a citrusy effervescence that dries down to a sweet and spicy woody aroma. It’s androgynous. In fact, Jelk describes it for the “woman who is very free” and “loves to wear men’s fragrance.”

If you’re looking for a new signature scent, Néroli Plein Sud could be for you. This sensual yet playful scent combines orange blossom with ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to create an unforgettable spicy floral you will want to wear again and again.

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