A glossary of the most important perfume terminology

A Guide to Perfume Terminology

Welcome to the world of scents and perfumes! It’s a place where special smells are created to make us feel good and remind us of memories. In this guide, we’re going to talk about lots of different words and phrases that people use when they talk about perfumes. From understanding what top notes are to exploring what words like “Chypre” mean, this guide has easy explanations to help you learn more about the perfume world, whether you’re new to it or already know quite a bit.

  1. Eau de Cologne (EdC): A light fragrance form typically containing a perfume oil concentration of 2-4%. It is often seen as a refreshing type, suitable for a quick, invigorating spritz perfect for hot days.
  2. Eau de Toilette (EdT): A medium-strength fragrance, typically featuring a perfume oil concentration of 5-15%. It is one of the most popular types of fragrances, offering a balanced longevity and sillage.
  3. Eau de Parfum (EdP): A stronger fragrance with a perfume oil concentration usually between 15-20%.
  4. Extrait de Parfum: A highly concentrated fragrance, typically having a perfume oil concentration of 20-30% or more. This form is known for its intense scent and high longevity, making it a good choice for winter.
  5. Head Note: The initial, immediately perceptible scents of a perfume, which quickly dissipate after application. This is the first impression of a fragrance and is typically light and uplifting.
  6. Heart/Middle Note: Appears after the top note and forms the heart of the fragrance profile. Heart notes are crucial in the perfume’s evolvement on the skin and contribute to its full body, often bringing floral, fruity, or spicy characteristics.
  7. Base Note: The final and longest-lasting note, which appears after the heart notes. Base notes serve as the foundation of a fragrance and provide depth and longevity to the scent.
  8. Sillage: Refers to the scent trail left by a perfume when it is worn. Sillage determines how perceptible a fragrance is to others as the wearer moves through a space.
  9. Longevity: How long a fragrance remains perceptible after being applied. Longevity can be influenced by various factors including the fragrance’s concentration, ingredients, and the wearer’s skin type.
  10. Accord: A harmonious blend of different notes that together achieve a specific scent effect. An accord can be thought of as a sub-recipe within a fragrance, providing a thematic element that can be recognized amidst the complex blend.
  11. Dry-Down: This phase occurs after the initial evaporation of the top notes, revealing the true essence and foundational notes of the fragrance. The dry-down is crucial in determining the lasting impression and overall character of a perfume.
  12. Fragrance Pyramid: The fragrance pyramid is a structured framework that showcases the chronological scent progression of a fragrance, from its first application to its dry-down. It is typically divided into top, heart/middle, and base notes, each representing different scents experienced during different stages of the fragrance’s evolution on the skin.
  13. Fragrance Family: Fragrance families categorize perfumes into groups based on their dominant characteristics or notes, enabling easier identification and exploration of scent profiles. Different families include Floral, Woody, Oriental, and more, each providing a general hint of what to expect from the fragrances grouped under them.
  14. Soliflore: Soliflores are fragrances dedicated to replicating the scent of a particular flower, like rose, jasmine, or violet. They often aim to authentically represent the singular scent note, providing a straightforward and uncomplex fragrance experience.
  15. Gourmand Fragrances: Gourmand fragrances primarily feature edible or dessert-like qualities, enveloping the wearer in scents associated with sweetness and food, such as chocolate, vanilla, or caramel. They are often warm, sweet, and softly sensual, being both comforting and alluring in their deliciousness.
  16. Chypre Fragrances: Chypre fragrances are built on a sophisticated, warm base of oakmoss, labdanum, and bergamot, providing a rich, enduring scent profile. These perfumes are known for their complexity and can include varied notes like citrus, floral, fruity, or leather, creating a multifaceted olfactive experience.
  17. Fougère Fragrances: Often characterized by fresh, herbaceous, and woody notes, fougère fragrances traditionally feature lavender, oakmoss, and coumarin as defining elements. This fragrance family is notably versatile and is widely utilized in both masculine and feminine perfumes.
  18. Oriental Fragrances: Oriental fragrances envelop wearers in rich, warm, and spicy notes, such as musk, vanilla, and cinnamon, frequently accented with resins or sweet floral elements. They’re often associated with opulence and sensuality, providing a deep and enduring scent that is particularly alluring in the colder months or evening wear.
  19. Fragrance Oil: These highly concentrated, undiluted substances form the foundation of perfumes, possessing the essential aromas that define each scent. Fragrance oils can be sourced from natural ingredients, synthetically created, or often a blend of both, and are crucial in the perfume-making process.
  20. Absolue: Produced through solvent extraction, an absolue is a highly concentrated, alcohol-free fragrance substance extracted from natural raw materials like flowers or plants. Often utilized in high-end perfumery, absolues are prized for their potent, authentic representation of the source material’s scent.
