Yuzu has sparkling aroma with wonderfully sweet, tart, and bitter elements that are subtle yet impactful. Some people find the smell of yuzu similar to a combination of grapefruit and lemon, but fresher, lighter, and more complex.
The smell and taste of yuzu has a rich background in East Asian history, especially in Japanese tradition and cuisine, and has since spread to perfumeries and homes all over the world.
If you've never had a chance to smell yuzu, you might be in for a treat! In this article, we'll describe what yuzu smells like, plus a brief introduction of its history and benefits.
What Is Yuzu?
Yuzu (Citrus junos) is a hybrid fruit that resembles a small grapefruit. A cross between lemons and mandarins, yuzu tastes sour and tart as many citrus fruits do, but it's also unique in many ways.
This small yellow fruit — only about 2-3 inches in diameter — has thicker skin than a lemon and only produces a small amount of juice (1-2 teaspoons). Yuzu juice is a prized cooking ingredient because of its complex, tart flavor that holds up against high temperature cooking in a way that lemon and lime juice can't.
Yuzu trees take 10 years to mature and bear fruit. They are resistant to cold temperatures, which allows it to grow at high altitudes in temperatures as low as -9° C (15° F). This is a rather uncommon trait for citrus fruits, which normally thrive in tropical, subtropical, and arid climates.
Originating in China over 1200 years ago, yuzu was first discovered along the Yangtze River, then brought to Japan and Korea during the Tang Dynasty. Japan is currently the biggest producer of Yuzu, growing more than 27,000 tons of the fruit annually.
Yuzu is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, with traditions such as Toji, a celebration of the winter solstice. “Yuzu-yu,” or "yuzu-bath", is a Toji custom in which people bathe in hot water with sliced yuzu fruits to bring good luck, prevent colds, and ward off bad spirits.
The fruit is also a hot commodity in Japanese cuisine, including many yuzu-based sauces, candies, salads, desserts, and condiments.
What Does Yuzu Smell Like?
The smell of yuzu consists of sweet and bitter notes with a hint of tartness. Overall, its sublime citrusy aroma is quite subtle, fruity, delicate, and meringue-like.
The uniqueness of yuzu’s scent brings sophistication to what might otherwise be just a basic living space. Many people feel drawn to the mixed, fruity notes of the aroma, which ties together elements from grapefruit, mandarin, lime, and bergamot.
Here's what yuzu smells like to us:
- Pleasantly citrusy
- Sweeter than a grapefruit
- More bitter than an orange
- More tart than a lemon
- Light and refreshing
- Subtle fruity and floral notes
This zingy aroma of yuzu might stir imagery of summer vacation on the beautiful Izu Islands in Japan — laying on an umbrella-covered beach chair with a book in hand, as warm beams of sun gently shine down on you and the sound of slow moving waves lullabies you into a deep state of relaxation.
You might also recognize the scent of Yuzu in some well-known perfumes:
- Jaipur Saphir by Boucheron
- Versace Bright Crystal
- Eau de Cartier
- Dali Wild
- Oyedo by Dipyque
- Cheap and Chic by Moschinino
Where Does the YUZU Scent Come From?
The smell of yuzu comes from its essential oils, which are extracted from the skin of the fruit.
Most citrus fruits are cold pressed, which is a method of extraction that separates the essential oils through scraping and pressing the rinds or peels. Yuzu essential oil can also be cold pressed, but nowadays it's more common to use steam to distill the essential oil from whole left-over fruit after the juice has been extracted.
There are several chemicals responsible for the smell of yuzu, including linalool, limonene, α-pinene, β-myrcene, and β-caryophyllene.
Linalool, a monoterpenoid that's also found in the scents of many flowers and spice plants, is thought to contributes most to the fragrant citrus smell of yuzu.
Variations of Yuzu
There are several varieties of yuzu that have been cultivated for different purposes:
Hana Yuzu: This is an ornamental version of yuzu, which is grown for its cream-colored flowers and is a popular Japanese decoration. It's name translates to “flower yuzu” in Japanese.
Shishi Yuzu: This type of yuzu has a distinctly rough surface with bumps and large oil glands, and can grow to be the size of a small melon. It's name translates to “lion yuzu” in Japanese due to its appearance.
Yuko: This is a sweet, aromatic variety of yuzu that is grown in Southern Japan. While the history of Yuko remains unclear, one theory is that Yuko is a crossbreed between yuzu and species like Pomelo. This fruit is predominantly grown in the Doinokubi and Sotome districts.
Benefits of Yuzu in Aromatherapy
Yuzu has healing effects to both the body and mind. It is said to rejuvenate skin, prevent colds, boost the immune system, elevate mood, reduce inflammation, and reduce chronic disease.
Some of the chemical compounds responsible for yuzu's distinct smell, such as limonene and linalool, also help to reduce tension and anxiety.
One small study found that inhaling yuzu for 10 minutes helped a group of women reduce mood disturbances, tension, depression, anger, and confusion for 30 minutes. Another study in a group of mothers found that the scent of yuzu helped significantly reduce maternal anxiety.
Our Favorite Yuzu Candles
The sweet, balanced scent of yuzu is featured in our “Renaissance” Luxury Candle.
Bold yet delicate at once, The Renaissance pays homage to this thriving movement with an inspired mix of fresh tea leaves, sparkling yuzu, and cardamom gracefully leading to a velvet heart of tonka bean, heliotrope and wild orchid blossoms.
Aromatic tobacco leaves, burnished suede and sheer musk bring a warm, sensual finish to this extraordinary blend.
You can also experience yuzu in the newest addition to the Harlem Candle Company collection: the "Frederick" Luxury Candle.
This candle celebrates the legacy of Frederick Douglass, the former slave who rose to become a social reformer, abolitionist, statesman, and champion of women’s rights.
The fragrance opens with an exhilarating smell of bergamot, smoky yuzu, and fresh green cardamom, reimagining the orangerie garden that provided solace where he grew up. A sensual base of Tonka Bean, Suede and Sandalwood add warmth and depth to this uniquely elegant and uplifting blend.