Fragrance families and descriptors: An introduction

fragrance notes

Happy Friday! It has been a busy week of getting ready for the release of our two new Signature scents and it's already the end of the week! Huh, time flies.

This week and the coming few weeks we will be diving deep into the world of fragrances to discuss how they are classified and described. I wanted to do a series on this because I like adding fragrance families in my candle descriptions to give a better idea about how they smell... and I have to admit I love talking about fragrances (maybe I should study perfumery... oh wait 😏). 

Fragrances can be tricky to describe to another person without a common basis of nomenclature. This is where fragrance notes and descriptors come into play, in the fragrance industry we use these (sometimes colorful) words to communicate the properties of a fragrance in hopes of the other person knowing exactly what we mean by them. Animalic scents? Hesperidic family? Ozonic notes? Fougère??? At times it may seem like a completely different language - and it sort of is and since we all have different perceptions of scents it gets even more difficult at times to try to stay on the same page. 

In this blog post, we will look at main fragrance families and their sub-families and what to expect from each one of them. The main family of a fragrance would be the dominant one we smell in a fragrance and the sub-family of a fragrance would be the characteristics of the accent notes that accompany the main family. This system is mostly accurate although there is always someone debating about whether a certain fragrance is considered to be in this family or that family. 

Fragrances in the Citrus family, as you might have guessed, contain a large percentage of citrus elements. Fragrances in this family are fresh, bright and cologne-like in their nature. While the most commonly used notes are bergamot, orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime there are also more exotic citrus notes like pomelo, yuzu, kumquat, calamansi etc. that can contribute to this family of fragrances. If the Citrus fragrance has woody accents like cedarwood it becomes Citrus woody, if it includes aromatic notes like basil or lavender it becomes Citrus aromatic and if it has floral accents like jasmine the fragrance becomes Citrus floral. The main point of this family is that the dominant notes we smell in the fragrance are citrus.

My personal favorite citrus fragrance on the market would be Orange Sanguine from Atelier Cologne, it's such a yummy blood orange fragrance 🍊✨ 

Oriental fragrances are quite rich, warm and sensual in their nature and could include spices like cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon etc. and resins like labdanum, benzoin and Peru balsam as well as vanilla, amber, musks and precious woods like sandalwood and oud. The name Oriental was given to this family due to the heavy use of ingredients that typically originated from the East and brought to the West - think exotic woods and spices traded on the Silk Road. The subfamilies of Oriental fragrances include woody (heavier on woody notes like patchouli), floral (rose is a very popular one) and spicy (think heavier on cinnamon perhaps). 

My personal favorite Oriental fragrance? Musc Ravageur from Frederic Malle and its vanilla sister L de Lolita Lempicka (now discontinued but that mermaid inspired bottle was so gorgeous!), both from the same perfumer Maurice Roucel 🤍 

Chypre is a very defined family as the fragrance would have to include the Chypre accord (if fragrance notes were words, an accord would be a sentence and a perfume would be an article... or a book) that is made up of bergamot, labdanum, oakmoss and patchouli that give warm and mossy attributes to the perfume. The name comes from François Coty's wildly popular 1917 perfume called Chypre, named after the Mediterranean island Cyprus. The subfamilies of Chypre family could be floral with jasmine or rose notes or fruity with peach, apricot or similar fruity notes that complement the Chypre accord really well. 

My personal favorite Chypre fragrance would be the Chypre floral L'Eau de Chloé, which is a brilliant take on rose 🙌 

Well, our time is up for today but check back next week for the rest of the fragrance families! Writing these Friday morning blog posts have been a treat for me, hope you enjoy them as well! 

Until next Friday,
- Merve


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