Fragrance Glossary

Fragrance Glossary2018-09-10T11:56:41+00:00

Welcome to Bespoke Unit’s Cologne & Fragrance Glossary.

In the following guide, you will find a comprehensive myriad of fragrance terms from the industry’s lingo to technical terminology. We’ll regularly refer to to our own fragrance resources for further reading.

How To Use The Fragrance Glossary

Find A Term: Select a letter from the Alphabet Key below to jump ahead and consult the entries.

Learn A New Term: Related terms are linked within entries so you can learn their definitions too!

Explore Fragrance Topics: Some terms will feature a “Learn More” link, which will provide you some further reading.

Anything Missing? If what you’re looking for is absent, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!

Select a letter below to jump down to its entries!


A

Accord

The resulting aroma produced by independent notes interacting with one another.

Learn More: What Are Fragrance Notes & Accords?


Agarwood

A resinous wood used in incense that comes from the Aquilaria tree also known as Oud. It often smells woody and animalic with a sweet muskiness. It’s often used to create leather accords.


Alcohol

One of the most popular Solvents used as a perfume base thanks to its stable properties and low cost.


Aldehyde

A synthetic hydrocarbon used in modern perfumery. Aldehydes come in many varieties to create different odours. They’re popular thanks to their cheapness and often have a fatty or creamy quality to them.


Amber

A musky scent developed by using plant extracts such as wood or resin. Often found in a fragrance’s base, it’s often based on Labdanum but usually associated with Oriental fragrances.

Learn More: Oriental Fragrance Family


Ambergris

A now-outlawed secretion from the Sperm whale, Ambergris is often a synthetic compound. This musk features overt marine notes and sweet animalic properties. It can also be used as part of a tobacco accord.


Ambroxan

A synthetic compound often used as an alternative to natural ambers such as Ambergris. It may be sometimes referred to as ambroxide, which is the chemical’s name.


Animalic

A term used to describe a note with a distinctive animal muskiness often found in the fragrance’s base.


Aroma

A word often used to talk about a particular scent or smell, which is sometimes synonymous with “note”.


Aromatic

A prevalent olfactive family within men’s fragrances, aromatics tend to feature green and herbaceous notes with a touch of freshness.


Aromatic Compound

An aromatic compound is any fragrant chemical derived from benzene, a hydrocarbon found in petroleum.

Learn More: Aromatic Fragrance Family Overview


Atomizer

The nozzle on a perfume bottle for spraying and applying.


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B

Balsamic

A fragrance is described as “balsamic” when it has certain warm Oriental properties that are reminiscent of amber and incense.

Learn More: Oriental Fragrance Family


Base Notes

The aromas of a fragrance to be perceived are grouped together as the base notes. Being more stable than their volatile counterparts, they are slower to evaporate so will reveal themselves much later.

Learn More: What Is A Fragrance Pyramid?


Bergamot

A renowned citrus whose zest is famously used in Earl Grey but is present in over a third of men and women’s fragrances. The green fruit smells somewhat sweeter and more delicate that typical oranges, which began popular in the early 18th Century with the release of the first Eau de Cologne by Giovanni Maria Farina.


Blend

A term employed when referring to the way aromatic compounds are mixed for a harmonious fragrance.


Bouquet

Although often associated with floral notes, a bouquet is similar to an accord where it refers to a blend of notes working together in harmony.


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C

Calone

A popular synthetic aldehyde that was particularly popular during the early 1990s for creating an aquatic sea-breeze scent.


Cassis

The French word for “blackcurrant” often used as a more exotic term when describing the note.


Castoreum

A musky leather note that was originally extracted from beavers, it is now a synthetic compound.


Chypre

The French word for Cyprus (pronounced “sheepr”) was first used as the name for François Coty’s 1917 creation. However, it soon evolved into a fragrance family in itself given its notable identity. You can learn more about its characteristics via our fragrance family guide.

Learn More: Chypre Fragrance Family Overview


Citrus

Both a common note in fragrances as well as a family within itself. Citrus notes are infamously volatile so are often head notes. However, some may endure until the heart. Learn about the citrus olfactive family with our dedicated guide.

Learn More: Citrus Fragrance Family Overview


Civet

A fox-like cousin of the mongoose whose musk was a highly sought-after stablising agent. However, modern interpretations of this note are often synthetic in nature. The musk is infamous for being particularly foul-smelling.


Cloying

A sickly sweet note that can be overly rich. Usually this term is employed negatively. However, others may interpret it positively.


Cologne

A generic term sometimes used for men’s fragrances, Eau de Cologne is in reality a concentration identifier with roots in early 18th-Century Germany.

Learn More: Fragrance Strengths & Concentrations


Coumarin

An organic chemical extracted from the Tonka Bean that was first introduced by Houbigant in Fougère Royale.

