Words: Elena Andreou
Do you know your fruity perfumes from your floral? Or your citrus aftershaves from your woody? Whatever your fragrance know-how, the key to understanding why one scent may differ from the other is by recognising the fragrance families that they fall into. While our experts are pro at identifying the families at first spritz, anyone can be a fragrance connoisseur with a little bit of training…
What's a fragrance family?
Let’s go back to basics. A fragrance family is a classification system that the industry uses to place scents into olfactory groups. Each family has a set of identifying factors which helps us distinguish scents.
OK, so what are fragrance notes?
If you’ve noticed that your signature scent changes after a period of time on the skin, then what you're identifying are the different 'notes' of a fragrance.
Every perfume is made up of different notes. The top notes are what you can smell at first spray and are typically light and refreshing. The opening notes of a fragrance are the first to evaporate. The middle notes (or heart notes) are usually floral and sweet and can generally last up to an hour on the skin. And the base notes are usually rich and woody and are the longest-lasting notes of any scent.
Key fragrance families
The citrus family
Modern, refreshing and packed with playfulness, the citrus family is a go-to for the warmer months. As the composition is quite light and can sometimes border on fruity, the group features notes that are immediately quite recognisable – even to beginners!
Common notes: lemon, orange, neroli, bergamot, grapefruit, mandarin.
The oriental family
Often described as rich, smooth and sensual an oriental fragrance is a distinct scent. As the notes are quite full-bodied and long-lasting it’s a go-to for wearing in the evenings as a little can go a long way.
Common notes: orange blossom, vanilla, spices, tobacco, amber.
The floral family
This floral family is one of the most popular and is packed with flowers we all know and love. Think of floral scents as a gorgeous bouquet you’d pick up from a luxurious florist as it often features petals and aromas that complement one another.
Common notes: iris, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley.
The chypre family
A sophisticated family composing of woody, mossy and floral accords. It gets its name from the island of Cyprus as the notes are based on the aromatic plants that grow there.
Common notes: bergamot, oak moss, patchouli.
The woody family
Described as warming, rich and seductive, woody scents have an earthy undertone (the clue is in the name!). Masculine notes dominate the woody family, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just popular with the gents.
Common notes: Oak, sandalwood, rosewood, cedarwood.
The fruity family
Says what it does on the tin, fruity fragrances are often jam-packed with your five a day. Playful, sweet and invigorating, they can add a little fun to your everyday.
Common notes: Raspberry, grapefruit, lemon, strawberry, apple