THE SCIENCE OF FRAGRANCES: THE OLFACTORY FAMILIES.

A GUIDE TO FINDING THE PERFECT PERFUME.

OLFACTORY FAMILIES. WHAT ARE THEY. 

This month I would like to take you with me on an insight into Olfactory Families. Many of you ask me for explanations on their morphology and classification, on the distinctions, on their use.

Well, let go and bask in your summer with a scented reading dedicated to you.

Depending on how the proportions between the olfactory notes and which raw materials they are composed of, we can classify perfumes into different olfactory families. I want to emphasize that this is a very scholastic classification, but it’s useful for giving a general order and having a common vocabulary, especially among perfumery technicians.

The olfactory family is therefore nothing more than the classification system that divides perfumes into groups based on their composition.

To be clear, when I decide what kind of perfume to create, I first ask the question: Will it be floral, amber, woody, etc., that is, I am referring to the correct olfactory family. Within each olfactory family there are then the subfamilies that characterize the fragrance by giving it the secondary distinctive facet.

Not only that, but it’s also useful for those who have to buy a perfume and don’t want to be guided by instinct alone, knowledge of the olfactory families can guide the choice more accurately.

OLFACTORY FAMILIES. INCIPIT AND CURIOSITIES.

The first official classification of Olfactory Families dates back to 1912 by the Société Française des Parfumeurs which categorizes 7 main families, and which is still today the reference in the world of perfumery.

We can consider the olfactory families as the keys to interpreting the emotional message of each fragrance.

OLFACTORY FAMILIES. THE 7 CATEGORIES.

We have seen that there are 7 main olfactory families.

The first four are identified by the olfactory notes that characterize them and are the following: Citrus or Hesperidic, Floral, Woody and Leathery.

We then have three other olfactory families that are identified by the olfactory accord they contain.

These are Oriental, Chypre and Fougère.

Citrus or Hesperidates

Floral

Woody

Leathery

Fougere

chypre

Amber/Oriental

OLFACTORY FAMILIES. DESCRIPTION.

CITRUS OR HESPERIDIC.

This olfactory family is characterized by a very important head, made of citrus essential oils such as lemon, orange, bergamot, lime, notes that represent up to 70% of the entire composition, making it very fresh, light and usually not very persistent.

The most famous example of a particular type of Citrus is Eau de Cologne, a perfume that has made the history of perfumery which I have already told you about in an article on the blog. Or my new Extrait de Parfum Agrums.

Subfamilies:

• Citrus

• Spicy Citrus

• Aromatic Citrus

• Chypre Citrus

• Woody Citrus

• Floral Woody Citrus

• Musky Citrus

FLORAL.

Floral perfumes are the perfume par excellence, in which composers can indulge themselves in creating accords around a single flower (soliflore) such as Paris for the rose for example, or combine flowers and fruits as in Trésor or green notes as in Vent Vert. It represents luxury, the richness of nature. It is the most representative family of perfumery. One of the most varied olfactory families, as many as there are varieties of flowers present in nature.

Subfamilies:

• Soliflores

• Floral bouquet

• Floral Aldehydic

• Green Floral

• Fruity/woody Floral

• Marine Floral

• Musky Floral

WOODY.

Full-bodied, enveloping and basically warm, woody fragrances are very fluid and unisex.

The perfumes belonging to this family are characterized by warm notes, sometimes creamy like sandalwood or with a hippy nuance like Patchouli, or earthy like vetiver or dusty like cedar wood. In the heart you can find spices. The top notes can be citrus and aromatic notes. On the bottom you can find musks, amber notes and leather. Often these are men’s perfumes, but with exceptions.

A historic woody perfume is Vetiver by Guerlain from 1956. Otherwise, if you want to smell my Extrait de Parfum Marine, it is also woody.

LEATHERY.

The family of leather perfumes is the least commercial, the most difficult if you want to meet the public’s taste. However, lately, especially among niche perfumes, tobacco and leather notes are increasingly used, a bit for the reason of standing out from the crowd. The notes of leather and tobacco give the composition a refined, yet strong and bold masculine touch, but when combined with a flowery heart, it becomes very feminine and intriguing.

The leather scents are very penetrating and intense. Definitely suitable for unconventional noses who prefer fragrances outside the lines because they have a dry and bitter soul, typical of leather and also of tobacco.

A historical leather perfume is Cuir de Russie by Chanel from 1924

Subfamilies:

• Leather

• Floral Leather

• Tobacco Leather

Let’s now move on to the olfactory families characterized by a precise agreement within their olfactory pyramid.

FOUGÈRE.

 

The Fougère accord presents an immediate freshness of aristocratic bergamot, an aromatic heart of lavender and greenery such as geranium leaves, ending on a moist base of oakmoss, patchouli and other woody notes with a sweet touch of coumarin.

Fougères are mainly men’s perfumes. They are very balanced because they mix fresh and clean nuances with warm and enveloping base notes.

The progenitor of this olfactory family, from which it also takes its name, is “Fougère Royale” by Houbigant (1884), the first to introduce the synthetic molecule of coumarin into the bouquet. Thus, was born a generation of highly appreciated perfumes that made history.

Subfamilies:

• Floral Fougère

• Amber Fougère

• Spicy Fougère

• Aromatic Fougere

• Fruity Fougere

CHYPRE.

Chypre from French translates as “Cyprus”, that is the island in the Mediterranean where Venus, the goddess of beauty, was born and whose perfumes inspired the very famous Chypre perfume by Coty of 1917. And it is with him that the Chypre Olfactory Family was born. Chypre is an olfactory tribute to the Greek island so loved by the eclectic genius of Coty

And it was always Coty who, with his talent, started a different and more modern concept of perfumery and artistic fragrances. His Chypre, forerunner of genderless perfumes, was born as a male perfume (at the time the perfumes were very different for men and women), but over time it met more and more female tastes, becoming mainly for women.

Coty was practically the father of the Chypre olfactory family, also creating a new olfactory genre. To learn more about the whole story, I invite you to read a blog article dedicated to Chypre.

The accord present in Chypre fragrances begins with the freshness of citrus fruits, in particular bergamot, a refined floral heart and a moist base of tree moss, resins and patchouli. Sweet notes such as vanilla and coumarin are also inevitable in the base.

Subfamilies:

• Floral Chypre

• Leathery Chypre 

• Green Chypre

• Aromatic Chypre

• Fruity Chypre

AMBER/ORIENTAL.

With sensual, caressing, enveloping and elegant shades, amber/oriental perfumes evoke charm and attraction.

Amber/oriental shades are full of facets that evoke imaginative worlds and distant and mysterious destinations.

The term “amber” derives from the use in perfumery of raw materials of animal origin, such as ambergris.

This olfactory family is also called “oriental” for its characteristic spicy heart reminiscent of the Orient and woody notes such as Indian sandalwood. In the base there are sweet notes of vanilla, tonka bean and balsamic notes of benzoin, labdanum, and animalic notes of amber, musk and civet, which make the composition very persistent and enveloping, warm and sensual.

Subfamilies:

• Soft Amber

• Spicy Floral Amber

• Citrus Amber

• Floriental (floral amber)

• Fruity Floral Amber

• Gourmand Amber

And if you want to wear an amber, I recommend the historic Shalimar by Guerlain from 1925, Opium by Yves Saint Laurent from 1977 or my Vanilla Extrait de Parfum also layered with Amber Extrait de Parfum.

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