Learn More: History Of Men’s Fragrances


Cuir

The French word for “leather” often used in fragrance names.


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D

Decant

A popular practice within the online fragrance community. An enthusiast will buy a large bottle of a premium fragrance then sell small 10 – 30 ml vials to other members in order to cover costs or make a small profit.


Dry-Down

The process of a fragrance cycling through its notes after being applied. It evaporates as it dries, which releases the aromas in a particular order according to their volatility. The overall experience is known as the “dry-down”.

Learn More: What Is A Fragrance Pyramid?


E

Eau

French for “water”, eau (plural: eaux) is often a prefix for the majority of fragrance strength classifications.

Learn More: Fragrance Strengths & Concentrations


Eau de Cologne

An old fragrance concentration with roots in 18th-Century Germany. Invented by an Italian immigrant, eaux de cologne today has an aromatic concentration of around 5%.

Learn More: Eau de Cologne Strength Overview


Eau de Parfum

A more exclusive and premium concentration, only superseded by Parfum. EDP will often consist of 15 to 20% of fragrance in a bottle.

Learn More: Eau de Parfum Strength Overview


Eau de Toilette

Probably the most common concentration in the market, eau de toilette’s aromatic concentration can range from 5% to 15%. As such, performance may vary.

Learn More: Eau de Toilette Concentration Overview


Eau Fraîche

Literally “cool water”, eau fraîche was a predominantly feminine accessory until recently. With a concentration similar to aftershave, a spritz is supposed to provide light refreshment. Today, it is often used to label summer flanker releases for fragrances.

Learn More: Eau de Cologne Strength Overview


Elemi

A resin similar to frankincense that that somewhat lighter than other amber notes. Its smell is green and citrusy, which is often likened to fresh pine.


Essential Oil

A concentrated liquid that contains a volatile aroma compound extracted from plants through steam or distillation.


Evaporation

The process where a liquid’s surface changes into a gas. In fragrances, this is how the aromas will escape into the air so they can be smelled.


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F

Factice

The French for “fake”, it usually refers to perfume bottles used only for display with no contents.


Family [Olfactive]

An olfactive or fragrance family is a group of perfumes that share specific traits. First emerging at the turn of the 20th Century, the concept has been improved as a method of categorising fragrances. Learn more with our fragrance family guide.

Learn More: What Are Fragrance Families?


Flacon

The French word for a perfume bottle often used in the industry to imply luxury.


Flanker

A supplementary release of a designer brand’s fragrance that is reformulated for a particular use or occasion without replacing the original. Although some flankers may be labelled as different concentrations, most will feature subtitles like “sport”, “intense” or “nuit”.


Fougère

One of the earliest olfactive families, it was first established through Houbigant’s 1884 Fougère Royale. Although it’s the French word for “fern”, which is itself scentless, it seeks to emulate associated green and woody smells. Therefore, it’s a herbaceous fragrance with lavender, oak moss, Tonka Bean and woody notes.

Learn More: Fougère Fragrance Family Overview


Frag

Internet slang for a fragrance, usually masculine because “perfume” makes us insecure.


Fraghead

An online term for a fragrance enthusiast.


Fruity

Until recently, fruity fragrances were more of a feminine group. However, the fragrance family today has experienced a growing trend for masculine fragrances.


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G

Gourmand

A term used to refer to fragrance accords or notes that feature edible characteristics. For instance, they may have notes of vanilla, chocolate or honey. Gourmand notes are often grouped into the Oriental fragrance family.


Green

A catch-all term for a fragrance that has herbaceous properties. This can refer to either Aromatic or Fougère notes.


Guaiacwood

A smokey and honey sweet wood that is reminiscent of tobacco. It can be combined with labdanum for a leather accord.


H

Head Notes

The first notes experienced in a fragrance when first applied, which are sometimes referred to as Top Notes.

Learn More: What Is A Fragrance Pyramid?


Heart Notes

The centre of a fragrance, which is experienced between the head (entry above) and base. The heart will often feature floral notes that act as a transition before the base.

Learn More: What Is A Fragrance Pyramid?


I

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J

Juice

See Frag.


K

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L

Labdanum

A gum musk extracted from the rockrose bush, it has a sweet and musky aroma that is often used as an alternative to animalic notes. It’s also quite earthy and can be used to create leather accords.


Layering

A type of cigar cutter, which pierces the cap rather than cutting a hole.


Leather

As leather naturally smells particularly foul, it’s doused with strong fragrances to make the odour appealing. This has given rise to an often-overlooked olfactive family where various musks and powdery oriental notes are blended to replicate the associated accords.

Learn More: Leather Fragrance Family Overview


Life-Cycle

See Dry-Down.