  21. Unisex Perfume: Unisex perfumes are fragrances designed to be worn by anyone, regardless of gender, often featuring balanced notes that are neither overly feminine nor masculine. These scents tend to embrace versatile aromatic profiles that can be enjoyed across the spectrum of gender identities.
  22. Solid Perfumes: Solid perfumes are scented products in a solid state, typically made from a blend of waxes, oils, and fragrance, offering a portable and typically more subtle fragrance option. They are applied directly to the skin and are ideal for touch-ups throughout the day due to their convenient, spill-proof format.
  23. Niche Fragrance: Niche fragrances are often crafted by brands specializing in perfumery, focusing on unique, high-quality, and sometimes unconventional scents. They tend to prioritize artistic expression over mass appeal, often resulting in distinctive and innovative olfactive experiences.
  24. Designer Fragrances: Designer fragrances are created by fashion brands and typically aim for mass appeal, offering a range of scents that align with the brand’s aesthetic and appeal to their consumer base. They’re often more readily available and marketed heavily, being more familiar to the general public.
  25. Sillage: Sillage refers to the scent trail left by the perfume as the wearer moves through space, and it provides an indication of a fragrance’s reach and impact on the environment. Strong sillage means the fragrance is quite perceptible and leaves a pronounced trail, while light sillage indicates a more intimate scent aura.
  26. Reformulation: Reformulation involves altering the original formula of a fragrance, which can be due to various reasons like ingredient bans, cost-cutting, or attempting to modernize the scent. This can sometimes change the scent, longevity, or sillage, much to the chagrin of long-time wearers.
  27. Batch Variations: Batch variations refer to slight differences in a perfume’s scent, color, or other characteristics from one production run to another. This can occur due to minor variations in raw materials, production conditions, or other factors, and is often a topic of discussion among fragrance enthusiasts.
  28. Dupe/Clone: Dupe or clone fragrances are scents designed to replicate the scent of a more expensive or well-known fragrance. These can offer a similar olfactory experience at a fraction of the price, although they may not fully capture the complexity or quality of the original.
  29. Olfactory Groups: Olfactory groups or olfactive families are categories that fragrances are typically sorted into, based on their dominant characteristics, such as floral, oriental, woody, and fresh. These groups help in identifying and exploring fragrances with similar scent profiles and themes.
  30. Iso E Super: Iso E Super is a synthetic molecule used in perfumery for its smooth, woody, and slightly amber-like scent. It’s known for its ability to add depth and longevity to fragrances and is used in various popular perfumes to enhance and amplify their aromatic profiles.
  31. Attar: Attar is a type of natural perfume extract, traditionally obtained from botanical sources through hydro-distillation, and often aged to develop a richer aroma. They’re known for their potency and depth, often providing a long-lasting scent with a small application.
  32. Nose (in reference to a perfumer): The “Nose” refers to a perfumer, an expert in creating fragrances, possessing an exceptional sense of smell and mastery over combining various scented ingredients. Noses work meticulously to construct complex fragrances, often requiring knowledge in chemistry and an artistic flair.
  33. Fragrance Profile: A fragrance profile describes the overall characteristics and qualities of a scent, detailing its various notes, accords, and the experience it delivers from application to dry-down. The profile helps consumers understand the evolution, strength, and character of a fragrance.
  34. Allergens: Allergens in perfumery refer to certain ingredients or compounds that might cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Regulations in various regions mandate the disclosure of specific allergenic substances on the product packaging to inform and safeguard consumers.
  35. Fragrance Allergy: A fragrance allergy refers to an adverse reaction by the immune system to a substance within a fragrance. Symptoms can include skin reactions, like redness or itching, and for some individuals, it necessitates the selection of hypoallergenic or fragrance-free products.
  36. Layering: Layering involves applying different fragrances together to create a unique, personalized scent. This technique allows individuals to mix and match various perfumes, creating a bespoke aroma that can be tailored to their preferences and occasions.
  37. Animalic Notes: Animalic notes in fragrances bring a wild, primal element to a scent, often adding depth and sensuality. They can be derived from actual animal secretions, like musk or ambergris, or created synthetically to achieve a similar effect without harming animals.
  38. Flanker: Flanker fragrances are variations of existing, often popular perfumes, maintaining some elements of the original scent but introducing new notes or accords. They can expand a fragrance line, offering new interpretations and experiences of a well-loved original.
