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Update #12

How We Developed the Scent of Orange Gelée by Vacation®

By Marie Lodi | Mar 11, 2024

Keep reading to learn how it all went down and what the Orange Gelée Advisory Board Members think of the new scent!

Why Scent is Such a Big Deal

Have you ever smelled something that takes you to a particular place in time in the blink of an eye, almost in a supernatural way? The human sense of smell is mysterious, powerful, and intimate. Thought to be the oldest of our five senses, it can instantly activate memories and feelings, sometimes even before we recognize what we’re smelling. “It’s directly connected to the deepest part of our brain, which is why smells can spark memories and even strong reactions,” says Carlos Huber, master fragrance developer for Vacation® , the Orange Gelée Revival Project and founder of ARQUISTE Parfumeur. It makes sense why Orange Gelée fans often mention scent as the first thing they remember.

Nostalgia might be a big part of any cherished fragrance’s appeal, but it also has the potential to conjure up something even more powerful, like fantasy. Some Board Members, like Thalia Pappas, recalled feeling sophisticated and luxurious when wearing Orange Gelée. One whiff transported them to the turquoise waters of France’s Côte d'Azur. “It’s a really interesting thing, what scent can do. Even beyond memories, it can also enhance mood,” says Carlos.

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Our Goal: A Homage With
a Vacation® Twist

Many Board Members said the scent is Orange Gelée’s standout feature. With notes of orange blossom, clove, patchouli, and sandalwood, people describe the unique aroma as everything from spicy to musky to sweet. Thalia called the original Orange Gelée “fresh and spicy” and alluring enough to become part of her personal scent story. “I even tried to search out perfumes that had a similar scent but could never find them,” she says. “It was so different from everything. The scent was a really good thing,” she says.

Board Member Denise Dion recalled being drawn to Orange Gelée’s scent when she first tried it during a beach hangout. “The fragrance gave off this instant feeling of, ‘Oh my god, this is awesome.’” It wasn’t surprising, then, when she told us that nailing the scent would be crucial. We knew it had to evoke nostalgia for faithful fans, win over new ones, and work into a modern-day sunscreen that matched the Vacation® ethos.

With Carlos’s knowledge and expertise, we began developing the fragrance for Orange Gelée by Vacation®. “There are a lot of people who would love this product, so it was a very exciting project, but it was also very daunting because we needed to get it right,” says Carlos. The balance between satisfying longtime fans and attracting new ones is delicate, especially when it all lies in something as personal as scent. “Fragrance is very subjective — there are some objective points and deliverables that need to hit, like the [fragrance] notes, but it’s the emotional connection and what people remember that we needed to consider,” says Carlos. “This is a fragrance; it’s not something with results you can prove in a lab. It’s something that you either respond to emotionally or you don't.”

it looks like a sunset with a red , yellow and black gradient .
A Peek Inside the Process
a man stands next to a tube of justice glaze

The first question was, according to Carlos, how could they captivate the nostalgia while attracting new fans? “It needs to feel like something you've smelled before but is also new, and all of that within the framework of delivering a really fantastic product,” he says.

Carlos worked with the talented Givaudan perfumers Dana Schmitt and John Gamba, initially developing the scent as a fine fragrance. “It’s like saying, ‘I know we’re going to create a cartoon, but it’s better to paint the full picture and use all of the colors in the crayon box first,’ so we can see how far we can go,” he says. They knew clove had to be a central focus but experimented with other notes, dialing the concentrations up and down. “We also needed it to be musky and sweet, but not cupcake-sweet, more as a yummy amber that would contrast and tame the vintage florals,” he says. After countless iterations, the perfumers created a scent that was spot on to what they envisioned.

it looks like a sunset with a red , yellow and black gradient .
Combining Fragrance With Formula: A Tricky Feat

Once they had the isolated fragrance down, they needed to ensure the scent would interact appropriately with the sunscreen formula. In some ways, this part of the process was even more complicated. Orange Gelée by Vacation® contains natural, plant-based ingredients, which limits certain factors like the concentration. (Let’s just say there’s a lot more leeway with ingredients like mineral oil!) “It's not comparing apples to apples. It's comparing apples to a very different thing today, with many other limitations,” Carlos says, of unifying the scent with the formula. “It was a lot of back and forth, step and repeat, and trial and error, but I think we managed to do something very, very accurate.”

After dozens of tries, we landed on the perfect scent for Orange Gelée by Vacation®! The fragrance features a stunning array of bergamot, clove, saffron, patchouli, and sandalwood notes. It’s an olfactory time capsule but with a modern spin. If you ask us, it’s the best of both worlds. Creating something like this is, of course, no easy feat without the skills of the perfumers. “With the experience and knowledge that the perfumers have, they understand how it all works,” explains Carlos. “For some reason, at this particular dosage and combination and quantity, it all worked out beautifully. Almost like magic, like alchemy.”

it looks like a sunset with a red , yellow and black gradient .
The Final Verdict: What Panel Members Have Said

There was one last, essential, heart-thumping step in the fragrance development process: getting the approval of the Orange Gelée Advisory Board Members! Would it speak to the nostalgic hearts of the Orange Gelee’s longtime fans while pleasing the newbies at the same time?

a picture of a woman with the name deana clement on the bottom

Deana Clement (Lifelong Fan)

“This is a fresh interpretation of a nostalgic scent. The notes are very, very close, but there is a difference. They captured that summery, clean, fresh smell. I will probably put this on, even in the winter, like a little on my cheeks and a little on my hands, just to have the scent with me. You get the benefits of it, and the smell is with you, so I like that combination. I’d wear this all year round, but it will definitely be in my beach bag.”

denise dion is a board member of a company

Denise Dion (Lifelong Fan):

“I know it was difficult getting the fragrance down. Well, you really have nailed that. I think that's the key — whether the user is my demographic or a brand-new college user, the fragrance is very appealing. And I think that's what kicked off the popularity of it way back then.”

a quote from jordan rumsey board member

Jordan Rumsey (Orange Gelée Newbie):

“This feels very high-end—in a way where you don’t want to spend $1,000, but you still want it to feel like you have money. That's what it feels like. I can see myself wearing it on the beach or on a cruise. I love this scent, and I’m excited for it to be released!”

jessie siu is a board member of a company

Jessie Siu (Orange Gelée Newbie)

“This is a little bit powdery and musky with a light touch of citrus. I’d wear this during the summer when I’m popping out to go to the farmer’s market or hanging out with my friends. I’d want to slather this on my legs because it rubs in well, and the scent is different from regular sunscreen oil. At first, I was like, ‘Why are people going crazy over it?’ But the more I wear it and smell it, the more I like it. People get caught up with [fragrance] trends nowadays and move on to the next best thing, but I think it's nice to find a scent that’s grounding, takes you back, and makes you feel kind of homey.”

In the next update, we’ll learn about how we landed on the SPF level, and what our dear Board Members had to say.

How We Developed the Scent of Orange Gelée by Vacation®

The Orange Gelèe Revival Project is a joint initiative between Vacation® and Orange Gelee fans to bring back the beloved product by Summer 2024.

a tube of orange vacation brand sunscreen gel

The Orange Gelée Revival Project is now complete.

Shop The Completed Orange Gelée


Vacation® is a “Leisure-Enhancing” Sunscreen Company








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