A perfume is not only an art form. Behind its creation there is a facet and multidisciplinary segmentation of skills in chemistry, marketing, legislation, and nomenclature. This week, I will describe some of the technical terms that will surely be useful, even when it comes to buying a fragrance. 


To be able to properly communicate a perfume, the first basic condition to fulfill is to ensure that the interlocutors are speaking the same language; that is, the language of perfumery. We are led to think that before words, in the case of fragrance, the senses speak, much more immediate and unequivocal. But in reality, to delve into the concepts with wealth and knowledge, communication based on technical terms is necessary.

Communicating the idea of a perfume is very difficult: It means finding the right words to describe the sensation that is experienced when you smell a that fragrance; it means being able to fragment the general idea into its nuances and transmit them, allowing the other to reconstruct the idea itself faithfully and receive it correctly. For example, do you know what exactly an olfactory note is? When describing a smell, we usually talk about its Olfactory Notes: it is as if the perfume were to be broken down into many “pieces”, into many facets, into many different notes, which together make up the music of that smell.


Why is it important to know how to converse around fragrances? For us professionals and operators in the world of perfumery it is essential to know how to use the appropriate term in all circumstances. The brief moment in which we breathe in our fragrance hides behind it a constitutive chain of different steps. Each with its nomenclature.

For this reason, in the world of perfumery, in addition to sensory communication, there is the need to communicate through the appropriate language. Have you ever wondered what exactly the word perfume means? Perfume is an ensemble of raw materials that can be of synthetic or natural origin, in variable numbers, skilfully chosen, dosed, and mixed by the perfumer in the right bouquet. A perfume is therefore made of art and sensations, as well as techniques, legislation, briefs and marketing.

Think about it. When you breathe in your perfume, very often you don’t find the corresponding words to be able to describe it.

To fully appreciate the structure of a fragrance and immerse yourself in its aesthetic value and culture, it becomes increasingly important to acquire the appropriate, specific language. And I’m not only referring to us “professionals”, but also to the simple lovers, the passionate, the collectors, or even to just the curious. 

In this way, your olfactive conversations will continue to be more detailed and worthy of being heard. 

Below, I will share with you some of the most common terms in the Perfumery Glossary.

Olfactory Note = Characteristic of the smell of a raw material or of one of its facets; for example, we can say rosy note, ambery note, spicy note. 

Bouquet = The bouquet of a perfume is represented by the odorous sensations that we perceive when smelling it. (This term is also used in the floral olfactory family to distinguish “soliflore”, accords built around a single flower, from “bouquet”, accords built with various flowers).

INCI = International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients. It is an international denomination used to specify the ingredients on the label of a cosmetic product.

Concentrate = The mix of natural and synthetic raw materials that make up the perfume before it is diluted in alcohol or another base (cream, bubble bath, wax…).

Olfactory Pyramid = Refers to the structure of a perfume in which we can identify three groups of olfactory notes. Starting from the most volatile to least volatile we will have the head, the heart, and the bottom notes. 

Olfactory Family = Today there are 7 olfactory families. It is a school way of classifying perfumes according to their olfactory notes.

Artistic Perfumery = Niche perfumery characterized by limited production, using refined raw materials, and not necessarily following the fashion.

Olfactory Agreement = Just like in music, a musical chord is a set of musical notes with a certain balance. An olfactory agreement is the same: the balance of several olfactory notes. Some olfactory notes put together give a different perfume from single notes. This happens, for example, by creating the accord of fig or strawberry, marine or ozonic.

Mouillettes/Touche/Blotter = Strips of absorbent paper of various shapes, parallelepiped with point, without point, with various widths, used for the olfactory examination of perfumes, both in the laboratory in the hands of the perfumer and in the shop perfume shopping.

Ambergris = Raw material once obtained from a regurgitation of indigestible food of a certain type of sperm whale, which, due to the effect of the sun, the sea, the temperature, etc., takes on a particular perfume with sweet, marine, mystical facets and which in perfumery is defined as amber.

Vanillin = It is the molecule 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde, an aromatic aldehyde contained in vanilla which contributes most to its characteristic scent.

Coumarin = 1-benzopyran-2-one, aromatic molecule named after cumaru, the old name of Dipteryx, which we know as tonka bean. The tonka bean contains a large % of coumarin which gives it the typical almond nuance. It is part of the list of allergens present in cosmetic raw materials.

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