  39. Limited Edition: Limited Edition fragrances are scents that are available for a restricted time period or in constrained quantities. They might be seasonal, commemorating a special event, or experimenting with novel concepts outside a brand’s standard line.
  40. Signature Scent: A signature scent is a fragrance that an individual predominantly wears, embodying their olfactive identity and becoming associated with them. It reflects personal preference and character, often carefully selected to represent the wearer’s personality and aesthetic.
  41. Mass Market Fragrance: Mass-market fragrances aim for widespread appeal, often produced by well-known brands and available at various retail locations. They typically offer accessible price points and familiar scent profiles, catering to a broad consumer base.
  42. Blind Buy: A blind buy in the fragrance world refers to purchasing a perfume without prior testing or smelling it. It’s often based on recommendations, reviews, or an interest in the listed notes and can be a risky yet exciting method of discovering new scents.
  43. Essential Oils: Essential oils are concentrated extracts obtained from plants, preserving their aromatic properties. In perfumery, they’re valued for their natural scents and are utilized to construct various notes and accords within a fragrance composition.
  44. Calone: Calone is a synthetic compound widely used in perfumery for its aquatic and melon-like scent. It was particularly popular in the 1990s, contributing to the era’s trend for fresh, oceanic fragrances and continues to be a key note in many aquatic perfumes.
  45. Aldehydes: Aldehydes are organic compounds that are utilized in perfumery to add brightness and a clean characteristic, often perceived as waxy, citrusy, or fatty. Iconically used in Chanel No. 5, aldehydes can elevate and add sparkle to fragrance compositions.
  46. Ambroxan: Ambroxan, derived from ambergris or created synthetically, is known for its warm, sweet, and musky aroma. It’s used in numerous fragrances to enhance sillage and longevity while providing a smooth, almost velvety backdrop to other notes.
  47. Oud (Agarwood): Oud is a highly prized ingredient in perfumery, derived from the resin of the Agarwood tree, known for its rich, complex, and luxurious scent. Oud fragrances often carry woody, sweet, and slightly animalic notes, and are typically associated with opulence and depth.
  48. Anosmia: Anosmia refers to the inability to perceive a particular odor, which can occur due to genetic factors or exposure to certain aromas over time. In the context of perfumery, anosmia might influence how a fragrance is perceived, as some individuals might be “nose-blind” to certain notes or accords.
  49. Animalic Notes: Animalic notes in perfumery are derived from animal substances or synthetic equivalents, providing deep, rich, and sometimes musky or indolic aspects to a fragrance. Notable examples include musk, ambergris, and civet, which can add a primal and sensual dimension to scents.
  50. Flanker: A flanker is a fragrance released as a variant of an existing perfume, typically maintaining some olfactive characteristics of the original but with new elements introduced. Flankers often leverage the popularity of the original fragrance, while offering a new take on a familiar scent.
  51. Synthetic Notes: Synthetic notes, created through chemical synthesis, are widely used in modern perfumery to create or replicate scents. They can provide consistency, enhance performance, and also offer novel aromatic experiences not found in natural ingredients.
  52. Vetiver: Vetiver is a grass, the roots of which are utilized in perfumery for their distinct, earthy, and slightly sweet scent. Vetiver brings a grounding, woody character to fragrances and is appreciated for its versatility and depth, being at home in a variety of olfactive compositions.
  53. Maceration: Maceration is a technique used in perfumery to extract aromatic compounds from materials by soaking them in a solvent, typically oil or alcohol, to draw out their scent. This process allows the solvent to absorb the essence of the material, resulting in an infusion that can then be utilized in the creation of perfumes, often providing a softer and more rounded extraction than other methods.
  54. Olfactory Fatigue: Olfactory fatigue, or nose blindness, refers to the temporary inability to discern a particular scent after prolonged exposure, as the olfactory receptors become desensitized to the specific aromatic molecules. This phenomenon can be a particular challenge in perfumery, where deliberate breaks and alternative scents, like coffee beans, are often employed to refresh the sense of smell during evaluation and creation processes.

Final Words

Thank you for exploring this guide about perfumes and all the special words that are used to talk about them. We hope it has been helpful and that you feel a bit more comfortable talking about different kinds of scents. Remember, finding a perfume you love is all about enjoying and exploring different smells, so have fun and keep sniffing!

Useful Information - A Guide to Perfume Terminology

Peter Krück

@olfactoryambition

Thank you for exploring this guide about perfumes and all the special words that are used to talk about them. We hope it has been helpful and that you feel a bit more comfortable talking about different kinds of scents. Remember, finding a perfume you love is all about enjoying and exploring different smells, so have fun and keep sniffing!

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