The world of perfume is filled with lots of wonderful, if not slightly, peculiar words you won’t find anywhere else. So, if you struggle to understand precisely what you’re reading when looking for a new perfume, we’re here to help. We’ve decoded some of the most common terms and compiled them in our fragrance glossary so you can make expert decisions when searching for your next scent.
An accord comprises multiple fragrance materials, usually between 6 and 8 components, to create a distinctive scent. An accord is often considered the focal point of any great perfume and is the work of skilled perfumers. An example of an accord is a ‘green accord’ made up from various leaves and grasses or the playful ‘mojito accord’, formed of mint, lime, sugar and rum notes.
Aftershave is usually found in splash form rather than a spray, making it easier to apply to the face. Aftershave typically contains around 3% fragrance concentration and will last on the skin for roughly 3 hours. In addition, its alcohol content helps close pores and stimulates the skin after a shave.
Anosmia is the total, or partial, loss of your sense of smell.
Aroma chemicals are volatile molecules that are obtained from naturally sourced products, or synthetically created, that have their own aroma.
Base notes are the most memorable fragrance tones that can be smelt once a scent has settled on the skin. Base notes are often distinctive, long-lasting and can determine the character of a perfume.
Also known as the heart or middle notes of the fragrance: this is the perfume’s dominant scent.
Body lines are complementary products that feature the same aroma as fragrances and include shower gels, body lotions, body oils and balms. Layering body products over the top of their matching fragrance will help the scent last longer on the skin.
A body mist is a light fragrance with a very low concentration of fragrant compounds. They are suitable for everyday wear, but due to their high alcohol content, they would need topping up throughout the day.
Civet is a scented musk extracted from the odorous sacs of a civet (an exotic cat), but it is now commonly replicated synthetically due to ethical reasons. On its own, the aroma of civet is very unpleasant, but when it is diluted with other perfume ingredients, it can become warm and radiant.
dry down of a fragrance can be smelt on the skin once the top and heart notes dissipate. Therefore, it is important when testing perfumes to allow the ‘dry down’ to come through, which can take around 30 minutes, so that you can enjoy the full fragrance profile.
Eau de cologne (EDC)
An Eau de Cologne is a light fragrance that contains around 2-5% aromatic compounds. All male fragrances are often referred to as a ‘cologne’, but the strengths will differ, and they may not fall into the weaker ‘Eau de Cologne’ category. They are suitable for everyday wear but may need topping up as they generally last 2-3 hours on the skin.
Eau de Toilette (EDT)
An Eau de Toilette, commonly known as an EDT, is a common strength of fragrance. An Eau de Toilette usually contains 10% fragrance concentration and is the perfect choice for an everyday signature scent. EDT’s are more potent than Eau de Colognes, but weaker than Eau de Parfum and Parfum’s.
Eau Fraiche is a very light form of a fragrance, which has a lower concentration of fragrant compounds than an Eau de Toilette but more than an Eau de Cologne. Eau Fraiche scents are especially pleasant to wear in warmer months.
Enfleurage is the extraction of essential oils and perfumes from flowers using odourless animal or vegetable fats.
Eugenol is a warm and spicy perfume ingredient found predominantly in clove essential oil and allspice, bay, cinnamon, patchouli, and pimento.
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants through distillation (steaming) or mechanical methods (cold pressing). The extraction process captures the plant or flowers' natural scent or ‘essence’ and is then combined with a carrier oil to create a ready-to-use product. Common essential oils include rose, jasmine, neroli, and sandalwood.
Factice is a display bottle of perfume used in stores for display and visual purposes only.
Fragrance families is a classification system that the perfume industry uses to group scents. Understanding the fragrance families may help you identify your perfume preferences and will also help you determine which perfume to choose next. The leading fragrance families include floral, oriental/amber, fresh and woody, and these families are then split into subfamilies.
Fragrance notes are split into top, middle/heart, and base categories. These are the descriptors of a scent that can be identified once a perfume is applied and overtime as it settles on the skin.
Fruity perfumes are delightfully vibrant. They feature the aroma of fruits, from apple and strawberry to orange and lemon. They are often found in light, fresh fragrances that wear well during the warmer months.
Layering is a technique that involves applying various scents on top of one another to create a longer-lasting, unique aroma. Different fragrances can be layered, or perfume can be layered with complementary body and skincare products such as a shower gel, body lotion or complimentary deodorant.
Maceration is a method of extracting essential oils from flowers by soaking them in warm fats. The essential oils are then dissolved in alcohol so the extract of floral oil can be obtained.
Musk is an intense smelling ingredient initially extracted from the male musk deer but is now commonly replaced with a synthetic replacement known as ‘white musk’. The aroma of musk is often described as earthy, woody and even animalistic. Its scent can vary from person to person once settled onto the skin and can be found in one of the world’s best-selling male fragrances: 1 Million by Paco Rabanne.
Neroli oil is a popular essential oil extracted from the flowers of the bitter orange tree, which has a sweet scent with hints of earth and spice.
Oakmoss is the precious essence from lichen, which grows on oak trees across Europe and has a bitter-smelling forest floor scent.
Odour is the characteristic of a substance that activates the olfactory system or our sense of smell.
Olfaction is the action of smelling.
The olfactory bulb is located near the front of the brain and is an essential structure in your olfactory system. It is the first system to receive neural input about odours detected in the nasal cavity.
The olfactory epithelium are layers of sensory cells that sit on each side of the upper-rear portion of the nose that are involved with the process of smell.
Parfum is a highly concentrated, luxurious fragrance option. A parfum will generally have between 20-30% concentrated fragrance and will last on the skin all day without the need to top up. It has a higher concentration than Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette and, therefore, often comes with an increased price point.
Pheromones are chemical substances that animals release to attract another member of their species. Research on whether humans have the same ability is inconclusive, but there are strong connections between scent and how drawn we are to another person.
Rhizomes are modified stems that grow under or along the ground. They are considered ‘invasion’ plants due to the aggressive way they shoot new stems from their nodes, but precious perfume ingredients such as Orris Absolute come from rhizomes.
Synthetic fragrances are predominantly made up of artificial compounds and materials made in laboratories, rather than being extracted from natural sources such as plants and flowers.
A tincture is an extract of a plant or animal material which is dissolved in ethanol (alcohol).
Tonality is the dominant note or theme of a fragrance.
Umami describes a savoury smell that can be recognised within a fragrance. Outside of perfume, it is known as one of the five basic tastes (along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), but as with these, you can’t physically smell umami; it’s more of a sensation or experience. Notes such as leather and tobacco have been associated with the umami aroma.
Woody notes are crucial to perfumery; they offer richness, distinction and warmth to any fragrance. The aroma is extracted from trees, resin, moss, bark, and roots and provides a deep, earthy character.
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