Image: Wikipedia

So, every once in a while I’m going to post a bit of ‘101’ to get your appetite whet when it comes to all things olfactory. Mind you, we still do not have the technology that would best provide Smell-O-Vision, yet who knows what the future holds in store for us!? That said, here are some of the terms used in the universe of perfumery – it’s a language unto itself. Today’s post does not have an audio element, just the “terms and conditions”, eh? There are so many other terms, but I wanted to compile the basics here. This is a quasi ABC’s of how fragrances ‘work’…..


Absolute: These are super concentrated essential oils – produced via solvent extraction.

Accord: The chain reaction that forms the scent, made of many various notes that form a representation of another note.

Aldehydes: This is the synthetic reproduction of the formation of an accord.

Animalic: scents that refer back to animals. may contain chemical compounds that imitate animals like civet, whale (ambergris), deer (musk).

Attar: In traditional Middle Eastern perfume, most often fixed in a rose essential oil instead of being odorless – known to create a higher level of complexity – can refer to any essential flower oil.

Balsamic/Resinous: Usually contains some form of incense or resin like frankinsence, myrrh, amber, agar wood (oud), olibanum.

Base Notes: Usually the heaviest notes that last long, providing stability to a fragrance (woods, musk, etc).

Beast Mode: A term to describe a powerful perfume.

Chypre: Category of fragrances that are often woodsy, mossy and characteristic of Cyprus (the island) – its often difficult to understand as oak moss, often a main ingredient, now so heavily regulated, is not always present.

Coffret: French for a collection or box set of samples of fragrances from a fragrance line – sometimes include other types of toiletries or bath products.

Dry Down: The concluding phase for a fragrance, usually hours after originally sprayed on skin and only the base notes of the perfume remain.

Extrait/Extract: A perfume that includes between 15-45% perfume concentration

Flanker: An updated release of a known branded fragrance that forms a line within a house of perfumery. They often have slight variations to the original scent.

Fougère: French for fern. This often refers to herbal scents that can also have a clean resonance – they can use lavender and woods.

Gourmand: Fragrances sometimes described as ‘yummy’, that refer to various foods like chocolate, coffee, caramel, fruits.

Nose: The person who came up with the formula for a particular fragrance – i consider this folks alchemists. This is the actual perfumer.

Oriental: A certain line of fragrances that include balsams and aromas such as oakmoss, vanilla and animal notes – persistently warm fragrances.

Projection: Refers to how much of a distance from he fragrance wearer you are able to smell a certain fragrance in inches, feet, etc.

Sillage: French for the trail of a scent, how long a fragrance lingers after one leaves the room.

Skin Scent: Minimal projection of a fragrance, only detected when close to wearer.

Synthetic: Perfume composed via a chemical/synthetic process: ie: Ambroxan is the synthetic version of Ambergris.

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