Beauties, here’s our first Fragrance post of 2020 from TriedTestedLoved all about the Language of Fragrance!
When did perfume become fragrance? Why are some perfumes floral and others fruity? What are woody perfumes?
Like any art or discipline, perfumery has a language all of its own. But sometimes perfume descriptions can be confusing, or even pretentious. I mean, you may not care what’s in a perfume if you like the smell. But if you’re a perfumista, or just want to have more of an idea what is going on, we’re here to help.
In our definition, “fragrance” covers the scent or odour of anything that has a smell, a cream, a candle, an oil, a lotion. However the bottle of magic you spray onto yourself is normally called a “perfume”. So that’s what we’ll call it too.
Firstly, perfumes and ingredients are often classified in “Fragrance Families”. These families are ingredients that have similar aromas, similar chemistry or come from similar sources such as flowers, fruits and woods.
The description or classification of a perfume is based on the overall scent that we smell. Aromatic molecules are volatile and perfumes evolve and change over time, but grouping perfumes like this can help you choose the fragrance type you like.
There are many families, but we’ll focus on the popular ones this time.
The “Floral ” family dominates perfumery, probably because most perfume is inspired by or derived from flowers. Not all flowers provide natural extracts, but synthetic perfumery can re-create scents so well, you would think these notes were natural.
Rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose and magnolia are all floral but with very different scents.
“Citrus” perfumes are easy, we all recognise the fresh sharp notes of orange, lemon and lime, but also grapefruit, bergamot and yuzu. These perfumes are generally refreshing and uplifting.
“Fruity“ in perfumery refers to apples, berries, peach, plum and pineapple, but does not include citrus fruits. Any exotic or exciting fruit, like dew fruit, acai berry or starfruit is also definitely “fruity”. Confusing? A little.
The “Woody” family includes cedarwood, smoky vetivert, patchouli or sandalwood. Not all woods smell alike, but if the perfume is smoky, warm, reminds you of pencils, pine or wood fires, then you’re in woody territory.
“Spicy” perfumes are easy to identify, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, anise, pepper, exotic for some and distinctive.
“Gourmand” perfumes are based on foodie notes, caramel, vanilla, coffee, candy floss. This is a modern recent family, reflecting changing tastes in fragrances, especially candles.
So far so good. But what if the perfume is complex? We can have “Floral Fruity”, “Fruity Floral”, and “Floral Gourmand” perfumes, for example where the character is a mixture of each.
“Oriental” is an old fashioned description, coined by French perfumers for fragrances with warm, vanilla, musky or powdery notes. At the time, these ingredients were seen as exotic and unusual.
More recently, a family known as “Floral Oriental” or “Floriental” has developed, where the warm, powdery or vanilla notes are blended with rich floral accents, to soften and modernise. There really is a lot to discover within the language of fragrance.
Our advice is find a perfume you like, smell it and focus on scents you recognise and connect with. Sometimes the description is completely different to your assessment and that is ok. Just go with what you like.
It is amazing to learn about scents and aromas but in the end, what matters is what each perfume smells like to YOU.