Longevity

The lifespan of a fragrance or how it long will last after being applied.


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M

Masculinity

Judging a fragrance’s strength according to conventional masculine standards


Middle Notes

See Heart Notes.


Muguet

The French word for Lily of the Valley.


Musk

Originally extracted from animals including a specific type of deer, musks are now almost exclusively synthetic. They feature a strongly animalisc character but can sometimes be sourced from plants such as labdanum. Musks are often found in the fragrance’s base and are used to extend its life.


Myrrh

A famous gum resin with a slightly earthy scent reminiscent of black licorice.


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N

Neroli

An oil extracted from sweet orange blossom through steam distillation. It smells sweet but can be much sharper than orange blossom.


Nose

A colloquial term used to describe a professional perfumer who creates blends.


Note

A particular aroma or scent detected in a fragrance. It is rarely an ingredient but a descriptor of the experience itself.

Learn More: What Are Fragrance Notes & Accords?


O

Oak Moss

A common feature in Fougère fragrances as well as Chypres, Oak Moss is a lichen that features a earthy and woody smell. Sometimes it can be likened to leaves and damp soil.


Occasion

The process of analysing a fragrance according to when it is best suited to be worn.

Learn More: How To Review Fragrances


Oriental

A fragrance family known for using exotic spices, herbs, balms and woody resins. Many of the original ingredients were discovered and sourced from the Middle East. However, they’re mostly synthetic extracts today.

Learn More: Oriental Fragrance Family Overview


Oud

See Agarwood.


Ozone

Aromatic compounds that have a distinctive odour reminiscent of fresh air similar to that after the rain.


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P

Parfum

The French word for perfume as well as the strongest fragrance concentration. As it can contain as much as 30% of fragrance oils, it’s also the most expensive.

Learn More: Parfum Fragrance Concentration Overview


Patchouli

A bushy herb that has a musky yet earthy odour. It’s sweet and smells like much like wet soil, which makes it reminiscent of the dewy forest when combined with oak moss.


Petitgrain

Petitgrain is similar to Neroli except that the leaves and twigs are used to create the oil as well as the orange blossom. This creates a woodier and more herbaceous aroma.


Projection

The way a scent is able to diffuse in the air of the wearer’s body.


Projection Spheres / Bubbles

Known as either projection spheres or “bubbles”, these are abstract notions for determining the radius of scent created on a person after applying fragrances. The term can be employed either for measuring its performance or the scent’s desired reach according to the occasion.

Learn More: What Are Projection Spheres?


Powdery

Usually associated with talcum powder, powdery fragrances tend to feature properties that makes them feel quite dry in the nostrils.


Pyramid

A fragrance, perfume or olfactive pyramid is the visual aid in structuring the way a fragrance cycles through its head, heart and base notes.

Learn More: What Is A Fragrance Pyramid?


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Q

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R

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S

Sandalwood

One of the oldest sources of perfumes and incense, Sandalwood smells like a warm and powdery wood with a creamy finish.


Seasonality

The practice of evaluating a fragrance according to how well it performs during a particular season.


Sillage

A fragrance’s sillage is the trail left behind the wearer when walking. Pronounced “see-yhage”, it’s the French word for a wake as left behind a boat.


Solvent

Often alcohol, the solvent of a fragrance is the base used to contain the aromatic oils and compounds. It accounts for the majority of what is found in the perfume’s bottle.


T

Tonka Bean

Although now illegal due to its toxicity in large doses, the tonka bean is a sweet and earthy gourmand note. It was the subject of the world’s first synthetically isolated aromatic particle. This lead to the discovery of coumarin and opened the doors to new ways of extracting aromas from ingredients.

Learn More: History Of men’s Fragrances


Top Notes

See Head Notes.


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U

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V

Vetiver

A type of long bunchgrass, Vetiver smells somewhat like lemongrass with an earthy grassiness that makes it quite herby. It’s often likened to a freshly-mown lawn.


Volatility

Volatility is how fast a particular note or its ingredient evaporates after being sprayed. The various levels of volatility in a fragrance is what produces the dry-down.


W

Woody

As the name suggests, the Woody family consists of notes that are largely based on wood, resins and similar aromas. Learn more about it with our fragrance family guide.

Learn More: Woody Fragrance Family Overview


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X

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Y

Ylang-Ylang

Somewhat reminiscent of jasmine, Ylang-Ylang is an oil sourced from an Indonesian flower. It smells quite floral with some fruity hints of banana.


Z

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Other Resources

Now that you’ve perused our fragrance glossary, why don’t you check out some related guides and materials for further reading?

Fragrance Glossary
Reviewed by James S, on .
"A great resource. I was surprised by just how comprehensive this glossary is for learning new terms and notes."
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★

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